This fall, one of the biggest war video game franchises will be set in a current war, the conflict in Afghanistan. Why? Not politics, a developer told Kotaku. Not current events.
"We never chose Afghanistan," Medal of Honor executive producer Greg Goodrich said in a recent interview in New York City. "Afghanistan sort of chose us. We had a story we wanted to tell and it was about a certain group of individuals. And that's where they happened to be. And so we ended up there."
This new Medal of Honor puts players in the boots of various soldiers during an undated but clearly early part of the U.S.-led NATO war in Afghanistan that began in the fall of 2001. Players spend much of their time in the game controlling elite Tier 1 operative soldiers, the type of bearded rugged real-world super-soldiers who have performed some of the most elite and dangerous missions in the way.
Goodrich denied that setting the game during this modern conflict was an attempt to grab the attention of potential players who might be gripped by current events as opposed to the fictional future combat of competing series Modern Warfare or the older wars depicted in other major war games. "I don't think about that at all," he said. "We have a story to tell: Our story, our characters and the quality level at which we're telling our story will engage people whether it's there or anywhere else. The backdrop is just that. It's a historical backdrop that has rich history. It all adds to that recipe that goes into making a great storytelling experience, beyond the locale, beyond the time of day, beyond the audio or music."
The enemy in the new Medal of Honor will be Al Qaeda and foreign fighters from areas like Chechnya. They will exhibit fighting tactics seen in the real conflict.
Beyond providing a new enemy, Goodrich said Afghanistan unexpectedly provided the game developers, the diverse terrain they wanted. "What Afghanistan gives us is that the average consumer is going to expect a certain thing: a very dry, arid rustic terrain," he said. "That's a part of Afghanistan. Helmand Province is a very dry rugged terrain. But when [the soldiers who consulted on the game] started bringing in photographs and we started looking at video, the different terrain of that country I was surprised... I've seen photographs that I would swear was Vietnam. I've seen snowy mountain peaks... What this does is it gives us a visual cascade of terrain that is going to be appealing to the consumer."
So the game won't be using its Afghanistan setting to press any political buttons. Usually the big war games don't, even, when setting themselves in a current war, it seems they could.
Medal of Honor ships this fall for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Read Kotaku's impressions of the game.