Modern Warfare ESRB rating hints at some disturbing content in its campaign

The ESRB recently released its rating for Infinity Ward’s new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The game’s M rating comes with off the usual warnings about violent content. In addition to this however, it also gives a hint of what the game’s campaign contains, including content that some may find quite disturbing.

The rating summary for Modern Warfare lists a lot of things fans would likely expect from their yearly CoD game. This includes scenarios where the player will be “saving hostages, escaping/infiltrating war zones, and assaulting enemy compounds.” However what makes Modern Warfare unique from its predecessors, and a bit disturbing, is how much more interactive these situations seem to be.

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According to the summary, players will be asked to “make choices that influence enemy behavior.” Some of these choices include some morally questionable actions, including the ability to “threaten a suspect’s family during an interrogation.” Another, scene depicts the player on the opposite end of an interrogation, with them being tortured through waterboarding. During this scene, the player’s dialogue choices can actually cause another prisoner to be shot.

To add to this, a number of the cutscenes in the game seem to feature some very graphic violence. The summary relates that “combat is highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and large blood-splatter effects,” with sniper fire having the ability to actually dismember, and even decapitate targets. Meanwhile, hostages rigged with explosive vests by their captors are shown being blow up. Alongside this, the game will also show actual children being shot and even killed by these terrorists, including one scene that involves a poison gas attack.

On the flip side, the game will also have scenes of children committing violence. The summary describes a situation where young siblings are attacked in their home, with the player being able to take control of one them and fight back. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because Infinity Ward had this level playable at E3 2019, with players able to kill the Russian soldier stalking them by stabbing them with a screwdriver.

Now the Call of Duty franchise hasn’t shied away from controversial content before. The infamous “No Russian” mission from 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 comes to mind, which is where players had to take part in a terrorist attack. In that mission, players took control of a character who participated in a mass shooting in Moscow that turned out to be a false-flag operation staged by Russian ultra nationalists as a pretense to go to war with the United States.

With Modern Warfare however, the difference seems to be that the player has more freedom to act during these missions. Unlike No Russian, where the player character had no choice but to commit the atrocities, Modern Warfare doesn’t lock players in situations where they have to do so.

One example given by the summary, is of situations where players have to differentiate between enemies and innocent bystanders. As part of this, players can also get into situations where they have to save hostages, but can also fail to do so without automatically failing the level.

With all that’s been described in the ESRB’s ratings summary, it seems that Infinity Ward is giving players more freedom in Modern Warfare‘s campaign. At the same time however, it’s also balancing this out by adding consequences to their actions that may be disturbing to some players.

In addition to details about the campaign, the summary also listed some content found in the Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer. Specifically, it warned of multiplayer badges featuring “illustrations of marijuana leaves and smoking; other illustrations depict close-up angles of partially exposed cleavage and buttocks.” The weed leaves have been a staple for Call of Duty tags for quite some time and were even in the recent Modern Warfare alpha.