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SergeEXE's blog

11:58 AM on 12.04.2009

Modern Warfare 2, and the Medium of Storytelling

I don't have a fancy blog page (yet), nor have I even posted here before. But I do have something to say, and it is about video games.

Also, there will be spoilers for those who still care. And no, I won't be going in-depth into No Russian. That topic's been beaten worse than a dead horse.

Now, I just finished the single player campaign to Modern Warfare 2 yesterday, even though I've had the game much longer. Very late, I know, but I've been focusing more on the multiplayer aspect, as that's the main reason I purchased the game to begin with. However, I occasionally picked up the campaign and found it very enjoyable, akin to a Michael Bay movie. I finished it in 3 sessions of play, which is saying that it's really really short. But that's ok. That was its way of telling the story it had to tell. Sure, from a price standpoint it's unfulfilling, as the campaign alone is not worth $60, but Infinity Ward knew who they were selling to, and it's NOT the XBox Live Silver account members.

That's besides the point though.

Most people who played the single player campaign beat it in about 5~6 hours on average. It has been described almost universally as just one big explosion leading to another, and it's hard to deny that. As such, the narrative isn't exactly terribly clear. However, I've also heard from several different people that had the narrative been clearer, the tale might have achieved the level of narratives such as Metal Gear Solid.

I do not believe this to be true, and I also feel that Modern Warfare 2's narrative is just fine.

Now, it is true that Modern Warfare 2 is tough to follow and is mostly huge action scenes, such as snowmobile chases, nukes exploding, etc etc etc. However, what I feel disjoints is most is what sets this story apart from the narrative of MGS. In both Modern Warfare 1 and 2, you follow different soldiers of different units across several different countries. In any given Metal Gear title, you're following the story of 1 soldier throughout the entire game, barring intro sequences and whatnot. The story is more cohesive if you're just following 1 character, and eventually the story evolved into something huge, but only after the lives of several different people were explored, over the course of 4 games. You only grasped the true nature of the battle being fought after exploring the trials of Solid Snake, Raiden, and Big Boss, and then their stories concluded with Metal Gear Solid 4.

That explanation is a little simplistic, I know, but that is the barebones narrative structure of the series. In the Modern Warfare games, we're experiencing a similar narrative, but instead of experiencing the individual soldiers throughout their careers, you're in the shoes of multiple soldiers all apart of a plot larger than themselves. While Metal Gear is more of a narrative of the individual soldier, Modern Warfare is a war narrative. The soldiers are the players of the story, they are not truly the main focus, at least until the end of Modern Warfare 2 when General Shephard betrays Task Force 141. Only then does the story become personal, as you then follow MacTavish and Price in their bid for revenge. Before that though, you were following orders in the pursuit of ending the war, nothing else. Except for the maybe No Russian mission, which many people felt personal towards.

The various Snake characters of Metal Gear Solid characters feel fleshed out and human. We see their interactions with other people as they struggle to maintain personal identity amidst the tragedies, horrors and hardships of war. You care about these characters (except for maybe Raiden) because they are so well developed. In Modern Warfare, however, we care about the characters for a completely different reason. In all honesty, they aren't fleshed out so well and we only know them for their service record. We still care about most of the playable characters though, because we see the war through their eyes. We carry their gun, walk in their shoes. When NPCs talk to the character, it feels like they are talking directly to you, and you grow attached because you feel like you're personally involved in this greater conflict.

Now, all of this isn't to say that one form of storytelling is better than the other. As it stands, Metal Gear Solid does indeed have a much more cohesive narrative, and is easier to follow. However, we need to realize that there are also 4 games in that series, and the story it told is essentially over, not counting any future installments by Kojima. There are only 2 games in the Modern Warfare storyline, but already the epic story is beginning to unfold. There will more than likely be more installments in the series, thanks to the massive amounts of money is pulls in, and hopefully Infinity Ward can tell its story. It's entirely possible that a lot of what I said about the series will not hold true: the story could become very much a personal soldier's narrative and less of a story about the greater conflict, given the history of Soap and Price. That could be a welcome evolution of the storytelling that Infinity Ward chooses to use though, and certainly would feel more personal than Metal Gear Solid as you'll still be looking through their eyes and dealing with them and their missions personally.   read

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