The Infinite Zenith

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Reflections on Lessons Learnt From Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and A Turning Point in Kinematics on the Road to the MCAT

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

It had been a brilliantly sunny day, but this fact was entirely lost on me as I left my first physics midterm, utterly defeated. Kinematics had never been my strong suit, and I ended up flubbing enough questions to wonder if I would make it through this spring course in one piece. I boarded the bus and made my way over to my friend’s place: although this exam had been devastating, I had not forgotten my promise of delivering to said friend a pair of headphones. He was scheduled to visit family in China in less than two days’ time, and after my bus reached its destination, I cut through a footpath to reach his place. When I arrived, my friend had another request for me: this was back during a time when Team Fortress 2 still was open to idling, and at the time, my friend had been quite keen on collecting drops from a headless Team Fortress 2 client, with the intent of transforming duplicate weapons into scrap, combining this into reclaimed metal and ultimately, refining this metal with the goal of making hats. To this end, my friend had created no fewer than four accounts, and the ask had been simple: I would leave a headless client running while I was at the university and cycle through each account. My friend would leave for China, and I began the process of idling. During days where the cap was reached, I spotted that my friend had Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in his account, and curiosity led me to beat the game over the course of a week. In between finishing lab reports and trying to keep up with the new topics in my physics course, I saw Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish fighting alongside Captain John Price and Bravo Team to prevent Imran Zakhaev from seizing Russian ICBMs and levelling the Eastern Seaboard with them. Throughout Modern Warfare, I was impressed with the sheer grit MacTavish and Price demonstrated: regardless of being outgunned after trying to make their way to an extraction zone, or pressing forwards with preventing ballistic missiles from hitting the continental United States even after they’re launched, Bravo Team never once give up; they simply soldiered on with a grim determination to get the job done. At this point in the summer, I had been more than ready to throw in the towel: in the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, summer courses don’t affect the GPA calculation for things like the honours thesis or scholarships, so it would’ve been sufficient for me to simply pass physics and focus on the summer’s main foe, the MCAT.

With its uncommonly well-presented atmospherics, Modern Warfare completely immersed me in its story. When I reached the One Shot, One Kill mission, I noticed that the game presented all of the variables Price needed to account for whilst placing the shot needed to take Zakhaev out. I’d been a little surprised that the bullet drop would be that severe over the distance: at 896.7 metres, I imagined that with the M82’s muzzle velocity of 854 m/s, the bullet would still fly true en route to Zakhaev’s cranium. I quickly broke out the kinematics equations and worked out the drop: the expression d = v₀·t + (a·t²)/2 was sufficient to work things out, and if the bullet was in flight for 1.05 seconds, then assuming a vertical velocity of 0 m/s when leaving the barrel, we can assume that the only acceleration the bullet experiences is due to gravity (8.91 m/s²). With these values in mind, the bullet would drop 5.40 meters (16.4 feet), to three significant figures, over that distance. Spotting this, I was swiftly reminded that although kinematics might not be my forte, there was still relevance in studying it. I thus resolved to put in a more concerted effort for the second midterm, which had been a mere two weeks after the first midterm. Doubling down on my studies, I also spent my spare time going through the remainder of the Modern Warfare campaign, striking a balance between becoming comfortable with the physics work and experiencing an iconic part of the Call of Duty franchise as a means of unwinding. I felt better prepared for the second midterm, and walked away from this one with a greater confidence: two days after the midterm ended, I published a post about my cursory thoughts on the One Shot, One Kill mission and finished Modern Warfare. When my midterm results returned, I was surprised that I’d done significantly better, and by the time the final exam rolled around, I was able to perform. In this introductory physics course, I turned my grade around from a C- to an A-, and moreover, this course acted as a refresher for a major part of the MCAT: kinematics was very much a part of the physical sciences section, and with biology, biochemistry and organic chemistry still fresh on my mind, I had enough of a background to begin mastering the exam-taking techniques. Completing my physics course on a high note gave me the confidence I needed during the early days of MCAT preparations. When my friend returned home from China, I returned the Steam accounts and no longer had access to Modern Warfare, but the atmospherics and emotions lingered with me. I thus entered the MCAT with the same sort of deadly focus and resolve that Price and MacTavish had when staring down what seemed to be certain death.

Additional Remarks and Commentary

  • Modern Warfare‘s campaign represents one of the most iconic in gaming history, right alongside the likes of giants like Half-LifeHalo and GoldenEye. Games of this time period were polished and thought-provoking, and when I first set foot here, during the infamous “Heat” mission, Modern Warfare would’ve just turned five. As memory serves, I became interested in Modern Warfare while looking up ghost stories surrounding Chernobyl and happened upon a text that described the Pripyat missions as being ghostly in terms of atmospherics.

  • Watching footage of Modern Warfare on YouTube convinced me that this was a game worth trying, but when my friend asked me to idle for Team Fortress 2 hats, I ended up  having the chance to play the game on his account instead. This experience allowed me to experience the campaign to the extent that I wished, and over the space of a week, I finished the entire game. In those days, I had an older computer that, while not quite powerful enough to run Crysis or Bad Company 2, could still play Team Fortress 2 and Modern Warfare without any issues.

  • I had nailed most of the questions, but I still remember the final question had me licked. I ended up with a 65 on this first midterm as a result. Looking back, this was a consequence of my going through the motions; the introductory mechanics course was basically a revisit of kinematics from secondary school, and I’d fallen into the trap of thinking that, since I’d done well enough back in secondary school, my old knowledge must’ve still been intact. Coupled with the fact that I was moderately distracted by Otafest and Gundam Unicorn‘s fifth episode, my focus wasn’t fully on physics.

  • After the shock of the first midterm wore off, and with a series of accounts to idle for, I realised that the only way to get through everything with a passing grade was if I focused on my studies when I needed to, and to this end, I would sit down and re-structure my days. I would only deal with laboratory materials on Monday, then catch up with lecture materials after classes ended on Mondays and Wednesdays by doing review problems. Tuesdays and Thursdays were devoted to assignments, and any leftover time I had in the week, I would focus on revisiting any concepts from the week I’d been feeling less confident about.

  • Each day of the week, anywhere after 1700 would be my downtime, in which I wouldn’t look at any coursework. This was when I’d go through Modern Warfare, and later, when I finished, Portal 2. In this way, I would regain rhythm in my spring course, and in conjunction with the grit and spirit seen in Modern Warfare, I would come back around and decided that, rather than throwing in the towel, I would do what I could for physics. On this day a decade earlier, I would sit down to my second midterm, which had been a mere two weeks after the first.

  • After conquering the second midterm and performing as I had wished, I had enough momentum to push on forwards. It helped considerably that things like momentum, work and energy were concepts I was much stronger with, and I’d also been more comfortable with collisions and energy transfer than I’d ever been with kinematics. My old spirits returned to me, and this timing was critical: shortly after the second midterm ended, my MCAT course had also begun. With only two months left to exam day, I received a crash course on MCAT content and also learnt the means of testing more efficiently.

  • Because I’d been fresh out of physics, and having taken several organic chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology courses, the MCAT content ultimately wasn’t a concern to me: I knew enough of the basics to understand what was being asked, and testing thus became a matter of triaging the exam, keeping cool under pressure and managing time well. For me, strategy mattered more than content, and these elements were helped by the fact that by mid-June, I was simultaneously juggling physics and the MCAT course.

  • The strategies from the MCAT course would, curiously enough, carry over to how I took my physics exam, and I recall knocking out the final exam with a greater confidence than I had been. At this time, since I was still focused on wrapping up physics, I did not do well on the recommended practise MCAT exam when it became available to me. This performance was not yet worrisome, since I’d known that my attention had been divided, and that it was still mostly early in the summer.

  • According to the date-stamp on the screenshot, I would’ve reached this point in Modern Warfare on the same day as my midterm. Recollections elsewhere in this blog remind me that I had a lab on the same day, as well: spring and summer courses are far more condensed than fall and winter courses, and while this creates tremendous pressure to gain a satisfactory knowledge of the material, the flipside is that I wasn’t taking other courses, so I could focus on physics entirely. Whenever revisiting these missions in Modern Warfare, then, my thoughts always flit towards that June Wednesday back in 2012, during a time when I wished I were doing anything else with my days besides studying.

  • However, in retrospect, the summer of a decade before was ultimately what shaped how I approached challenges and adversity. In secondary school, and then for most of my undergraduate programme, I approached things with a brute force solution, resolving to learn principles and systems well enough to pass exams on my own. My cell and molecular biology course began changing this: being able to appreciate the context of a concept helped me to understand its significance. By the time my physics course ended, and the MCAT course had been in full swing, it became clear the old methods would no longer cut it.

  • Some of my friends, who’d already finished the MCAT, ended up holding study sessions for myself and a few other classmates who were staring down the MCAT. Outside of the MCAT preparation course and my own studies, we would meet up at the medical campus and spent hours going through exams together. In groups, I could ask questions and get a second set of thoughts on things. Even to this day, I’m impressed my friends went through this level of effort to get us through when they themselves had already finished the exam.

  • This is why, when my friends received their offers to medical school, I was thrilled; these are brilliant and compassionate individuals with the personality traits and moral fibre to be a physician. I myself would never make it to the interview stage: in feedback I received from my application, my commitment to ethics and sense of volunteering had been insufficient. In a private conversation with my friends, they felt that the day-to-day of a physician wouldn’t have been for me, and with a decade’s worth of life experience, I whole-heartedly agree with them.

  • While I would never again use my MCAT score for anything more than a conversational topic, the exam-taking process itself proved invaluable to me: I ended up performing exceedingly well in my final undergraduate year, and during an open studies term, I was able to excel in all courses despite being preoccupied with medical school applications and a lingering melancholy from the summer following the Great Flood. The same skills ended up carrying over to graduate school, which stand as some of my fondest memories of university: readers can actually spot this as when I really began writing for this blog.

  • Four years after the MCAT ended, I would pick up Modern Warfare for myself after it went on discount during the Steam Summer Sale. This time around, I’d been rocking a newer computer and was able to replay the game at 1080p: revisiting old maps brought back memories of the MCAT, and I found myself immensely glad to have finished. At this point in time, I’d also finished defending my graduate thesis. While this examination was supposed to be as tough as the MCAT, the main advantage I had was that, rather than only two months, I had a full two years to prepare for this exam.

  • In my revisit of Modern Warfare in 2016, I wrote of my enjoyment of how the game had remained highly immersive despite almost nine years having passed since its launch. The next year, Modern Warfare Remastered became available as a part of the Infinite Warfare: Legacy Edition. I ended up buying this because it’d been on sale, and because by then, five years had passed since my MCAT. The world is now a very different place than it had been since the MCAT, and in the past few months, I’ve taken advantage of the spring weather to revisit campus.

  • Some spots have changed beyond recognition: the library block and tower where I’d spent mornings doing revisions prior to the MCAT course (and where I watched Listen to Me Girls, I Am Your Father! during downtime) has been demolished and completely rebuilt. However, the building I studied physics in during mornings is still there, although the study spaces have now been repurposed as office spaces, and the home of my old lab remains as it had when I was still a student there.

  • In this post, I reminisce fondly of how Modern Warfare played a pivotal role in getting my game back together in physics, and how this would set me on a path to take on the MCAT with confidence. One would therefore wonder, had my friend not asked me to idle for him in Team Fortress 2, I would have never played Modern Warfare. I imagine that, while I wouldn’t have been as inspired or encouraged to make a comeback, the fact that I was more comfortable with materials in the course’s second half would’ve allowed me to still recover my grades somewhat, and since I’d just begun watching CLANNAD then, this, in conjunction with study sessions from my friends, I would still have some inspiration from other sources.

  • The short answer is that, even without Modern Warfare, I would have likely survived the summer, and had that occurred, I would likely have ascribed the outcomes of that summer to something else. However, it is the case that Modern Warfare did act as the catalyst for me to get my head back in the game and pull through physics: it is fair to suggest that Modern Warfare did have a nontrivial impact on how my summer unfolded: seeing Price and MacTavish motivated me to do what I could, and so, on this day a decade earlier, I was able to walk out of that second midterm with a much greater feeling of confidence that I did well.

  • After my second midterm ended and finals began approaching, my friend returned home from China. Although this meant my access to Modern Warfare would end, my friend ended up sending me a discount code for Portal 2 as thanks for helping him idle, and in downtime outside of my studies, we ended up playing Team Fortress 2, as well as MicroVolts. The games might’ve differed, but the outcomes were the same, and altogether, I would suggest that the combination of maintaining a balanced schedule, having things to look forward to on a day-to-day basis and support from friends would carry me through that summer.

Looking back, conquering the MCAT had a significant knock-on effect on my career trajectory: the techniques and approaches I used on the MCAT would prove to be immeasurably helpful during the final year of my undergraduate programme. I no longer worried about exams, realising that I could hit the principles and then reason my way through to solutions rather than attempting to memorise facts and figures, and used triaging methods to hit high-value-low-effort problems first. With this newfound confidence, I performed better in my final year than I had the remainder of my undergraduate degree, and for the first time, it hit me: doing well for the sake of doing well is meaningless, but when I changed my mindset to simply learn and appreciate the material, the pressure associated with scoring high on exams evaporated. I carried this confidence into graduate school; my medical school applications weren’t successful, but I would see another path I could follow. I thus walked this path with conviction, and ended up cultivating the skills needed to succeed in the realm of mobile development. It may appear to be a stretch that I say this, but if my successes on the MCAT imparted in me the know-how of rising up to life’s challenges more effectively, then turning my physics course around gave me the encouragement to do so, and this in turn was facilitated by the fact I was able to play through Modern Warfare and draw inspiration from the game’s progression. I would not have gone through Modern Warfare had my friend not requested that I help him to idle for Team Fortress 2 item drops, so it seems reasonable to suppose that my friend’s simple request set me on a path I certainly could not have foreseen taken. While some of my outcomes ultimately do boil down to what I brought to the table, independently of any external experiences I may have had, the fact is that having Modern Warfare to play through helped me in a tangible fashion: whether it’s Bravo Team surviving the assault from Ultranationalist forces, or MacTavish pressing onwards to stop nuclear-tipped missiles from flattening the Eastern Seaboard, I am irrevocably reminded of those breaks between a frenzied effort to stave off a poor grade in physics. Going back through Modern Warfare now, I am appreciative of the efforts I’d made back then, and the fact that nowadays, I can play though the game again without this particular weight over my head.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act III Review and Reflection

“This is for the record. History is written by the victor. History is filled with liars. If he lives, and we die, his truth becomes written – and ours is lost. Shepherd will be a hero, ’cause all you need to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood. He’s about to complete the greatest trick a liar ever played on history. His truth will be the truth. But only if he lives, and we die.” —Captain Price

With the Americans completely overwhelmed by the Russian invasion, Captain Price organises an operation to give the United States a badly-needed foothold. He plans an assault on Rybachiy naval base, near Petropavlovsk, where a nuclear submarine is docked. Upon sneaking past patrols and infiltrating the base, Task Force 141 clears out the base and secures the submarine. However, Price had intended to commandeer the submarine’s nuclear missiles and launches one for the Eastern Seaboard. The resulting high-altitude explosion creates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out all electronics, and the Rangers take this chance to regroup, fighting their way to the White House, which was hardened against EMPs and still has power. Upon clearing the West Wing, Ramirez learns that loss of communications has resulted the enacting of Hammerdown Protocol, in which Washington D.C. was assumed to have fallen. After retaking the White House, Ramirez pushes to the roof and lights green flares, indicating that the White House is secure and sparing Washington from being razed to the ground. General Shepherd is given a blank cheque with which to pursue Makarov. Sanderson and Riley head over to Makarov’s safehouse at the Georgian-Russian Border in the Caucasus Mountains, and while Makarov is nowhere to be seen, Sanderson secures a trove of Makarov’s intel and downloads them to a DSM. Both manage to escape Makarov’s forces, but are killed by Shepard before Price can warm them of Shepherd’s betrayal. In Afghanistan, Price and MacTavish make their way through a boneyard, where Shepherd’s Shadow Company and Makarov’s men are fighting it out. Price manages to convince Makarov to give up Shepard’s location. They escape on board Nikolai’s C-130 and head over to Shadow Company’s base, located deep in the Afghanistan caves. Despite Shepherd calling in an airstrike to stop Price and MacTavish, the pair manage to steal a Zodiac and pursue Shepherd, who’s boarded a Pave Low. Price uses an M203 to bring the helicopter down, and despite his injuries, Shepherd quickly defeats MacTavish, stabbing him in the chest. Before Shepard can shoot him, Price engages him in a brutal fistfight. Shepherd gains the upper hand and explains this war was for what’d happened during the last war. MacTavish manages to pull the knife from his chest and throws it through Shepherd’s eye, killing him instantly. Price and Nikolai prepare to evacuate the grievously wounded MacTavish, with the latter stating that he knows a place. This brings Modern Warfare 2: Remastered to an end, and with this, I’ve now played all of the Modern Warfare titles in full now.

Modern Warfare 2 is widely considered as having the best campaign in the whole of the Call of Duty franchise, and having now gone through the game, it becomes easy to understand where this assertion comes from. At its core, Modern Warfare 2 suggests that while fanatics like Makarov are undoubtedly evil, worse still are rogue actors who operate with a state’s blessing. Unlike the smaller organisations, state-backed actors have financial and political backing. Further to this, having government endorsement means that such individuals (and factions) might also have favourable press coverage. Shepherd becomes a war hero after his “predictions” about Russia turned out to be vindicated, and he is given all of the resources he is needed to pursue his goals, unopposed. While undermining the checks and balances in a government seemed quite unfeasible back in 2009, when Modern Warfare 2 launched, in today’s world, state-sponsored misinformation campaigns and untruthful governments are, terrifyingly, the reality. Large news outlets lie with the same fervour and enthusiasm as fringe writers and conspiracy theorists, seeking to push a particular narrative to create hostility and doubt. Like Shepherd, these news organisations desire nothing more than to rewrite history, casting themselves and benefactors as the heroes, and push untrue narratives to vilify certain nations and their people. However, unlike Shepherd, retweets and ad revenue is the prize rather than personal glory. With the public’s opinion on certain topics firmly aligned with theirs, these factions appear to be winning, and for folks committed to all sides of an argument and a level-headed perspective on things, things do seem bleak. However, Modern Warfare 2 also indicates that not all hope is lost. In spite of this blank cheque, Shepherd’s demise also speaks to the idea that power can shift dramatically, and change from individuals fighting to make a difference. MacTavish and Price are the only ones left to oppose Shepherd, and the deck is completely stacked against them. However, armed with naught more than their training and a willingness to put everything on the line for what’s right, Price and MacTavish do succeed in stopping Shepherd. While these large monoliths seem invulnerable, striking down the leader can cause the organisation to crumble. Modern Warfare 2 thus shows that great change is affected by people with the will to see their visions through. Simply, those with the stronger will ultimately survive to write history, and so, as long as there is even a single person willing to do what’s right, said monoliths will never succeed in their intent to control thought and membership. Of course, this action doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to be anything as dramatic as what was seen in Modern Warfare 2: even something as simple as not hitting retweet or upvoting something dubious can make all the difference in the world.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Traditionally, I go through Call of Duty games very quickly because their campaigns are quite short, and unsurprisingly, here at the end of May, I’ve wrapped up Modern Warfare 2‘s third and final act, which opens with Contingency. This is a mission to infiltrate a Russian naval base and feels like a bit of a clever callback to the All Ghillied Up mission in its opening stages; the goal is to stay quiet and evade patrols, before switching over to a more traditional “weapons loud” mission.

  • Despite lacking the same atmosphere and aesthetics as Modern Warfare‘s All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill, this mission to take the Russian submarine was nonetheless an enjoyable one. The remastered visuals are to Modern Warfare 2‘s credit: the original colour palette in Modern Warfare 2 was a lot greyer, with overcast skies and foggy weather, and it would’ve been a shame had the developers kept the original’s grey. Fortunately, it’s a brisk, sunny day in the remaster, allowing the engine to really shine and show off how far the technology has come in the past eleven years.

  • I ended up switching off my USP for the M240B with heartbeat sensor after arriving in the village adjacent to the base. Strictly speaking, since the level has ordinary visibility, there’s no need to use the heartbeat sensors for determining where foes are, but having an LMG around means being able to lay down sustained fire. The fast-paced combat of Call of Duty means that I usually go with other weapons: while great for keeping an area locked down, the reload times on any given LMG is quite long, and for the M240B, reloading from empty takes 7.75 seconds.

  • After clearing the base’s edge, I pass by a building that presumably belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church owing to its distinct onion dome. The origin of onion domes is uncertain: some theories suggest they are ornate, inspired by domes in Middle Eastern architecture, while others speculate the domes originally had a more utilitarian purpose of keeping snow from accumulating on the roof.

  • As Sanderson and Price reach the naval base proper, a full-on firefight awaits: at this point, I’ve swapped off the starting suppressed M14 EBR for weapons better suited for a firefight. Every mission features a wide range of weapons, and despite the campaign’s short time, one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed Call of Duty campaigns is the fact that when stealth isn’t a concern, one could pick up enemies from caches or off defeated enemies and give them a go: different weapons are suited for different circumstances, and equipping different weapons mean fighting through a mission in a slightly different fashion.

  • In a manner reminiscent of Modern Warfare‘s All In mission, during which MacTavish and Price can only watched as Zakhaev’s ICBMs streak towards the United States, Sanderson will have a chance to watch an SLBM being launched: this moment would’ve come as a bit of a shock to players when they reached the end of Contingency level. While it seems that Captain Price has gone rogue, it turns out there’s a good reason for seizing control of a Russian nuclear weapon – the surprise it creates is integral in helping the Americans to turn the tide of battle.

  • Players will briefly take the perspective of an astronaut watching the SLBM flying over towards the Eastern Seaboard. When the missile detonates in space, it creates a massive electromagnetic pulse that blacks out the whole of the Eastern Seaboard, but also results in a shockwave that destroys the International Space Station. Strictly speaking, this should not have happened – there is no media to conduct a shockwave in a vacuum, and the ISS seems far enough from the detonation so that damages done would be invisible, taking the form of disrupted electronics and high exposure to radiation from the blast. I imagine that Modern Warfare 2‘s portrayal of things is purely for dramatic effect, and in the remastered version, things look incredible.

  • Back on the ground, once the EMP goes off and knocks out electronics for friend and foe alike, Ramirez’s Rangers have a chance to regroup. Sergeant Foley in particular notes that as long as their guns still work, they can still kick some ass. It’s a simple line but motivating nonetheless, and for this mission, I immediately ditched any weapon with a holographic or red dot sight: in a clever bit of attention to detail, the EMP detonation also means that anything electronic will stop working. As such, iron sight weapons are the best choice for this level, followed by ACOG sights.

  • Here, I approach the White House, which is under siege. I ended up picking up an M240 with ACOG sights. There’s too much fire coming from the White House, so one must push left and take care to stay in cover: the combination of darkness and heavy enemy presence makes it easy to take damage from hidden enemies. As I pushed through the White House and its grounds, I was immediately reminded of The Division 2, whose first mission had been to fend off hostile forces maligning the White House. However, in Modern Warfare 2, the Russians have breached the parameter, and everything from the West Wing to the Oval Office is occupied.

  • Seeing the Oval Office in flames was very much symbolic of how much the world we know can change in the blink of an eye. The world does seem like it’s always a razor’s edge away from catastrophe, and these days, it’s very tricky to ascertain who’s being truthful and who’s telling lies for their own gain. As I note in the paragraphs above, the main message I got out of Modern Warfare 2 was precisely that when a state authorises a rogue actor the means to play his game, catastrophe follows unless they are stopped. The flipside is that even with all this backing and support, malicious intent can be defeated by a small group of individuals who seek to do what’s right.

  • As far as I can tell (not that I’d know better), there aren’t any megalomaniacs quite like General Shepherd in reality. However, I am finding that the biases news outlets are bringing to the table, and their impact on society, have become more pronounced of late. Speaking ill of foreign nations as though the news outlets and their home countries were as pure as driven snow, and outright lying about certain things to create an atmosphere of mistrust. Fear begets hostility, dæmonising other human beings to drive them apart. It is sad the world’s taken this direction rather than making a sincere attempt to understand one another: humanity’s challenges are increasingly larger than any one nation, and it follows that collaboration between the best and brightest minds will be how solutions are reached.

  • This cooperation would be a lot closer without certain news groups deliberately sowing fear, and people sharing untrue stories on social media for clout. I note that individuals who tend to trust their own judgement tend to have a better go at things, and not sharing misinformation is how I choose to play my part in things. Towards the end of Whiskey Hotel, Ramirez and the Rangers succeed in lighting green flares, sparing Washington from being bulldozed. Being able to save Washington D.C. is a turning point in the war and shows that the Americans aren’t beaten just yet: there’s hope yet, and completing one’s duties, no matter how trivial, can make a significant difference.

  • In pursuit of Makarov, Task Force 141 decide to separate: Riley and Sanderson head for Makarov’s safehouse in the Caucasus Mountains. These mountains run from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, and feature a combination of Alpine meadows, semi-arid regions and evergreen forests. A lot of military and techno-thriller works are set here on account of the geography: unlike the majestic Rocky Mountains or the Alps in Europe, there’s a mystique about Russian landscapes not found anywhere else in the world.

  • Here, I’m closing in on Makarov’s safehouse, armed with the Walther WA2000. This semi-automatic sniper rifle is a modest long-range weapon that deals moderate damage and good rate of fire, making it a strong choice for landing follow-up shots. However, here in Loose Ends, most of the combat is actually close quarters, and a good submachine gun or shotgun would make more sense for the close-quarters environment inside the safehouse.

  • Closing in on Makarov’s mountain cabin, it becomes clear that Makarov himself is long gone, leaving only behind a detachment of his forces to defend the safehouse. Task Force 141 is ambushed, with the resulting mines and mortar fire decimating most of the team. Sanderson and Riley manage to survive and manage to reach the house. After clearing out the remaining ultranationalists, I took a few moments to go exploring: while Makarov’s digs are spartan, it also looks very comfortable, the perfect place to disappear to and regroup.

  • Once the safehouse is cleared, Sanderson and Riley discover a treasure trove of intelligence, including Makarov’s playbook. Precision strikes on enemy safehouses is a staple in techno-thrillers, as there’s an interest in acquiring what an enemy knows and retrieving the information that could be used to circumvent or thwart a malicious actor’s plans. While information security is understandable for things relating to national security and business, it does surprise me somewhat that anime fans take their information security seriously, as well: Japanese fans go to great lengths to make it clear that certain findings were theirs, and message-board users will ostracise anyone suspected of posting stale information.

  • In the brief respite between firefights, Sanderson sets up a DSM to download Makarov’s information. I’m not quite sure why they’d use a modem for this purpose: a portable hard drive would’ve been better suited for the task. Back in 2009, the average portable external drive would’ve had a 160 GB capacity, and higher-end models would’ve topped at 500 GB. Using USB 2.0, drives back then would’ve had a maximum transfer rate of 480 megabits per second (corresponding roughly to 43 MB/s), which is much faster than what the DSM here achieves. I get that this was a design choice: the longer transfer times extend the firefight, and a modem looks far cooler than an external drive. One detail the team did indeed leverage was the fact that many small files can slow down data transfer, although fortunately for Sanderson and Riley, it doesn’t actually take half an hour to transfer everything.

  • Once the download is finished, it’s time to beat a hasty exit. The odds are overwhelming as ultranationalists close in on Sanderson and Riley, the two surviving members of the team sent to stop Makarov: there’s no way to fight everyone at once, and the only thing left to do is to make one’s way down the mountain to the extraction point. Sanderson takes a hit heading down the hill, and it becomes clear that in the absence of a miracle, this mission will end in complete failure. However, a group of Pave Low helicopters are seen at the bottom of the hill, and General Shepherd is personally here to retrieve the DSM.

  • In what was probably one of the biggest betrayals in living memory (more so than any anime), Shepherd then shoots Riley and Sanderson, takes the DSM for himself and has Shadow Company burn their remains. Over the radio, Price can be heard trying to hail Sanderson and Riley, warning them of Shepherd’s betrayal, but it’s much too late for the pair. Modern Warfare 2 might be mired in controversy, but the most shocking moment of the game easily goes to Shepherd’s betrayal. Suddenly, Makarov is all but abandoned, and the focus of the game shifts purely to stopping Shepherd.

  • The reason why Shepherd is the bigger threat now is simply because unlike Makarov, he’s got government backing, and so, is capable of committing atrocities under the name of democracy and freedom. Modern Warfare 2 thus spoke about the dangers of a state supporting rogue individuals – with Sanderson and Riley dead, it’s down to Price and MacTavish to fight for the truth. They fare better, barely managing to escape Shadow Company long enough to discover that Shadow Company is now engaged in a three-way fight with Makarov’s Ultranationalists and Task Force 141.

  • With most of Task Force 141 killed in action, the scope and scale of the conflict in Modern Warfare 2 suddenly becomes reduced: further fighting and devastation can be averted here and now if Shepherd is taken out. Modern Warfare 2 thus begins to feel more like its predecessor here, focusing on a small group of men and their determination to do what’s right, even if their actions will cause them to run afoul of the government. This is a fight that I certainly empathise with – doing right sometimes mean doing what’s unpopular, and I’ve always believed that ultimately, it is the many that determine the correctness of one’s choices in the present.

  • The moment MacTavish and Price decide to go after Shepherd, they become branded as the villains and declared as war criminals. This would later form the tagline for Modern Warfare 3, where the remnants of Task Force 141 and their newfound allies, Nikolai and Yuri, continue their fight to to bring Makarov to justice. For now, Shepherd remains the biggest threat, and Price does a deal with the devil – both enemies are united by their shared animosity for Shepherd and the knowledge that unchecked, Shepherd would plunge the world further into war.

  • For my run through the Boneyard, I stuck with the starting suppressed M14 EBR and, while making use of the suppressed MP5K, would switch over to the F2000 for better firepower at moderate ranges. The mission concludes with a harrowing jeep chase into the back of Nikolai’s C-130: both Price and MacTavish manage to escape the Boneyard, now with the knowledge of where Shepherd is located. The endgame in Modern Warfare 2 sends players to one of the most treacherous locations on Earth – here, both the Soviet and American armies were conquered by the desolate terrain and harsh conditions.

  • I speak of none other than eastern Afghanistan’s cave network, which is notorious as the site of 2001’s Battle of Tora Bora (quite unrelated to the anime Tora Dora!), during which the United States and their allies completely failed in what would be counted as one of the largest military failures in recent history. Had Price and MacTavish’s task been of a similar nature, Modern Warfare 2 would’ve lasted for at least six more games. Fortunately, Shepherd is not quite as elusive. Here, I pass by a narrow mountain cliff overlooking a canyon while wielding the Intervention: this mission starts MacTavish with a suppressed version that’s great for picking off enemies.

  • Rounding out MacTavish’s loadout is a suppressed Vector with ACOG sight. Out here in the desert, both weapons handle well and cover off enough ranges. After entering the caves, however, having a weapon with thermal optics is better, allowing one to better see their foes. The only enemy left now is Shadow Company: true to their name, enigma surrounds this fanatical, elite unit. Nothing is known of their origins beyond the fact that they’re highly trained and are completely beholden to Shepherd. Fortunately, despite their reputation, they’re no tougher than the enemies players have faced until now. Pushing through the caves, it becomes clear that Shadow Company intends to leave nothing standing: everything is wired with C4, ready to blow.

  • I ended up with no screenshots of the caves, since they proved a little too dark for the blog, and so, I’ve stuck with screenshots of the outdoors. As Price and MacTavish push closer towards Shepherd, he orders a “danger close” artillery strike in a desperate bid to kill the pair, but only succeeds in blue-on-blue instead. Here, I’ve grabbed an AT4 in an attempt to try and shoot down the helicopters dropping in more Shadow Company soldiers – in the chaos, I ended up losing my starting weapons and picked up a TMP in the process.

  • Much as how Modern Warfare featured a harrowing vehicle chase at its endgame, Modern Warfare 2 has a thrilling boat chase in the underground rivers of Afghanistan, eventually leading out to an open river. Both Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 saw dramatically improved visuals in their respective remasters – the caves and their rocks look absolutely impressive in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, and it was a thrill to the end of the mission as Price and MacTavish take off after Shepherd in a Zodiac.

  • Like the snowmobile chase of the first act, players will have access to a weapon while they drive. The Mini-Uzi MacTavish has access to is a weaker weapon, but during these sequences, the game will aim on the player’s behalf, and moreover, MacTavish will reload after a few shots – the weapon isn’t meant to deal any serious damage, but instead, is used to fend off attackers long enough to keep Price and MacTavish alive. Price will provide the firepower; he uses an M4 with an M203 grenade launcher, and will also do his part in keeping things going – eventually, he’ll use it to shoot down Shepherd’s Pave Low and force the final confrontation.

  • I ended up beating Modern Warfare 2 last Sunday during the morning: after the beautiful sunny weather of Saturday, a rainy system moved into the area. With a morning walk off the table, I decided to finish off the game, as I’d been very close to finishing. With this, I wrapped up Modern Warfare 2 exactly a month after picking it up; I’d been waiting for a sale, but having gone through it now, I can say that the game was well worth the cost of admissions. It’s a bigger and bolder presentation of the story that was seen in Modern Warfare, and features a much more impressive arsenal, as well as a powerful message. With this in mind, I still feel that Modern Warfare has the superior story and atmospherics all around: in my books, Modern Warfare edges out Modern Warfare 2 ever so slightly in terms of memorability.

  • This isn’t saying much, since I had a great deal of fun going through Modern Warfare 2, and now, my attention turns towards whether or not Modern Warfare 3 might get a remaster. From a story perspective, Modern Warfare 3 is the weakest of the original Modern Warfare titles, but the game had some bold set-pieces, and also brought Makarov to an end, so it’s an essential experience for Modern Warfare fans. For me, Modern Warfare 3 also had an iconic pair of missions: the first two missions in New York are superb, comparable to Modern Warfare‘s All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill in terms of aesthetic and gameplay. Since Modern Warfare 2: Remastered impressed, I will be quicker on the uptake once Modern Warfare 3: Remastered becomes available. Until then, it’s time to make some serious headway in Black Ops: Cold War, especially since now that I’ve seen that my machine is capable of running Cold War.

From a gameplay perspective, Modern Warfare 2: Remastered handles very well despite retaining the mechanics of an eleven-year-old game. The gun-play and movement remains smooth and responsive. Weapons feel a little tinnier compared to those of a more modern title, but beyond this, Modern Warfare 2 has aged very gracefully. From a story perspective, the themes of how the will of even a single person being able to make a difference was encouraging and reiterates the fact that evil can take many forms, sometimes assuming an easy-to-spot enemy, and other times, masquerade as one of the good guys. Regardless of what form said evil takes, death and destruction follow, but fortunately, the resolve to fight for what’s right, and the well-being of others, is the countermeasure. It is of consolation that as long as there is even a single individual left, there remains a chance to set things right. In the end, Modern Warfare 2‘s experience far outweigh the controversies that surrounded the game, and folks having the maturity to look past the initial shock of certain elements will find that the story to be very compelling, and still politically relevant: the actors and objectives might’ve changed in the eleven years that’ve passed, but the underlying motivations and principles remain identical. Altogether, Modern Warfare 2 was bigger and bolder than its predecessor: having now completed the game, it is clear that Modern Warfare 2 does earn its crown as having the best campaign of any Call of Duty title. While Activision and the Call of Duty franchise began floundering after Modern Warfare 3 released, the series has appeared to have regained its momentum in recent years, with several solid titles generating excitement anew. It is for this reason that I’ve decided to pick up Black Ops: Cold War; the story appears intriguing and similarly offers quite a bit to talk about, ranging from Yuri Bezmenov’s theories surrounding “active measures” to challenging individuals on what they understand about right and wrong. For a franchise whose current reputation stems from an excellent implementation of battle royale in Warzone, and engaging multiplayer, the campaigns are often forgotten, but I’ve long found that Call of Duty campaigns do say something meaningful behind all of the Michael Bay-style flash and setpieces.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act II Review and Reflection

“Price? This belongs to you, sir.” –John MacTavish

The Russian invasion of the Eastern Seaboard begins, with American forces being completely overwhelmed by the Russians’ sheer ferocity. Amidst the fighting, Private James Ramirez of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fight through Richmond, Virginia to secure a government official amongst the suburbs and recover a high value individual from his home in Arcadia Country. Meanwhile, MacTavish and Sanderson participate in a joint raid on Petropavlovsk Gulag to release prisoner 627. After infiltrating oil rigs armed with surface-to-air missiles and clearing them of military presence, MacTavish and Price head towards the gulag itself, fighting their way through its cavernous interior en route to their prize. It turns out that 627 is none other than Johnathan Price. However, the American navy resumes its bombardment of the site shortly after, and with their primary exfiltration unavailable, MacTavish, Sanderson and Price manage to escape via skyhook. Back in Washington D.C., Ramirez and his team oversee the evacuation of a safe area as Russian forces continue to advance. Despite managing to recapture the Herbert C. Hoover Building and using the vantage point to lay waste to Russian forces, the site soon becomes overrun, forcing Ramirez and the others to leave via helicopter. They are subsequently shot down, and prepare to make their last stand as the crash site is surrounded by Russians. The dramatic and appalling events from the first act have finally precipitated a full-scale war, which is immediately apparent by the second act’s opening. More so than any game I’d previously played through, the scope and severity of the Russian invasion became apparent as I fought my way through areas that closely resembles the shopping areas and suburbs of home. Seeing familiar locations draped under an apocalyptic red-orange sky wreathed in black clouds gave the sense that the world was coming to an end, and that reality itself was succumbing to the depths of despair.

Seeing familiar locations become battlegrounds is where Modern Warfare 2 truly excels, and these aspects of the game are often forgotten, existing in the shadows of the controversies that mired the game after its release. Those mature enough to look past the controversy will find that Modern Warfare 2, more so than any game of its time, truly captured the horrors and desolation of warfare. While people often view war as something that happens “in another part of the world”, hardly deserving of any concern, Modern Warfare 2 shows what happens if conflict were to be taken to one’s doorsteps. Ramirez fights through fast food restaurants and gas station convenience stores, as well as the single family homes of a subdivision and the streets of America’s now-besieged capital. Places where people go to grab a burger or play street hockey is transformed into a war zone as Russian forces fill the air with hot lead, and houses lay empty or burning from the onslaught. While it is easy to pick a side when warfare is presented by journalists half a world away, seeing all of the destruction and erasure of normalcy in Modern Warfare 2 acts as a stark reminder to players that all that they take for granted can be taken away in the blink of an eye, and with this in mind, it becomes impertinent to provide commentary about a war that one is watching from behind the safety of a smartphone’s screen, especially where we bystanders do not have a complete picture and cannot see the true extent of suffering in areas affected by warfare. One cannot begin to describe the abject terror those people must face, and as Modern Warfare 2 suggests, even though players are a part of the elite Rangers, against a relentless, unfeeling foe, even the best equipment and training feels inadequate. Call of Duty is fond of quoting famous figures, and Larry Reeves is absolutely right about the only people who would desire warfare were those ignorant of its horrors.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If Modern Warfare 2‘s portrayal of the invasion felt apocalyptic, Modern Warfare 2: Remastered takes everything to a new level: the skies are filled with black smoke and a hellish red light from distance fires. Ramirez begins the mission with the SCAR-H and M9. The SCAR-H here comes with a red dot sight and under-barrel shotgun, which leaves players well-equipped to take on enemies at close and medium ranges efficiently. However, with only twenty rounds in the magazine, the SCAR-H is a weapon that is better fired in bursts, as twenty is not a whole lot to work with.

  • After cutting through the residential areas, Ramirez and the other Rangers will end up in a strip mall area with numerous restaurants and gas stations. Such areas are common in North America: and while Modern Warfare 2 might set this in Virginia, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to see this as being my home town. Here, I fight my way to a sit-down restaurant called Nate’s Sports Bar and Grill, which I’d hazard a guess is the equivalent of Montana’s BBQ and Bar, or Boston Pizza. This mission happens in a relatively open area, and there’s a lot of running around between the different restaurants and gas station convenience store to fend off Russian soldiers and otherwise secure vital assets.

  • Here, I’ve picked up an M14 EBR with thermal optics: the M14 is a semi-automatic sniper rifle with low damage and high accuracy, making it a great choice for situations where one requires follow-up shots. Having the thermal optics makes it easier to spot the enemies, which blend in well with the environment, and here, Ramirez must fend off hordes of Russian soldiers, making use of both the M14 and remote sentry gun to defend their position. Things get tricky when the Russians call in air support, which flattens Nate’s.

  • The last time I sat down to dinner at a restaurant would’ve been a shade more than a year ago, and I do miss the experience: besides food that I can’t readily cook at home, there’s also the ambience and lack of need to do the dishes. Eating out periodically thus becomes something to look forwards to, and generally speaking, my favourite place to hit is a good pub, which offers solid fare for reasonable prices. While steakhouses are great, they’re also a ways pricier. Speaking with family, high on my list of places to visit after this health crisis is contained will be the poutine place over in Canmore, and with friends, katsu and barbeque appear to be on order.

  • Burger Town is an obvious Burger King stand-in, and truth be told, I’m a much bigger fan of A & W’s Teen Burger, which is now made with grass-fed beef to win the top spot as my favourite fast food burger. By comparison, I’ve not been to a Burger King in years. Towards the end of the mission, Ramirez will successfully secure a high value individual and use Stinger missiles to knock out Russian helicopters. There’s also RPGs lying around, making it easy to destroy Russian light armoured vehicles. Instead of flash bang grenades, Ramirez will use smoke grenades, allowing for cover in otherwise open areas.

  • Modern Warfare 2 switches back over to Sanderson’s perspective: it’s time to beat a hasty exit from the favela, and MacTavish gets what he came for. After interrogating Alejandro Rojas, MacTavish learns that getting to Makarov means springing a certain Prisoner 627 from the Russian Gulag. Because Task Force 141 had waltzed into the favela and shot up a bunch of the militia earlier, the entire militia shows up to this fight. Sanderson is initially armed with a Heckler and Koch UMP and the G18. The former is a solid all-around PDW for medium range, but is stymied by a low firing rate, while the latter is great in a pinch in close-quarters scenario.

  • With what seems like the whole militia out for revenge, the aim of this mission is to escape and link up with Nikolai, who’s piloting a Sikorsky MH-53. However, the LZ is much too hot: the militia even have access to RPGs, and that makes it difficult. Sanderson could get through the whole of this mission with the UMP and G18 alone, as both weapons cover the ranges that most of the engagements happen at: par the course for a given modern military shooter, one’s starting loadout is generally sufficient to take them through most situations.

  • With this being said, the sidearms that players typically start with only have the advantage of their extremely fast switch times. In the opening tutorials, players are informed that switching to the sidearm is always faster than reloading, so if one only needs an assault rifle, the sidearm becomes a good backup for getting a kill or two to make safe an area before reloading their primary weapon. In practise, I reload often enough so that I’d rather just go with a second primary weapon to improve my versatility at certain ranges: depending on the mission, I always prefer to have a good marksman rifle or shotgun handy.

  • The visuals in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered are worth writing home about: in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, the extent of improvements is most apparent, and while the game handles identically to the original Modern Warfare 2, the updated visuals are jaw-dropping. One of the challenges I have with the remastered Call of Duty games is paring down the screenshots so I can have a reasonably sized post, as there are many moments worthy of being portrayed. This is why most folks prefer to make YouTube videos or stream their gaming experiences to others, but this represents a level of commitment that I simply lack.

  • While the others board the helicopter safely, Sanderson is left behind when RPG-wielding militia appear. This last bit of the mission involves hauling ass to the LZ, and because of the intensity of the sequence, I have no screenshots of this part. Modern Warfare 2 was known for its first-person cinematics, which increase immersion but also gives the game a more on-rails feeling at times. I’ve found that such moments are not so frequent as to distract from the game, and the lack of control these scenes conveys really gives players a sense of how chaotic things are.

  • With Task Force 141 safely away, perspective switches back to that of Ramirez’s: the Rangers are tasked with defeating Russian anti-aircraft batteries so American aircraft can begin evacuating civilians. Ramirez is armed with a laser designator that will allow him to mark enemy positions for strafing, and this is especially useful for dealing with the heavily fortified Russian positions. This mission is described as taking place in Arcadia County somewhere in Virginia, and here, a covered bridge can be seen. Indeed, Virginia is known for its covered bridges, similarly to New Brunswick. Covered bridges are so-designed because the structure keeps the timber truss away from the elements: uncovered bridges fail in as little as a decade, but covered bridges can last up to a century if they’re well-built.

  • The fighting soon takes Ramirez and his team to an affluent-looking community whose houses remind me of Cherry Creek in Denver, near an AI oncology clinical decision support tech firm I was loaned as a consultant to three years earlier. It does seem inconceivable that such a high-end neighbourhood could ever be host to such firefights, but Modern Warfare 2 blows away all prior expectations: the gardens and garages of these mansions become battlefields, and low brick fences, usually aesthetic, become makeshift cover. I died here more times than I cared to count, but finally managed to push forward.

  • Inside one of the mansions, players must clear out the occupying forces before moving on. I’m not the only one who spent a bit more time than was strictly necessary exploring: fancy houses have always been fun to wander around, and the occupants of this house would’ve lived very comfortably: the basement is a recreational space complete with a pool table and minibar, and the main living area is quite luxurious indeed. After the house is cleared, I entered the backyard and pool to continue on with the mission. The doors to the bedrooms are locked, so there’s no chance of exploring that, but the attention paid to the details is impressive, especially with the portrayal of a Russian soldier looking through the fridge and finding some soft drinks in the process.

  • After reaching a golf course, Ramirez tags the remaining anti-air guns for demolition. Here, I’ve picked an AK-47 with an ACOG scope off one of the Russian soldiers: the AK-47 in Modern Warfare 2 is a modernised version sporting a polymer body and muzzle brake. One of the most common weapons in the game, the AK-47 hits hard and has a low rate of fire. One of the distinguishing features about Modern Warfare 2‘s AK-47 is that it has a very notable recoil animation, and having the ACOG means that there will be a bit of scope sway. I swapped over to the AK-47 after running out of ammunition for my starting weapon, but fortunately, after the AA guns are destroyed, there aren’t any more firefights to this mission.

  • The last phase of the mission entails entering a house to secure another high value target, only to find him dead. Ramirez picks the briefcase off him and ascertains that it contains some documents, bringing the mission to a close. This mission captures what it must be like to be an infantry unit: orders come from the top, and soldiers carry out said orders without full knowledge of the bigger picture. From a narrative standpoint, this serves to remind players that not everything in a war necessarily makes sense, and the soldiers are oftentimes in the dark about what their mission’s implications are.

  • While the invasion of the Eastern Seaboard is under way, Task Force 141 assaults an oil rig housing Russian anti-air missile batteries ahead of the operation to spring Prisoner 627. Speaking to the lengths soldiers will go for their objectives, the Russians have captured oil rigs and taken the crew hostage. Sanderson starts the mission with the M4A1 SOPMOD, a classic variant of the M4A1 returning from Modern Warfare that is equipped with a suppressor, red dot sight and M203. The Modern Warfare version also sports AN/PEQ-2A infrared laser, which is only visible when night vision goggles are equipped.

  • Besides the M4A1, Sanderson carries a suppressed SCAR-H with thermal optics, great for smoky environments. This mission proved remarkably entertaining, featuring a lot of breaching entries as the 141 enter rooms where hostages are being held. As long as one is careful about placing their shots, there shouldn’t be too much risk of accidentally hitting a hostage. The Modern Warfare series has no qualms about taking players to interesting locations, and I’ve certainly never expected to fight on an oil rig before.

  • A Little Bird soon begins firing on the 141 after reaching the third deck. Guides suggest using the M4A1’s M203 to hit it, but there’s an AT4 lying around as well that can be used to sort out this helicopter. Modern Warfare 2: Remastered has vastly improved lighting and effects over the original Modern Warfare 2, and this level felt like an episode of Mighty Ships brought to life. Sound effects have also been improved: weapons in the originally felt tinny and weak, but they’ve been given an update to sound more lethal. One aspect of the original Modern Warfare 2 that held up was the voice acting and chatter, which feels authentic.

  • Here, I’ve picked up the CheyTac Intervention anti-materiel rifle, a slow-firing bolt-action weapon that hits like a truck at the cost of firing rate and high scope sway. The weapon is only found here and in the first mission of the second act, but on the oil rig and its close quarters environment, I’ve actually found it to be quite unnecessary: weapons with thermal optics are easily found here, and so, even as the Russians deploy smoke to obscure the area, any weapon with thermal optics will allow one to push forwards.

  • With this mission done, it’s time to head on over to the Gulag itself. A quick glance at the calendar shows that we’re now closing in on the Victoria Day long weekend, and this marks the second year in a row where I won’t be able to volunteer for the local anime convention, Otafest, on account of the ongoing health crisis. A decade earlier, after watching a friend’s vlogs for Otafest, I wondered if the event would be worth my while. However, my decision was swiftly made for me: some friends were hosting a Halo: Reach LAN party, and the next day, I was scheduled for a family day trip to the nearby mountains. While panels were held, and cosplayers wandered campus grounds, I strolled along the tranquil shores of the still-frozen Lake Minnewanka and through the ruins of coal-mining town Bankhead, before returning to town for an Angus burger.

  • The mission to free Prisoner 627 was probably the most cinematic and enjoyable, opening with one of the most thrilling entrances to any mission I’ve played in Call of Duty: after American F-15s clear a path to the Gulag, Sanderson will begin engaging hostile forces on the Gulag’s walls with the M14 EBR to clear a landing zone for the helicopter, which lands in the courtyard. From here on out, it’s close quarters inside the Gulag, and the M14 won’t be quite as useful. Fortunately, Sanderson’s second weapon is the M4A1.

  • Simon Riley takes control of the Gulag’s systems and manages to unlock the doors leading to Prisoner 627. MacTavish and Sanderson will come upon an armoury, and here, it is suggested that one takes a riot shield with them: fire is so heavy here that it isn’t particularly meaningful to forego the riot shields. Riot shields can shrug off all bullet damage and reduces explosive damage, as well as being able to one-shot any enemy with melee attacks. Unlike the player, who can only melee with the riot shield equipped, enemies can simultaneously wield a riot shield and an MP5K.

  • In the bowels of the Gulag, Task Force 141 fight through a shower room in an area that would later become the inspiration for Warzone‘s Gulag. Here, I’ve dropped the riot shield in favour of the AUG HBAR, and after fighting to the end of the area, follow the remainder of Task Force 141 down into the Gulag’s sewage system. At the end of the tunnels, Sanderson prepares a breaching charge and comes face to face with Prisoner 627, who is none other than Captain John Price. It turns out between the events of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, Price had been involved in an operation to capture Makarov, but during one assignment, Price’s unit was overrun by Ultranationalist forces, resulting in his capture as he covered his allies’ escape.

  • MacTavish returns an M1911 pistol to Price, a callback to the events of Modern Warfare, and the group prepare to beat a hasty exit. An undetonated bomb can be seen here moments before the Gulag’s ceiling caves in, briefly incapacitating Sanderson. Sanderson is swiftly dug out and lashes himself to a SPIE rig, ready to be pulled out via sky hook. While Modern Warfare 2 has been a thrill all the way around insofar, the Gulag mission stands out in terms of cinematics and atmosphere. If All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill were the most iconic of the Modern Warfare missions, then The Only Easy Day…Was Yesterday and The Gulag would be Modern Warfare 2‘s equivalents.

  • As the sun sets on what was doubtlessly a very long day, the lighting gives a sense of Armageddon here: even the American capital is under siege, and it seems the onslaught is relentless. However, while the scenario feels overwhelming, knowing that Ramirez’s guns still work means that at least for me, something can still yet be done to get the civilians out. Modern Warfare suggests that the Russians are a highly capable of fighting in such a manner, and while such a thought can seem fanciful, it turns out that RAND analysts have run simulations (usually against China or Russia) that indicate in the event of an actual conflict, the loss of blue forces would be unacceptably high.

  • This isn’t to say that blue forces couldn’t come out victorious, but the reality is that achieving objectives would not be a walk in the park (as opposed to engaging the PLA of say, ten years ago): cyberwarfare would be the most critical infrastructure that would fall first. Of course, diplomacy is key to sorting out disagreements before they boil over: contrary to what some may believe, warfare is detrimental to all those involved, and the world in general needs to vastly improve suppressing political memes and mechanisms for dealing with social media, where misunderstandings could potentially be the catalyst for unprecedented catastrophe.

  • After clearing away the Russian forces inside the Herbert C. Hoover Building, Ramirez comes upon a cache of captured Javelin missiles and promptly uses them to lay waste to Russian armour and helicopters alike. The potency of Javelin missiles in Modern Warfare is probably an exaggeration: I’m destroying enemy armour with a single round, and I imagine that in reality, enemy vehicles would possess reactive armour or active protection systems. On the other hand, a single rocket could be enough to knock a vehicle out of the fight if it hits the right spot, and this could be enough to make a difference in a given engagement. This sort of thing is often seen in Girls und Panzer: while Miho and her team may not have the best firepower, even knocking the treads off a tank they can’t otherwise beat buys Ooarai enough time to regroup.

  • On the topic of Girls und Panzer, I’ve still not heard any news about the BD for Das Finale‘s third act. I’ve noticed that there’s been a definitive trend in the release patterns for anime movies, with movies taking increasingly longer to hit the shelves. Ten years ago, with K-On! The Movie, the wait was around six to seven months, but today, eleven month gaps are not uncommon. If I had to speculate, I would suppose that this is a measure meant to curb overseas piracy and maximise domestic sales. One way or another, if I intend to write about Girls und Panzer (or whatever other anime movie I wish to), the wait for BDs is not a deterrent. Readers have my word that I will be writing about Das Finale‘s third act once it’s available.

  • The last mission in the second act ends when Ramirez’s Black Hawk is shot down, and while he survives, he and the Rangers prepare to make a last stand against overwhelming numbers. To emphasise the desperation and urgency of this moment, Ramirez only has one full magazine left to him, and the firefight ends when a searchlight illuminates the area, washing everything out on a blazing white light. With this, I step into the final act of Modern Warfare 2: this past weekend, I’d been focused on finishing the Jupiter Manhunt in The Division 2, but with the Victoria Day long weekend coming, it would be nice to wrap up Modern Warfare 2 and potentially kick off Black Ops: Cold War as time allows.

Modern Warfare 2‘s second act succeeds in conveying a sense of scale that was absent in the original Modern Warfare; the latter felt very focused, like a James Bond movie where a group of special forces’ heroics and courage stave off world war, but here in Modern Warfare 2, the wrath of a nation has been unleashed. With the stakes apparent to those who play the campaign, there is a greater urgency in everything that players do, whether it be Ramirez fighting through vital locations on the Eastern Seaboard in a desperate bid to give the American forces anything they can to regroup, or the grim resolve MacTavish has in recovering Captain Price such that the protagonists have a shot at taking Makarov out. Modern Warfare 2‘s set-pieces are of an incredible detail, and it now becomes apparent as to why Modern Warfare 2 is counted as being the best Call of Duty both in terms of its campaign and multiplayer; with regard to the campaign, the story dares to challenge players and tear them from their comfort zone. War isn’t a glorious activity about heroics, nor is it about singular acts of daring and bravery to fend off madmen and their machinations. In the streets of American suburbia, it becomes clear that the world runs along a razor’s edge, and players constantly have a sense of unease as they fight through Modern Warfare 2, uncertain of what’s to happen next as the shadowy men occupying the corridors of power move their forces around the globe as one might play chess. What is clear, however, is that even the will of a single person in the right place, at the right time, can indeed make a tangible difference, and with this in mind, I am very curious to see how Modern Warfare 2 wraps up: while I know the general details surrounding the plot, I’ve been good with avoiding spoilers surrounding the game, and as such, I anticipate that Modern Warfare 2‘s final act will impress, as well as leave me with a few topics for consideration well after the end credits roll.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act I Review and Reflection

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Boundaries shift, new players step in; but power always finds a place to rest its head. History is written by the victor, and here I am, thinking we’d won. But you bring down one enemy and they find someone even worse to replace him. Locations change, the rationale, the objective.” –General Shepherd

Ultranationalists take power in Russia and memorialise Imran Zakhaev, creating tensions between Russia and the United States. Vladimir Makarov embarks on a bitter campaign of revenge against the west. In the Middle East, Joseph Allen participates in an operation against insurgents, and General Shepherd, impressed with Allen’s performance, recruits him into Task Force 141. Meanwhile, Captain John MacTavish and Sergeant Gary Sanderson infiltrate a Russian base deep in the Tian Shan mountains to retrieve an ACS module. Allen is placed as a deep cover operative and infiltrates Makarov’s cell: he participates in Makarov’s mass shooting at an airport in Moscow. However, Makarov is aware of Allen’s presence and kills him, leaving his body behind as evidence of an American attack against the Russians. This incident precipitates a war between the Russians and Americans; the Russians launch a full-scale invasion of the Eastern Seaboard, overwhelming the Americans. Seeking evidence of Makarov’s involvement, Task Force 141 heads to Rio de Janeiro to capture arms dealer Alejandro Rojas, who provides weapons for Makarov and is suspected to have information on his whereabouts. After fighting through Roja’s thugs in the Rio de Janeiro favela, MacTavish and Sanderson learn that there is one more individual who knows of Makarov: a prisoner held in a Russian gulag. With this, I’ve begun my journey into Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, which released in late March 2020 to general surprise. The original Modern Warfare 2 released in November 2009, and almost immediately, became embroiled in controversy with its graphic portrayal of Makarov’s mass shooting at a Russian airport. Development of this mission was a polarising one even amongst Infinity Ward. Having known about the controversy for the better part of a decade, in my playthrough, I chose to simply walk around the mission and check out what over a decade’s worth of improvement in computer graphics has resulted in without firing a shot (shooting Makarov and his men result in a game over). Upon reaching the tarmac, one must participate in a firefight with the FSB, and here, it felt a little more appropriate to return fire. However, as controversial as this mission, “No Russian”, was, the opening act of Modern Warfare 2 holds more sinister implications about conflict.

In particular, General Shepherd’s monologues leading into the first few missions speak greatly to his views on the world: after losing over thirty thousand soldiers when Makarov detonated a nuclear explosive in the Middle East, Shepherd sought to bring glory back to the United States and restore his own reputation. Shepherd’s views are decidedly that of a Social Darwinist, someone who believes that power is an end in and of itself. Before each mission, Shepherd remarks that the United States has a moral obligation to fight in every war, that there is no option of sitting one out, because it is their responsibility to ensure that the world adheres to whatever policy benefits America. Moreover, the ability to shape the course of history is a recurring theme in Shepherd’s dialogue: what the history books say is determined by the victor, those who live to tell their version of the story. Modern Warfare 2 thus sets in motion the idea that Shepherd is obsessed with victory because he fights for none other than himself, and because he ostensibly fights with the backing of the United States military, Modern Warfare 2 indicates that the worst enemies are those backed by the state. There are parallels with the real world, and Modern Warfare 2 shows how men like Shepherd can influence events at a scale that ordinary citizens remain quite unaware of. Beyond all of the politics and speeches, there exist under-the-table deals and shadowy discussions in the corridors of power, shaping and influencing the world in a way that benefits a cabal of elites for their own ends, even if it comes at a cost to common citizens. The world isn’t so black and white as one might imagine, and while Modern Warfare 2 represents a work of fiction, the fact is that there are enough complexities in the world such that bad faith actors like Makarov and Shepherd don’t seem too far-fetched, which is saying something, considering that Modern Warfare 2 garnered more controversy than any Call of Duty title before it. Consequently, it will be interesting to experience Modern Warfare 2: Remastered for myself, such that I may see for myself what the game had been about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The site archives indicate that last I wrote about a Modern Warfare title, it would’ve been four years ago. Time flies, but as Shepherd says, the more things change, the more things remain familiar, and despite the four years that’ve passed, I’m still here, doing what I do best. After clearing the first mission and getting familiar with the controls, I ran the pit in under 35 seconds. I’m no stranger to Call of Duty, and the game recommended that I play it on Veteran difficulty for the full experience. However, on my first play-through of anything, I prefer going on regular difficulty just so I can take in the story without dying to a few stray rounds. I’ve never actually played Modern Warfare 2 for myself, so Modern Warfare 2: Remastered would be the first time I’ve set foot in the second of the Modern Warfare instalments.

  • After spawning in with the M4A1 Grenadier and clearing out hostiles attacking a bridge-layer, Joseph Allen boards a Humvee and mans a M134 Minigun. Rail-shooters missions in modern games are generally maligned – the Call of Duty franchise is infamous for them to the point where players will call a game Call of Duty-like if it has too many scripted set-piece moments. Here, players will get to watch as an airstrike levels a building: like Modern Warfare RemasteredModern Warfare 2: Remastered has spectacular visuals while at once, retaining the classic mechanics of the original Modern Warfare 2.

  • Because Modern Warfare 2: Remastered retains the same mechanics as the original Modern Warfare 2 (for this series of posts, I’ll refer to both interchangeably when discussing story, but otherwise make the distinction when considering gameplay elements), the shooting doesn’t feel quite as visceral as it does in contemporary titles. Fortunately, there is the option of enabling hit markers – while hit markers are often a sign of frustration in multiplayer matches, I primarily use them to help me know when I can turn my attention to the next target: some games have the option where killing shots colour the hit markers differently, and in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, as soon as I get a red hit marker, I know I can switch over to the next enemy shooting at me.

  • The rail-shooter segment of the first real mission to Modern Warfare 2 is a hit of a hectic one, and while playing realistically would mean firing the M134 in bursts, the way the game is set up means that as soon as the humvees come under fire, one might as well just hold down the trigger and blast away at anything that moves until the end of the sequence is reached. Eventually, a hostile will fire an RPG at the humvee, flipping it. Allen and the other USMC soldiers quickly head into the school to escape enemy fire and manage to flank their enemies.

  • One of the things I enjoy most about the remastered Modern Warfare 2 was simply how stunning the weapons look under the improved lighting system. Since Battlefield V came to a close last year, I’ve not really played many military shooters – most of my time was divided between Halo: The Master Chief Collection and The Division 2. While I returned to enjoy titles at my own pace, the Battlefield YouTubers I follow switched over to Warzone, a Call of Duty battle royale that has gained massive popularity for bringing a widespread genre into a game with generally solid mechanics.

  • I have little interest in battle royale games, but I admit that the level of customisation was quite appealing, and I found myself wishing I try out a newer Call of Duty titles. Of course, the campaigns are what appeal most to me: not playing competitive multiplayer shooters online for the past year has allowed me to relax a great deal more, and it strikes me that in gaming, I’m at my happiest when I’m allowed to explore virtual spaces at my own pace.

  • When Modern Warfare 2: Remastered had released last year, I was a bit surprised and initially held off on the purchase, uncertain of whether or not I wanted to drop the coin for the campaign that early in. However, when I noticed that Black Ops: Cold War was on sale a few weekends ago, I realised this sale would allow me to basically buy both Black Ops: Cold War and Modern Warfare 2: Remastered for the price that Cold War goes for without a sale, and as such, I jumped on the opportunity. I did something similar with Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition, which allowed me to buy Modern Warfare Remastered and Infinite Warfare for the price of Infinite Warfare alone. This sale thus felt like a bit of déjà vu: four years earlier, I picked up Modern Warfare Remastered a few months before going on a vacation out to Japan, and was blown away by how refreshed everything felt.

  • However, on Cliffhanger, superior graphics don’t really make too much of a difference initially; Sanderson and MacTavish infiltrate a Russian base high in the Tian Shan Mountains (a redundancy, since 天山 literally means “Sky Mountains”), but the entire area is blanketed by a ferocious blizzard, concealing everything. Players begin the mission with a suppressed ACR that has a heartbeat sensor, which allows for hidden foes to be detected. This piece of technology is a fictional invention: real heartbeat sensors must be in contact with a user to detect their heartbeat, and it feels like an infrared or motion sensor would be more plausible here.

  • Indeed, the uniqueness of Modern Warfare 2‘s heartbeat sensor was called out in Bad Company 2, when Haggard references the heartbeat sensors and suggests that they’re for weaklings. Haggard also laughs at the idea of using snowmobiles to reach an exfil point. Bad Company 2 released in March 2010, a few months after Modern Warfare 2 came out, and contrasting the all-serious, grim and dark campaign of the latter, Bad Company 2 was all laughs as the group of misfits embark on an adventure to stop an electromagnetic weapon from falling into the wrong hands.

  • MacTavish and Sanderson have a much simpler assignment: under the blizzard’s cover, both sneak into the Russian base and manage to locate the building holding the ACS module from the fallen American satellite. This mission reminds me a great deal of a similar level in Bad Company 2, where Misfit company deliberately crashes a satellite to retrieve a component used by the scalar weapon. In a curious turn of events, this past weekend, the stage on a Chinese “Long March” rocket returned to Earth and splashed down in the Indian Ocean. In the days leading up to the re-entry, media outlets like CNN and BBC made exaggerated claims that there was a high probability of the debris landing in populated areas.

  • The reality is that space programmes will de-orbit spent rocket stages in a way so that they impact over oceans, and China, being a signatory on the Space Liability Convention, is no exception. With this being said, getting stuff to land where one wishes is to is a challenge, and in video games, it is only through pure storytelling that allow things like satellites to land in convenient places to advance the plot. Here in the warehouse, the Russians have successfully removed the ACS module: after MacTavish investigates the satellite remains, he instructs Sanderson to head upstairs and see if he can’t find it.

  • Sanderson locates the ACS on short order, but MacTavish is compromised: Russian soldiers order him to surrender, but fortunately, the pair have an ace-in-the-hole: Sanderson had placed explosives on the aircraft fuel pumps earlier, and setting them off creates enough of a distraction to take out the soldiers. MacTavish and Sanderson beat a hasty exit, all pretense of a stealth mission abandoned. The blizzard’s let up by now, and while visibility’s improved, the level still looks quite simplistic. Of the missions in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, Cliffhanger appears to have received the fewest updates simply because snow is covering everything. We’re now a ways into May, and while this means spring showers for most folks, in my area, the snow continues to endure.

  • While MacTavish will indicate that picking up an unsuppressed weapon could be disadvantageous early in the mission, once the bullets start flying, I immediately dropped my suppressed USP for a Kriss Vector. Although dealing the weakest damage per round of any PDW in Modern Warfare 2, the weapon has a very high rate of fire and great accuracy. I’ve long been interested in the Vector for its unique appearance, and occasionally run it in The Division and its successor, The Division 2: as a PDW, I find it generally reliable for CQC, although the base weapon only comes with a 25-round magazine, so I immediately modify it to use extended magazines, which adds arounds at the expense of reload speed.

  • After passing over the runway, MacTavish and Sanderson immediately fend off soldiers rocking snowmobiles and commandeer them for a frenzied ride down the mountain. To take out the pursuers, Sanderson has access to the G18, an automatic pistol that is effective in its role. However, the greater challenge in this portion of the mission is managing the snowmobile: on my first few attempts, I took a bad turn and crashed into a tree, dying instantly.

  • It took a few runs to get things right, and here, I prepare to ramp down a steep slope to build up the necessary speed in order to clear a chasm. Once this chasm is cleared, MacTavish and Sanderson will reach the exfil, where a friendly CH-46 Sea Knight awaits them. The Sea Knight is an American tandem-rotor helicopter that first saw use during the Vietnam War, and I know it best as the helicopter used to lift MacMillan and Price out of Pripyat during the events of Modern Warfare. With the second of the missions done, I thus turned my attention to the level that entangled Modern Warfare 2 in controversy: “No Russian”. I first heard about this mission before a data structures class ten years earlier, when some of my friends were discussing controversies in games. Back then, Modern Warfare 2 had been out for two years, and while Infinity Ward had intended the level to demonstrate the extent of Makarov’s evil, many felt the game had gone too far, suggesting the level should have taken place from the perspective of a FSB unit or airport security guard.

  • Listening to my friends talk about the level piqued my curiosity, but the conversation also reminded me of how fortunate I had been to be there in the classroom with them. Not six months earlier, I had been entangled in an unfortunate incident that jepordised my undergraduate degree: during the last computer-based quiz of the year, my machine, running Windows NT 5 with Internet Explorer 6, suffered from an unusual malfunction that led the instructor to assume I’d been in violation of exam conditions. Despite my clear and consistent explanations, the Department of Chemistry had intended to put me on academic probation and assign me a failing grade in the course. Fortunately, with help from my supervisor and the student ombudsman, I was able to resolve the situation after speaking to my home faculty’s associate dean, who determined that I had not been in the wrong – they would not take any action in regard to the situation.

  • Ten years ago to this day, I received the letter from the Faculty of Science informing me of their decision: the outcome of their only action would be a zero grade on the quiz (which had no impact on my final grade). Together with my home faculty dismissing things, I was free to partake in my research project and continue on in my program, leading to what became one of my most memorable summers. This incident is now decisively in the rear-view mirror, and I’ve resolved to never get in a situation where such mistakes might be repeated. As term began and my friends began their conversation, my curiosity was piqued: I looked up the Call of Duty franchise and ended up learning about All Ghillied Up, which led me to develop an interest to play the series for myself. This wish was fulfilled a few months later, when a friend of mine lent me his account to help him idle for Team Fortress 2 items while he was on vacation: I still vividly remember playing Modern Warfare in between studying for my physics and MCAT summer courses.

  • During play testing, some players refused to participate in No Russian, leading Infinity Ward to implement an option to skip the level outright. At the opposite end of the spectrum, players who felt that video game ethics do not correspond with real-world decisions participated in the level. I elected to hold my fire as I walked through the airport, only walking around to check out the details in the level. There is no penalty for not firing a single shot, so I chose to do just this. In reality, not shooting would blow Allen’s cover: JackFrags shot at some signs to maintain the illusion of helping Makarov. However, can’t actually shoot Makarov or his cronies (regardless of how tempting it may be to do so), otherwise, the mission ends with a friendly fire notice.

  • Seeing things happen for myself allowed me to understand why Infinity Ward had included such a mission in Modern Warfare 2. The level succeeds in conveying why Makarov needs to be stopped, and this made killing him in Modern Warfare 3 all the more satisfying. However, while I only regard No Russian as a level to beat, the mission is one of those items that remain so controversial that even today, video game journalists tend to use it as an argument for why all high-budget FPS are unethical, promoting unsafe thoughts and whatnot amongst players, claiming that people should instead devote themselves to playing indie Twine games if they wish to be well-adjusted.

  • Upon leaving the concourse, the FSB begin appearing, and since they’re armed to the teeth, it was time to finally utilise my weapons: the FSB units bring out riot shields, and those are quite resistant to damage. In order to progress, I dealt with them with a combination of flash bang grenades and the M240, or the M4A1’s under-barrel grenade launcher. Modern Warfare 3 reveals that Yuri had been in league with Makarov until this massacre: Makarov shoots Yuri and leaves him for dead, and he would later join Task Force 141. Players can actually see him here in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, but aside from some rudimentary animations, Yuri won’t do much, and Makarov’s team actually won’t react to his presence.

  • The remastered No Russian mission has a few interesting Easter eggs in it, reflecting on how Modern Warfare‘s story evolved over the years – the remastered games would bring back elements from the new titles to tie everything together, and for many players, the Modern Warfare era represented Call of Duty at its best. From 2011 onwards until 2019, the Call of Duty franchise lagged behind DICE’s Battlefield in visual fidelity and gameplay quality. With Battlefield V failing, however, Infinity Ward has stepped up their game: 2019’s Modern Warfare was a return to form for the series, and Cold War Battlefield 6 has a lot of expectations to fulfil if DICE expects their flagship title to regain its reputation.

  • In order to get my attention, Battlefield 6 needs to have a solid and consistent set of core mechanics, good player visibility, a clear plan for content delivery, a steadfast commitment to quality, and an effective anti-cheat solution. Battlefield V‘s main strength was the consistency and satisfaction of firefights, as well as armoured combat, but beyond this, the lack of anti-cheat, bizarre decisions (such as TTK reverts) and no exploration of iconic WWII theatres made it difficult to really root for DICE and hope they’d turn things around. When Battlefield V neared the end of its support, DICE finished putting out content for the Pacific Theatre, and I had hoped this was the turning point: the gameplay was solid, the maps were excellent, and the experience was immersive to the point where I felt Actas should look to Battlefield V as how to properly capture armoured warfare.

  • As it stands, Battlefield 6 has a lot of expectations to meet, so for me, I’m in the “cautiously optimistic” camp for the present. Here, I begin the first of the favela missions, which brings the first act to a close: the goal is the capture Rojas, an arms dealer with connections to Makarov. This was the first mission I ran with Windows 10 and DirectX 12: FRAPS no longer appears to work for screenshots, so I’ve switched over to MSI Afterburner and the RivaTurner plugin. The plugin gives The Division 2 trouble, so I’ll need to switch that off when playing The Division 2, but for the time being, this setup works well enough: the resulting screenshots are of a satisfactory quality.

  • I will need to figure out a way of reducing the screenshot sizes in the future, but for the time being, I’m glad to have found a setup that works for me. I began preparations for the update last weekend, and spent the better part of this past week reinstalling software; this is why I’ve not had any blog posts since my talk on 86 EIGHTY-SIX. A week later, my machine feels as good as new, and I admit that it feels fantastic to have a rig that performs as though I’d picked it up from the manufacture yesterday. My desktop PC is now eight years old, and while its age shows in some areas, it generally still feels responsive and powerful.

  • The successful upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8 means that I should be able to get another two to four years of life out of this desktop, saving me around 1500 CAD while I await the release of next generation Intel and NVIDIA hardware. Among the advantages of extending the operational time of my desktop is the fact that I’m now able to play Halo: Infinite once that releases. Being able to put off building a new PC now is for the better, since the microprocessor shortage and unlawfully aggressive cryptocurrency miners have made it much more difficult to find parts for a build.

  • The favela mission proved to be a thrilling mission, if unexpectedly challenging because of the fact that enemies could come from all directions. Playing this for the first time meant being unaware of the mechanics: I initially tried to rush through the narrow alleys and rickety stairs of the favela because I was under the impression that I needed to capture Rojas myself, and for my troubles, exposed myself to enemy fire. Sanderson begins the mission with the ACR and the M1014 shotgun. The ACR is Sanderson’s default weapon for most missions, and it is an extremely versatile weapon because of a balance between ammunition capacity, low recoil, firing rate and damage.

  • The M1014 acts as a superb secondary weapon for close quarters firefights, possessing unmatched stopping power that makes it great for dealing with unexpected foes. The reload is a bit slower, on account of each shell needing to be loaded manually, so I chose to leave this weapon for situations where I was caught mid-reload with the ACR and needed to deal with a foe at close quarters. After I realised that I wasn’t on any sort of timeline, I played more methodically, picking off enemies from a distance before following the waypoint to Rojas’ location.

  • The remastered version makes the visuals of the favela especially apparent; favela refer to low-income informal settlements characterised by high density and the presence of organised crime. Intrigue in favela is why the location is the setting in works of fiction, and since the 1990s, tours of the favela are offered, allowing visitors to see for themselves the culture and daily lives of residents. I feel that favela would be no different than Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City: while both have high population density, low income and organised crime, for the most part, citizens lead ordinary and peaceful lives.

  • I ended up sticking with the ACR and M1014 throughout the whole of the mission: in general, the starting weapons players have are more than enough to get the job done, although I have noticed that Modern Warfare 2‘s weapons, compared to its predecessors, are much more varied. Of note is the fact that players can pick up dual pistols, and at some point, even dual-wield Desert Eagles: this pistol is the most powerful available Modern Warfare 2, being able to drop enemies in a single shot, but because of recoil patterns, the weapon favours precision aiming.

  • Having finally linked up with Simon Riley and MacTavish, who’ve captured Rojas, this first act draws to a close. I am going to be looking to wrap up Modern Warfare 2 at a relatively brisk pace, and will return to write about the second act during the Victoria Day Long Weekend (Super Cub and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s halfway point talks are coming up). For now, it is time to call it a night: today was a snowy and quiet Mother’s Day, during which we celebrated with a standing rib roast, fully-loaded mashed potatoes, par-seared garlic shrimp and cauliflower.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered marks the first time I’ll be going through a game with DirectX 12: for the past eight years, I’ve been running Windows 8 on my main desktop. When I’d built this machine back in 2013, to counteract the fact that I had a small SSD, I redirected the user profiles wholly to my secondary storage: this machine had other users, and for their convenience, I used Microsoft’s Sysprep to install Windows 8, then wrote an XML answer file to redirect the profiles. This approach had served me well, but had the side-effect of blocking all updates. As such, I sat out the Windows 8.1 and eventual Windows 10 free upgrade programs when they became available in 2015. While merging the user profiles back onto the C Drive was possible, I concluded that a clean re-install of Windows 8 would’ve been preferred. However, I had the unfortunate case where I’d packed away my installation media, and without the activation key, a clean install and reactivation would’ve been impossible. Moreover, Microsoft began phasing out Windows 8 in favour of 8.1, so I would’ve needed to obtain a Windows 8.1 key to get started. This proved demoralising, and to the me of six years earlier, was an insurmountable challenge. However, more recently, a sale for Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War prompted me to finally bite the bullet: Cold War is DirectX 12 only, and Windows 8 is limited to DirectX 11, requiring that I upgrade. This time around, three things allowed me to make the upgrade. First, Microsoft still allows Windows 8.1 users to freely upgrade to Windows 10. Moreover, Windows 8.1 can be activated by a Windows 8 product key, and finally, there’s a way to extract the Windows product key from the BIOS. With this in mind, and the fact that I have a few terabytes of external storage, I was able to back up all of the important files off my machine, do a clean Windows 8.1 install (which I activated using my Windows 8 key), and then transition over to Windows 10. The process proved very smooth, if a bit lengthy, and I ended up reformatting my secondary disk to flush the Windows 8 user profiles from it. With this done, I’ve found a noticeable improvement to my machine’s performance: startup time is reduced to 20 seconds, and I am able to start using Chrome in another 10 seconds. I’ve gained back a terabyte of storage on my secondary drive thanks to the cleanup, and overall, the machine feels a lot more responsive. With this update done, I am quite ready to continue on with my Modern Warfare 2 adventure and begin Cold War; while this seems like a great deal of effort for one game, it was high time I upgraded to Windows 10 and capitalise on the benefits of a more modern, secure operating system anyways – this should extend the life of my desktop by another few years, and leaves me in a good spot to pick up Halo: Infinite, which I imagine would also be a DirectX 12 only title.

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 = v₀·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.