Part of an occasional series where I give my views on videogame scripts…
There are three specific areas where immediate improvements could have been made to Modern Warfare 2's script and plotting. Two, I very much doubt were in the hands of the scriptwriter. But I'll detail them nonetheless...

The controversy. I'll get to "No Russian", the Airport massacre level in a minute. But first, the Russian invasion of the US. The mere idea seems so implausible and unlikely it stretches the game's already-thin appearance of gritty reality to breaking point. And while some of the combats are undeniably fun, the idea of a nuked White House, defending a burger joint (Red Dawn?) etc. are just too daft for me to take seriously.
Perhaps these levels (and No Russian) play out better to a home US crowd, with their experience of 9/11 and their take on the "war on terror". But to a global audience? I doubt these plot elements work.
No Russian is the worst element of the lot – a dull level where scurrying civilians appear to have been animated as an afterthought to the fluid enemies you face for the rest of the game. The level doesn't shock, as much as bore and mildly amuse with its amateurish. Plus, plotwise it is not necessary to include. The idea that one American body would trigger a war is idiotic. In other words, the game would have been better for the plot to invent another cut-scened reason for an invasion.
Again, these elements look to have been set in stone by game designers rather than scriptwriters, so it's unlikely the writer had much power over these segments.
Globe-trotting: Similarly, the writer may not have had much power over the designers' globetrotting levels. A bullet sends you to a Brazilian favela. You end up in a Siberian Gulag. While you skip round the world, it becomes increasingly obvious that the plot is a flimsy fabrication designed to let the level designers come up with new hotspots to send the troops into. Many of the levels are thrilling, but a tighter, more focussed location count might have played better to a tighter plot.
Jargon: Finally, something that is genuinely the fault of the scriptwriter. The inclusion of jargon seemingly lifted directly from the TV series Generation Kill. If you haven't seen Gen Kill, get the box set now. But chances are, the scriptwriter of any military-themed game you'll have played recently has already pored over the programme for jargon. "Hitman Victor", "Oscar Mike", "Interrogative", "Danger Close", "Cas Evac" etc. all appear in Modern Warfare 2.
Generation Kill prides itself, as do all David Simon TV shows, on their accuracy to reality. It's based on a book detailing a Rolling Stone journalist's embedded experiences. It used real marine military expertise in scripting. The same, I suspect, couldn't be said for Modern Warfare 2.
MW2, like many other modern war games, takes the jargon out of context, uses it to spice up the essentially banal and repetitive "get some" "hoohah" exclamations of in-game characters and fails to understand one key point about Generation Kill.
David Simon uses real jargon as one of many tools to create real, complex characters. Over hours of dialogue, he builds up portraits of complex, real-feeling lives.
Without the wit, humanity and complexity, military jargon becomes plain militaristic fetishism – cold, inhuman, uncharacterful.
The little touches of warmth and humanity come mainly from the moustache-carrying SAS guy – who noticeably spouts less jargon. But even these are too few and far between.
Conclusion: Ultimately, Modern Warfare 2's script and plot feels too cold, too clinical, too calculatedly videogamey to impact emotionally. It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing.


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