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'Modern Warfare 2' terrorism hits close to home

By Gus Mastrapa, Wired
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Biggest video game launch ever?
  • Military scenarios, violent police actions, firefights play out in 'Modern Warfare 2'
  • Locales in game include Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Brazil and Russia
  • The player in 'Modern Warfare 2' is embedded in a squad of terrorists
  • In the game, fighting comes to shores of United States

(Wired) -- The early hours of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" take gamers around the world and back again, but the new game's story hits close to home.

Military scenarios, violent police actions and straight-from-the-big-screen massive firefights take place in such far-flung locales as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Brazil.

But things don't really get interesting until the action moves to Russia and the player is embedded in a squad of terrorists. And then, inevitably, the fight comes to U.S. shores.

"Modern Warfare 2," a first-person shooter released Tuesday for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, is a greatly immersive experience that embeds players in the battlefield.

Limited edition of Xbox 360

There's no place in the world where a skirmish can't go down, from airport security lines to the neighborhood burger joint to your own backyard. It's an unsettling notion and one sure to inspire plenty of parental hand-wringing, particularly for those who buy their kids the live-the-action box set that includes a pair of night-vision goggles.

Night-vision goggles experience

(Spoiler alert: The moments I'm about to relate describe the plot of "Modern Warfare 2" -- not where the game finally goes, but the early incidents that establish the conflict and tension of the game. Some readers may consider these to be spoilers.)

Russia is where the already-controversial "No Russian" scene goes down. As Army Ranger Pvt. Allen, players go undercover with Vladimir Makarov -- an underling of the villain from "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare."

Along with Makarov and other terrorists, the player finds themselves in the midst of a terrible situation. The fully armed Makarov and crew waltz into a Russian airport and open fire on civilians standing in a security line.

As Allen, the player can take part in the bloodshed or simply walk alongside the cold-blooded killers as they execute hundreds of innocents. Either way, the scene is powerful. It's also the oldest trick in the book: The quickest way to turn audiences against your villain is to show them doing dirty deeds, and Makarov's murderous spree is a doozy.

Allen doesn't walk away from the bloodbath. Once outside the terminal, players must fend off waves of incoming SWAT teams. If there's any kind of karmic debt that Allen owes for his role in the slayings, the guy pays it: At the end of the tarmac firefight, Makarov puts a bullet in Allen. He knew all along that the Ranger was a rat.

Allen's body at the scene of the tragedy triggers Russian outrage and, eventually, a "Red Dawn"-style invasion of the United States.

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Copyright 2011