A brief audio clip that we believe is a piece of the upcoming Modern Warfare 3 refers to SEAL Team Six, the unit widely assumed to have killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan earlier this month.
It makes perfect sense. America's favourite fighting men would have to get mentioned in the 2011 edition of the jingoistic Modern Warfare series. It is, however, both a likely coincidence and a sign that the new edition of the hottest franchise in video games might again be pushing some provocative buttons before year's end.
The SEAL Team Six reference is barked in an audio file that was part of a larger leak of presumed Modern Warfare 3 images, story details and sound clips provided to Kotaku. Those leaks indicate that Modern Warfare 3 involves a near-future war between the United States and Russia, though it focuses on the operations of elite military units spread around the globe. In the audio file, which can be heard here, a voice of a military operative says: "Seal Team Six was sent in but they lost half their team on infil. We need to strike fast before the Russians can launch a counterattack." The word "infil" is likely shorthand for "infiltration". The rough audio file may be part of the game or part of a promotional campaign around it.
The Modern Warfare 3 leak we received this week includes a summary of each of the missions in the November-scheduled game. None of them feature SEAL Team Six prominently, but the reference we heard takes on increased relevance given the SEAL's post-Bin-Laden elevation to the status of American super-heroes. While we have no indication that the reference was added after the Bin Laden raid - SEAL Team Six, after all, was referenced in the first Modern Warfare - that doesn't mean gamers in November wouldn't interpret it as a tie-in.
With their rise in popularity, the big modern combat first-person shooters that come out each year have come closer to becoming the topic of mainstream news. They're no longer just mainstream headline material for their sales success but, bit by bit, for their content. Two years ago, Modern Warfare 2 was a national news topic because of the inclusion of an optional mission that enabled the player to participate in the massacre of civilians at a Russian airport. Last year, Medal of Honor made headlines for the planned option to let gamers play as the Taliban against NATO troops in a virtual version of the current war in Afghanistan.
Presumed concept art for a London attack in Modern Warfare 3
From the scraps of story we've seen about Modern Warfare 3, however, the bigger eyebrow raisers may not be any name-checking of the SEALS. According to leaked information, an early mission involving a near-future Russian military assault is tentatively entitled "Black Tuesday" and leads to a battle near the New York Stock Exchange. That could be a reference to the infamous stock market crash of 1929 but would surely also reverberate with New Yorkers who recall the day of the week when terrorists attacked the World Trade centre. Another level, set in London, involves terrorist threats, a battle in subway tunnels and a truck bomb in front of the house of Parliament, which sounds like a remix of both perpetrated and foiled terrorist attacks on London in the past decade.
Video game proponents can be expected to defend the validity that their favourite medium should and can be as topical as books, movies or any other form of entertainment. Nevertheless, if the plot goes unchanged from what we've been shown this week, it can be expected that Modern Warfare will exemplify its modernity not just for the calibre of guns its characters wield but for the anxieties with which it intersects.
Top photo: US Navy SEALS by John Scorza/US Navy