Reply to All: No Russian, Legend of Zelda, and My Little Uppercup


Posted November 13, 2009 - By Andrew Pfister

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Reply to All: The G4tv.com Community Mailbag

It's called "coverage fatigue," and it happens every year. Big Publisher announces Big Game at E3, spends the next few months making sure that Big Game gets news stories, previews, videos, interviews, TV spots, celebrity endorsements, pre-order campaigns, cross-promotional tie-ins, ridiculous collector's editions, and midnight launches. By the time Big Game finally comes out, it feels like you've already played it…but wait, Big Game: Downloadable Content is coming in a week, and Bigger Game: New Location just got announced in shareholder's conference call, and maybe we'll see something at E3…?

This year, Big Game is Modern Warfare 2. On TheFeed we use a Google spreadsheet to catalog our posts, and when I tried to count how many MW2 stories we put up this week, I got one of those formula errors. We've been reading your comments about the Call of Duty carpet bombing -- all I can say is that don't worry, we're definitely working on many other things for the rest of the year (for instance, I can't wait to get my hands on New Super Mario Bros. this weekend), and we have been posting other stories…it's just that Modern Warfare 2 is indeed a huge deal, and even though we might be sick of talking about it, there's plenty about the game to talk about. "No Russian," for instance. Last week I said that we'd have to wait and see how that airport scene played out before we could accurately judge. Well, now we can…let's start it with your thoughts. I've taken these comments from this week's Feedback/Sessler's Soapbox threads:

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Arrow RightDid anybody complain about The Departed? (I think it won an Oscar even.) I haven't played the game but it sound very similar to what DiCaprio's character had to go through to garner the trust of Costello's gang i.e. horrible terrible things he wasn't willing to do all in an effort to bring a mad man down. -- ltmebob

The scenario was tastelessly designed and begs the question why the player couldn't murder the terrorist leader standing right next to him in the airport. After all isn't that pretty much the goal with regards to infiltration? This isn't IW pushing the medium as an art form, this is pure shock value designed to generate controversy and more dollars. The fact that it is skippable and does not include children in the airport are perfect arguments that IW is doing this simply to push the almighty dollar. -- Nhojuhc

Modern Warfare 2 No Russian

Sure gamers will defend to death their art form and feel that it is beyond reproach, but seriously, do I have to see a mass murder to know that it's an atrocity? Powerful? I'm moved by the murder of innocents? In what way? Do I gain hatred for our enemies? Do I need to see this to know the difference between right and wrong? -- goodbiscuits

I'm just not sure this type of "simulation" is really the key we want to use to force open the door into acceptance in society as an artistic medium. There are surely more creative ways allow players to feel an emotional response, this airport scene is nothing more than a cheap, shock factor scene. I'm afraid that in the minds of those who genuinely love artistic expression and have the level of intelligence and study required to understand artistic expression and interpretation this type of "scene" is not going to help videogames move into the artistic expression realm, but in the long run might actually hinder that progress even more. -- Glo9634

Yes, the game put you in a situation where you, a player in the guise of a CIA undercover operative, had to choose whether or not to participate fully in something horrific. Why were you in that situation? How did it come down to this? Is your life, at risk for not following orders, worth as much as the people you have been ordered to kill? These are all questions you should be asking yourself through this scene. They are all emotional responses that are supposed to take you, as a player, and draw you deeper into the narrative. -- LarcenousLaugh

This level shocked me, I found it to be very disturbing and it conjured emotions I normally don't have to deal with. That being said I am glad I played it. There are very rare moments in video games where I get an emotional response out of playing. I have gone on killing sprees in GTA, I wiped out villagers in Fable, I even nuked Megaton in Fallout 3. None of these games provoked a strong emotional response to what was going on. Fallout 3 came close but not to this degree.

I can completely understand why people will be offended by this level, It is something that will drive home for a lot of people especially in a post-9/11 world. I was born in northern Ireland and my parents lived through the troubles of the whole South/North Ireland conflict (where terrorists did mow down civilians with guns/fertilizer bombs, etc.) and I am sure that if they seen this level it would bring up bad memories for them. The main shock for me was not that I was killing helpless civilians (it is just a game after all), but that this could potentially happen in the real world. -- Peatore

I think the airport scene is too clean, for lack of a better word, reason being I've played GTA , gone into an airport with a flame thrower and a machine gun and gunned people down while the were running around on fire, and then blew them up. It's part of the fun of doing things in a game that you'd never do in real life. -- Joe22

Everyone playing MW2 will react differently to this Airport situation. I shot everyone, I even made the effort to find those who were cowering behind cover and take their lives. Does this make me a bad person? I felt I owed it to the developers to engage in the scenario that was placed before me and this being my first time impersonating a terrorist in a game I thought, why not, let us commence to murdering. Now was it necessary, eh maybe, maybe not. It could have been done with a between level video/spoken narrative recap, but would that have had the same kind of impact? It's obviously creating emotions for some gamers and isn't that the point of games? To create a sense of envelopment with your characters and environment/situation. I think it was a bold move and I tip my hat. -- Sentient010

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Right ArrowMany excellent points have been made this week about "No Russian," which I have to believe is the most controversial scene in a video game to date, and after playing through it the other night, it's one of those things that you can't really be "wrong" about regardless of what side you come down on. (Which is not to say you can't have terrible reasoning, which I've also seen in our comments.)

For me, the scene comes down to a few things:

Modern Warfare 2 No Russian* Examined within the plot Infinity Ward chose to go with, the mission makes complete sense. There needed to be an impetus for what happens next in the game, and it needed to be something so incredibly powerful and horribly violent to justify the response. What happens in the airport fits that description. But the plot they chose to go with has all the subtlety of a Michael Bay film (or Tomorrow Never Dies, really), which is why something so emotionally provocative A) is surprising/shocking and B) feels out of place. It'd be like Transformers 2 preaching about the horrors of war.

* The question is: "Did I need to see that first-hand, and did I need to interact with it?" It was necessary for Pvt. Allen to be there undercover, but was it necessary for me to see the massacre through his eyes? We have to remember that this is presumably the end of a very long deep undercover assignment, and we weren't privy to Allen's experiences leading up to this. If you think about it, that could have been an entire game in itself, and the moral implications of the airport scene would have meant far more to Allen as a character and us as the players. But because it's so early in the game and lacks that context, that's where a lot of the "they did this for the shock value" argument stems from, which is totally understandable.

Would it have had the same effect if Allen was locked in a security room somewhere, watching it unfold through a window or a monitor? What if you were put in control of a civilian who had to escape, or had to watch a loved one get shot? Why not show the events through the eyes of a Moscow police officer? Like many of you argued, did we really need that scene to tell us how horrible Makarov is, especially when it was presented as optional? I would very much like to hear Infinity Ward's reasoning behind their choices.

(And did making it optional mean Infinity Ward copped out? Or did they take advantage of the medium and allow the player to choose their level of participation in a way that a similar scene wouldn't be able to do in a book or movie? There's an argument to both sides, I'm still not sure where I stand on that one.)

Modern Warfare 2 No Russian* Where that scene fails for me -- and it causes the whole experience to break -- is when the choice to participate is taken away and I have to fight the police force in order to proceed. As we find out at the end of the mission, it makes sense for Makarov not to care that I wasn't shooting civilians…he already knew why. The same should have held true for the airport police, who are just as innocent as the civilians they're trying to protect. Matt Keil made the point on this week's Feedback -- and it's something I definitely felt when I had to open fire -- that those virtual officers had virtual families and virtual lives that you were ending. That sounds silly to the "it's just a game!" crowd, but it's no different than words describing a character's misfortune on a page or actors "dying" in a movie. If you want your fiction to be believable, you need to be consistent. Making me shoot the cops for the sake of gameplay broke that consistency.

Another failure on IW's part provided probably the most jarring moment of the whole experience for me: walking slowly through the carnage, not firing but watching everything unfold and trying to process the imagery they were presenting…I got an on-screen reminder to switch to my grenade launcher. It was completely inappropriate for the scene, and suggestive that IW didn't really care if you shot the civilians or not.

But despite the many problems with it, where "No Russian" succeeds is that it was allowed to exist, and it made us all feel and talk about it in this way. Very few games decide to do that (regardless of their ability to do so). And one last thing to think about, in the very next mission playing as Roach in Rio and fighting against the favela militia, a civilian ran into my line of fire and was killed. That had almost an equal impact as "No Russian," and just now reminded me how I thought it was weird the initial training course had civilian targets -- not so much anymore. We can talk about this more next week, if the letters and comments keep coming in…particularly about how this is different from the civilians in Grand Theft Auto, because that is an excellent point.

But I believe we were talking about Michael Bay…


Arrow RightWhy has Infinity Ward gone Michael Bay? -- ScienceOfSleep

Michael BayWorldwide Gross Revenue (in millions, via Wikipedia)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: $832M
Transformers: $709M
Bad Boys: $141M
Bad Boys II: $273M
Armageddon: $554M
Pearl Harbor: $449M
The Rock: $335M

I just used my official Steve Johnson Entertainment Revenue Calculator™ to add it all up:  Michael Bay has made eleven-thousand billion dollars with his movies, so blowing everything up appears to be a viable creative strategy. And if Michael Bay -- and now it seems Infinity Ward -- wasn't around to provide us our guilty pleasures someone else surely would be, and perhaps with even less style. And I'll admit it, I still have a soft spot for The Rock. Nic Cage at the height of his game.


Arrow RightModern Warfare 2, top of its class. Uncharted 2, top of its class. Dragon Age, top of its class... where do game developers go from here, and what is "outside of the box" anymore? -- JoeDowntown

Arrow RightWhat is the greatest online fps at the moment? And don't say COD MW2 or anything involving guitars. -- idwolf

Right ArrowClearly, game developers need to make an online FPS involving guitars. That's so far outside of the box, it's back in the box. In the meantime, here's an online FPS involving dinosaurs and World War II. You are most welcome.

Dino D-Day

(This was the last letter mentioning MW2, by the way.)


Arrow RightWhen you do reviews, do your reviews happen at work or do you have to travel to play the games? Which happens more often, and did you every have an experience that will always stand out? -- bolo73

Right Arrow95% of the time, we review games either at the office or in the comfort of our own homes where our A/V equipment is better, the furniture is more comfortable, and clothing is optional. The off-site review events do happen, usually only with the really high-profile games from paranoid publishers, but unfortunately there's not a whole lot we can do about it if we still want to have a review ready in time for the game's retail release. When that happens, it's a relatively inoffensive affair: publishers will set up large rooms with stations for each reviewer (multiple publications will attend these events) and let them play the game in peace. It's definitely not the preferred method of reviewing, and we try to avoid it as much as humanly possible, but it's not as nefarious as some might think.

As far as notable experiences with weird review situations, I remember back when I was an intern for Electronic Gaming Monthly in my college days. It was the summer of '99, and Nintendo was incredibly paranoid about their first-party N64 games -- so much so that they had an employee travel to Chicago with the games physically locked into the N64, they had to stay in the office's demo room while the guys were playing the game, and the doors had to be locked whenever nobody was in the room -- even when they had to take a bathroom break. Things have gotten far less absurd since then, but Nintendo's still highly protective of their games prior to release.


Arrow RightWhy does DLC for multiplatform games end up only going to one console. I like Fallout 3 and GTA4, but my PS3 isn't cutting it when it comes to my 360 DLC availablity. I understand that Microsoft wants more sales on their platform but aren't games about enjoyment, not leaving people out of the fun. -- BlakeKellermann

Right ArrowBecause multiplatform development strategy is so essential in this generation, downloadable content is one of the few remaining trump cards for the console holders. Lost & Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony were big wins for Microsoft, so don't expect it to go away anytime soon. And I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, Blake, but games are about money. (We all gotta deal with that at some point.)

Ballad of Gay Tony

Arrow RightDo you think that the gaming community will be portrayed as anything more than a bunch of kids who yell racist slurs and get mad at each other, or do you think it will stay on this stereotype? -- Jopanda

Right ArrowWhat we consider to be the "gaming community" will get larger and more diverse as the years go by and more and more people are acclimated to gaming, whether through playing with their families on the Wii or playing casual games on Facebook. From there, sub-communities form with different standards for what's acceptable behavior. If we're talking about the typical FPS audience, then I can't imagine anything changing about the general player pool…ever.

Some equate Xbox Live to the schoolyard playground, but I don't buy that. There's a period of pre-pubescence when you're too old for the playground but too young to be autonomous (i.e., having a driver's license). That's the Xbox Live I'm afraid of. Before the Internet was everywhere, we would ride our bikes over to each other's houses and play games, because we were friends and that's what friends did. That the Internet (we shouldn't solely be picking on XBL here) is easily anonymous means that we don't have to maintain friendships with the people we play with, and we can curse at them without repercussions like we'd curse at cheap A.I. or bad controls. Using the term "community" to describe it doesn't seem correct. Sterling has actually been thinking about this a lot recently, look for something longer-form about this from him in the near future.

The key is to find people online who are cool, keep them on your friends list, and use the mute button as often as necessary.


Arrow RightMiyamoto finally started to talk a little bit about another Zelda, and in the past has talked about trying to freshen up the franchise. What would you all like to see in a new Zelda game? Are you excited about Wii MotionPlus technology and what it can bring? -- thesilentmole

The Legend of Zelda WiiRight ArrowAnything involving motion control needs to be built from the ground up with motion in mind (Twilight Princess was not, if you remember), and that includes some beloved Nintendo franchises that might be overdue for a complete mechanical overhaul. What I really enjoyed about Wii Sports Resort  was the fencing game, particularly the little adventure mode with you running through the field and bopping guys on the head. I've never really had a problem with the current 3D Zelda combat (Wind Waker was excellent in this regard), but I could buy into the idea of MotionPlus.

But before we talk about swinging swords, the most important thing for the next Zelda game is a proper overworld. As much as I adore Ocarina of Time and recognize it for the landmark 3D game it is, my heart is still broken by the empty fields of Hyrule. In the older games, getting to each of the 8 or so dungeon puzzles could be a puzzle in itself -- they've been slowly adding those elements back into the series with Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, but it's still not the same.

And maybe it's time to change up the art style again. Not necessarily cel-shaded, not necessarily "realistic," but something unique and fresh, like how the Mario & Luigi series has a distinct look different from, say, Galaxy or NSMB.



Arrow RightI always wonder why Gouken dont have a uppercup like everybody else who knows his fighting style. Ken, Ryu, Akuma, Sakura, even Dan has a uppercup. So my question is WHY NOT A UPPERCUP! -- ben

Right ArrowBecause a lower cup feels a lot better. Trust me.


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This week's Reply-to-All has been brought to you by bananas, the East Dillon Lions, and "Just" by Radiohead. Send your letters to webmaster@g4tv.com, and I'll see you next Friday.

(Confidential to Jeff G./J. Green at E. Arts. We formally challenge you to a Mailbag-off. Please respond by sundown tonight, or you shall forfeit the contest.)

Reply to All: No Russian, Legend of Zelda, and My Little Uppercup


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