Infinity Ward’s studio narrative director, Taylor Kurosaki, wants Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to be the next great war story. Following last year’s campaign-less Black Ops 4, the game will be poised as both a return to and a reinvention of the series’ storytelling when it releases Oct. 25. (Watch the new trailer above.)
Describing his ambitions for the upcoming reimagining of the Modern Warfare sub-franchise, Kurosaki, whose previous credits include Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games, name-drops genre classics in film and television such as HBO’s Band of Brothers. But he also maintains reverence for the gameplay that has kept CoD relevant over the years. “My feeling is that Call of Duty has always been the best-feeling game. The controls are always second to none,” he says. “My charter here at Infinity Ward was always fusing world-class storytelling with these incredible mechanics and this incredible gameplay. You don’t have to sacrifice some of the gameplay feel in order to have deep story, and you don’t have to do the opposite.”
The key to integrating compelling narrative into CoD’s gameplay groundwork, according to Kurosaki, is a condition called “player-protagonist parity.” By interweaving narrative and gameplay throughout the experience, the studio’s goal is to match the game’s characters’ emotional states with the emotional states of players. In an attempt to minimize any disconnect between the game’s players and its protagonists, the development team is focusing the story down from a broader military perspective to a more character-driven view.
Modern Warfare will feature some faces both (semi-)familiar and brand new. Series veteran Captain Price will make an appearance, albeit with a significant makeover. Kurosaki compares the update to Captain Price to the casting of Daniel Craig as James Bond: “He’s still quintessentially Bond, but he feels a little edgier, a little more relevant, a little more authentic, and he doesn’t necessarily look or sound like the Bond who came before him.”
A significant new character, militia commander Farah Karim, helps to fulfill Infinity Ward’s goal of showing conflict from multiple perspectives. Inspired by real-world militia members in organizations like Syria’s all-female YPJ, Farah and her group in the fictional country of Urzikstan won’t have access to the same resources and technology as the Call of Duty franchise’s typical tier 1 operators, but her connection to the battle is teased as being deeply personal. “In the Middle East, there are local freedom fighters not protecting some plot of land that we in the West would refer to as ‘over there,’ but fighting for their homes, fighting for their way of life,” Kurosaki says. “For us as creators who want this game to be authentic and realistic and representative, not talking about people like Farah was really leaving half of modern warfare out of the equation.”
Aside from representing multiple perspectives, another aim of the Modern Warfare team is to highlight the moral ambiguity of any contemporary global conflict. The game will feature standard fights between military or law enforcement groups and terrorist cells, but Kurosaki points out that perhaps the most insidious of the game’s antagonistic forces is the outsize influence of warmongering global superpowers. “We aren’t picking sides. We aren’t saying that it’s the white hats versus the black hats, that it’s Dudley Do-Right versus a mustache-twirling villain. These are complex times that we live in, and a lot of the time the entities that we’re the most critical of are things like the governments and the military-industrial complex of these superpower nations who vie for supremacy in various areas by using proxy allies that fight on the ground so that their forces don’t have to,” Kurosaki says. “To us, talking about those subjects is truly doing justice to the name Modern Warfare.”