Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s Campaign Will Be More “Sensitive” Than Previous Games

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's campaign may avoid some of the controversies that have defined previous CoD titles.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Photo: Activision Blizzard

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In a recent press preview (as transcribed by The Verge), Infinity Ward co-head Patrick Kelly suggested that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s plot will try to be more sensitive to certain real-world events and potential controversies than some previous Call of Duty games have been.

“We’re telling fictional stories. But it is inspired by real-world military events that shape the world we live in,” said Kelly regarding the game’s narrative. “This is a sensitive one for me because with the events going on in the world, the war on Ukraine, it’s important to me that we be sensitive on this one.”

As noted by Venture Beat, Kelly also stated that the team generally wants the game’s campaign to not feel as uncomfortable as 2019’s Modern Warfare campaign sometimes felt.

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“We want the game to be an entertainment adventure,” Kelly said. “I am proud of what we did in 2019. But there was a lot of stuff that was at times provocative or uncomfortable. We’re trying to focus a bit more on entertainment and having fun.”

Kelly also noted that he wants the game’s characters to come across as “heroic but also human,” though he didn’t expand on what that actually means. However, he did indicate to Venture Beat that the game’s levels will focus more on military vs. military conflicts rather than battles that directly put civilians in danger.

You should also know that we still don’t know a lot about Modern Warfare 2‘s actual plot. Here’s the only substantial summary of the game’s campaign I’ve been able to find so far (again, courtesy of The Verge):

Modern Warfare ll picks up the action as the sequel to Modern Warfare (2019) as the newly formed Task Force 141 faces a massive global threat across a campaign of missions that push the boundaries of gameplay. The action takes players around the world as Task Force 141 works to neutralize a terrorist conspiracy and attack on the US, spanning locations around the globe. A newly aligned menace conspires to create chaos inside the US’ borders and Task Force 141 must come together against all odds.

Players will fight alongside the most iconic characters in Modern Warfare, including Captain Price, Ghost, Soap, Gaz, and Laswell, as well as encounter a host of lethal new allies like Mexican Special Forces, Colonel Alejandro Vargas, and adversaries drawn from the murkiest corners of the global war on terror.”

Beyond that, the game’s trailer strongly suggests that the campaign will involve a trip to Mexico. At the very least, the trailer includes the line “Mexican Special Forces 141…they are your brothers now,” which seems to hint at some kind of alliance.

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Of course, the biggest current global political event that Modern Warfare 2‘s narrative may bump up against is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On that note, Kelly stated that “We have a team in Krakow, Poland, who are easy driving distance from Ukraine. We have people who worked on this game who are in war-torn parts of Ukraine. It has been particularly sensitive for us as a team. You would never want to see a person on the team uncomfortable with something you’re doing, especially if it is something we are living through. We endeavor to treat sensitive material the best way we can. But we are also trying to make a game that is reflective of the world we live in.”

While it doesn’t seem like Ukraine will be a major setting or plot point in Modern Warfare 2, the game’s trailer makes it clear that Russia will be. So, if 2022’s Modern Warfare 2 wanted to do something like recreate that plot point in 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 in which Russia invades the United States…well, that would certainly probably hit a little too close to home in more ways than one. As noted above, it sounds like you shouldn’t expect 2022’s Modern Warfare 2 to feature the kinds of invasion sequences that typically occur in areas with large civilian populations. Of course, plans change, so don’t take that as a guarantee.

Instead, it’s the history of the Call of Duty franchise and the potential change in direction that Modern Warfare 2 may represent that feels like the biggest story here. Many of you will no doubt remember that 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 drew a lot of controversy for its infamous “No Russian” mission in which players are allowed to murder civilians at a Russian airport as part of a terrorist attack. While the game did give you the option to skip that level entirely, the very idea of a video game allowing you to participate in an act of terrorism such as that was just too much for many. Here’s what former CoD game designer Mohammad Alavi had to say about the inspiration for that mission and his defense of it:

“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.”

Since then, many Call of Duty games have featured at least one level, moment, or idea that has attracted some amount of controversy. Indeed, 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare drew heavy criticism for a scene that allowed you to play as a child soldier and another sequence that some argued tried to rewrite the history of a U.S. war crime. That latter incident proved to be particularly controversial among Russian gamers, which is yet another factor Infinity Ward may be considering this time around.

Ultimately, we’ll need to wait and see how Modern Warfare 2 avoids the potential social landmines that this series used to regularly run into with some amount of glee. For what it’s worth, though, it does seem like the MW 2 team is significantly less interested in trying to attract controversy (whether for artistic or commercial purposes) than some CoD teams have been in the past. Of course, it may ultimately come down to how the game handles the potentially sensitive topics it chooses to address rather than if it addresses them at all.

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