At E3 this year, I was among the select few invited to a private beta test for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot.
Although I went in not expecting much from an otherwise exhausted franchise, I was blown away by one feature that made me believe a series rebirth is possible. Known for its over-the-top combat and futuristic setting in recent years, Modern Warfare is a breath of fresh air for its rich array of nonviolent conflict resolution techniques intricately designed to calmly de-escalate any hostile encounter.
Single Player Campaign
For all of its violent battle mechanics—like airstrikes and blood-spattering headshots—Modern Warfare boasts just as many mindful, level-headed approaches. Take for example, the opening sequence where you choose between a sniper rifle, submachine gun, and a copy of The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. Right away, I had to decide whether to dispatch the target from a distance, get up close and personal, or look within, realize I’m getting emotionally involved, and opt for a self-care day to meditate on next steps.
Better yet, another particularly gruesome scene gives players the option to follow orders and gun down innocent civilians in an Azerbaijan market square—a choice that sparks World War III—or tackle the issue privately with Captain Price and learn that he made the impulsive call on an empty stomach.
You’ll find many moments like these in the carefully designed choice-driven narrative that organically culminates in one of 57 different endings, ranging from a nuke decimating a quarter of the globe to having a kickass time at mercenary leader Imran Zakhaev’s cabin in Breckinridge tearing up the slopes and roasting smores.
Whether you use your breath to steady the sniper scope or your emotions, the fate of the world is in your hands.
With a richly detailed character customization screen, I was awestruck with how I could choose from over 75 weapons, compliment my load out with flashbangs and throwing knives, and put my stamp on it with a camouflage skin. Equally, however, I was able to go for a more holistic approach and catch my militant foes off guard with the Relaxed Posture and Positive Attitude perks.
By stringing together consecutive steps in resolving conflict, a player can unlock what is known as “Kindstreaks.” In one situation, after I invited a hostile to take a seat, thanked him for coming, and asked if he would like a La Croix, I could then call in an “Uber Eats Airdrop” to enjoy with my blood-thirsting enemy as a gesture of good faith.
The beautifully reimagined map “Overgrown” in particular struck a nostalgic chord as I relived the days of my youth quickscoping enemies from afar with the iconic M-40A3 bolt-action rifle. But as an adult, I was more impressed by the new map, “Closed-Door Office”: a safe space where players can engage in a meaningful 1-on-1 close quarters discussion.
Certain game modes encouraged diplomacy in voice chat by motivating players to discuss why their battle is occurring rather than blindly escalate the situation with violence. For example, after I validated the other team’s feelings in a round of Domination, I then coordinated appropriate times for each team to capture flags without any killing needed. With a final score of 200 – 200, everybody won.
By far, my favorite addition was ‘Peacemaker’ mode: a co-op game mode for advanced players to de-escalate heated arguments in the fastest time possible. Similar to Spec Ops in previous titles, players need to use active listening and be adept at I-statements to stand a chance. For example, instead of saying, “you’ll piss me off if you murder the hostages”, it is more effective to hold ‘X’, bring up a list of dialogue options, and select, “I would feel unheard if the hostages are murdered.”
Before I knew it, I was denuclearizing a volatile country by avoiding sharp words and maintaining a gentle tone of voice with a radical Middle Eastern terrorist organization!
“Our mission is to give players full-control in the heat of combat. For some, that means unloading a clip of your red dot sight M-60 into enemy lines, but for others, that might mean halting battle, climbing atop a Humvee, and asking, ‘Hey, can we just chill out for a second?’” game director Frederic Sims said.
Between choices like sleeping on it, taking a walk to cool off, and readdressing the issue at a later date, Modern Warfare adds a unique RPG element that makes combat thoroughly enjoyable, even for the most pacifistic gamer.
Rarely does a video game impact me IRL, but I would be remiss not to mention that Modern Warfare has made me a better person at heart. Many of the techniques I learned in game are surprisingly useful in the workplace and at home. These have reminded me that, if I take a moment to remember the Three R’s: Regulate, Relate, and Reason, there is often an easy way to avoid a messy fight. And when there isn’t, I always have that rocket-propelled grenade launcher under my bed.
It’s refreshing to see a little modern welfare in Modern Warfare.