Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone are grainy, realistic shooters, right? Well, the game’s newest cosmetic DLC is as far from it as it gets.
A new 16-bit DLC pack for Infinity Ward’s first-person shooter was released this week. New weapon skins like the Commodore assault rifle and Genesis submachine gun (I see what they did there) are added, as well as a new 16-bit death effect. And it’s this death effect that has sparked a debate that has been bubbling over Modern Warfare and Warzone̵
In this death effect, enemies killed with one of the weapon skins included in the DLC pack explode in a shower of 16-bit pixels. It’s like something from Tron or Scott Pilgrim. There is even an accompanying “other” audio effect. This is how it looks:
With the new 16-bit package you can satisfactorily delete the roof campers from r / modernwarfare
That death effect got Modern Warfare fans talking, I think it’s fair to say. And there seem to be two different opinions: First, this kind of crazy in-game effect is a fair game, after all, Call of Duty was never realistic – despite what the marketers said. Second, there’s no room for insane in-game effects in a game that was billed as a realistic military shooter from the start – and actually kept that promise.
Let’s look back: when Infinity Ward set up Modern Warfare it described the game as grainy and realistic, and this was certainly felt in the attention to detail and philosophy of the developer when it came to the card design. Most of the maps show real-looking places that were torn and blown up by the war. The weapons in the game are incredibly realistic, with impressive reload animations and audio. Even the soldiers’ movement feels heavy. The overall feeling is realistic and authentic. At least that’s what Modern Warfare is shooting for.
But Modern Warfare has added DLC weapon and character skins, as well as tracer effects and takedowns in the months since its release, which are completely unrealistic. Even stupid. The game has one final move in which you summon a bat named Edward that will eat your unhappy enemy face until its head explodes. One of the figures can have cat ears. And now this 16-bit death effect.
“Cash on delivery was never and never will be about realism,” replied Theycallmemrlurker. “Your graphics and sounds? Maybe. But in terms of gameplay? No.”
“The game was advertised with an aesthetic and now we’re switching to something completely different,” emphasized Lead_Sails. “It would be like adding hyper-realistic graphics to Fortnite. It collides visually and doesn’t fit.”
In the run-up to Modern Warfare’s release, Infinity Ward came under fire for its killstreak with white phosphorus. White Phosphorus is a 10-kill killstreak for use in multiplayer. You bring up a touchpad that shows an outline of the map and the enemies on it. You can then determine the path the white phosphorus will take to hit the map.
After it is hit, the white phosphorus envelops the card in a suffocating gas (enemy soldiers begin to cough, are half health, and their HUD is slightly obscured). There are also pockets with burning embers on the menu. It’s a powerful killstreak that, when used correctly, can be devastating.
Inclusion in Modern Warfare has been questioned online as it has a controversial reputation in real world warfare. The chemical is banned for use against civilians (but not soldiers) and its recent use in Syria prompted Amnesty International to propose its use as a war crime against the country’s people there.
At the time, Infinity Ward’s multiplayer director Geoff Smith said the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty was separate from the campaign and had “a different vibe”.
“I’ve always felt like multiplayer is the distant gunfire that you can hear a few blocks from where the single player is,” said Smith. “We all share the same world and they set the scene. But we are a different space and a different mood. And it’s about creating this wide range of content with different things for different people. It’s just a different experience.
“We’re presenting a scope. We had a nuclear weapon in previous games. Maybe people will react to the more realistic graphics. If it were Cartooney, would it be more acceptable?”
Some gamers have suggested a cosmetic block switcher that would prevent death effects and other DLC aesthetics from occurring, but I can’t see Activision ever giving the go-ahead for such a thing. Call of Duty competitive games also act as a showcase for this stuff. If you die someone who has a cool gun skin or a cool soldier outfit, or if you die in a shower of pixels in that case, you might think, huh, I believe that, and go to the in-game store.
Whatever you’re feeling in this realism debate, Modern Warfare and Warzone seem to be doubling down on the stupid skins. Dataminers unearthed Jigsaw and Leatherface Operator skins for Halloween. Now imagine that you see these on a real battlefield.