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Modern Warfare 2 Day#4: The Theater of War

Day 4 teaches me what I don’t like about this game in general. It’s all staged. They deprive me of agency to set the scenes they want to set. This is the classic mistake of interactive narrative, and they do it about as wrongly as I have ever seen. Some fun gameplay and more dumb, dumb narrative, but ultimately this game is too stilted to be engaging. Spoilers within.

We start again in the bathroom and, well, this time I just run through the gauntlet of people who were last time mowing me down.  This works much better; I jump down a hole and out into a new tunnel. We wander a little and then find a new wall to breach. I do it and once inside, I shoot a guy but he’s using a human shield. I’m knocked down, and when the camera shifts up, there’s a guy in my face with rifle.  Oh, this is another stage event — sorry, I made the mistake of thinking I was in control here. My NPC buddy levels his weapon on my assailant, and the guy knows him. I guess the prisoner is Price, who seems to be someone important to the story. I see, this is plot. Why am I bothering to do anything? This game is going to do what it wants. We have a run to heli, in which a first way is cut off, and we have to go  another way. The running scene is kind of dumb since I can outrun the NPC who is showing me where to go. We arrive at a dead-end, and while I’m waiting to figure out what to do,  I go down from the ceiling collapsing on me. You are kidding me. Another set piece.  Do I get to choose ANYTHING? The ceiling is shot open, and we’re dope on a roped out.

The transition is an emergency broadcast about the US evacuation. When I come on, I  don’t know where or who I am here. I’m in a basement in some underground base. It’s the US evacuation center. We have to go up because people are attacking it. I guess this is supposed to be dramatic moment — surfacing to a ruined DC —  but there’s no power to it because of the obvious STUPIDITY of the plot. We advance on a building and again have no idea where the gunfire is coming from. I fight my way through the building, not bad, but some of these guys seem to be zombies, given how I shoot them ten times and they get back up. I destroy one artillery thing that was hitting the evac center, and that is pure joy. I die once cleaning rooms; it’s hard to act on room clearer tactics without peripheral vision. I get to a nest that we clear and have to snipe LAW rocket wielding soldiers. As I do, I see Washington Monument destroyed — stupid, stupid, stupid. We then have to defend nest from assault, followed by having to missile enemy vehicles. We exit to the roof,  get to a  heli and I am on minigun duty. I shoot up a bunch of vehicles and snipers and SAM sites, wondering as I do if any of it matters. The heli gets hit, stays up for a while before finally coming down and apparently blowing up. I come to in the ruined heli on the ground, fighting with my last mag as the enemy approaches, and the scene fades out there.

I’m starting to figure out why I don’t like this game. It feels too staged. All these set pieces and lack of control seems like it’s forcing me to see what the designers thought was cool. It makes the whole game feel patronizing, like it doesn’t trust me to make decisions that I will find fun or pretty. Well you know what would be fun, MW2 — feeling like anything I did mattered.

We transition to Price talking about going to do something CRAZY, something, nu-cle-ar maybe? The scene is following this Price guy. I snipe a few people, but then Price orders me into the woods as a vehicle comes and of course I have no fucking idea where he is. I die twice trying to find him, but then I get into the woods.  He says to hide as we approach a patrol. I get spotted, and he chastises me once they are dead, but does it really matter?  I get a choice to kill another patrol and we take them out and he compliments me. I get to another patrol and he tells me to take down the guys with suppressed weapons, I think I do and he chastises me. WTF. There’s a dog patrol that I let slip past because there are a lot of them. We sneak up to a hill and someone on the radio wants me to use the predator drone, but a sam site shoots it down when I activate it. We  run into town,  and I realize as I go that this weapon kind of sucks. I getting killed once charging, but then we get into town. Someone tells me that the predator works again, and I use it to take out a couple of bigger things. Running around, I find some military intelligence. Oh, was that some kind of achievement I should have been going for? I then have to guard Price from a guard roof. I die once doing it while I try to launch more predator attacks. Oh did Price just launch a nuclear missile? What a shock.

The transition mentions the missile is heading toward Washington DC. So so so so so so so so so dumb. The transition people talk about going after Makarov. We cut to the downed heli again, and I looks like my private gets hit by nuke. Wait — didn’t this happen in the last game?  Now I’m controlling a satellite watching the missile. I see the missile hit the US and I guess I’m an astronaut? Flying into space as the missile hits? Okay… Back to the ground, my army guys in Washington are running for shelter. I guess the missile was actually some kind of EMP (since we’re not dead) that knocked everything out of the sky.  We get to shelter, brace, then leave. (You know, if this wasn’t the capital, this could have been an interesting narrative.) I run into an office and wish I had a better weapon when I die once. I get a better weapon and work my way through some rooms, dying twice en route. I eventually enter the White House (code name: Whiskey Hotel), I guess, and find presidential seal on door. Opening the door leads to a tunnel and we transition away.  I come back immediately into the tunnel. It surfaces on a big fight, and I have to cross a DMZ to the actual White House. It’s a hard fight and I die five times to get to the checkpoint. I suffer another five deaths through next checkpoint into the press room.  I now have 2 minutes to get to the roof to warn jets not to kill us. We make it and light some green flares. I guess we won.

We transition to the hunt for Makarov. “This ends now” seems to be the tone. I’m on ground hunting Makarov, and there’s quick-time event to err… evade landmines? Is that a possible thing to do? I climb through the smoke uphill, die twice, and come on to a road to see vehicles vehicles driving away. I’m told to try to destroy them but there’s nothing I can do that affects them. But no worries, jets destroy them for me (sigh). We head up to the house, and fight through to secure the ground floor. I go up to breach the roof, and  I secure it. Then it’s down to breach the basement, and that’s secure.  No Makarov here or at other safehouse. We then use the computer to get intel, and I have to defend house while the download is happening. It is  SOOOOO HARD, and I die like 40 times between not getting the complete download and then dying before I can pick it up. It’s a good challenge, and I finally get to the end of the download and can run out of the house, the wrong way first and then backtracking. I run through woods and get shot by pursuers near the end, but NPC finally shows up to carry me (oh, of course it’s another set-piece). The heli comes, and there’s chaos again, in which I black out. I come to heading towards towards one of the other special ops guys Shepherd.  Oh Shepherd shoots us? I guess he’s a traitor. I watch my body thrown into a pit and the traitor lights me on fire. Sorry, this scene does not work. It’s dramatically shot but I have not had enough time to care about the characters.

Are we now at the final battle? The music in the transition says so,  at least. It’s a kind of neat start where I have to stealth my way past two fighting armies to get to ride. Once I’m onboard on a jeep, I guess I’m  supposed to be shooting vehicles but the fact that I’m not seems to be having no effect at all. The jeep zips down a runway, and you have to give it to MW2 for camera use — it’s consistently well done throughout. It’s a  shame it’s wasted on what is usually stupid content. I have to take the wheel when the driver is shot, but we get on the ramp to end the scene.

There’s quite dumb poetry from Price in the transition. We start in the desert with sniper rifles, and it launches with a cool shot of the NPC in desert camo surfacing.  Sniping my way through is fun. When we get to the end of the sniper round, I’m supposed to hook up to descend a cliff, but again there’s no indication how to do it. Oh — one of the random railings glows when I get near it — that’s nice feedback, the kind that’s invisible until I’m right on top of it. We rappel down and quick-time kill the guards at the bottom. Nice CG work makes the guard’s eyes look like he actually died. We go a  in cave (very bin Laden-ish), and kill some, let some pass unharmed. We then get found out and rushed. I die once defending our spot but then we kill them. We back outside and I have to get riot shield and go across catwalk. I die once totally cheaply because I literally walk off the cliff. There is no good reason for that to EVER happen. I hold my shield to block shots so my buddy can snipe them and we  get through. Guys drop on ropes with shields in the next room,  and we kill them with grenades. More guys drop into smoke, and we have to flank to take them out. We breach a door, and I kill all of the guys within. We hack a door open. Some kind of bomb is set,  and I know have to fight my way across base. I die once heading to a narrow corridor, and there I die many times. It’s late so I call it a night.

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