Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 took the "go big or go home" approach to sequel design. Despite all of its bombastic, over-the-top action and world-ending stakes, however, the one scene that stuck with most people, and drummed up plenty of media coverage in the process, was the now infamous No Russian mission.
In the early campaign level, players control undercover CIA agent Joseph Allen as he attempts to infiltrate a Russian terrorist cell. Unfortunately, part of blending in with the villainous group means joining them as they shoot up an airport full of innocent civilians. You can choose to gun down the fleeing crowds of people yourself, or sit back and watch it unfold. Either way, playing through the scene is unsettling and uncomfortable, especially considering the sheer number of mass shootings that occur every year. Fans and critics alike have always questioned whether the scene was necessary to tell Modern Warfare 2's story, and this division existed within developer Infinity Ward, too.
"No Russian polarized this studio," art lead Joel Emslie says in an interview with Game Informer. "There was a side of the studio that felt that it should be played from the perspective of a security guard that got caught up in it, then there was the other side that liked the way it was going. I remember doing all the civilians for No Russian, and I just wouldn’t … there was a point in time where we were discussing how gory we would get with the people who were getting hit. I pulled back, and I said, 'You don't need it. People are getting tagged and their squibs are going off; it’s all good.'"
Emslie showed his wife and she was adamant the scene needed more gore, so he went back and changed it. "My wife looked at it and she's all like, 'Where's all the blood and guts?' and I'm like, 'We didn’t need to do it,'" he explains. "She called me out. She calls me on my bulls***. It's pretty funny. She looks at things in a different lens. She's a lawyer. She doesn’t mess around, but she's a good gut check on stuff."
Based on what we know about the upcoming reimagining of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the next game in the series could feature similarly unsettling and controversial moments. Campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff, and studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki, don't think this will be restricted to one or two particular scenes, though. "People ask us that internally over and over. They're like, 'Where's your blankety blank scene?'" Minkoff says. "There are so many of those at this point that people have stopped asking that question."
"The answer is it's the whole game," Kurosaki adds. "I could come up with a list of like eight different things that it could be. Who knows what it will be."
"I suspect there will be a number of different moments and people will call out their different favorite moments," Minkoff says. "In the same way that in [Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare], people called out the nuke and the aftermath sequence where you crawl out of the helicopter, or they called out the AC-130, or Crew Expendable, or All Ghillied Up. There were a bunch of those, and I feel very confident that we have a bunch of those."
We'll know for sure when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25.