“Reducing Tension”
gif: Activision / Kotaku

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II May nail the core gunplay and have some standout characters but it also features some of the most suspiciously terrifying depictions of violence and military power in the series to date. One level of escalating tensions, especially between civilians and law enforcement, stands out as utterly deaf and is widely shared online as an example. Call of Duty series in its most terrifying and absurd form.

In the “Borderline” level, you take on the role of Mexican military special forces who follow the trail of cartel members wrapped in a larger and increasingly narrative about terrorism. The level barely stands for air before encouraging you to shoot and kill the people climbing the US border wall. You then pass through a residential area in Texas where armed citizens do not like to see you running around their yards and homes. The game asks you to “de-stress civilians” with your aim button, and if you’re confident enough, it has you point your gun at them. There are no unique lines of animation or dialogue here. You don’t get a badge and say “please come in”. You just point a gun in their face.

These scenes have become a topic of conversation and criticism on the Internet. A few days ago, the popular political streamer Hasan Piker officially stopped the game After “downgrade” to comment on how horrible this scenario is. as stated by Polygon, video experimenter Jacob Geller also tweeted the video of the first tension relief, which has now been viewed a million times. This is far from an overlooked moment in the larger narrative.

“Borderline” asks you to do this three times. Third, despite your efforts to “de-escalate” the game doesn’t seem to offer you any alternative but violence. Civilians standing in the living room of a random Texas citizen draw their own guns and start shooting at you. This leads to a brief encounter with the local police outside, where the following dialogue is yelled at you by the police with their guns drawn.

“Drop your goddamn guns now! Do exactly as I say or I’ll shoot you. Understanding? Step towards me! I want to see empty hands above your head!”

Just as Mexican special forces colonel Alejandro Vargas (who led your operation) is about to be handcuffed, a cop comes out to stop the arrest, saying “it’s hard to tell you apart from the cartel”. You are then ambushed and have to battle several real cartel members who are nothing like your characters. They have little to no tactical gear, no military insignia, and probably use noticeably different weapons. Apparently the cops can’t tell them apart because… why now?

Of course, we’re not playing on anyone’s sick fantasy or anything here.
gif: Activision / Kotaku

This is basically the whole level. Half is spent aiming guns and killing people in private homes, then you…

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