Magical Wasteland is written by Matthew S. Burns.

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A Sea of Endless Bullets: Spec Ops, No Russian and Interactive Atrocity

Throughout the history of war-themed shooting video games, game designers have often thought about how they might use the tools at their disposal to explore a new dimension of commentary on their subject matter even as they also succeeded in creating best-selling entertainment. Yager’s Spec Ops: The Line is a recent example; Midway’s Blacksite: Area 51 and Free Radical Design’s Haze come to mind as earlier ones. I have sat in such meetings, too, where creative leads became excited for how they would somehow attain a deeper level of unvarnished truth than previous war-themed games were able to achieve.

For people of a certain sensitivity, it’s difficult not to come up against that desire sooner or later when they work on these kinds of games. To be an artist (or a craftsperson) and make something about today’s wars that’s corporately antiseptic and palatable, you often have to purposely leach the commentary away; you have to dance around the fact that there’s a lot of war in your game and that you have nothing at all to say about it.

Activision’s Call of Duty series is a virtuoso at this dance, and the only time the series really seemed like it might be attempting to dip its toe into the waters outside of its usual boundaries was a moment in Modern Warfare 2 called “No Russian”. In this much-discussed and criticized sequence– a small part of a larger level– the player occupies the consciousness of a double agent planted into a group of Russian terrorists as they attempt to incite a war between their country and the United States. They accomplish this by shooting civilians at an airport. The player stands next to the terrorists as they indiscriminately fire into the crowds; he or she can contribute to the fire if he or she chooses, or stand idly by. Either way, the scene is horrific and disturbing: in the mayhem, you watch as a middle-aged man in a purple shirt tries and fails to crawl away from a pool of his own blood. He was not a combatant. He could have been a bus driver or an accountant or a teacher.

Most of the critics I tend to read seem to have agreed that No Russian was not a success. They felt it was needlessly shocking, and many (including me) assumed that it was thrown in cynically to grab headlines and greater sales. The lead writer of Spec Ops: The Line (which, three years after Modern Warfare 2, featured more scenes of civilian massacre but generated far less controversy) suggested that even the optional nature of the event detracted from it:

Williams said that the team worked to avoid the clumsiness of “No Russian,” and that the easiest way around that was to make the civilian killing integral to the story they were trying to tell. “The thing that got me the most [about “No Russian”],”” Williams said, “was that you could opt out of playing it. And that struck me as saying, ‘We wanted to do something that would cause controversy, but it’s actually not necessary to the game, which is why you don’t have to play it.’”

But did the team at Infinity Ward really seek to cause controversy? Ever since it was released, nobody has actually known what the people who made No Russian were thinking, or what the authorial intent for that moment really was. This is partially because Infinity Ward (and subsequently Respawn) employees tend not to speak in public about the work they do, preferring to leave on-the-record interviews to a designated spokesperson. The story was further obscured by a lawsuit between a subset of current and former Infinity Ward employees and their parent company, Activision; anyone involved was advised to avoid talking about the game at all. Now that the suit has been settled, though, the gag on the creators of Modern Warfare 2 has been lifted.

 * * *

“For that level we were trying to do three things,” says Mohammad Alavi, the game designer who was chiefly responsible for designing and implementing the sequence of events in No Russian. “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 has created some of the Call of Duty series’ most memorable moments, including the taut, tightly paced ghillie suit sequence from Modern Warfare. He has since left Infinity Ward, along with many of his co-workers, to join Jason West and Vince Zampella at Respawn.

If he is a master of his domain– the high-budget first person shooter setpiece– his reasoning in this case strikes me as nothing so much as workmanlike. He makes no mention of a desire to plumb the depths of the human capacity for violence, or make a statement about the nature of violence in shooters. He expressly disavows the theory that it was a ploy to attract media attention.

Instead, Alavi saw that he had a storytelling goal, and the tools he had to reach that goal were the tools 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… [I]t 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,” Alavi continues. “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… [W]atching 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 wants to focus on the fact that there is attention and emotion, as opposed to the exact mechanism by which it was created, or even what the qualities of that emotion are. “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,” he says.

“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.”

When he puts it that way, I feel like I understand Alavi’s reasoning up to the decision to create No Russian, whether or not I agree it was the best way to tell the story of the game. When one works in the medium of first person shooters, one must work with the forms the medium provides. Alavi simply wanted to “sell” (in his words) the story of the game and reinforce the badness of the bad guys to the best of his, and his chosen medium’s, ability. The choices that led to No Russian were choices along a series of logical steps followed to their inevitable conclusion: in a world where dozens of marionettes of human beings are constantly killed, something even worse has to happen to snap us awake.

* * *

Walt Williams of Spec Ops felt that what he terms No Russian’s “opt out” choice– referring, it seems, to a curt dialogue box just before the level that warned players about potentially disturbing content and gave them the option to bypass it– weakened No Russian. In a separate interview, Williams explained further why the massacre by the player’s character was mandatory to progress in his game:

“There’s a certain aspect to player agency that I don’t really agree with, which is the player should be able to do whatever the player wants and the world should adapt itself to the player’s desire,” he said. “That’s not the way that the world works, and with Spec Ops, since we were attempting to do something that was a bit more emotionally real for the player. […] That’s what we were looking to do, particularly in the white phosphorous scene, is give direct proof that this is not a world that you are in control of, this world is directly in opposition to you as a game and a gamer.”

There is, I think, a very deep problem with this statement. Note that in the design of Spec Ops, the philosophy of removing choice because “that’s not the way that the world works” leads to a massacre of innocent civilians.

I present a counter-argument: in the real world, there is always a choice. The claim that a massacre of human beings is the result of anyone– a player character in a video game or a real person– because “they had no choice” is the ultimate abdication of responsibility (and, if you believe certain philosophers, a repudiation of the very basis for a moral society). It is unclear to me how actually being presented with no choice is more “emotionally real,” because while it guarantees the player can only make the singular choice, it is also more manipulative. It is like the educational game that wears its assumptions on its sleeve in the name of “simulation”.

The protagonist soldier of Spec Ops could have stopped. He may have thought he had no choice, but only a brief consideration of the various plot parameters of that sequence is required to reveal numerous potential ways he could have escaped the situation.

To the point that the game uses this event to prove that it is in control and actively working in opposition to the player, I think that is actually a point that has already been made, perhaps by every other video game. It is simply a given that the game is in control when a player plays it; that is the very heart of a game’s own system and rules, and particularly in the scripted narrative events that most major games feature. Games can make us do things we wouldn’t have wanted to do before, and, by manipulating our senses, they often do. Spec Ops does indeed induce its audience to consider this fact– but that makes it more of a commentary on games, and quite less about “the way the world works”.

* * *

I played through No Russian multiple times because I wanted direct knowledge of the consequences of my choices. The first time through I had done what came to me naturally, which was to try to stop the event, but firing on the perpetrators ends the mission immediately. The next time I stood by and watched. It is not an easy scene to stomach, and I tried to distance myself emotionally from what was going on.

The third time, I decided that I would participate. I could have chosen not to; I could have simply moved on then, or even shut off the system and never played again. But a certain curiosity won out– that kind of cold-blooded curiosity that craves the new and the forbidden. I pulled the trigger and fired.

Reader Comments (19)

Just my interpretation, but based on what Walt has said in various places, the lack of agency in the phosphorous scene sort of feels like a critique of games that claim to give you complete agency, or claim to make your choices matter, when they still strip away the majority of your agency in other parts of the game.

For me, it sort of felt like an inversion of the traditional structure: A game like Mass Effect or Bioshock decides to give you 'moral choices' at various points in time, but the rest of the time the only way to progress is to shoot hundreds of faceless dudes. Spec Ops sets up a collection of circumstances that easily would have been a Moral Choice moment in another game, and they DO give you some degree of freedom - you can keep shooting the soldiers for as long as you want without using the mortar, until you run out of ammo - but eventually you have to use the object they gave you to progress the scenario.

It doesn't feel like the point there was that the main character had no choice - obviously he had lots of choices, and this feels like a central theme of the story - instead, it feels like the point there is that the player has no choice but to escalate the violence in this game if he wants to continue. I thought the sequence where you destroy the tower with the gatling gun on the helicopter was a similar moment - it felt like it was clearly intended to underscore the pointlessness and gratuitous nature of the violence in the game, and sort of passively demonstrate how hollow that stuff is. The player has agency in terms of how they play the game, but they ultimately have no control over the identity of the main character, and little control over his motivations and his flawed decision-making, and that all leads to the fact that the game has no way to end well.

On the other hand, someone pointed out in an interview with Walt how you can easily tell that there are civilians present before you fire on them - I actually noticed this too without knowing to look for it, perhaps just because I was already calibrated to know that White Phosphorus is Not Good Stuff - and Walt sounded like he thought that was a failure on their part, because it contradicted the way the characters react after the fact.

Maybe they were trying to make some other point, though. I could see the phosphorous scene in particular being an attempt to make a point about how when caught up in the heat of a combat scenario and pumped up on adrenaline, a soldier's judgement is impaired and they will often make poor decisions that a person thinking rationally - like you and me when playing a game like this - would find completely unjustifiable. The game is certainly full of scenarios that fit this description - events where the main character's squad mow down hundreds of hostiles in a fashion that is completely unnecessary and unjustified, in a never-ending spiral of escalating violence that keeps getting worse and worse.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Gadd

I think the gamespot podcast they did with him (which is spoiler heavy btw) said it best. You do have a choice in spec ops, but it's not told to you at all. You can leave dubai without doing those things. Just shut the game off. Your Capt Walker just decides to leave dubai. A similar kind of message was thrown into MGS2 as well, where the player's actions are being controlled, and in that they straight up tell you to shut the game off as well. It's a choice that many games would never offer you or suggest, because in some ways, that would be considered a failure of game design.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Johnson

I agree that the nature of choice is being examined quite closely in Spec Ops. Even before the white phos scene, the characters are constantly being forced into gunfights they never wanted to get into simply because others start firing on them first. The main character has a line about this very early on, when you first start combat with US soldiers- "Shoot back or they will KILL US!" I think that's the ultimate theme of the game, expressed right there. It really is a choice. You can shoot back, or you can die, and the game is about pushing you the player and the character to the limits of that- how much is YOUR life worth to you? How far will you go to survive if the only other option is being killed yourself?

I think the comparison made above to MGS2 is apt as well- if Walker just left Dubai, that would be the equivilent. They never really found out what happened. If the team stays, then the violence that has already engulfed the city will inevitably pull them in as well. There really is no choice there.

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjake f

Amazing article, congrats!

I think that having those scenes in games is a great example of how our medium is free to express crude things like this.

About the "No Russian" scene, you have three choice layers (in my opinion):

* When starting the game, configure the options so this scene does not appear to you.
* When playing the scene, you can control yourself from shooting.
* You can stand up, turn off the console and stop playing.

Also, just because you have the option to skip the scene, it does not mean that it is not important for the game. Just like buying a censored version of a movie.

I actually felt disgusted about shooting.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArturo Nereu

I don't have any specific feedback, just that I appreciate you taking the time to write this post, Matt. Enjoyed reading it.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDominick

"The protagonist soldier of Spec Ops could have stopped"

No, YOU could have stopped. You, as the player of the game, and ultimately the perpetrator of every event in the story, could have stopped whenever you wanted to, but you needed to keep going just to prove that you could make the right choices and be a good person after all(just like Walker thought he could).

The point of the game is that you can't be a hero in war.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjillsandwich

A very long article that misplaces it's point. We know why "No Russian" exists. It exists because USians are deeply russophobic and many of them are also violent gun-nuts.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlaplace

This seems like a false dichotomy is being created between games and reality. Yes, they are not the same. However, the game is designed in such a way that it is setting the game in a real (if altered) location, with real (if altered) agencies like the US Army, CIA and so on, giving the characters real (if altered) weapons and tools. What is the point of this other than to manufacture a simulacrum of the real? If no choice appears in a game, rather than saying 'well, that's a game, not reality', isn't it rather more constructive to picture the events of the game as if they were happening in reality?

I do take the technical point that there's always a choice, but the choices aren't always desirable; when you are mugged you have a choice between giving up your valuables or enduring a potentially life-threatening attack. That IS a choice you make, even though in practical terms it's no choice at all. That's what ought to have been reflected in 'No Russian' (and this paragraph will assume the reader's played it and thus contain SPOILERS). The mission should never have been skippable before the fact. It should have started with the player, unarmed, being bundled into a van, driven somewhere unknown, bundled out, into a lift, without a clue what's going on. Someone says "Remember, no Russian," and hands you the machinegun just as the doors open. From there it should have started just as it did. Then one of three things should have happened: either you start shooting civilians too, or you don't shoot, or you shoot the terrorists. If you shoot civilans along with the others, they make some knowing comments, and things continue much as they did, culminating in Makarov shooting you at the end. If you don't fire, one of the terrorists ought to threaten you, give you another chance, then if you still don't shoot, he just executes you. And finally, if you start shooting the terrorists, that's fine, but they all turn on you; one spawns behind you and executes you after a short while. Ultimately, all three outcomes end the same way, in the player's murder, so whichever way you played, you'd never 'fail' that level, because you were being manipulated from the start and were always going to die at the end. THAT would reflect the practical, realistic choices inherent in the situation.

Thus I find it impossible to agree with this: "It is simply a given that the game is in control when a player plays it". The game creates and controls the rules. We are in control of the player character, and the way those rules apply limits our freedom, but within the rules we are free to behave as we will; it's far from true to say the game, not us, is in control. This mirrors law and government vs. the individual, or indeed laws of physics and thermodynamics vs. free will; is the government really 'in control' of you? Are the unknowable movements of subatomic particles in fact governing your every action, making free will merely an illusion? I hope no-one wants to say yes to either of these. That's why I, in common with the more thoughtful segments of the gaming press, have serious reservations about games that wrest control of the player character from me at key points during scripted sequences. It's the game breaking its own rules to make you do what it wants - much like special arrest powers nebulously granted 'for national security reasons' - and it's jarring, unpleasant, invasive, and avoidable if only someone in charge had thought to design things a little differently.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYourMessageHere

SPOILERS Kevin Gadd hit the nail on the head in his comment. Many gamers (including the author of this article) seem to not realise that in many games, you are not the protagonist. Walker in Spec Ops obviously has his own personality, entirely distinct from mine. How do you propose to make a game about a spiral into madness and bloodlust that gives the player complete freedom? It can't be done - for a tragedy to work, the events must feel like they're inevitable. What the game developers do have to do is try and make the player understand (though not endorse) Walker's actions, and I think Williams and his compatriots succeeded quite well, by showing us a combination of the adrenaline-induced bloodlust that Mr Gadd describes and the sociopathic need of the main character to deflect his own personal responsibility and lay it squarely at the feet of all the soldiers he murders. This way, the game becomes a simultaneous critique of American messianistic imperialism and of videogames that portray mass murder as heroism.
It worked so well for me that I chose the suicide option for the game's ending (though unusually, all four of the game's endings feel like a good fit).

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarijn

The thing is, 'choice' in games is often a well hidden lie.

Where violence is the main mechanic of a game, choice to avoid said violence often jars with th rest of the game which is about mowing down hundreds of others. Just look at any recent Bioware game which flits between hacking and shooting anything that moves to 'moral choces' for the kind of dissonance "choice" provides. And Bulletstorm for an explicit recognition of the absurdity of it all.

Odd "be nice" or "be good" choices during cutscenes do not change the modality of a game about killing people. Spec Ops is honest. In a game -about killing people- you don't have a choice but to kill people.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCooper

The biggest problem with No Russian is that of lazy contrivance. Fundamentally Makarov's entire terrorist master plan revolves around being able to carry out the airport massacre and walk away personally unscathed. Its core conceit is reliant on him knowing beforehand that he and his companions are essentially bullet proof and will survive the waves of Russian SWAT sent to deal with the situation. The presumption that the games audience are effectively too dumb to question this and will happily popcorn it through is why No Russian it is such a terrible and offensive piece of game level design. Having the player unwittingly plant a bomb at the airport or some such would of been more appropriate and realistic (because in truth terrorist leaders rarely take the field themselves), but of course that in itself would of been too controversial. For all it's faults the devs and writers of Spec Ops at least treat their audience with intellectual respect.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKadayi

@YourMessageHere: "That's why I, in common with the more thoughtful segments of the gaming press, have serious reservations about games that wrest control of the player character from me at key points during scripted sequences."

See my comment above. You and the mysterious "more thoughtful segments of the gaming press" seem not to be able to grasp the simple fact that characters like Walker in Spec Ops are just that, and not a simple avatar. Walker is not you, you're just performing as him, like an actor performs a character on the basis of a script. Other titles, like Skyrim, take the approach of player-as-character, but certainly not all of them (or even most of them) do.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarijn

The No Russian scene is not "horrific and disturbing". Having used London Heathrow several times I detest airports, the way they treat their customers and especially the little hitlers that work in security. I giggled all the way through it, reflected after completing the level momentarily and decided my reaction was fine by me, as it was just a game. I do not maim pets for fun or think that legalised guns have a place in any society. Also, E-Prime.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergorsefan

Kevin Gadd's getting at the core of what makes Spec Ops so brilliant (and even in a sense aware of the flaws in its brilliance) so I'll see if I can't add to that.

There's certainly a bit of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of the divide between Walker as a character with his own goals and aims and Walker as the agent of the player, and the strained relationship between the two. What is so genius about what Spec Ops does, though, is that it...and I honestly am not even sure it was meant to do this, more on that in a bit...uses that ironic divide as the main motivating force that drives the player forward, that you KNOW Walker is going crazy about halfway in but you keep pushing him forward as your agent, and the payoff of course in the end is not that it's Walker who was going crazy and pushing things way farther than they needed to be pushed, it was the player. What the player finds at the end of the river isn't abstracted, as it is in Heart of Darkness, where it's a metaphor for the darkness inherent in the human condition, etc. - and I'll say here that that's my favorite book and the one I steal from the most in my own writing, so the respect is certainly there - but that they have just acted out something awful in and of themselves. The layer of metaphor is removed, the darkness isn't in Kurtz or Marlow and by extension all mankind, it's right there in your memory and your feelings about all the things you just made your agent do...which for me anyway, when I finished the game and sat back to think about it, is what made it staggeringly powerful.

That's not to say that The Line (couldn't they have just called it that?) trumps Heart of Darkness; the game has flaws that I wish it didn't have, while the book is as near to perfect as anything I've read. The prattle of the soldiers in the first half is obnoxious and overblown (though it does serve to trick you into thinking, 'Oh it's just a game all the reviews were way...well, overblown', but it doesn't hit that note as well as it could have), the shooting is either uncomfortably disastrous or totally Gears of War-cartoony (it never finds the right balance but I think the choice to make it a third person, slightly clunky shooter was the right one, to reinforce that the player is in fact acting on an agent that you can see, right there, running around...), and though I haven't played all the different endings the one I happened to get left just the slightest bit of emptiness, wishing it had gone just that little bit further into the wildly weird that it was toying with toward the end. The CIA subplot was a device that did what it was supposed to but it was an unnecessary distraction, and it's a shame that the wild talent of some of the artists at Yager...those loading screens were incredible...was committeed out or vetoed, which was a mistake...I think towards the end the narrative was getting weird enough to have supported some of those surreal visions of a world falling to places entirely because the player's destroying it. They played with it but didn't go far enough. The image of the helicopter in the weird canyon of sunken skyscrapers could have been one of the defining images of modern video games, but the level itself wasn't QUITE weird enough and the moment with the helicopter was staged in a totally uninteresting way so there wasn't a moment like that, as weird as the concept art was. Anyway. Waxing long here.

In the end, I think the article's opinion that Walt Williams misses the point is well-intentioned but, in a way, misses the point. In the real world, yes, there IS always a choice...but this isn't the real world, it's a video game, and it knows it perfectly well. The choice, then, is whether to keep playing or whether to stop...and of course none of us stopped. In the way it frames that sequence and the moral catastrophe that unfolds around it, it says a lot more, I think, about the real world, and about the weird limits of human perspective, self-awareness, self-control, and, yes, human agency, than it actually does about video games...because after all, you, the human playing the game, ultimately made the call to keep going. So it's not coming up with any profound arguments: people are pretty nasty, hasn't changed since Heart of Darkness...but the delivery of that message is to my experience profoundly and totally new. You are capable of horrible things. You, yourself, the player. The game even makes fun of you for it later, in a loading screen; "You are not a bad person." The joke is that, of course, you ARE a bad person. Look what you did. Now wait a minute for the next level...

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hamilton

In follow-up to my own aside about E-Prime (an attempt to remove the "is" of identity from use of English) and Marijn's comment above, I see the two as interlinked.

"I present a counter-argument: in the real world, there is always a choice." Seems to me like a non-argument as you, the personality, are not the agent in the game. I see the menu as being confused with the meal. The gamer is an actor, playing a role (of a dick, usually), which is scripted, and the gamer is usually not presented with the choices they would like. The gamer cannot ad-lib. Being forced to make a choice is not a choice.

I find it incredible, honestly, that anyone can feel anything playing MW games. They are like being an actor in an incredibly bad Hollywood action film. I can stab people in the neck, leap from helicopters, high-five my emotionally-dead colleagues over another corpse-pile and light cigars off explosions before breakfast. I can understand momentary revulsion at gore (as I could never watch a Saw-like film, for instance) but I cannot understand how an adult can react in such a strong way to such a bad, unsophisticated film.

Is the fact that it is crudely interactive really that powerful to an experienced gamer? I am incredulous.

The closest I have come to a similar feeling is playing Toy Soldiers where you are in control of a gas turret that spews toxic death at an onrushing crowd of enthusiastic lemming-soldiers. Despite the toy diorama setting, only that actually made me literally stop and consider the thousands of men who died like this -- I felt repulsed, and the feeling stuck with me. MW -- I may as well be watching the A-Team, and as soon as I look away I disregard the cheap stick-puppet theatre unfolding on the stage before me.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergorsefan

Oh please, try and cover it up however you want, it's not fooling anyone. This was a case of making a highly controversial level because controversy=cash. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they came up with the premise for the airport level before finding a way to fit it into the game itself.

Now imagine had the level been set in an American airport instead of a Russian? I didn't care much one way or another, but let's not try and sugercoat this as anything other than a cheap marketing trick at the expense of America's rivals.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAPM

It can be little difficult to picture Actual Game Design leaking trough the corporate filter of idiocy, but I think No Rusian is an example of just that. As with Kubrick's phallus flooded scenes in A Clockwork Orange, it's just a way to transmit an uncomfortable idea.

August 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralvare

Wow... so many players are jumping on the hyped bandwagon of this crappy game that sells because it makes gamers who like violent games feel that they are a bit more intelligent then usual.. How stupid can one be to believe that the devs didn't want their game to be bought or played? Are you kidding me?! Just like "No Russian" they created a gimmick to sell, although their game is just as mediocre as the games it clones. The original intentions might have been others but in the end this is how history will see this game: as a self-indulgent, pseudo-intellectual, crappy and forgettable piece of plastic entertainment that tried to battle it way against the "CODs" and "Battlefields" by offering exploitation disguised as a poor and imature social commentary on war.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I believe that there is a faulty underlining assumption to this conversation.

It is the assumption that any story however simple or complex can be told in any medium with enough of fourth wall breaking, scripted events and other similar mechanics.
In my opinion this is a wrong way of making a video game or rather telling a story through a video game.

We all have our opinions on what constitutes as an interactive video game, how should it be made and what kind of stories should it tell.
Just because you think you can do a thing in this medium does not necessary means you must do a thing in this medium.
There are stories that belong in books, films, comics, extended television series and so forth.
A writer should work towards selecting best medium to tell said story or changing the story so it works with the medium they are using.

For me a video game is about options, choices, consequences and interactions (otherwise it is nothing more than a film that requires excessive interaction with remote control),
But that does not mean that every video game must feature full selection of those elements listed above.

Just like with films when I pick up a video game I want to know what I am getting into.
When I want mindless action I will choose title A, when I want insightful story and good script I will choose item B.
Once again the choice (critical word here) is mine…

Video games can be an art, but it is not the case of all or nothing…

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
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