Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 upped the ante in myriad ways, but the scene that stuck with many players (and certainly got its fair share of media coverage) was the controversial No Russian mission. In the stage, players control undercover CIA agent Joseph Allen on a mission to infiltrate a Russian terrorist cell. Unfortunately, part of that requires him to do the unthinkable: shoot up an airport full of innocent civilians. The scene is difficult to play through, and critics and fans alike have questioned whether the sequence is truly necessary to get the point across.
While speaking with Infinity Ward, the team let us know that the division over that scene was not limited to outsiders. “No Russian polarized this studio,” art lead Joel Emslie says. “There was a side of the studio that felt that it should be played from the perspective of a security guard that got caught up in it, then there was the other side that liked the way it was going. I remember doing all the civilians for No Russian, and I just wouldn’t … there was a point in time where we were discussing how gory we would get with the people who were getting hit. I pulled back, and I said, ‘You don’t need it. People are getting tagged and their squibs are going off; it’s all good.’”
Emslie eventually made the civilian kills feature more gore after showing it to his wife, who was adamant it was needed. “My wife looked at it and she’s all like, ‘Where’s all the blood and guts?’ and I’m like, ‘We didn’t need to do it,’” he says. “She called me out. She calls me on my bulls—. It’s pretty funny. She looks at things in a different lens. She’s a lawyer. She doesn’t mess around, but she’s a good gut check on stuff.”
Other members of Infinity Ward also looked at ways to make it feel less awful for players. In a 2012 interview, former Infinity Ward designer Mohammad Alavi said the massacre originally ended after the player killed the group just outside of the elevator at the beginning of the mission before jumping forward to a firefight, but it felt too gimmicky with the sequence flirting with doing something raw and uncomfortable, then shying away.
Based on what we’ve seen and learned about the campaign in 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it’s almost a certainty we’ll have some intense and potentially controversial scenes to play through. However, the campaign directors don’t seem to think it’ll be one or two particular scenes that will stick out over the rest of the pack.
“People ask us that internally over and over. They’re like, ‘Where’s your blankety blank scene?’,” campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff says. “There are so many of those at this point that people have stopped asking that question.”
“The answer is it’s the whole game,” studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki says. “I could come up with a list of like eight different things that it could be. Who knows what it will be.”
“I suspect there will be a number of different moments and people will call out their different favorite moments,” Minkoff says. “In the same way that in Modern Warfare 1, people called out the nuke and the aftermath sequence where you crawl out of the helicopter, or they called out the AC-130, or Crew Expendable, or All Ghillied Up. There were a bunch of those, and I feel very confident that we have a bunch of those.”
We’ll find out if what Minkoff and Kurosaki believe about the intense scenes scattered throughout the campaign holds up when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25.
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