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Former Infinity Ward Level Designer Mohammad Alavi reflects on "No Russian"

Bovell August 9, 2012 User blog:Bovell

With the legal battle between former Infinity Ward heads, Jason West and Vince Zampella, and Activision now settled, the gag on those that originally developed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been lifted.

Among those already talking about their experiences at Infinity Ward is former Level Designer Mohammad Alavi, the man most notably in charge for the creation and sequencing of events in "All Ghillied Up" and "No Russian."

MW2 No Russian Elevator

Alavi feels that criticism for "No Russian" has missed the point. "For that level we were trying to do three things, sell why Russia would attack the US, make the player have an emotional connection to the bad guy Makarov, and do that in a memorable and engaging way. In a first person shooter where you never leave the eyes of the hero, it's really hard to build up the villain and get the player invested in why he’s 'bad'."

The former Infinity Ward developer denied that the level was made purely for controversy. "The first iteration of the level only had the 'massacre' at just outside the elevator door. Beyond the first set of escalators, the combat would begin ... [I]t felt cheap and gimmicky. It felt like we were touching on something raw and emotional and then shying away from it just as soon as it became uncomfortable.

"I’ve read a few reviews that said we should have just shown the massacre in a movie or cast you in the role of a civilian running for his life. Although I completely respect anyone's opinion that it didn't sit well with them, I think either one of those other options would have been a cop out ... [W]atching the airport massacre wouldn't have had the same impact as participating (or not participating) in it. Being a civilian doesn't offer you a choice or make you feel anything other than the fear of dying in a video game, which is so normal it's not even a feeling gamers feel anymore."

Alavi stresses that the level's importance rests in captivating the player. "It isn't really relevant whether [shooting civilians] makes you enjoy the entertainment experience even more because you're being naughty (à la Grand Theft Auto) or it engrosses you further into the story and makes you resent your actions. What's relevant is that the level managed to make the player feel anything at all.

"In the sea of endless bullets you fire off at countless enemies without a moment's hesitation or afterthought, the fact that I got the player to hesitate even for a split second and actually consider his actions before he pulled that trigger– that makes me feel very accomplished."

Mohammad Alavi, like many other former Infinity Ward employees, jumped ship to his former bosses' new studio, Respawn Entertainment, during the legal fallout. The EA partner studio is reportedly working on a sci-fi oriented shooter to compete with the Halo and Gears of War franchises.

Source: Magical Wasteland | A Sea of Endless Bullets: Spec Ops, No Russian And Interactive Atrocity

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