Call of Duty Modern Warfare decried as 'American propaganda' over Highway of Death mission

Activision's latest shooter has been panned by critics and players, claiming game attempts to rewrite history

The newest Call of Duty has caused controversy in Russia, due to a mission that's being criticised for spreading "American propaganda."

The mission in question is Modern Warfare's Highway of Death, which sees players taking on a sniper operation overlooking the titular road. The game claims it earned its name after Russian forces bombed it during an invasion, killing anyone trying to escape the area.

Despite this highway being set in the made-up Middle Eastern country of Urkistan, and Activision's insistence that the story is fictional, critics have observed it bears more than a passing resemblance to the real-world Highway of Death.

Officially known as Highway 80, this six-lane passage between Kuwait and Iraq was the setting of a US-led attack during the Persian Gulf War. The coalition attacked retreating forces after a cease-fire, an event later reported as a war crime.

Critics and users have accused Activision and Infinity Ward of attempting to rewrite history and decried the game as "American propaganda" and the "demonisation of Russia."

The user rating on Metacritic has sunk to 3.4 after a wave of zero-point reviews by people with such complaints, including several in Russian. The BBC even reports the game was discussed on Russian state TV.

This controversial mission is likely the reason Sony decided not to sell Modern Warfare through the PlayStation Store in Russia.

Developer Infinity Ward has gone to great lengths in the months running up to launch to distance the game from real world events. In an interview in August, campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff said: "Are we telling a story that has anything to do with the specific governments of any countries that we're portraying? No."

He later reiterated that Modern Warfare does not comment on "the exact administrations and governments and events in our world today" but focuses on "thematic things."

The backlash occurs almost exactly ten years after the controversy surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which included the notorious 'No Russian' level that depicted (and enabled players to participate in) a mass shooting at a Russian airport.

The mission proved to be so offensive, the game was recalled from shelves in Russia.

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Latest comments (1)

Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 2 years ago
Even if they had used fictive countries people would have associated them with existing countries.. I think most people who played the game didn't even think anything about it and never even believed this to be an actual event that ever happened. Just like the people who are bitching now, no rewriting is done as this mission is not based on actual events (it might be inspired by it, but that's a completely different story)..
And as always, now it seems like MANY people are complaining about it, but actually it is a handfull of people, which just got a lot of attention by the media which blew it all up to get extra readers as it's juicy news........
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