“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” —William Gibson
The reader with an keen memory will recall that three years ago, I wrote about my experiences with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s most memorable mission. Contrasting the other missions in the campaign, “All Ghillied Up” was a stealth-driven one, where the objective was to carefully reach a vantage position to assassinate a terrorist planning to buy nuclear material. It’s one of the best moments in the history of video games; this mission exchanges the frantic-paced shooting of earlier missions for an intensely suspenseful trek through the fields of Pripyat, and under Captain MacMillan’s eye, the idea is to move about while drawing little attention to oneself. This may seem counterintuitive in a shooter, but out-gunned and out-numbered, one really appreciates the efficacy of the ghillie suit and a bit of patience: as per MacMillan’s words, it’s easier to let them pass. After evading Ultra-nationalist forces in one of the more tense moments of the mission, the player and MacMillan reach Pripyat. The older graphics don’t stop Modern Warfare from presenting a very convincing ghost town- the abandoned apartment blocks and playgrounds were one of the most eerie places in any game I’ve played. I’d been itching to try it out for myself, and as luck would have it, one of my friends went on vacation; this was back when idling still worked in Team Fortress 2, and I agreed to help him out. While idling, I noticed that he had a copy of Modern Warfare, and decided to try it out, resulting in the posts about the two missions in Pripyat. At the time, I was looking at YouTube play-throughs of All Ghillied Up, and stumbled across TheRadBrad’s videos while taking a break from studying for a biochemistry course: while there were no Modern Warfare videos, there were plenty of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 videos.
- Three years since I wrote the MCAT and watched TheRadBrad’s videos of Modern Warfare 3, I’ve finally had the opportunity to try out the first mission of Modern Warfare 3 for myself, which I found cinematic, well-choreographed and linear; the latter is viewed as a fault in gaming, but the campaign of most military shooters are designed to feel more similar to a movie with a weaker storyline and very strong visual impact, rather than a game, especially if said title features a large multiplayer component.
- The starting weapon is the M4A1 with a hybrid sight: such a feature would not make it into Battlefield until Battlefield 4, and I personally loved having sights that could be adapted for closer range and medium range firefights. Playing as Frost, players also start out with the XM25 grenade launcher (again, a weapon that would appear in Battlefield 4, two years later).
- I best recall early June of summer 2012 for having played my way through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the day I reached the Pripyat mission, we’d just finished a dinner of fried chicken when a grass fire broke out in a nearby city park. My physics course was going full force at this point in time, and I spent most of the week keeping up with the materials; by Thursday, I finished the campaign, and published a talk about the second part to the Pripyat mission.
- This is the jamming tower: after clearing the rooftops of all hostiles, it’s a simple matter of following the waypoints and pressing a button to plant the thermite. After the tower is destroyed, radio communications are restored, allowing US forces to regroup and coordinate a counterattack on the Russian forces. The story at this point in time is that, following the events of Modern Warfare 2, the Russians have invaded America in retaliation.
- After taking down the jamming tower, Frost is tasked with manning a mini-gun and shooting down Russian Hinds. The events of Modern Warfare 3 start with American forces doing everything they can to repel the Russians, and the destruction of the jamming unit in New York allows them to regain air superiority. I picked Modern Warfare 3 up during a sale, and while there was also the option of picking up Ghosts, Black Ops or Black Ops II for a similar price, Modern Warfare 3 was a no-brainer.
- Hunter Killer is one of the shorter, but more boldly-executed missions in Modern Warfare 3: the objective is to infiltrate a Russian Oscar II submarine and use its cruise missile payload against its own fleet. When I saw the New York cityscape under siege for the first time, I was amazed at the amount of activity occurring all at once: this entire scene was surreal and was definitely impressive from a visual perspective.
- There’s no time to take in the battle happening outside, as Frost is sent inside the submarine to reach the bridge; here the PP-90M1 and Striker Shotgun become quite useful. The former’s high rate of fire and the latter’s damage at close quarters mean both weapons are highly effective within the confines of the submarine. The reason why I chose Modern Warfare 3 was because of nostalgic factors; while studying for the MCAT, I frequently watched YouTube play-throughs of the campaign’s missions.
- The Striker, alternatively known as the DAO-12 in Battlefield 3, is the only semi-automatic shotgun in Modern Warfare 3: with a relatively high rate of fire and large magazine capacity, it’s capable of taking out juggernauts in the survival mode. The careful observer will note that the screenshots’ dates as being taken after this post: this was because of a minor issue with the screenshot’s quality that required rectification.
- Once the grid coordinates are set, and the cruise missiles are prepared for launch, it’s time to get out. The exfil is one of the most well-done I’ve seen: explosions all around, and spray obscuring the screen. Intrigued by the music playing here, I picked up a copy of the soundtrack roughly at the time Anime North 2012 was occurring. I had just finished studying and decided to listen to the Modern Warfare 3 main theme, and found a slow but powerful song that conveys the sense of determination amongst members of Metal and Task Force 141 to stop the destruction Makarov is sowing upon the world.
- For me, the Modern Warfare 3 main theme reminds me of the spring days I spent at my desk, endlessly reviewing physical sciences, biological sciences, verbal reasoning and the writing samples for the MCAT. I’m still modestly surprised that first practise exam scored a 22S, and after three solid months of effort (and sacrifices: I missed the 100th Stampede fireworks), my score was consistently a 33T. One of my friends felt this to be depressing, to be spending summer in this fashion, although in the end, the experience conferred smarter strategies for exam-taking.
Modern Warfare 3 had been released just a half-year ago at that point, and as I watched the first two missions, I found myself enthralled by the set pieces, and the spectacle of fighting in New York in the midst of a Russian invasion. These first two missions were something I revisited on occasion, well into the summer of 2012 when the MCAT was bearing down on me: while Modern Warfare 3 is similar to its predecessors in that missions are heavily scripted and highly linear, there was a certain charm in watching Metal company take out a jamming array on top of the New York Stock Exchange before moving to the harbour to steal an Oscar II submarine and turn its ordinance against the Russian fleet. This was a flashy, cinematic start to the Modern Warfare 3 campaign, and as I watched through segments of said campaign, I wondered what it would be like to try things out for myself. Some three years later, a well-timed sale on Steam saw Modern Warfare 3 go for half off, and while that still wasn’t exactly the greatest deal of all time, it was sufficient for me to purchase it. I’ve now beaten most of the game, and a full reflection is in the works. However, it is the first week of June, and having played through Modern Warfare 3, what do I think of “Black Tuesday” and “Hunter Killer”? They are as vivid as I recall from the videos, and more immersive, given that this time, it’s me who’s trekking through New York to restore communications and then regain control of the city. These two missions are fantastic set pieces that set the mood for the remainder of the game, and more than anything, evokes memories of an older time, during a summer characterised by intense studying, and a wistfulness for something else as the days grew longer with summer’s approach.