Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone are rough, realistic shooters, right? Well, the game’s latest cosmetic DLC is about as far away from it as you could get.
This week, a new 16-bit DLC pack was released for Infinity Ward’s first person shooter. It adds new weapon skins like the Commodore assault rifle and the Genesis submachine gun (I can see what they did there), as well as a new 16-bit lethal effect. And it is this death effect that replenished a debate that has been bubbling for a while now about Modern Warfare and Warzone̵
This lethal effect sees enemies killed with one of the weapon skins included in the DLC pack explode in a 16-bit pixel shower. It’s like something out of Tron or Scott Pilgrim. There is even an accompanying “their” sound effect. This is what it looks like:
New 16-bit package, let you satisfactorily delete roof campers from r / modernwarfare
This death effect has made Modern Warfare fans talk, I think it’s fair to say. And there seem to be two different opinions: one, this kind of crazy in-game effect is fair game, after all, Call of Duty has never been realistic – despite what marketers say about it. And two, there is no room for crazy effects in the game in a game that was billed as a realistic military shooter from the start – and in fact, that promise followed.
Let’s take a backup: when Infinity Ward beat Modern Warfare, it described the game as gritty and realistic, and this could certainly be felt in the developer’s attention to detail and philosophy when it came to card design. Most of the maps show places that look real, war torn and blown apart. The weapons in the game are incredibly realistic with impressive reload animations and sound. Even the movement of the soldiers feels heavy. The overall feel is realism and authenticity. At least that’s what Modern Warfare is shooting at.
But in the months since its release, Modern Warfare has added DLC weapons and character skins, as well as track effects and removals that are completely unrealistic. Stupid, even. The game has one last move where you call a bat called Edward who eats the face of your unhappy enemy until their head explodes. One of the figures may carry cat ears. And now this 16-bit death effect.
“COD has never and will never be about realism,” Theycallmemrlurker said in response. “Their graphics and sounds? Maybe. But gameplay-wise? No.”
“The game was advertised with an aesthetic, and now we’re switching to something completely different,” Lead_Sails pointed out. “It would be like adding hyperrealistic graphics to Fortnite; it collides visually and does not fit.”
During the release of Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward came under fire for its white phosphorus killing. White Phosphorus is a 10-kill killstreak for use in competitive multiplayer. You create a touchpad that shows an overview of the map and enemies on it. You can then direct the path that white phosphor hits the map.
When it hits, the white phosphorus envelops the card in a choking gas (enemy soldiers begin to cough, are half-healthy, and their HUD is slightly obscured). There are also pockets with area denial that burn embers back on the map. It is a powerful killstreak that can be devastating if used properly.
It was included in Modern Warfare online because of its controversial reputation in real warfare. The chemical is banned for use by civilians (but not soldiers), and its recent deployment in Syria prompted Amnesty International to suggest that it be used against the country’s ordinary population there, which constituted a war crime.
At the time, Infinity director multiplayer Ward Geoff Smith said the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty was detached from the campaign and had “a different vibe.”
“I’ve always had it like in previous games, multiplayer is the distant firearm you hear a few blocks away from where the single player is,” Smith said. “We all share the same world, and they set the stage. But we are a different game room and a different mood. And it goes across trying to create this great breadth of content with different things for different people. It’s just a different experience.
“We’re presenting a playground. We had a nuke in previous games. Maybe people react to the more realistic images. If it was cartooney, would it be more acceptable?”
Some gamers have suggested a cosmetic block shift that prevents death effects and other DLC aesthetics from popping up, but I don’t see Activision ever giving the green light to anything like that. Competitive games of Call of Duty double as shop windows for these things. If you die for someone, there will be a cool gun skin or soldier suit, or in this case you die in a shower of pixels, you might think, hey, I feel like that and go out to the game store.
Whatever you feel for this realism debate, Modern Warfare and Warzone seem to be doubling down on the silly skins. Computer miners have found Jigsaw and Leatherface operator skins for Halloween. Now imagine seeing them on a real battlefield.