The 'most anticipated game of the decade' is now out and everyone has probably played the mission where you kill a bunch of innocents in a Russian airport though. Harrowing and disturbing are just a couple of the words thrown around but I couldn't disagree more. I wasn't there, I was disconnected from the game experience because they did not integrate my character at all into this situation. I was just a wobbly gun floating in front of a screen, but it could have been so much more.
Make no bones about it, No Russian was included to get some controversial press. There is no reason for it to be there so early in the game with no real set-up apart from one of the little stupid briefings before the 'mission'. There are several ways that the scene could be more effective in dragging you into the moment, to make you care about all these innocent people and even the evil Russians plight.
But no, IW/Activision decided to blow their load over your face within an hour of the game, 1/5th of the way through. Having finished the campaign, the game itself is fun, but the pacing and writing of the whole game is pretty poor and as such, Talking Russian makes it seem more like shock tactic B-Movie rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. Below are a few ways it could be improved, either in gameplay or with storytelling
1. Allow you to shoot the terrorists.
This is probably, along with number 2, the main thing that took me out of the game experience. First time my aim was wobbly trying to kill some civilians and I hit one of the terrorists, so I get the blurry screen saying I shouldn't shoot them because they'll be onto me. By the end of the mission, it was clear they already were onto me, so why not let me shoot the bad guys? Just make sure Makarov gets away and everyone else is slaughtered and they'll know it was Americans spilling the blood. But that's nothing compared to number 2.
2. Play some backstory missions with the terrorists.
Sure, we know why they are doing this by the end of the mission, but why not have some missions where you are doing other things, like bank raids or ambushing American soldiers, and he can explain the motives to your character over his collection of fine brandies he has possibly liberated over the years.
You're just dropped in a mission, told not to speak Russian and kill anything that moves. It's pretty lame. You could go either way, make you feel some sympathy for these terrorists before their heinous act or just build him up as an even bigger monster.
I've been playing a lot of Dragon Age and without spoiling too much, a lot of my decisions have been based on my characters relationships with their friends and how it would affect them. Good writing in video games can be powerful in helping you make moral choices, but only if you understand the background and link you have to the characters around you. This is totally missing not just from this mission, but the game entirely and one of the things that made COD4 so engaging.
3. Rocky IV re-released special edition
In a display of George Lucas style arrogance, Sly Stallone decides to change the ending of Rocky IV and this time, Rocky kills Ivan. There's uproar in Russia so war begins.
Sure, it has about the same effect as the current mission, but it has the added bonus of making the 4th level a playable 80's montage
4. P. Diddy attaches himself to Ciroc vodka
It was bad enough when the French brought out Grey Goose, but now P. Diddy has attached himself to an admittedly good vodka and he is everything that's wrong with capitalist America. The red heart starts beating again and war has begun.
5. Stalin 'wises fwom his gwave'
Yeah, it's a rip-off from Altered Beast, but if you're gonna rip something off, you might as well rip-off the Citizen Cane of gaming. Hell, with Stalin transforming into various animals, you might even have a credible threat instead of a squidgy human terrorist.
OK, the last few points were out there a little, but I have to say, I feel even the stupid ideas would have been better. Modern Warfare 2 is really good fun to play and the atmosphere is there when you're doing normal shoot everything that has a gun gameplay, but if you're going to use such a device to set-up the story, wouldn't it be a good idea to make sure that the story you have is actually good? Then you might not have this knee-jerk reaction from some gamers (yes, not counting the mainstream press) because even to us who have no problems playing through a level like that, it still just seems like it was contraversy grabbing.
To me, the storytelling aspect of the game is a step down from COD4 and as someone who really enjoyed that single-player campaign, it is a massive disappointment.
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