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 Modern Warfare 2′s No Russian level discussed by designer

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PostSubject: Modern Warfare 2′s No Russian level discussed by designer   Thu Aug 02, 2012 2:14 pm

News: Mohammad Alavi, the former Infinity Ward employee who crafted Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2′s controversial No Russian level, discusses for the first time what he hoped to achieve with it.

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In this piece about needlessly offensive games, our own Lewis Denby recently argued that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s controversial No Russian level didn’t have a valid reason for being put in the game. An interview with that level’s creator makes it appear that Lewis was absolutely right.

Matthew Burns recently had the chance to put a few questions to Mohammad Alavi, the designer directly responsible for the No Russian level. He was under a gag order pending the trial between Activision and former Infinity Ward frontmen Jason West and Vince Zampella, but with that matter settled out of court, Alavi can now speak freely.

“For that level we were trying to do three things: 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 says.

If the main reason for No Russian was to characterise Makarov as an absolute dick, why is he then sidelined for the rest of the game? Because he needed to be the primary antagonist in Modern Warfare 3. Kind of undermines the point there. Also, there are better ways of establishing someone as evil, beyond being forced to watch them drown a bag of puppies.

“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. It 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. That would have been a cop-out.”

But, as Lewis already argued, the No Russian level comes with no less than three warnings that you can opt out of it, skipping instead to the next mission without any penalty. That feels like a pretty big cop-out to me.

“What’s relevant is that the level managed to make the player feel anything at all,” Alavi continues. “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.”

I think that intention was ruined when the nature of the No Russian level was leaked in advance of the game’s release. Spec Ops: The Line actually managed to keep its nature a surprise and had something to say about wanton violence. Modern Warfare 2? Not so much.

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