By now I'm sure everyone has heard that yes, a piece of footage from the first level of Modern Warfare 2 leaked out, and said footage shows how you get to play as a terrorist, gunning down innocent civilians at an airport. Okay, so supposedly you are playing as an undercover CIA operative and are really the good guy, just forced to do bad things to keep your cover. Jack Bauer style.
Well, it seems that things have not gone according to plan for Activision and Infinity Ward and they are desperately flinging DMCA notices to every possible direction, trying to take down the leaked footage - that's why there is no embedded video here - by the time you read this, the ones available are probably taken down. You can try checking out this one (in French, offending bits start at about 2:00 mark).
There is a set of official statements from Infinity Ward and Activision covering the mess, both effectively saying the same thing;
"Yes it is. The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player's mission to stop them.
Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two 'checkpoints' where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can't be disabled.
Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic game play that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older."
"The leaked footage was taken from a copy of game that was obtained illegally and is not representative of the overall gameplay experience in Modern Warfare 2.
Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 features a deep and gripping storyline in which players face off against a terrorist threat dedicated to bringing the world to the brink of collapse. The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism.
At the beginning of the game, players encounter a mandatory "checkpoint" in which they are warned that an upcoming segment may contain disturbing elements and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene. Consistent with its content, the game has been given an “M” for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. The rating is prominently displayed on the front and back of the packaging, as well as in all advertising."
Australians: Uh, it is for 15-year olds down here
Just one funny problem... Modern Warfare 2 is actually rated MA15+ in Australia, since they don't have a "18" rating down there. Both Infinity Ward and Activision are sounding righteous when they defend that this is a game for adults, yet in some markets it is rated for 15 year olds.
It shouldn't be much of a shock that this is causing much noise down under. According to Sydney Morning Herald, a local lobby group is not exactly amused with the situation.
A prominent children's lobby group is calling on the Government to review its decision to classify as suitable for 15-year-olds an upcoming video game that allows players to assume the role of a terrorist and shoot innocent civilians in an airport.
All this is even funnier when you consider that the exact same ratings board effectively banned Left 4 Dead 2 in Australia by refusing classification and they are getting a neutered version there as a result. So does this mean that "Shooting zombies that used to be innocent civilians - bad. Shooting normal innocent civilians - good"? Or does it matter who is publishing the game? I'm sure Activision has a lot more marketing dollars to throw around...
In any case, Modern Warfare 2 is sure to spark the age old debate over videogame violence - again. Personally I think Infinity Ward has probably crossed a line here and went for the distasteful. It'll put the game into headlines, Grand Theft Auto style, but it may also cause a backlash that harms mature games as a whole.
What do you think? There is a lively discussion on the YouGamers PC Gaming Forums over the subject, already in progress.