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The Westfield Voice

“Passenger” in Call of Duty Modern Warfare III: That’s All?

The anticipated follow-up to gaming’s biggest controversy, “No Russian.”
“Call of Duty Modern Warfare III” promotional poster.

At 7:30 pm onboard a Russian commercial plane heading to Sochi, Russia, Samara, a former Urzikstan Liberation Force (ULF) soldier, comfortably relaxes in her chair as she texts her husband. The atmosphere of the plane ride begins as tranquil and peaceful as the flight attendants hand out their complementary dinner to fellow passengers.

A random traveler sitting next to Samara with a hoodie and charming smile compliments her family as beautiful and discusses the importance of family while she’s on her phone. However, the situation turns dark quickly when the random traveler begins to name all Samara’s family members from her cell phone while keeping his charming smile, and knows Samara’s past as a ULF soldier.

In a split second, a pistol points at Samara, and the random traveler reveals that he and his associates, who are connected to Vladimir Makarov, plan to hijack the plane as Samara is the key to the operation. Before the random traveler has the chance to grab Samara, she takes him down and attempts to warn the plane that there are terrorists on board; Samara is jumped into a firefight with the air marshals and other terrorists while the other passengers perceive Samara as the terrorist.

After swiftly killing all terrorists in the room, a concussion grenade stuns Samara and a terrorist knocks her out. Samara wakes up at the back of the plane with the rest of the terrorists, including Vladmir Makarov with a suspicious backpack.

With zero control, Makarov straps the suspicious backpack to Samara’s chest and reveals the backpack as a suicide vest; he “proudly” states that she will be doing a great deed for the people of Urzikstan. When she questions the moral judgment of Makarov by killing his people, he replies, “You are,” intent on framing Samara and Urzikstan for the evil deed.

Still from “Passenger,” the new campaign from “Call of Duty Modern Warfare III.”

Before Makarov jumps out of the plane through the emergency exit, he makes “history” and grins as he starts the timer on his phone, activating the countdown on Samara’s suicide vest. The last terrorist tugs her to the passenger section of the plane and hands her an empty pistol before throwing the phone into the crowded aisle of civilians.

The terrorist throws Samara into the crowd, and without the chance of getting the cell phone, Russian passengers begin to tackle and restrain her as she fights back to get the cell phone. In the last ten seconds, Samara screams to the woman holding the cell phone: “HURRY! GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE ME THE PHONE!” before the screen fades to black.

The mission “Passenger” in Call of Duty Modern Warfare III (2023) would be Sledgehammer Games’ first attempt at emotionally paralyzing the audience in reintroducing the fan-favorite sinister villain, Vladimir Makarov, in the reboot Modern Warfare trilogy. With new technology and graphics that push the scale in immersion within video games, the developers wanted to exceed the limits in making the rebooted Vladimir Makarov, “a force of evil that seeks to tear the world apart piece-by-piece,” in the words of game character, Captain Price.

When Call of Duty Modern Warfare II (2022) initially teased an alternative version of “No Russian” in its post-credit scene, I was shocked, like any other fan would be, that the developers would attempt to resurrect one of the most significant controversies in gaming history. Even though we live in a country that proudly upholds freedom of speech, the mission of “No Russian” is one of the few mediums of entertainment that may push beyond the boundaries of what is ethical in entertainment.

Four years ago, when I first encountered “No Russian” in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Campaign Remastered as an adult user, I could never forget the first time I witnessed Vladimir Makarov, Alex Borodin, and the other gunmen mowing down the crowd outside the elevator of the Russian airport. Unlike any other Call of Duty mission where you can run and tactical sprint, “No Russian” is one of few missions in Call of Duty history that forces players to slowly walk as they participate in the massacre or idly stand by, forcing them to take in the horrors of their actions.

As a veteran of the Call of Duty series who has completed almost all the Call of Duty campaigns, “No Russian” remains the most disturbing and sinister mission in Call of Duty history as the level took a unique approach to exploring Makarov’s backstory, requiring the player to participate in a war crime and mindlessly gun down civilians. The mission even surpasses the dark and unsettling Call of Duty “World at War” campaign, which explored the deadly side effects of war on humanity during World War II, where soldiers could become inhumane.

Admittedly, when Activision released the early access to Call of Duty Modern Warfare III’s campaign on November 2nd, 2023, I rushed through the story to be one of the first witnesses of the long-anticipated follow-up to the “No Russian” mission, “Passenger.” After playing the mission, it left me indifferent and conflicted with the mission’s conclusion.

What remains the mission’s biggest fault is how the developers really tried to sell this mission as the comparison to “No Russian” in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2009). The developers failed to live up to the hype and established the mission as a comparison to “No Russian” as it is a mainly a five-minute cinematic cutscene, taking control out of the player.

The YouTuber Mutahar Anas, under the handle Ordinary Gamers, also felt the mission was a let down. From his perspective of playing its campaign, he knew many fans of the Call of Duty series wanted to buy Call of Duty Modern Warfare III because of its connection to the infamous “No Russian” mission.

“The entire Modern Warfare trilogy was building up to this mission and they pussied out… Instead of shocking the audience in the original Modern Warfare 2 with meaningful stakes, they made a three- to four-minute mission trying to scare the audience without any emotional weight,” said Anas.

Although the game developers had a different approach in showing the mission “Passenger” from a protagonist’s perspective, the approach felt contrived. The only purpose in changing the perspective to a protagonist was to avoid controversy while showing the audience something dark and unforgettable.

Another YouTuber, Kelly Van Achtem, under the handle The Act Man, also had issues with the mission while hilariously pointing out the lack of common sense in the story. In his video, “Why is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 So Bad?!” The Act Man humorously mentions that Vladimir Makarov is supposedly the most wanted man in the world, so why can he freely walk around in public and not get caught?

“Since Makarov’s escape from the Gulag, he has killed like two hundred guards in the process, and coincidentally, there have been three terrorist attacks within seventy-two hours of his escape. Although logically, this should make him the most wanted man on the planet with his face plastered everywhere, he’s able to casually walk through airport security without any problems,” said Achtem.

With the mission “Passenger” being a letdown for millions of fans dying to see what the new Makarov is capable of, is the rest of the campaign enjoyable? Not really.

As the developers initially made the game to be “DLC” (downloadable content), Modern Warfare III’s campaign was not intended to be a direct sequel to the Call of Duty Modern Warfare II (2022) successful campaign. From rushed development time and crunch, many inconsistencies throughout the storytelling and mission design made the campaign “filler” and empty.

Even though the game developers tried to include famous characters throughout the campaign from the original games, such as Yuri Volkov and easter egg references, they did not successfully integrate the references to add depth and meaning to the campaign.

If you are a fan still interested in buying Call of Duty Modern Warfare III for $70 to play its campaign, I strongly do not recommend wasting hard-earned money on a half-baked product. In the future, if Activision were to make another entry to the Modern Warfare franchise, they need to step up their strategy and create a memorable entry as they have disappointed millions of fans with Call of Duty Modern Warfare III.

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