Spoileriffic: What Makes the Bad Guys “Bad” in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Posted: February 6, 2011 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff, postaday2011, postaweek2011, Writing
Tags: , ,

Makarov: you'll notice he's not wearing white

Tonight’s blog is more like a journal entry of me trying to figure out the motivations of the villain in the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Something happened that just didn’t make sense to me. At the time, I rolled with it and enjoyed the game, but I thought it would be a fun puzzle to try to sort out.

This post is going to be dripping with spoilers, so I’m going to whiten the text to protect those who don’t want to have the surprises revealed to them. To read it, highlight the paragraphs below. If you read any of the text below because you found it through a search engine, I’m very sorry. Also, I’m going to rattle off a lot of names that won’t make sense to you if you haven’t played CoD:MW or CoD:MW2.

Okay. Spoilers start now:

I’m clear about the motivation for Vladimir Makarov, the first villain. Makarov is a former lieutenant of Imran Zakhaev, the main villain from the original Modern Warfare. Before the start of the massacre in the mission “No Russian,” Makarov says that the attack is for Zakhaev. At the end of the mission, Makarov kills Private Joseph Allen, the undercover operative for the US Army, so that the Russian people will blame the US for the attack and go to war. Zakhaev wanted to commit acts of destruction against the West; Makarov brings destruction to US soil by rousing the anger of the Russian people. So that makes sense.

Captain Price’s motivations are revealed through dialogue. He’s been in a Russian gulag – how long is unclear, but it could be as long as five years – and it’s given him time to become more philosophical than he was in the first CoD:MW, which is pretty cool. Price has learned that history is written by the victors, and that those who serve may become their pawns. When he learns about the war, his first priority is to stop it, period; he isn’t interested in following orders when told otherwise. Loyalty to his friends, honor, and ensuring that history remembers who the true heroes and villains were, are his strongest motivations.

General Shepherd is harder to figure out. At first glance, Shepherd is what I call “the exterminator”: he leads a counterterrorist task force called Shadow Company and Makarov is his target. Shepherd wants to kill the worst terrorists in the world to make it a safe place for democracy, freedom, basic cable, etc.. Shepherd knows that Makarov staged the massacre, so while he defends Washington DC against the Russians, he sends the rest of the good guys in a hunt across the world after him in an effort to have justice. He’s one of the good guys, though some of his rhetoric makes it clear that he’s not one of the nice guys. Things change after the team finds a gold mine of intelligence on Makarov’s operations at a safe house in Russia: Shepherd kills the team on site, and plans to kill the rest of the team, which is in Afghanistan. Price says that Shepherd is “cleaning house,” and that he never trusted him.

The question is, why, why, why? The way I put it to a friend of mine is, “I didn’t trust Shepherd, but I didn’t think he’d kill me, either.” (You’re playing one of the team members when the betrayal goes down. It’s a pretty brutal, well-done scene.) There’s no reason to do it, at least none that’s made clear. Shepherd has all the information he needs to find Makarov, so he no longer needs the team, but why kill them? They’re valuable “assets,” as the evil government / military powers that be usually say at a time like this.

In the final confrontation with Shepherd, we find out that he was the general in charge of the American forces that were involved in the final push to capture Al Asad, the other villain from MW1. He furiously says that the world only sat and watched as he lost 30,000 men when Al Asad’s nuclear weapon went off. “Tomorrow, there will be no shortage of volunteers, no shortage of patriots,” he says.

My thought is that after his men were killed, Shepherd wanted more than just Zakhaev to die. He wanted blood and lots of it. I think there’s something on the intelligence from the house that incriminates Shepherd. When Shepherd kills the team at the safe house, he does it after he’s been given the data, and he says, “That’s one less loose end to tie up.” Makarov wanted Russians to find their warrior spirit; Shepherd did too. Having been involved in the hunt for Al Asad, Shepherd would have found out about Zakhaev and Makarov. Shepherd went to the man whom he knew wouldn’t need any prodding to start a war. He gave Makarov what he needed, an American soldier who Makarov could place at the scene of the Moscow airport massacre. It would also explain why he so vigorously wanted to pursue Makarov when there was a war on: Makarov could implicate him.

I do think that Shepherd was cleaning house long before he killed the team in Russia. In the mission Exodus, the army is sent to retrieve someone from a panic room in Virginia. When they arrive, the person is dead, but (if I remember) there’s no sign of forced entry. If Shepherd was cleaning house, he may have known something that connected Shepherd and Makarov. According to some internet research, there’s a body present at the site with tattoos that match those worn by Makarov’s men.

Possible? Sure. Believeable? It’s a stretch. They say that self-criticism is a sure killer of creativity, so I’m willing to say, “It’s just a game. Enjoy it,” and move on. It’s a good exercise in character perspective, and stretching yourself is good for creativity. I think one of the goals of MW2 was to flip the ground rules of MW1: the war takes place in America, not foreign soil, and the main bad guy is an American, not a Russian. If that was the plan, tying it to the nuke going off in MW1 was a straightforward, dramatically clear way to do it.

So who does that leave the bad guy for MW3? Multinational companies? Eco-terrorists? Apparently they already discussed aliens when they were brainstorming MW2, and said no. Thank God for that.

Could be fun, though.


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