It’s safe to say that the biggest game of the year is also going to easily be the most controversial. What’s more, it’s not always for the right reasons!
From car batteries, through dollar bills, too airports, some thoughts below…
First up, you have the tip of the iceberg – torture. Not much is known about the context, but at one point in the game, some character (whether important or not) is almost certainly hooked up to a car battery.
This isn’t really too bad, since it seems to occur as part of a incidental moment that the player character cannot interact with (much like the beating scene at the start of Half-Life 2). So far, so Jack Bauer.
24 (and too a lesser extent, LOST) has already desensitised everyone to pliers too the ears and bamboo under toenails when national security is at stake and the games painting of the ‘good guys’ as multinational counter terrorists works as a get-out-of-jail-free card. In short, it’s a moot point.
War on Terror
Next up, we have the whole controversy regarding the destruction of Washington DC.
Initially this was thought to be Modern Warfare 2’s ‘Nuke’ or ‘Pripyat’ – you know, water cooler moments that kept people talking about Call of Duty 4 for weeks/months later.
Of course, people took umbrage to the destruction of the US capitol in Fallout 3 and the use of some of Bethesda’s concept art by real Islamic fundamentalists, but it was placed in a futuristic and alternate universe and dealt with the aftermath of a nuclear war, so a little bit of dilapidated was needed.
In all fairness, this one is only controversial to the American contingent who think it’s ‘too soon’ after September 11th for their country to be attacked, whilst conveniently ignoring everything else going on in the world.
Pricing is the next bone of contention – Kotick and his share-holding cronies know they’re onto a winner and are determined to exploit that as much as feasibly possible.
A flat-rate (and seemingly enforced) RRP of $60/equivalent on games consoles and $50/equivalent for the PC is certainly pushing the peak end of the market, especially when Infinity Ward have said it won’t be much longer than Call of Duty 4, who’s main constant criticism was the brevity of the single player experience.
This extra costly sting in the tale comes especially harshly for the PC owning crowd, who, used to being fucked over left, right and centre, anyway, are unable to resell due to recently announced Steamworks integration and are being flatly told ‘NO DEDICATED SERVERS FOR YOU’.
Kotick’s Klan obviously liked Blizzard’s ‘No LAN cos BattleNet does it all’ response to StarCraft 2 critique and led Infinity Ward to invent an all-in-one solution, branded IWNet, to provide servers & skill-based match-making whilst ensuring a level playing field with regards to mods, cheats & paid-for content. The price for this – choice.
Dedicated Servers can be pretty much singled out as the main reason CoD4 (if not all PC online gaming) lasts for any length of time – the stability offered by a centralised hosted solution (as opposed to the P2P offered by the console solutions), coupled with the ability for the host to configure the environment to the nth degree.
Officially, this is too offer skill-based matchmaking and a level, balanced playing field. Cynics say this is so that Activision can push DLC onto everyone. Still, it’s not as bad as murder innocent civilians or anything.
Following a leak of a French retail version of the game (for Ps3), clips have started appearing across the net, as per usual. The big news is apparantly Mission 4, set in an airport. Casting the player as an undercover CIA agent, the mission plays out as a terror cell assaults an airport. Hilarity ensues, especially when the player joins in the firefight to ‘maintain his cover’.
Like the above mentioned torture scenes, nothing really shocks when compared to today’s film or TV (24 springs to mind), but it’s the interactivity that raises the usual morality questions – Saw & Hostel are encouraged as art in some circles, whilst the same circles critique video games such as Manhunt in the ‘sick filth’ category because the gamer is making the sick decisions when they put a bullet into a civilians head.
Activision have been pulling the leaked video left, right and centre before issuing the following to VG247…
Yes it is. The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player’s mission to stop them.
Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two ‘checkpoints’ where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can’t be disabled.
Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic game play that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older.”
So, it’s there, it’s interactive and it’s already in the Daily Mirror… Yes, it can be skipped, but what 15-year-old is going to do that?
There’s no doubt Modern Warfare 2 (insert Call of Duty moniker if you want) will be a brilliant game – it’ll certainly be the best single-player FPS released this year and it’ll be a killer app on both the 360 & Ps3. But is there way to much controversy for such a quality game to even overcome?
The papers and many a social group will have a field day with almost every part of the game and a (distant) third of the games market (fresh from their L4D2 boycott) have already managed to put a 167000+ signature petition together (because they always help).
Time will tell.