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Infinity Ward on MW2's convoluted story, and how plot is addressed in MW3


At a Modern Warfare 3 preview event this morning 50 floors above Central Park, Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling spoke with me about a variety of IW-related topics. Ranging from MW2's controversial "No Russian" level, to the importance of the Modern Warfare series' running plot threads in the eyes of both IW devs and gamers alike, Bowling took a proud and optimistic stance on the franchise's less-than-clear "Task Force 141" storyline.

"For the single-player campaign, especially for Modern Warfare 3 more than ever -- this is the payoff for the investment that people have put in since Call of Duty 4," Bowling began. Though he explained that IW has been "learning new ways to tell stories and learning new ways to deliver experiences" across the development of all three games, it's his belief that MW3 "is the payoff to all those lessons learned."

Speaking briefly to the flawed, often convoluted plot of Modern Warfare 2, Bowling admitted, "Every game we put out, we sit back and we look at 'What can we do better? What areas can we focus on to bump the experience up?' And story was one of those coming out of MW2." To him, as MW3 is the focal point for the series thus far -- especially in terms of plot -- the goal is to tell "one hell of a story." Specifically, "we want it to build up on the key themes that we started in MW2, but really polish that storytelling ability."

For me, that aim played out immediately in the single-player hands-off demo I was given. Less than five minutes in, two separate keys were required to launch missiles from a hijacked Russian submarine -- and two separate individuals turned those keys, more or less directly mocking the massively unbelievable nuke launch moment with Captain Price from Modern Warfare 2.

Moving on to another major point of division in MW2 critiques: the notorious "No Russian" mission, which tasked players with choosing whether or not to gun down innocent, unarmed civilians in a Russian airport. The mission also served as a sticking point for critics, who lambasted its plot hole-filled delivery -- a group of unmasked gunmen open fire on innocents in a major Russian airport, and not a single surveillance camera is rolling? No one notices that the game's main antagonist, Vladimir Makarov, is the leader of said gang?

"'No Russian' was a key story point for MW2. It's what really solidified Makarov as the villain that he is," Bowling explained. He further added, "It delivered the experience that we want it to deliver, that's why it always was in there from the start -- because we're telling a story and we're developing these characters, and that was an important stage in Makarov's development."

Whether or not you liked "No Russian," IW is clearly standing behind it. Unsurprisingly, Bowling wouldn't speak to any similar instances in his studio's upcoming game, but he did repeatedly point out IW's dedication to the plot and characters first established in Call of Duty 4. "To the fans and especially to us on the development team, having that payoff and seeing this conflict and the momentum it's gained over the years finally unfold as the war rages in all the major cities ... it's very important." We'll get a chance to see whether Bowling's promises pan out when Modern Warfare 3 drops on November 8.

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