It’s no secret that violence in video games has been a source of concern to many for some time now. In addition to media watchdogs, family values groups, and consumer advocates, there are those who would claim that the proliferation and realistic nature of gore and violence in gaming is partly to blame for things like the school shootings at Columbine High, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook Elementary. And yet, after years of polarized debate, there seems to be no solid evidence tying the two together.
And in a move which is sure to polarize it even further and annoy the hell out of some gamers, a recent report from two Swiss Human-Rights organizations has gone a step further in asking for an end to video game violence. According to the report, released by Trial and Pro Juventute, there are some video games that depict war and battle actions that in real life would violate international human rights laws. In short, it is possible to commit war crimes in video games, a fact which has both groups worried about the message this sends.
For the sake of research, the two groups selected 20 games – including Call of Duty 4, Metal Gear Solid 4, Far Cry 2, and several others – and had “young gamers” play the games as three attorneys watched to find actions in games that in real life would violate rules and regulations that govern armed conflict. The study attempted to determine if the acts gamers engage in while they play violent titles would “lead to violations of rules of international law, in particular International Humanitarian Law (IHL), basic norms of International Human Rights Law (IHRL), or International Criminal Law (ICL).”
After evaluating the 20 games, the group found that in many cases, “shooter” games failed to take into consideration international humanitarian law. In a statement, they expressed their conclusions as follows:
“The practically complete absence of rules or sanctions is nevertheless astonishing: civilians or protected objects such as churches or mosques can be attacked with impunity, in scenes portraying interrogations it is possible to torture, degrade or treat the prisoner inhumanely without being sanctioned for it and extrajudicial executions are simulated. At least a few games punish the killing of civilians or reward strategies that aim to prevent excessive damage.”
In particular, Call of Duty 4 was pretty hard hit for its violations of many rules which any army would consider standard ROE. For example, the game violates several human-rights laws by allowing gamers to:
“attack civilian buildings with no limits in order to get rid of all the enemies present in the town who are on roof tops, open areas of the town, squares featuring statues, etc. Under IHL, the fact that combatants/fighters are present in a town does not make the entire town a military objective.”
Similarly, they took issue with the scene in which the games villain, Al-Asad is beaten for information and then executed once you are finished with him:
“[the] beating of Al-Asad amounts to torture or at least inhuman treatment, which are prohibited in any context, under any circumstances, whether in peace time or during armed conflict situations. Killing him amounts to an extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary execution as it falls outside the context of any legal framework.”
Similar evaluations were given to other games the groups evaluated. Naturally, they were quick to say that their study was not intended to “prohibit the games, to make them less violent or to turn them into IHL or IHRL training tools.” Instead, they say they want to work with developers to ensure that in the future, their games observe real-life human-rights laws.
In keeping with this, they recommended that developers make it clear to gamers that in any circumstance, human-rights violations cannot be allowed, even in a game setting. It also requested that, going forward, developers adhere to international human rights laws when they depict war or battle in a game. Ultimately, they hoped that their study would act as a sort of wake-up call for game developers to consider the kind of message they are sending to young people:
“It is regrettable that game producers hardly ever use this possibility to creatively incorporate the rules of international law or even representatives of such rules as specific elements in the course of the game. Pro Juventute and Trial call upon the producers of computer and video games to use their strong creativity and innovation for this purpose. It would mean a wasted opportunity if the virtual space transmitted the illusion of impunity for unlimited violence in armed conflicts.”
Personally, I think it’s a good thing they steered away from COD: Modern Warfare 2 and 3, where far worse violations take place. In the immediate sequel to MW, players have the option of taking part in a mass shooting in the Moscow Airport, where you are required (as an undercover member of a terrorist squad) to gun your way through civilians and security guards in order to advance the story. Can you say sicko shit?! Seriously, Infinity Ward, what the hell were you thinking?!
But alas, the question is one we all need to ask ourselves. These human rights groups specifically chose video games instead of movies because of their interactive nature and the fact that gamers are not mere passive observers, but active participants in the simulated violence they are witnessing. So really, does it make a difference that in this context, a person is seeing the death and destruction and war crimes from a 1st person POV? Or is this simply a case of more gratuitous entertainment that no one sane human being would try to emulate?
Hey gamers! Today, I will be wrapping things up in my Modern Warfare commentary with my review of the third and final game in the MW series. Having just purchased it a few weeks ago, and played it through for the second time, I can honestly say that I was pretty pleased with it.
As the climax to the series, it was chock full of action and expanded on many of the strengths from the first and second games. And of course, it took things a step further from the last, developing the multiplayer and special ops features even more. This consisted of larger, more detailed environments, more immersive game features, and plenty of new weapons and added features. But of course, all of that takes a bit of a backseat, at least in this reviewers mind, to the plot.
Naturally, it had its share of drawbacks too, most which were similarly consistent with the previous installments. There were plot holes, some over-the-top elements, and an unnecessary scene (which, like last time, pushed the boundaries of good taste). But overall, I’d say it was a fitting and very fun final installment. But like I said, the plot first…
The story picks up where MW2 left off, with a grand introduction that lets the player know that they are now in the midst of World War 3. In fact, that’s probably one of the coolest aspects of the intro, where after a montage of chaotic scenes from the first two games, we see WW3, and then the first letter flips to reveal the title MW3. Effective, and accurate since the actions of Makarov and Shepherd in the last game led to an open state of war between the Russian bloc and the US.
The intro then extends to a movie/flash-back scene where what is left of Task Force 141 is heading to a field hospital run by Russian Loyalists in northern India. Things in this scene take place from Soap’s POV as Nikolai and Price are hauling him off the chopper and rushing to get him inside. All the while, Soap experiences flash-backs of everything that brought them to this point, including Zakhaev’s death, Makarov’s terrorist acts, and Soap killing General Shepherd. Price’s voice provides narration, saying how the actions of one man can change the world, even bring it all to the precipice.
Once inside, they begin fighting to save Soap’s life. However, matters are complicated when Makarov’s forces arrive on the scene hoping to take out Soap and Price and anyone helping them. Here, you play as Yuri, one of Nikolai’s men, and are tasked with defeating the assault with the help of a remote-controlled drone. Together, the four of you (Soap, Price, Nikolai and Yuri) escape together, as the last of the now-disavowed Task Force 141.
Cut to New York City, where the Russian offensive against the Eastern Seaboard continues. Here, you change POV’s to a member of Delta Force Team Metal named Frost, which is being sent in to Manhattan to take out a Russian jamming device which is preventing US forces from achieving air superiority.
The fight takes you through the streets of downtown Manhattan and into the NYSE, which is itself being occupied by Russian troops. Once you reach the roof and destroy the device, US air forces move in and take out the remaining Russian choppers and Migs, and you get to fly around in a Blackbird and gun some down yourself!
Next, your team joins a bunch of SEALS as you head underwater to take on the Russian fleet that is still occupying the East River. This journey involves traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel, now underwater, and then into the river itself, avoiding Russian mines along the way. Once you reach the sub and force it surface with some charges, board the sub and take out its crew, you set the sub’s ordinance to target all remaining Russian ships in the harbor and make a daring escape on zodiacs.
With this latest victory, the Russian assault on the US which began in MW2 is now defeated. Afterward, Russian President Boris Vorshevsky announces plans to make peace with the United States at a summit in Hamburg. However, Makarov’s men hijack the president’s airfcraft, causing it to crash land while you (playing from the POV of one of his protective detail).
Once on the ground, you and the other survivors rush to find him and his daughter, but Makarov arrives, taking the President hostage and shooting you. In your last seconds, you hear Makarov demanding the launch codes to Russia’s nuclear stockpile, saying he will see Russia standing over Europe, even if it’s a pile of ash.
After recovering from his wounds, Soap and Task Force 141 proceed to Sierra Leone where they are told Makarov’s bomb maker is hiding. After fighting your way through the local villages, which are in the midst of being raided by local warlords, you find your way to the pick up point. Unfortunately, the shipment of chemical weapons is shipped out via helicopter seconds before you arrive. Price then calls up his contacts in the SAS, warning them that the targets are London, Paris and Berlin.
The POV once again shifts to an SAS unit in London which is tasked with raiding one of Makarov’s store houses along the Thames. After an intense chase, which takes you through the London Undergound and back up to Big Ben, the main attack (against Parliament) is thwarted. However, you soon learn that one of the other trucks made it to its destination nearby and is detonated, killing hundreds of people in the immediate vicinity. Similar detonations happen in Berlin and Paris, paving the way for a Russian invasion and World War III.
Team Metal is then sent to Hamburg to rescue the US Vice-President who is still there. The invasion scene calls to mind COD’s many awesome recreations of historic WWII battles, in particular D-Day. After landing on the riverfront and fighting your way up into the streets, you are to provide cover for the tanks as they make their ways down the boulevards to where the VP’s convoy got stranded. Also, you get to be a tank gunner in this mission (finally!), and take out enemy infantry while the M1A1 drives around and blasts the crap out of enemy vehicles.
Meanwhile, Task 141 heads to Somalia to track down a local warlord who was also involved in the shipment of the chemical weapons. After taking him prisoner, Price learns the name and location of Makarov’s bomb maker – a man named Volk who is currently in Paris.
Task Force 141 heads there and teams up with the French GIGN to capture Volk, which involves making your way through some chemical-infested areas. After taking him prisoner, you are then required to get out of Paris before Russian troops can overtake you. Ultimately, this ends in a desperate airlift off of a bridge as the Eiffel Tower is bombed and falls in the distance.
Volk gives up Makarov’s location, who he says will in Prague for a high-level meeting . The next mission involves infiltrating the occupied city with the help of an old friend – the Loyalist commander Kamarov (not to be confused with Makarov, damn anagrams!) As Yuri, you and Soap take up a sniping position in a church overlooking the hotel where the meeting is going down.
However, the op goes awry when Price gets inside and sees that Makorov has taken Kamarov (again, anagrams!) hostage and is onto them. He then sets off a series of bombs which kill Kamarov and blow up the bell tower, sending Soap and Yuri out the window and down onto a scaffolding.
Before the explosion, Makarov reveals that he knows Yuri, information which Soap gives to Price once the three make it to cover. Soap dies on a table from wounds sustained in the fall, and Price puts a gun to Yuri’s head and demands explanations.
Yuri then tells him that he used to be a soldier in Zakhaev’s army, whereupon he met Makarov. Through a series of flashbacks that show events from MW1 and 2, we see that Yuri was there with Makarov when Price shot his arm off outside of Pripyat in the early 90’s.
He was also there when Zakhaev detonated the nuke he gave to Al-Asad, destroying the capitol and killing thousands of American Marines and millions of civilians. Finally, he was there when Makarov and his men murdered hundreds of civilians in the Moscow International Airport. Yuri attempted to prevent the massacre, but was shot by Makarov beforehand, leaving him to die amongst his many other victims.
Having heard all this, Price decides to let Yuri live and begins planning an assault on Makarov’s fortress in the Czech Republic. As Yuri, you storm the old castle and learn that Makarov is holding Russian President Vorshevsky captive and is seeking to capture his daughter who is in Berlin. Rescuing her becomes a priority now, as the President continues to refuse to hand over the launch codes, but wis likely to reconsider if Makarov threatens to kill his daughter. Yuri and Price destroy the base and relay the information to Team Metal.
Switching back to Frost’s POV, you and your team are now responsible for fighting your way through Berlin, which is still contested, and finding the President’s daughter before Makarov’s men do. In the course of this mission, things go sideways, Frost is killed, and the President’s daughter is taken.
However, they are tracked to a Siberian diamond mine where Makarov’s men are also holding the President. A joint strike is planned to rescue both from the mine, which succeeds, even though Metal’s team leader (Sandman) is forced to stay behind and sacrifice himself.
With the Russian President and his daughter alive and well, he travels to D.C. where a truce is declared and all forces with withdrawn. WWIII is over, but PRice is still determined to find Makarov and make him pay for his crimes. In a final mission, he and Yuri travel to hotel in Dubai where they learn Makarov is staying. Now, as Price, you and Yuri break into the buidling wearing Juggernaut suits and fight your way to Makarov on the top floor.
In the ensuing chase, Yuri is impaled and he and Price lose your armor. Price then corners Makarov on the roof as he attempts to board a chopper and the two fight. Makarov gets the upper hand and nearly shoots Price, but Yuri manages to intervene and is shot dead by Makarov. Enraged at the loss of another comrade, Price grabs a hold of Makarov and beats the holy hell out of him.
Realizing that they are also lying on a glass roof that is about to break, he ties the chopper’s metal line around his neck and falls through the roof with him. Makarov is hung while Price falls to a landing below. With Makarov dead and his work done, he pulls himself up and lights a cigar. Mission accomplished!
Summary: First off, let me just say that this game is stupid-fun! I mean, holy shit, the action and intensity! Boom! Boom! Explosions! Russians! Thugs and militiamen! Urban warfare and infiltration, predators and submarines! Yeah, it was pretty damn bad-ass. They essentially took what they started in MW2, which was to push the boundaries by putting war directly on American soil, and pushed it that extra mile. That was the aim of course, picking up where the last left off with World War III in the wings.
And they expanded on the warfare by adding new environments, most of which involved destroying landmarks and historic places! And there new twists on the available missions, involving underwater infiltration, working with local resistance, tank gunning and wearing a Juggernaut suit. And like last time, they threw in the AC-130 gunships and predators, giving you the ability to deal death from above. Always nice! On top of that, they really went the extra mile to mix up the action. Fighting aboard a jet airliner while it’s in a nose dive, effectively leading to a zero-g gunfight.
As for the multiplayer and special ops, things are similarity awesome. The multiplayer feature has been upgraded with new weapons, new game profiles, and more options, all taken to the extreme! Endless hours of entertainment are available here for those who have a fast machine and internet connection. As for the special ops, things are much the same, but with some noteworthy additions. For example, in the special ops section, there’s the added Survival option alongside the usual Mission feature. In the former, you fight in different environments against increasingly difficult enemies, each win allowing you to upgrade your weapons and options. In the latter, you’re doing much the same as in game two, fighting in different scenarios with different goals, unlocking new missions as you go
I also enjoyed the flashbacks, where material from the first and second installment was included. It was pretty seamless they way they did that. It even added some explanations and background which added a moment or two of plausibility to the plot. Providing Makarov with a dossier was something they neglected to do in the second game, which left a lot of questions of where he came from and why he was conducting terrorism against his own people, especially since the Ultranationalist are supposed to be in charge at that point.
But of course, there was some problems in and around all that. For one, the game shifts locations so often that you really begin to question how the main characters are able to move so much. Especially Task Force 141; how do they get from India to Sierra Leone to Somalia to Europe to Siberia with such ease? All this feels highly unrealistic, especially since this Task Force has been disavowed and don’t have access to government resources anymore. Is Nikolai flying them everywhere? How is he able to do this? What kinds of resources does this guy have?
And for that matter, there’s the issue of Makarov. In this game, his abilities and resources are even more staggering than in the last one. Isn’t this guy supposed to be a freelance terrorist? How then is he able to find an endless supply of men, guns, choppers and chemical weapons to fund his crusade against the west? In Zakhaev’s case, it was understandable. He was leader of a Russian Ultranationist faction in the middle of a civil war. He had almost half the resources of the Russian military at his disposal, including a nuke or two.
But as I recall, his movement went on to win power after he was killed. After that, Makarov took his place and continues the campaign, clearly not happy with the extent to which the Russian government has gone and wanting it to go further. Makes sense, and since General Shepherd was helping to create WWIII, some of what he pulled of in MW2 made sense. But this time around? The way he is able to always get away, take the Russian President hostage, allude the SAS and Task Force 141, and start WWIII is all kind of ridiculous. It’s like the Joker in The Dark Knight, where the villain has some massive master plan and is somehow prepared for everything.
And there was a small trace of the same controversial aspect that made MW2 a bit iffy. This time around, they avoided the scenes of big shoot ups in crowded airports. Most importantly, you aren’t the one doing it! I still don’t get that, that was messed up! However, there is the one scene where you watch one of the chemical bombs going off in the middle of a London street. It all takes place from the POV of a father who’s recording a video of his wife and little daughter as they walk along the sidewalk and point to Big Ben. Then boom! The truck blows up, and the little girl and mother are the first to die. It’s not gruesome or graphic, but what the hell? Was it really necessary to illustrate how bad the bad guys are? We already know they’re setting off bombs in civilian centers and shot up an airport. What else needs to be said?
In the end, the weaknesses smack of a plot where the creators are trying too hard. More action, more locations, more twists, more adventure. It all makes for a pretty skookum gaming experience, but it’s not what you’d call in-depth, and it’s definitely not what you call realistic. But of course, all that can be overlooked the moment you remember that it’s a first-person shooter! Be thankful you get a plot at all, fool! Now get back to shooting stuff and blowing shit up!