How did we know this was coming: a clip from Activision’s Modern Warfare 3 posted anonymously on YouTube depicting a shocking turn of events in the game, and prompting cries across the web that it’s the game’s “No Russian” moment.
Warning, there be spoilers ahead—major on the shock-tacular scale, minor at a narrative level. Consider this your second and final notice.
Here we go then. The clip, posted below (for as long as it’s available), is a cutscene from the game set in London, just a few blocks from the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben.
[UPDATE: The clip’s been pulled by YouTube “due to a copyright claim by Activision Games” as this post was going live.]
As the clip begins, the words “Davis Family Vacation, London, Day 3” unfurl against a black screen in trademark Modern Warfare greenish-white font. A home video recorder held by the family’s father (but manipulated by you) tracks the mother and young daughter as they discuss what they’re planning to do for the day.
“We’re going to Big Ben!” says the girl before laughing and spinning toward a flock of seagulls near the street corner, just as a truck with the words “Charity Worldwide” painted on its side pulls up.
“That’s your daughter,” says the mother, “You know she gets that from y—”
And then the truck explodes, the video recorder jerking up, momentarily following a rising fireball before falling back to the concrete, 90 degrees from level, the image unfocused to spare us any grisly details. And refocus: Where the mother and daughter stood lies nothing but rubble, implying they were either vaporized or thrown out of frame. People scream in the background as thick black smoke races across the concrete, obscuring the picture until the camera throws an error, fades to black, and the cutscene switches to a news report about the incident.
The sequence is brief and essentially noninteractive, which makes it notably different from the level in Modern Warfare 2, where you were encouraged to slaughter innocents as you walked through a popular Moscow airport. Here, you’re just some guy with a video camera, a pedestrian in the wrong place, a relationship no doubt designed to inspire bloodlust as the game sends you after the perps with a ballistic smorgasboard.
Shocking? Pretty much. Never been done in a game before? Sounds about right. Never been done in another visual medium? That’s corre—wait, wait…hold up a second. Ever seen The Untouchables? Isn’t there a scene early in that film where a little girl’s killed by a bomb (as well, nearly so, a child in a baby carriage)? And what about all the horror movies flush with violently offed children?
I thought Modern Warfare 2’s “No Russian” level was juvenile, an attempt to grab eyeballs masquerading as intrepid game design. I still do. I can’t say how I’ll feel about this sequence until I’ve played it in context of the game, though I find the Modern Warfare series’ propensity to sensationalize instead of seriously engage irritating. But on its face, this doesn’t appear to be a question unique to video gaming (whereas the interactive “No Russian” level was). Whether you think blowing up kids is okay is thus a broader issue, and one that’ll have to be answered inter-medium.
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