The new Call of Duty video game Black Ops II was released this past week, and looks set to be the latest roaring success in the behemoth that is the COD franchise. The campaign section of the game is more realistic than ever, weaving a fictionalised but credible path through the military history of the late Cold War and into the drone wars of the future. The game play even includes appearances from actual historical figures such as that rascal Manuel Noriega, and contemporary protagonists of the military machine, such as the newly unemployed General David Petraeus. Since each new COD game is basically just an updated rehash of the last, what better excuse than to lazily revisit an old article and examine it in more detail. In considering the question of just how much more realism the producers can infuse the games with, I have come up with the blueprint for the next instalment in the COD universe. The following is a synopsis of the campaign mode for the upcoming Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4: Shit Just Got Real.
Prologue: Your Country Needs You
This preface to the action introduces your character, Buzz Q. America. Buzz is a normal, everyday, freedom-loving teenager from a dusty little farming town in Nebraska. Most of the objectives in this level involve driving a pick-up around town, bringing in the corn at harvest time, and beating up queers and nerds in high school. One day Buzz sees an advert for the military that tells him the terrorists want to take his job, his corn and his freedom. The next day he signs up for the Marine Corps, because Buzz will be damned if some pinko Commie raghead gonna come over here and take his corn. No sir. The rest of the level is mainly made up of filling out application forms in Buzz’s bedroom while listening to the new Kenny Chesney album.
Level 1: Basic Training
In this level Buzz goes to boot camp to become a fully fledged Marine. You will take him through various missions involving firing ranges and assault courses, as well as enjoying the more mundane tasks such as boot-polishing and keeping your porno mag hidden from your Drill Instructor.
You will also undergo a tutorial on how to correctly identify enemy combatants using factors such as robe length, skin tone and beard density. The level concludes with a bonus round called Kebab or Kaboom, in which you have to tell apart bomb-wielding Muslim extremists from harmless, jocular restaurant proprietors. Maximum points are awarded for slaughtering all of them, thus removing any element of doubt.
Level 2: A Man Needs an Aide
Before being approved for active duty you must spend some time as a General’s aide in the Pentagon performing various administrative tasks. Missions will involve updating the official Marine Corps Facebook and Twitter pages with encouraging messages for the troops, summarily shredding and deleting any correspondence between the senior staff and their mistresses, and most importantly, feeding Patton, the General’s goldfish.
In order to complete the level you must master the art of stamping forms in triplicate without getting ink on your fingers, as well as sending letters of condolence to the relatives of deceased soldiers without realising how futile their sacrifice is. As a reward for your hard work there is another bonus round called Game of Drones in which you get to pilot a drone into southern Pakistan while trying to avoid hitting schools and wedding parties.
Level 3: It’s Time for Africa
For your first mission out in the field you are sent to a base in North Africa to stem the tide of Islamic terrorism that hides cunningly amidst the famine and poverty in the region. Buzz has to decide which warlords seem the most trustworthy so he can sell them arms for their child soldiers.
You get your first taste of action here as you take part in a raid on a house in Somalia, killing nine people who were reported by your intelligence network as probable terrorists. The final objective of the level is to chant ‘USA, USA’ loudly on the return journey, keeping in perfect unison with your fellow troops.
Level 4: To Helmand and Back
Buzz’s second tour of duty brings him to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Here you will spend most of your time avoiding roadside bombs, getting pissed with the British troops, and wondering aloud why these damn ragheads are so ungrateful to have been given the gift of American democracy.
Another mission in this level allows you to sit in on a CIA interrogation and try your hand at waterboarding a suspect. You then use the information gathered to order an air strike, the targets of which unfortunately turn out to be some hungover British soldiers. The level ends with a morale-boosting visit to the camp by hip-hop sensation Rihanna, who entertains the troops with some of her songs. Your final objective of the level is to masturbate furiously later that night without waking your comrades, then cry yourself to sleep.
Level 5: Enemy of the States
Buzz is nearing the end of his tour of duty and is out on a routine patrol with his platoon one afternoon. You get separated from the others and decide to make your way back to the camp. Passing through some foothills on the way, you see a tray in the middle of the road with a steak sandwich, a six-pack of beer, and a copy of Sports Illustrated on it. Puzzled, you approach it only to feel a rope tighten suddenly around your ankle and pull you up towards an overhead branch. Hanging there upside down, you see a number of insurgents walk towards you.
‘Pathetic infidel. Works every time,’ says one of them, as he knocks you over the head with his shoe and everything goes black.
The rest of the level mostly comprises enduring horribly painful torture at the hands of your captors. As well as the physical abuse, the terrorists play theme tunes from TV shows like Cheers and Friends at full volume in your cell twenty-four hours a day. Eventually your sanity is all but eroded and you are reduced to a quivering wreck, rocking yourself to sleep in a bed of your own faeces as you try in vain to kill yourself by swallowing your own teeth, all the while singing along in a hushed frenzy, ‘Where everybody knows your name…’
At the end of the level you manage to escape after noticing that your cell is simply a hut made out of mud that can be broken through quite easily in a matter of hours. As you drag your broken body through the desert in a haze of pain, hunger and thirst, you think to yourself, ‘This really hasn’t been my day, my week, my month, or even my year.’ Eventually, on the cusp of a miserable and ignominious death, you arrive at base camp and collapse at the front gate.
Epilogue: War…What Is It Good For?
The last level of the game deals with Buzz’s recuperation after being flown home. The gameplay takes you through months of painful physical rehabilitation, intense psychological torment and post-traumatic stress, and the inevitable substance abuse and relationship problems that follow. Along the way you receive a letter from the military thanking you for your service and your sacrifice. You return to the cornfields of Nebraska a hero, and a husk of a human being.
Your final objective of the game takes place some months later. On a bitterly cold winter’s night, tired of the demons that allow you only fitful sleep, drunk with whiskey, and filled with an indescribable emptiness, you discharge your service weapon for the last time.
A map of Afghanistan and its mineral resources lies sprawled across the desk of a US General in the Pentagon. An aide drops a letter on his desk. The General reads the letter and sighs softly to himself. Folding it over, he places it carefully in a drawer that is overflowing with pages. He stands and gazes out the window in reflection. He looks down at his hands, then out the window once more. After a moment he sits down at his desk and goes back to studying the map.