It’s not a stretch to call “No Russian” the most controversial mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In fact, it just might be the most controversial video game level in history. Even some developers who worked on the game refused to play it. Let’s export what makes this level so shocking and why some countries even banned the mission from the game altogether. It goes without saying that there will be major spoilers ahead.
In the mission “No Russian” in Modern Warfare 2 you play as Army Ranger PFC Joseph Allen who is working undercover for the CIA as a part of a Russian terrorist organization led by Vladimir Makarov. The mission’s goal is to shoot up Zakhaev International Airport in Moscow with Makarov and his goons. This is a false flag operation, so Makarov says “Remember, no Russian.” indicating that his team is to speak only English during the operation. The twist comes at the end of the mission when Makarov shoots Allen, telling him that he knew of his identity and that the entire purpose of the shooting was to pin it on the US so that Russia would declare war.
Participation Isn’t Forced
One of the most interesting things about “No Russian” is that you are not actually forced to kill anyone. If you want, you can just follow around Makarov and his goons without firing a single bullet until you get to the end of the level. Alternatively, you can skip the level altogether since a warning message will appear before it starts, offering the player the chance to bypass it without missing out on any achievements. This might just be the first and only time in video game history where you’re given the option to skip a level due to how morbid it is.
How the World Reacted
Upon release, it seemed everyone hated “No Russian” for one reason or another. There was of course the backlash from the mainstream media that a video game let players participate in a mass shooting, but there were also those who hated it for other reasons. Keith Stuart, a writer for The Guardian, called the skip feature a “cop-out” while Kieron Gillen of Rock, Paper, Shotgun said that the level’s plot is illogical.
The Legacy of “No Russian”
Looking back, it’s no surprise that this mission got the hate it did when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released in 2009. It was an easy target for moralists and easy to sensationalize by the media. Even so, the controversial mission has led to many video games since exploring darker themes in a more realistic way. GameSpot’s Laura Parker described “No Russian” as a watershed moment for the video game industry and regardless of how you feel about the content of the level itself, it’s hard to argue.
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