Call of Duty: Modern Warfare brings the series back to its popular contemporary setting, but one narrative choice struck close to home and has stirred up controversy–in part because it appears to attribute a real-life massacre to the wrong country. But narrative director Taylor Kurosaki defended the choice to GameSpot. Spoilers follow.
One mission called “Highway of Death” takes place in the fictional country of Urzikstan, and alludes to Russian aggressors committing a massacre. This appeared to draw parallels to a well-known incident from the first Gulf War of the same name, in which American-led coalition forces attacked retreating Iraqi military vehicles. Some have expressed concern with using the name, and attributing the act to a different country.
Kurosaki defended the narrative decision in an interview with GameSpot, saying that in the context of the game, the highway had already been referenced by that name before the mission takes place there, suggesting that the game isn’t rewriting the event, just drawing upon it.
“I encourage you to go back and play start from the beginning of that mission, where you get the mission briefing,” he said. “Farah talks about this location as the Highway of Death before the mission takes place. So the Highway of Death is not what came out of that mission. It was already that. And then if you look at the environmental storytelling, there’s already bombed out vehicles and all kinds of, you know, things that are relating to previous episodes and it’s even mentioned in there.”
He went on to suggest the phrase “highway of death” is not exclusive to the Gulf War incident, and that the narrative team did heavy research to find universal themes across war over the last several decades.
“The reason why Urzikstan is a fictional country is because we are taking themes that we see played over and over again in the last 50 years in countries and locations all around the world. We’re not making assimilation of one particular country or one in particular conflict,” he said. “These are themes that play out over and over again with a lot of the same players involved. We don’t portray any one side as good or bad in our game.”