Infinity Ward defends Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s use of real-world events like the Highway of Death in its fictional story

By Sherif Saed
31 October 2019 14:42 GMT

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward has weighed in on the response to one of the campaign’s controversial moments.

In one mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, you arrive at what one of the game’s characters calls the Highway of Death, a road leading to the mountains that she says was bombed by the Russians to kill anyone trying to escape.

Players immediately noticed the similarities between Modern Warfare’s Highway of Death, and its real-world counterpart. In the first Gulf War, the US and its allies bombed the highway to prevent what they said were Iraqi troops attempting to retreat, but multiple in-person witnesses say families, immigrants and other non-combatants were among the victims.

Switching the blame to Russians, even though the game takes place in a fictional country, was seen by some as re-writing history. In an interview with Gamespot, narrative director Taylor Kurosaki revealed that wasn’t the team’s intention.

Watch on YouTube

Kurosaki explained that borrowing this element from the real world wasn’t meant to be taken literally, only thematically.

“I think you could probably find many instances of the words ‘high of death’ being used in a lot of cases,” said Kurosaki. “The reason why Urzikstan is a fictional country is because we’re taking themes that we say play over, and over and over again over the last 50 years in countries and locations all over the world.”

“We’re not making a simulation of one particular country or a particular conflict, these are themes that play out over and over again, and with a lot of the same players involved. We don’t portray any one side as good or bad,” he added.

Responding to an earlier point, Kurosaki pointed out that the Highway of Death isn’t so much an element in the story as it’s something that exists in that world.

“If you go back and start from the beginning of the mission, Farah talks about this location – as the Highway of Death – before the mission takes place,” he said.

“So the Highway of Death is not what came out of that mission, it was already that. If you look at the environmental storytelling, there’s already bombed out vehicles and all kinds of things that are relating to previous episodes.”

In our Modern Warfare campaign review, Jeremy Peel lauded the story for tackling some difficult themes, but was disappointed to find it rarely make a statement one away or another.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our policy.

VG247 logo

Buy our t-shirts, yeah

They're far more stylish than your average video game website tat.

VG247 merch