No RussianI feel like posting about this, despite having read articles that express what I'm about to say far more eloquently. Rock paper shotgun had the best so far, I think.
So, a brief recap of what I'm talking about for those who are unaware of it. Call of Duty modern warfare 2 has a level in which you play a secret agent who has penetrated a terrorist organisation. To gain their trust you must participate in an attack on civillians at an airport. You can watch it here.
You know what I felt, watching this level? Very little. I've seen this before. In Grand theft auto you can maim, cause havoc and destruction, and frequently do. Usually you will mow down innocents simply so you can inspire the police to chase you. Of course, the point is, you, as the player, know these aren't human beings. You realise they are sprites, little moving targets with no connection to reality whatsoever. Its a game. Call of Duty is trying something more.
It sort of always has. There is a mission in the first game in which you play out the assault on stalingrad (or was it leningrad. Name fail). You are issued ammo, and no gun. The beginning is blisteringly hard, and it helps underline to you the true costs of that war, as you fight and others fight beside you. You are playing out a real event, and as such, during the many death scences you will encounter, you realise that not everyone gets to respawn.
This, however, is trying to evoke... what exactly? That the murder of innocents is bad? We already knew that, and you could just show us the murder of innocents, not make us a participant in it. So us being a participant must matter, but I can't really see how. It could be talking about agency and choice, but the choices you make in this scence really make very little difference. The other terrorists ignore you no matter what you choose to do, leaving the choice to join in to mow down civillians one based on how real you feel the scene is (it isn't, by the way... almost all airports have guards with submachine guns. Walking very slowly shooting through an airport will get you killed in short order).
There is no chance to empathise with the terrorists here. They are murderers, with no real agenda on display, nothing to humanise them there. With that possibility drained, this is just a pointless exercise. You don't even know who exactly you are meant to be getting close to- what atrocity you are trying to prevent that is worse than the one you are partaking in. As the rps article says, this could possibly be a statement about the foolishness of blindly following orders, but its simply not smart enough for that.
I guess its just a failed experiment then. Expecting more out of such a popcorn game may have been asking a bit too much...