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In the infamous Modern Warfare 2 mission No Russian the player takes control of Joseph Allen, a double agent planted into a group of Russian terrorists as they attempt to incite a war between their country and the United States.
The player accompanied by Makarov, Viktor, Lev and Kiril stroll through the airport and massacre hundreds of civilians and police officers. The player does not have to actually shoot any civillians and can just stand idly by. However either way there are still innocent men and women crawling along the floor in a pool of their own blood...
Many critics said that the mission was only included to incite headlines and gain sales. Essentially suggesting it was a publicity stunt.
But did Infinity Ward actually want to incite controversy with the inclusion of the mission? Ever since the release of Modern Warfare 2 no one has actually seen what went through the heads of the IW devs and they weren’t allowed to talk about the game due to a law suit by Activision. However now that the lawsuit has been settled the former IW employees (Now Respawn_Entertainment) can discuss the infamous No Russian.
“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’.”
Alavi said that he had a storytelling goal and that he could reach that goal using the medium of Call of Duty.
“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… It 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… Watching 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 then added that:
“It isn’t really relevant whether that 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.”