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Why Sony Russia Refuses To Release Modern Warfare 2

It appears as though "No Russian" has caused problems for Russian gamers yet again.

For those unaware, "No Russian" is a controversial mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 that caused quite a stir when the original game was released. The mission follows CIA agent Joseph Allen as he participates in a mass shooting at a Moscow airport, all in the name of gaining access to a Russian terrorist group that hopes to start World War 3. The mission's title comes from a memorable moment when the leader of the terrorist organization tells his companions, "Remember: No Russian," since speaking Russian would tip off the authorities to their true nature and motives.

The level was highly divisive and reactions to it led to the mission being removed from the Russian release of the game. Now, it appears that the level remains intact in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered, which has resulted in the game not being released for the PlayStation 4 in Russia.

As announced on the official Russian Call of Duty Twitter account (translation from Eurogamer), "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered is a completely fictional 2009 campaign, recreated in HD quality. SIE decided not to sell the game in the Russian PS Store. We look forward to the release of the game in digital form for the PC on Battle.net and on Xbox consoles."

So there are a few things to take away from this announcement. One is that the game will eventually be available for PC and Xbox gamers. However, as Eurogamer points out, due to the game's timed exclusivity on PlayStation 4, it will be another month before gamers in Russia will be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered. 

The other thing worth pointing out is how specific the phrasing "completely fictional" is. Whether this is some pointed attempt at damage control on the part of Activision or not, it seems like a very odd choice of words. 

Even during the original development of Modern Warfare 2, "No Russian" proved to be an extremely divisive level. According to developer Mohammed Alavi, the level was included to build up the game's central story conflicts in a way that was much more visceral and interactive than a cutscene. However, during playtesting, it became clear that the level wasn't going to be palatable for everyone, which led to the option of being able to skip the mission entirely.

As Alavi recalled in an interview with PC Gamer, "The most memorable reaction was from an enlisted gentlemen who immediately put down the controller and left the room. He said he wouldn't play that level. He would play the rest of the game, but not that level. That's where the decision to make it skippable came from. We didn't want anyone interested in the rest of the game to be blocked by something they found morally wrong."

It's honestly a bit shocking that Activision kept the mission in the game. Game companies have become much more willing to remove offending content in recent years, particularly in a few cases where the material hadn't quite aged properly or seemed otherwise dated or offensive.

Fire Emblem Fates removed a sequence in which a lesbian character was drugged and essentially brainwashed into marrying a male character. Meanwhile, Catherine: Full Body removed several jokes and portions of the original game's storyline that played at the expense of a trans character. Most fans applauded these changes, but the removal of offensive content doesn't always work out in the developer's favor.

Persona 5 Royal recently removed a few sequences that seemed to play off of offensive gay stereotypes. This resulted in basically two minutes of footage being removed, but it has raised the ire of more than a few fans of the game. In fact, there has been a call from Persona 5 "purists" to boycott Persona 5 Royal. Maybe Activision was concerned about receiving similar flak for altering one of the most infamous missions in Call of Duty history. Then again, perhaps the mission was seen as a necessary evil, considering it's more important to the overall plot of the campaign than some of those previously-mentioned sequences from other games.

Either way, it's not a surprise that the "No Russian" mission is still a sore subject after all these years. It's just kind of wild that such a high profile remaster wouldn't have taken steps to alleviate some of this inherent tension during development. It's kind of a no-win situation for developers, though. They can either change their product to appeal to more people or run the risk of alienating fans who want things to stay the same, as seen with Persona 5 The Royal.