When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was first announced, I was a little surprised that its title suggested it would be rebooting, or at least paying homage, to the first Modern Warfare game that I had come to love back in 2007. I’ve now beaten the game, so now I know that, just as the game’s marketing suggested, it struggles with the tension between being a fun, accessible blockbuster game while also trying to say something deep about war.
Even before this game came out and I had the chance to see how it worked, I kept thinking back to the 2007 game. In many ways, the first Modern Warfare changed a lot of things. From the single player campaign, which had its strengths and its problems, to the multiplayer, which shaped the ways that my friends and I would get together often and stay in touch. But, most of all, I was curious about the game’s single player campaign. I wanted to see if it would bite off a little more than it could chew.
Before playing the game, I thought another Call of Duty set in modern times could position itself to make some pretty poignant statements about the wild world we live in now. It feels like a lot of our current world is on fire. People in power often act irresponsibly, and fighting the good fight seems to get more complicated and exhausting as time goes on.
When the trailer first dropped, I was initially struck by how jarring it felt. The night vision gameplay and cameras on helmets felt like found footage at first. It hypnotized me. But it also didn’t look like the reboot that I’d hoped it could be. The series appeared to have transformed into popcorn spectacle, even if the original version might’ve had something a little deeper to say underneath the hair metal guitar solos as you rushed into a helicopter to escape an ambush.
The Warfare series always had that popcorn-grabbing element, but it also often actually had interesting things to say about how war has changed (Metal GEAR?). Over the years, though, the series has spiraled into its blockbuster leanings, which have sterilized a lot of what made the original so interesting.
In marketing the game, the developers claimed that the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would delve into the “gray areas” of war and function mostly as a way to showcase the different sides and motivations during proxy wars backed by super powers. They claimed it was not “political,” but sure, it would contain some things that some might perceive as “political.” I got even more curious after an odd turn of events at E3, with regard to how the developers described one of the game’s more powerful moments.
I’ve talked in previous episodes of Viewpoints about how I wish some developers would just own their politics and be genuine about what they aim to say with their works of art. After all, they’re human, I’m human. You’re talking to me, so I’m listening, and yo, I’m an active-ass listener.
Now, after all this marketing and build-up, I finally know what this game is doing… and what it’s not doing. I played it over the course of last weekend, intermixing the campaign with late nights spent in the game’s multiplayer, and came back on Monday asking who else had played this thing that I had a lot of thoughts on.
Luckily, our game’s reviewer Joshua Rivera and the one and only Tim Rogers answered the call of duty (I had to). Watch the spoiler discussion above to hear what we all thought, or if you want to save it to your YouTube queue later, go here.