This fall will see the culmination of what has become one of the biggest money-earning entertainment properties in the world: “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”
In 2007, the creators of the long-lived “Call of Duty” video game series broke from the norm of recreating World War II-themed conflicts for gamers to play through and released an adventure set in modern times with modern issues.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” thrust gamers into a series of conflicts set in 2011 fueled by the labyrinthine plotting of an ultra-nationalist Russian leader. Players dropped into various missions to stop the rogue Russian, who used a conflict in the Middle East to divert the world’s attention as he attempted to reunify Russia to become the Soviet Union of old.
The game was well-received, earning high review scores and a number of awards and selling more than 13 million copies.
While the sequel, released in 2009, didn’t have quite the same number of accolades — and the continuing story became even more convoluted — it sold nearly five million copies in the first day and went on to bring in more than $1 billion in sales.
Last year’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” a game created by a different team with an unrelated story line, sold more than seven million copies in the first day and brought in $1 billion in sales, in record time.
This November, according to sources familiar with the game (and some official teaser trailers rushed out late Friday), Activision plans to launch “Modern Warfare 3,” a game that will wrap up much of the plot of the “Modern Warfare” series. In it, according to sources who shared audio, images and the plot of the game with Kotaku, players will be defending New York from a spreading Russian invasion. The game will also feature terrorist attacks in London, more globe-trotting missions and the use of chemical warfare.
It appears that it will be a game that extends the breadth of settings for the series, the scope of engagements and perhaps push further what is becoming an increasingly controversial series.
“Modern Warfare 2” made news when it included a level that had players take on the role of terrorist shooting down crowds in an airport.
While this upcoming sequel doesn’t appear to ask gamers to play as bad guys, it will seemingly thrust them into even more uncomfortable settings — like an embattled New York City or a London victimized by terrorist attacks. Both seem to echo events from the cities’ real histories.
“Modern Warfare” is a series that, despite its two-year development cycles, manages to echo the days’ fears. It captures the zeitgeist of a modern world dealing with wars that no longer have rules or boundaries. In creating an alternate future, one plagued by a power-hungry Russia rather than a militant Islamist group, perhaps Activision gives its enormous audience a chance to safely reflect on the current state of war free of the moral baggage of today’s real conflicts.
Gaming is escapism, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a point.
Brian Crecente is managing editor of Kotaku.com, a video-game Web site owned by Gawker Media. Join in the discussion at kotaku.com/tag/well-played.