THAT moment – revealed!

With regards to this post: Steam unlocked Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 an hour earlier than I thought, so I got chance to give it a go tonight. Anyways, the point is, I now know what THAT moment is.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had a bit in it where you played as the President of Lets-pretend-it-isnt-Iraq. You were bundled into a car by armed gunmen, and were driven through the city (this was actually the credits sequence, but no-one ever read the credits). All you could do is look around, and see the atrocities being perpetrated by a “liberated” army against the native civilians. At the end of this section, you were dragged out the car, kicked in the head, dragged through to a courtyard, tied up against a post, and the leader of the army shot you in the head. The section was designed to make you feel sad, then angry (the fact you could only look around contributed massively to this), because the very next section had you play a US Marine who runs through a building and shoots the opposing army mostly in the back. Which is meant to be catharsis, I guess.

In Modern Warfare 2, the designers were clearly very proud of the emotional sections of the first game, and have tried to top themselves. As soon as you click on the single player option, you’re warned that there’s a nasty bit coming up, and you can opt out of it. Then it asks you if you want to be alerted just before the nasty section so you have the opportunity to change your mind. It also points out that you can change this preference again in the pause menu, in case you really are averse to making a decision and sticking to it.

So you play through the opening levels, and they’re naturally very very good. You get a hint as to what is coming next, and then you’re dropped into the shoes of *** BIG FUCKING MASSIVE SPOILER REALLY DON’T READ ANY MORE IF YOU DON’T WANT IT SPOILED EVEN THOUGH IT’S ALL OVER THE INTERNET BY NOW AND I’VE HAD TO GO OUT OF MY WAY TO NOT HAVE IT SPOILED BY EVERY SITE EVER SKIP THE REST OF THIS POST IF YOU DON’T WANT IT SPOILING LAST WARNING FUCK IT HERE IT COMES *** the dude you played at the start of the game, who is now undercover with some Russian terrorists. They have an evil plot, and you’ve been specifically ordered to help carry it out by your commanding officer in the US Army. You’re dropped into the game in a busy airport, with your terrorist chums walking calmly alongside you. There’s a large crowd of civilians in front of you. Your terrorist chums, and you, all pull out machine guns. The terrorists open fire.

My player character (and of course I am too) is just stood there, watching absolute fucking carnage.  I’d like to say my first reaction was to shoot the terrorists, but it wasn’t, cos I know the difference between reality and a game, and if I’m playing a game, I play by it’s rules. So I joined in. I felt a bit sad, cos I was virtually shooting virtual innocent people in a virtual airport. As I went on, I felt worse. At some point it stopped being entertainment and become a grim determination to just get it over with, to do what I was being asked of in order to proceed. I genuinely didn’t want to keep shooting, but I knew I had to.

At this point, I was of the opinion that this bit was better than the President bit in the first game. I didn’t just feel sad, I was getting upset. Over a fucking game. The holy grail of games that bother with a story. It was horrible. And then, probably more my fault that the computer’s, one of the terrorists walked into my line of fire. I hit him once. The leader turned round and called me a traitor, and they all shot me. And I went back to the last checkpoint in the airport I’d walked over.

The one difference between the bit in the first game, and the bit in the second, the one thing which ruins what could have been much greater, is the fact that in the second one, you can fail. And you get sent back a bit. And you have to do it again. Which, cos by then I was getting angry with the game and myself, I had to do a few times, cos I kept aiming at that fucking annoying terrorist’s head to try and put him down once and for all. Up until that point, for a few brief moments, I’d stopped playing a game. I’d had an experience. Something to think about. Something to care about. Something to cherish, cos let’s face it, emotional experiences as conjured by a designer in games are few and far between. But then the game rules jumped in and ruined it.

As realistic as people would like to think MW2 is, it isn’t. You get to hide behind a bush to get your health back (in real life, you’d bleed to death in a bush). You get indicators to let you know when you’re stood next to a grenade (in real life, the only indication you may get is that people run away from you). There’s levels. There’s a HUD. Guns never jam, you get a fuckton of ammo for both your weapons, you don’t scream when you’re shot or stabbed; it’s about as accurate a portrait of modern warfare as the Clangers is an accurate portrait of the 1969 moon landing.

So here’s my point. As this is (admittedly up to now; I’ve played the game for under an hour) the one purposely emotional scene in the game, and as it’s not very realistic anyway, couldn’t Infinity Ward have broken their own rules for this one section, and switched friendly fire off? For the entire level? Could they have made the gun battle with the Police so easy as to be very hard to lose? Basically, could they have made the whole section so you couldn’t die, or fail? So your suspension of disbelief is (hopefully) held throughout? Games aren’t films, and films aren’t games. This was one part of one game where it felt to me like the absolute best of both worlds had come together; not a Citizen Kane of videogames, but somewhere kinda near a Schindler’s List, maybe. Where the most widely used games device in history, the gun, has to be used to repel the player, not attract them. If only they’d stripped a tiny little bit more of the history of gaming away, it could have been very very fucking special.

Fair play to Infinity Ward and Activision though; it took balls the size of Orion to make that scene and release it. After that way too long rant, I’m very glad they did it. And yeah, up to now, the game is awesome 😀

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