The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Revisiting Sunny Chernobyl- One Shot, One Kill in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered

“The wind’s gettin’ a bit choppy. You can compensate for it, or you can wait it out, but he might leave before it dies down. It’s your call. Remember what I’ve taught you. Keep in mind variable humidity and wind speed along the bullet’s flight path. At this distance, you’ll also have to take the Coriolis Effect into account.” —Captain MacMillian

Camping out at the Polissya hotel, Price and MacMillian patiently wait for their mark to arrive over the course of three days while the clouds wheel overhead. Unlike the unfortunate tourists of Chernobyl Diaries, no mutants attack them during the course of their wait. When Zakhaev arrives, Price makes ready with the M82 Barrett, and with some advice from Captain MacMillian, he is prepared to place a shot at nearly nine hundred metres. After a few tense moments, Price fires, managing to blow off Zakhaev’s arm. Both Price and MacMillian are forced to flee after their position has been compromised, and they fight through Pripyat to reach the extraction point. MacMillian becomes injured by a helicopter, and Price carries him the rest of the way. When they reach the extraction point, Price and MacMillian hold out for their helicopter’s arrival and manage to escape. “One Shot, One Kill” is the second half of the Chernobyl missions, being the polar opposite of the first, being one loud, bombastic and long firefight to the extraction zone. While seemingly a return to the sort of gameplay that Call of Duty normally features, the level presents a surprise taking the form of MacMillian’s injury. Players must strategically place him down in the right spot, after which he will assist in taking out ultranationalists, and otherwise be mindful as they move towards the exfil. In its remastered incarnation, “One Shot, One Kill” is a visual treat: crumbling walls of abandoned apartment blocks, rusting playgrounds and mould-covered surfaces are rendered with contemporary techniques to really illustrate what a world without us could look like, as nature makes to reclaim areas once inhabited by man. Impressive as Modern Warfare‘s original incarnation was, the remastered version of “One Shot, One Kill” simply knocks the visuals out of the park, combining the gameplay of the original with graphics of the present age to give the level new dimensionality.

I reached “One Shot, One Kill” the day before the second midterm in my physics course, and upon seeing the statistics surrounding the shot I’m to make, my mind immediately wandered towards physics and two-dimensional kinematics. My MCAT course had also begun by this point: the MCAT is unlike other exams and requires more than a good grasp of the materials to best, demanding strategy and creative thinking. With my mind not too far from the impending physics midterm, I looked at the problem and supposed that it was to determine the amount of compensation needed to accurately hit Zakhaev from the stipulated distance given the distance and travel time. Since speed and accuracy are the name of the game in the MCAT, reading the question becomes critical: the time of flight is already given, so the horizontal distance becomes a distraction. Armed with the time alone, it is sufficient to work out how far the bullet will fall by means of the kinematic equation, d = v(i)·t + (a·t²)/2 and some assumptions (e.g. the bullet has no vertical velocity when leaving the muzzle, and that acceleration is the acceleration due to gravity). The resultant answer is 5.40 meters to three significant figures, and a skilled marksman can then utilise the markers on his optics to determine the amount of compensation required, taking into account the height of the vantage point they are shooting from and any wind effects. Since the MCAT, my exam-writing style has changed somewhat, and while I’ve not done a written exam for three years now, some of those skills remain in my mind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Close inspection of the Chernobyl nuclear plant here shows the Sarcophagus being constructed: the mission is set in 1996, but the construction of the actual Sarcophagus itself finished in October 1986, a few months after the disaster. Designed to contain the radioactive materials and prevent most of it from escaping, engineers knew that it was only a temporary measure: two years after its completion, engineers remarked the structure would last at most three decades, and so, the New Safe Confinement was planned. The dome was moved over the old structure just this year, and the project is expected to finish construction later in 2017.

  • The construction cranes should have been gone by 1996, but I am reasonably forgiving of these elements in fiction. This is the same image as the first image one featured in my original Chernobyl Diaries post, with the only difference being that it’s from Modern Warfare Remastered. The amount of detail in the environment is so much greater than the original, and there is foliage and other clutter in the area where the transaction between Zakhaev and the ultranationalists are taking place. This is contrasted with the original Modern Warfare, which feels sterile by comparison. The statistics surrounding Price’s shot have remained unchanged, and this time, I nailed my shot on first try.

  • After their presence is detected, MacMillian and Price are forced to flee as a Hind fires on the hotel, destroying the first floor. I went through this mission a second time to pick up screenshots – there was an unusual bug that caused me to spawn in with the suppressed M21 rather than the standard one, which would have resulted in some unusual screenshots. While effective in terms of stopping power and only differing in aesthetics, it would have felt out place to feature the suppressed, camouflaged M21 in “One Shot, One Kill”, which is all about going loud.

  • The number of ultranationalists filling the air with hot lead means that it is wise to heed MacMillian’s suggestion to run rather than fight: there’s too many of them, and with the timer winding down to the exfiltration, making it to the extraction point becomes important. The amount of time differs depending on the difficulty setting, and typically, on my first play-through of any Call of Duty title, I go with normal difficulty.

  • The moody grey skies and desolate concrete apartment blocks bring to mind the aesthetics surrounding Hasima Island, just 15 klicks off the coast from Nagasaki. Once a coal mining town built of large concrete buildings to withstand typhoons, the island was abandoned after the coal reserves were depleted, and today, it’s a popular tourist destination. It’s one of the most famous haikyo in Japan, and as of 2009, is one of the few haikyo that one can legally access: for three hundred yen, guided tours of the island are offered, and there is infrastructure to keep visitors safe.

  • It is only during a scripted moment that a Hind can be shot down in “One Shot, One Kill”: besides using the M82’s 50-calibre rounds to punch through the cockpit earlier, here, rounds from the M21 apparently damage the engine, causing this one to explode and crash. Elsewhere in the game, dedicated anti-air weapons must be used to deal with Hinds. The crash causes MacMillian to become injured, necessitating that players carry him to the extraction point for the remainder of the mission.

  • While players are still equipped with the suppressed USP at the start of “One Shot, One Kill”, it is strongly recommended that one switches to any other weapon dropped by the ultranationalists so one can remain effective in close quarters: I usually go with the G3 battle rifle. Other weapons available include the AK-47, MP5, mini-Uzi, RPD and W1200 shotgun; the AK-47 and MP5 are solid choices, as well – the number of soldiers encountered means that a good automatic weapon will complement the M21 both during the spaces outdoors, as well as the narrower hallways inside the apartments.

  • A large number of ultranationalists will fast-rope from helicopters, and in Modern Warfare Remastered, there’s an achievement for shooting down a number of fast-roping soldiers before they hit the ground. “One Shot, One Kill” offers plenty of opportunity to unlock this achievement on account of the number of helicopters that appear, and the M21 is an excellent weapon for this task.

  • Moving through the apartment blocks brings to mind the level design characteristics of Half-Life 2, where the strategic placement of obstructions, whether it be piled furniture or rubble from collapsed sections of the building push players down a path. As with all of the assets in the remastered Modern Warfare, the addition of the appropriate amount of clutter to the interiors of the apartments perfectly captures the abandoned sense that improves upon the aesthetics seen in the original.

  • I’ve got no screenshots of me carrying MacMillian through the apartments following his injury; while most games become a bit of a challenge in having players survive, Modern Warfare chose to address this by having MacMillian retain his exceptional marksmanship. When a firefight is imminent, he will ask players to set him down, offer some advice (such as placing claymores strategically to down enemies) and provide support to the best of his ability.

  • After dropping by my old lab to visit and chat with another one of my friends today, who’s close to graduating, I attended a computer science convocation today, five years after posting my original Chernobyl Diaries post for “One Shot, One Kill”. My former supervisor is now the department head, and he was hosting was the first ever reception for a computer convocation. Things started out quiet, allowing me to catch up in some conversation with my supervisor about research and also partake in some of the food available (including Japanese-style fried chicken, broccoli-cheese balls and jalapeño-chicken sandwiches).

  • More people gathered to fill the room with conversation, and during the next hour-and-a-half, I caught up with friends who had graduated today. In a bit of irony, the skies darkened as the reception drew to a close, and a spirited, but ultimately short-lived thunderstorm blazed through the area in a manner reminiscent of the rainstorm that occurred during my graduation banquet four years ago and was one of the factors that contributed to the Great Flood of 2013. Coming through into the change facilities of a public pool, I am vividly reminded of the day following the second physics midterm. There had been a lecture and lab; after finishing my day’s review, I dropped into Modern Warfare and continued with my adventure. I had studied quite thoroughly for the second midterm, having botched the first one (there was a question about Yavin and the Death Star that I still vividly remember missing), although it was afternoon, and my inclination to study had waned.

  • This midterm marked a turning point in my physics course: although I had been quite ready to throw in the towel and survive (the Bachelor of Health Sciences program does not count summer courses in the GPA calculation for research scholarships or eligibility to enroll in the honours thesis course), I realised that I should put my nose down and get the most of the physics course as possible. I stand in the Azure pool here, overgrown and derelict in a beautiful sense. It’s obvious that the remastered Modern Warfare involved a great deal of effort to get the details right.

  • In my original post, I noted that Modern Warfare had taken some creative liberties with its level design and chronology: the Azure pool remained open until 1998, a full two years after the mission in 1996, and it certainly was not that close the the Pripyat amusement park (in the game, the Ferris wheel is visible right outside of the pool). Having said this, I am okay with this inaccuracy: this is not a sentiment shared by other fans, especially those of Tango-Victor-Tango.

  • The rusted out remains of the Ferris wheel and some amusement park structures are visible here, bringing to mind the abandoned Nara Dreamland, which was deserted in 2006 after forty-five years. Nara Dreamland is a favourite amongst urban explorers, but last October, the park was undergoing demolitions, as the Nara government had finally auctioned the site off to an Osaka company. By contrast, the Pripyat Amusement Park was intended to be opened in May in time for May Day festivities, but following the Chernobyl disaster, some reports state that it was opened briefly to allow children some cheer before evacuation began.

  • Before “One Shot, One Kill”‘s largest firefight begins, I will explain the post’s titles. Similar to how I’ve called the original posts Chernobyl Diaries, here, I’ve titled both of them “Revisiting Sunny Chernobyl” as a reference to Andrew Blackwell’s “Visit Sunny Chernobyl”, a fantastic book taking readers through the most polluted places in the world and enlightening readers on the sort of things man has done to the planet. My spin on the title was chosen because I’m returning to Modern Warfare‘s two best missions, playing through things again in the remastered version, and also because these missions are flat out overcast, moody, rather than sunny.

  • For the remainder of the June five years previously, I divided my time between physics and the MCAT preparation course. The end of the month drew near, and with it came the physics final. When I left the exam room that evening, I felt reasonably confident that I had done well, and I finally turned my full attention to the MCAT. The physics course ultimately helped me with the physical sciences component of the MCAT, as biochemistry proved useful for the biological sciences component, and while I did spend the entirety of my June at a desk while my friends were making the most of their summer research, the knowledge gained from this course, coupled with exam-taking skills conferred by the MCAT course, allowed me to score well on the MCAT and further left me with exam taking skills that positively impacted the remainder of my undergraduate degree.

  • One of the features I liked most about Modern Warfare Remastered was the way that some optics were rendered: zooming in on a target in games is typically rendered by lowering the field of view (FOV), and here, it’s a simple filter surrounding a circular area representing the scope to give the sense of depth-of-field while aiming down sights. Leaving the peripheries visible is a nice touch (older games black the area out), although some of the more sophisticated renderings will only change the FOV slightly, and instead, only magnify the area under the optics, leaving the rest of the screen visible.

  • The final firefight opens with Price setting MacMillian down in a covered area and then setting down some claymores. Once ultranationalists arrive, it’s non-stop combat right up until the friendly helicopter arrives. This battle is chaotic, being an intense experience, with ultranationalists sneaking in from the bumper cars, being dropped in by helicopters and otherwise rushing in from a distance. The M21 becomes incredibly useful here, and at the ranges I prefer to engage at, the G3 becomes my weapon of choice even though it shares the same ammunition pool as the M21 does.

  • At long last, helicopters ready to extract MacMillian and Price arrive, bringing this fantastic level to a close. There is one thing that I’ve not noted up until now: since Modern Warfare Remastered was made well after Modern Warfare 3, there’s an achievement for killing Makarov (Zakhaev’s driver). There’s a very specific way of doing this — players must shoot out Zakhaev first and then locate the vehicle Makarov is sitting in. As soon as Zakhaev is down, one should unload on Makarov’s vehicle, making certain not to take out Yuri, who is sitting in the backseat. Once this is done, the achievement will unlock, and the mission proceeds normally.

With these memories enduring even after a half-decade, for me, “One Shot, One Kill” and “All Ghillied Up” are more than just exceptional missions in a Call of Duty game that set the standard for modern military shooters; they represent a trip down memory lane and were the form of escapism that contributed to my making it through that summer, allowing me to blow off steam even when staring down numerous exams. The cinematic, immersive experience offered by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare proved to be exactly what a busy mind needed, and since then, I’ve been a fan of Call of Duty‘s campaigns and set-pieces. These memories ultimately are the reason why I would consider Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition to be a worthwhile purchase; I am, in effect, buying back a re-imagined, remastered look back at the events of the summer five years ago. Although it may appear that I am recalling this summer through rose-coloured glasses, I note that vividly remember of all of the tribulations and effort it took to survive both physics and the MCAT. That Call of Duty offered the occasional break from these challenges simply affords it a favourable impression in my books, and with these recollections drawing to a close, I will be returning to my regular programming: in the near future, I will be writing about Infinite Warfare, which I’d finished shortly after returning from my vacation.

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