Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (PS4)

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare®_20191025124252

In one of Modern Warfare’s flashbacks, Urzikstan freedom fighter Farah escapes from her town when Russians launch a gas attack. Her father killed, her older brother leading, Farah dodges soldiers as they execute people nearby. Farah is near enough to hear the shots practically point blank. Crawling under a broken wall, a child’s lifeless body stares her in the face. Modern Warfare needs to be sure that’s seen.

Were Call of Duty’s latest truly transformative, that forced image needn’t be necessary. After decades of mauling digital Middle Eastern people – Call of Duty certainly not alone in this – noting “this is bad,” needs an exclamation point. Walking over piles of dead Urzikstanians doesn’t illicit the same response. They exist as morbid set decoration where killed Russians fall.

Also note Urzikstan isn’t real; that’s made up, although this is undoubtedly Syria as Russians push in. Producers likely figured no one would notice given the turgid education on foreign conflict. London though, that’s real here. There’s a gratuitous terrorist attack with truck bombs and foot soldiers, gratuitously embellished to give this war cause to the first world. Note the US, Russia, and CIA exist in Modern Warfare too. But not Syria.

Granted, placing Modern Warfare in actual reality makes things appear ridiculous, even comically absurd. Late, Farah is pinned down by a Russian soldier. As if angels or Jesus returning to Earth, US/British troops crash in through a skylight, backlit as they kill. Restraint is not letting a character shout, “Christian values, bitch!” while they stab/shoot the faceless villains, even if such a line is implied. There’s persistence in the writing about saving this totally-not-Syrian-but-definitely-Syrian country. It’s American military gusto that leads to over a dozen helicopters being shot down, a preposterous drone bombing stage, and a finale where it’s the American who makes the world saving sacrifice.

The game-consuming public wants firepower and explosions; that’s what sells because that’s the expectation. Wanting nuance is probably absurd. And consistency? That’s a no too as the campaign drives morality about chemical warfare, then drops said chemicals as rewards in multiplayer. Given the material’s sheepish nearsightedness and addiction to jingoism, maybe it’s better Call of Duty sticks to plentiful rocket and grenade launchers.


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