Friday, 18 November 2011

Modern Warfare 3 - They Did What?!

(WARNING: This article contains big story SPOILERS so please do not read if you don't want to know what happens in the game’s Singleplayer Campaign.)

The juggernaut that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has already smashed all records as the best selling game of all time. Even more astonishingly, I read today that MW3 has just broken the five-day sales record for any movie, book or video game that has existed EVER.

It would seem then that the game had better deliver.

Personally, I loved the game – having been slightly disappointed by Black Ops I found it good to be back and continuing the Modern Warfare story that concludes the events following on from the first two in the series.

I even played through the campaigns of MW1 and MW2 to reacquaint myself with the epic narrative before diving into the third instalment. Kind of like watching a film trilogy back to back. It was very epic and I’m glad I did it – my new big TV and surround sound headphones further amplifying the experience.

However, this article isn’t a review of the game, its actually about a specific thing that happens in the story that left many an internet fanboy enraged, saddened and confused – and my take on it. Last chance to back out if you don't like spoilers…

Ok… here goes.

On one of the missions towards the game the unthinkable happens.

Soap dies.

Now, the Modern Warfare games do have a history of killing off popular characters such as Ghost or even characters you are actively playing as such as Allen or Roach. But this seemed different.

Firstly, following the moment Soap gets injured you have to help carry him for a fair distance throughout the level, before he finally expires (incidentally this is something you also did earlier in the game but back then you end up getting him the medical attention he needed and thus saving him).

Secondly, Soap is probably the most popular Modern Warfare character (having been the main character used by the player in MW1 and as your mentor/leader in MW2 - voiced by Kevin McKidd) and having him die was a major bombshell for most players.

When witnessing that moment I stared open mouth in disbelief. ‘What!? They killed Soap!?’

I felt myself welling up as Captain Price (played by Billy Murray AKA Don Beech from The Bill) loses it, unable to accept his death.

Now although the death of Soap is indeed tragic, I stand by the developers Infinity Ward for their decision for the following reasons:

Having Price die instead would have had less of an impact emotionally on the player as it borders on the cliché. As the duo of Price and Soap have fostered the father/son dynamic over the course of three games through constant quipping and camaraderie, it would be no surprise (narratively speaking) if the older one died, leaving the younger to want to avenge him and thus ultimately replacing their mentor.

The phrase ‘no parent should outlive their children’ rings true here and makes the situation all the more tragic and Price’s actions at the end of the game in hunting down Makarov become more of a personal vendetta and the ending all the more cathartic for it. In fact once the deed is done, Price isn’t even concerned for his own safety or escaping, he just sits there in front of Makarov’s hanging body and whilst smoking a cigar, his driving purpose now complete. World War Three was over at the end of the previous chapter but now his personal fight is too.

The tragedy of Soap’s death at the time of his passing is further compounded by the revelation that your character Yuri has some previous connection with Makarov (referred to by him as ‘old friend’) and therefore the player feels directly responsible for their beloved Soap’s death, an ingenious if a little contrived move by Infinity Ward - as it turns out you aren’t really.

I think Soap’s death can be justified in the game as it throws a curveball at the audience (who would probably have been expecting a major character like Price to die instead in this game) to create a shocking event in the story that you genuinely didn't see coming and makes the denouement at the end all the more satisfying for it. And besides, the reality is that warfare is cruel and harsh and bullets and explosions don't discriminate when you are in the thick of battle.

Being a dedicated hardcore soldier and unlikely to have a normal life and family outside of his work, Soap was a son to Price in all but name and the tragedy of war is conveyed through Price’s (and the audience’s) feeling of utter loss by bucking convention and pulling the rug out from under the player and their expectations.

Players of the game should be right in feeling outrage and sadness at this story event and if they feel even a miniscule amount of what Price must have felt then Infinity Ward have succeeded in making us feel empathy for the characters.

So although I loved Soap and was saddened at his death in the game, I feel ultimately it was the right thing to happen in terms of making the narrative of Price's revenge on Makarov more effective.

(You can watch the whole scene from the game HERE).

17 Nov 2011

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