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Modern Warfare 2 Day#2: War is Not a Game

Day 2 of Modern Warfare. I’m going to point out again that thus far I have only played the single player story mode of the game. I have been told repeatedly by friends and media that the special ops mode and the multiplayer are excellent, and what I’ve played gives me reason to believe that is true. But the single player story mode is disgusting. I know that’s an odd word to use about a game, but it is the only word that I can use to sum up my feelings about this thing. It’s not a game — I have next to no agency and most of the time the game proceeds no matter what I do. Narrative choices in this play are not only colossally stupid and entirely lacking in agency, but actually foul.  The only reason I have not quit the story mode and gone on to the stand alone operations is because I want to see if any of this will make any sense: narratively, aesthetically, or ludologically.  Spoilers within.

We come back to the CIA agents in the snowy mountains. I go back to shooting up the hill after our pursuers. I kill a couple guys, and that seems to get them to run away. Then snowmobiles come around the corner to attack us. I’m confused by their entrance so I don’t do anything as they drive around shooting us. Then without warning a snowmobile is free and I’m supposed to get on it. I cannot stress enough that the snowmobiles were being piloted by enemies, and I’ve done NOTHING to deal with those enemies.  Anyway, I get on and start to drive. It’s a race through the forest, and it’s exciting but there’s a lot going on that I don’t understand, and I honestly don’t know if it’s possible for me to lose this. I complete the snow race and get helicoptered out.

As we transition to the next scene, I learn some guy named Makarov is the true villain, and that I have to be next to him through whatever horrible stuff happens in order to prevent future more horrible stuff. I figured this was to be the disturbing part I was warned about, and it was, although not how I expected it.  I enter airport with the Makarov guys I’m under cover with. They tell me to follow their lead. And they start shooting up the place, slaughtering innocent Russians. Umm…no. This makes no sense. I’m going to dedicate a whole separate rant to this, but let me at least hit the main problems here:

  1. This is totally unrealistic from a narrative perspective. There is simply no way that a CIA agent would go along this. What crime is going to happen that trumps a massacre of hundreds of innocent people? I think the CIA thing to do would be to stop this before it happens.
  2. I have had like 2 minutes of prep for this. You can’t make me care with no prep. I am basically numb to the whole scene, and whatever power this is supposed to have is lost.
  3. Because I’m a spy, I don’t feel any compulsion to do this. So I don’t. I just don’t shoot anyone in the airport. I aim at the sky when I pull my trigger. (Well, I did throw a grenade once by accident at my own guys when I forgot a control. They called me a traitor and shot me.) Want to guess what effect my lack of initiative had?
  4. Oh wait. None. All the innocent people die around my impotent protest. At least until I get outside and we face the Russian military. Then suddenly my AI partners shoot like stormtroopers and I have to be the one to kill the enemy guards by using my grenade launcher to break their line. (I died like five times figuring that out, by the way.)
  5. When we finally get to the end of the mission where we are supposed to get away, the terrorists CS call me out as a traitor and assassinate me. YOU ARE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!  So I walk through a scene that I think is stupid and unrealistic in the name of allying with these people, and they know THE WHOLE TIME that I’m a traitor and autokill me?!?  Unbelievable. Why do have any agency at all? Make a movie, Modern Warfare. Stop fucking with the players by pretending you give a shit about them.

In the next transition, we follow some kind of clue to South America — a shell or something — to some guy who knows the villain. This plot is SO stupid. I’m in a jeep, following someone I think. I witness a gun fight between the guy I’m tailing and someone else. Our driver gets shot and we suddenly have to chase the guy. I lose my partner for a bit as I run but then I find him in an alley. We see the guy running and I have to shoot the guy non lethally. I fail first time then get it on second try. That ends this scene. I’ll give the game that the shot in the leg was a fun thing to do.

Okay, this next point is small, but it’s where I would have quit. We stay with this group as we cut to the next scene. It starts with me facing an open garage. Inside is the guy I shot tied to a chair, a guy in a black mask closing the garage door, and another guy with jumper cables crackling with electricity. Oh, we’re going to torture the guy. Nice. I have caused someone to be tortured. Fuck this game. Seriously. I do not accept your disgusting narrative over me. Exercise whatever depravity you want. I have no ownership of it.

Anyway, this scene is about a run through a bunch of buildings trying to catch some guy I literally never see. My team splits up and I hear messages from them that continually tell me to run uphill to head off this unseen target. As I go through the buildings, I get sniped from all sides by rooftop gunmen. I will give it to MW2 that this is the most fun part of the game so far. Does Meat always go down? It seems like I hear that at the same part of the game no matter what I do.  As I’m heading up to cut the target off (I guess), I’m killed once by a dog. I run into narrow alley with tons of enemies and die like 25 times.  It’s a long trudge up hill through enemies with no sense where my target is — what is the goal of this scene? I finally kill my way through like 100 guys to get to the target on my map, where I see an NPC buddy get the bad guy. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Well, THANK GOD I ran up the hill so that I could WITNESS the heroic move.

The next transition sets up a the narrative that, I shit you not, Russians are advancing on USA and there are fighter planes over 1-95.  I am losing my capacity to be astounded by the idiocy of this narrative. In the next scene,  I’m fighting in suburban Virginia. For real? That’s really the story here? Sigh. I drive around in jeep again, get out when we’re attacked from somewhere (where have I seen this before?), and go running through suburbs. I’m sorry; this is so dumb. Okay, I’ll let it go now.

There’s some kind of armored vehicle ahead, and I have to use smoke grenades to cover it. That’s kind of cool. With the smoke cover we run into alley and fight our way to a diner. I die once getting there. Once in the diner, I’m shooting at targets from the  roof for a while, moving an automated turret around to help with the defense. I then have to get off the roof for some reason, and die once when I don’t. Next, I have to run across the street to get some other weapon, and die twice doing that. The weapon is some aerial missile system I use to destroy tank things, in a pretty cool black and white overhead targeting camera. On my way back, an enemy jet destroys the diner. We then have to take a burger town as a new base — sorry, that is just a hilarious sentence. I die twice doing that. Enemy helis come; I get a Stinger, die once doing so, and blow the heli out of the sky slowly. The other heli comes, and have to get another stinger at a second location. Man, switching weapons in this game is totally unknowable — I have no idea where each weapon maps to. Anyway, I finally blow up other heli, and with that done, we get to a convoy that gets us out of here.

The next transition gives news reports of the US invasion, but there’s some bait to catch the bad guy or some nonsense like that. We’re back to South America, but I’ve had enough of this and save and quit.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Games in Flash are Awesome linked to this post on February 10, 2010

    […] back, I think.  A response to the hyper graphics of Modern Warfare 2 (which apparently has an appalling single player experience).  I highly recommend using Flixel for Flash game projects (and there seems to be Flash Punk, a […]

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