Get ready for the return of Modern Warfare! The most acclaimed series of the franchise is back with a long wait, with the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (used to be called Modern Warfare 2 remastered), which will offer an intense experience, reimagined from the ground up. The brand new title, released by Activision and developed by Infinity Ward, plunges players into a modern conflict, where player choices will be crucial and could affect the global balance. The new Modern Warfare features a unified storyline and progression system across all aspects of the game: an epic solo campaign, an action-packed online multiplayer, or a new co-op experience.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a more humane look at the war
It’s a strange feeling. The adventure of a Call of Duty ends, and you do not feel stupider than at the beginning of the story. Remembrance of a player, it is a sensation that we had not known for more than ten years. Modern Warfare (not recommended for anyone under 18), released Oct. 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, is the latest installment in a series of popular first-person shooter games for its intense online games, but whose scripted part is most often stereotyped, stupefying and grotesque.
At first sight, the campaign of this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (a re-interpretation, with a new scenario, Modern Warfare 2007) seems not to escape the rule: it makes you want to take the head with both hands. His mission staging an attack in the heart of London recalls the contest’s questionable taste for shock sequences, without tact in the face of recent real events. His creation of an imaginary Arab country headquarters of an international terrorist organization, Urzikistan, wakes up the painful memories of the racist clichés of the episode of 2007. The way the story systematically pose the West as an innocent victim , and Russia in a big way, will not win the prize of the most subtle geopolitical narrative.
PlayStation 4 controller in hand, Call of Duty does not seem to have changed much. We run into urban alleys in the corridor, we cross through the devastated eastern cities, we zone in villages in search of objectives to secure … The game shows a certain control in terms of staging and of rhythm. But the grammar of Modern Warfare is directly in the continuity of the episode PlayStation 3, as if the video game had not evolved since. Up to these decades-old programming routines, and those front-end battles that are less about cutting down endless enemy waves than running to the next checkpoint to make them disappear. In short, we get excited, we get bored.
Change of tone in mid-story
And then, past the first half of the story, almost by surprise, the tone changes. In this clichéd Arabistan, which seems to come out of a Fox News documentary, the game begins to tell the story of the suffering of civilians terrorized by wars, foreign invasions, chemical attacks on an innocent population. The character of Farah, a woman at the head of the rebel forces of Urzikistan – a nod to the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, or YPG – is gaining more and more importance.
Unlike the Modern Warfare of 2007, it is no longer the Iraq of Saddam Hussein that we are talking about. But Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, its bombed hospitals, its sarin gas attacks against its population, its rebel groups stuck between government forces and radicalized terrorist militias. Without ever saying it explicitly, Modern Warfare, whose scenario began in 2016, becomes the first video game on the crash of the “Arab Spring” in Syria, the beginning of the civil war and the birth of the Islamic State.
A game where women are actresses of the war
We stop playing only the CIA agent Alex, or the British sergeant Kyle, with the handsome Captain Price, a warrior and braggart, inherited from the original series. The player is led to slip into the skin of a woman, a child, a resident of this Urzikistan. This is a novel reversal of focus: in what has long been a saga of shooter singing the glory of Western armies, the spotlight shines for the first time on those left out of the war .
Remarkably, women are ubiquitous in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. They are soldiers, mothers, leaders, terrorists, prisoners, blackmail or resistant, actresses for the better or for worse of a conflict considered in all its complexity. This omnipresence of the civilian population and asymmetrical warfare techniques also gives rise to unpublished issues in the series. For the first time, Call of Duty begins to speak explicitly about Geneva convention, war crimes, chemical weapons.
Instead of altering the usual efficiency of the saga, industrialized to the point of having become desperately redundant and predictable, this new approach offers some unexpected sequences. Like an infiltration scene during which, at the head of the camera system of the US embassy in Urzikistan, it is necessary to guide an official to the exit while escaping a terrorist militia. Or this mission during which, and without saying too much, we embody the most vulnerable character that a Call of Duty has ever staged.
A game that absolves the West
Let’s not be afraid to say it: this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is by far the smarter that the series has offered over the last ten years. The feat is not really one: the saga-flagship of Activision had recently specialized in the futuristic abstruse scenarios, free hyperviolence scenes and reckless warmongering eulogies.
However, this does not make it a model of finesse, and we will scream right against the Manichaeism of the game. It makes Russia bear full responsibility for the misfortunes of Urzikistan (any resemblance to Putin’s Russia and his support for Bashar Al-Assad would necessarily be fortuitous); while the United States is almost completely erased from the chain of causes.
We can also blink our eyes at this crazy Arabistan, located in the middle of Anatolia, and this perpetual blur that keeps Modern Warfare between historical reality and fiction, to the mix of quotations of real and fictional characters. A mixture that has been criticized since the game’s release, with regard to the unfortunate evocation of a highway of death attributed to Russian bombings: that while a “Highway of Death” has existed, but it is a tragic war episode in 1991 by the US Army in Kuwait.
One can also pester against certain archaisms, like the parking meter IQ of enemy soldiers, incapable of credible initiatives, but that Modern Warfare seems to want to keep as many distinctive features. Or the pyrotechnic fireworks and explosions, which sometimes makes the action unreadable, even on a giant screen. But that would be missing the point: at the price of contortions with reality, this year Call of Duty has something to tell.