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15 Years Of ‘Call Of Duty’ Campaigns Did Not Prepare Me For ‘Civil War’ – Forbes

Civil War


Call of Duty has dipped in and out of its modern-era warzone campaigns for almost 20 years now since the release of the original Modern Warfare in 2007. Among those games are frequent storylines where fighting takes place inside the US, including in the White House itself in Modern Warfare 2’s Whiskey Hotel mission.

I kept thinking about Call of Duty, and adjacently, The Division, as I watched Alex Garland’s Civil War last night, which takes that concept of a war-torn America to the big screen. And I know we’re always debating about the validity of video games as an art form versus film, but man, sometimes things just do not translate with the same intensity. I have played dozens of missions echoing the kind of frenetic homeland battles seen in Civil War, but there’s no comparison. I left the movie with my nerves fried and my ears ringing in a way I have not experienced in any shooter I’ve played.

Garland’s Civil War is fascinating because unlike those games, and to a larger extent, most war-based media, there is effectively no explanation of why any of this is happening. The film baffled some ahead of release by presenting an alliance between Texas and California against the remaining United States, as what could those two states have in common? But that’s not the point. There’s no exploration of this at all, minus a xenophobic soldier killing those he doesn’t deem “American” enough (I’m still not clear which side he was even on).

Whiskey Hotel


That mystery is not the point. It can still exist as a cautionary tale about our current, real-life divisions without getting into specific political points. The president, the closest thing the movie has to a singular villain, is seen for about 45 seconds total and not labeled a Republican or Democrat.

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The conflicts in the film are relatively small scale at first. Getting creeped out by some armed gas station owners. Getting shot at by an unseen sniper. But then the film gets to Washington DC and has one is probably one of the most harrowing battles I’ve ever seen put on film. This is where the Call of Duty of it all happens, where it feels like a Call of Duty level, but a hundred times more immersive, even if we’ve stalked down the streets of DC or virtual White House halls in past campaigns.

The Division


And that’s the other thing, the leads of the film are unarmed, unlike our grizzled Call of Duty supersoldiers gunning down enemy soldiers by the hundred. There is exactly one instance in the entire film where a single journalist “gets involved” by harming enemy combatants, and it didn’t go so well for them. The rest of it, they are just observers, shooting with a camera, not guns, and it ups the stakes because there’s simply no way for them to fight back so we, the audience, are trapped with them. The agency you get in campaigns in similar settings is totally gone. And that’s terrifying.

It’s a stellar film, but one that’s so brutal and intense I don’t know if I can recommend it to some. Gamers may be familiar with stories like these at baseline from modern day shooters, but I guarantee they have not seen or played anything like that hits as hard as Civil War.

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.