Meet Call Of Duty's New Foreign Bad Guys

In the futuristic 2025 setting of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the United States has become locked in a second Cold War with China due largely to a shortage of rare earth elements, which are vital in the creation of a lot of the technology and advanced military hardware we use today.

In the present-day (in real life), China controls a huge percentage of the world's rare earth elements. The fictional future of Black Ops II has a much stronger real-world hook than your average techno-thriller.

When I spoke with Treyarch's studio head Mark Lamia last week, he was vague about the extent to which Chinese troops will factor into the story, either as enemies or as playable characters. But he did tell me about the real-world organisation that players will be up against.

The primary state-sponsored opposing presence in Black Ops II's story will be represented by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, who despite their China-centric name are a multinational organisation created in June of 2001 between Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. They are currently considering expanding, with Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran all have "observer status" — those four nations aren't full members, but they have expressed interest in becoming so.

"In our fiction, in the future," said Lamia, "[the SCO has] militarised even more so than they are now. They have their own special forces. Their own black ops."

"As the proxy war conflicts occur," he continued, referring to the fictional proxy wars in the game's 2025 conflict, "you might encounter these SCO forces." He was cagy on whether or not players would actually get to step into the boots of the SCO's black ops soldiers. "Maybe they'll be a part of the multiplayer. Who knows?"

The SCO describes the current-day goals on their official website thusly:

The main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good-neighbourly relations among the member countries; promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region, moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order.

With NATO to the West and America's interests in Japan and South Korea to the east, even today there is a fair amount of tension between the SCO, its nations, and the United States and its allies. According to the Council on Foreign Relations:

The increased prominence of the SCO has led policymakers and scholars to question if the organisation might complicate the United States' ability to secure [Central Asian] interests. Some experts believe that Russia and China want to use the SCO to curb US access to the region's vast energy supplies. Similarly, the SCO's call for the United States to withdraw military forces (USA Today) from the region was seen as an explicit challenge to the US military presence in Central Asia. Lastly, SCO members are uneasy about certain US policies, particularly its support for democratic reforms. "Frankly, none of the [SCO] countries shares our enthusiasm," about political reform, said CFR's Feigenbaum in his Nixon centre speech. The "colour revolutions" in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, which unseated leaders loyal to the Kremlin, have also led Russia to view the US presence in post-Soviet states with suspicion, while Beijing sees US forces along its western border as part of Washington's strategy to contain China.

This all sounds like some thorny, topical material for a hugely popular military game to dig into. Black Ops II, however, has a narrative escape hatch for any potential controversy that could arise. As I prodded him about China and the SCO, Lamia was sure to repeatedly remind me that the game's real antagonist will be an individual named Raul Menendez, who is presumably acting alone.

Menendez has hacked into America's drones and robotic tanks and is attempting to stir up existing tensions and pit the two superpowers against one another. It's a shopworn but effective storytelling trick that will no doubt keep Treyarch from making China, a current global superpower, into the "real" bad guy in a game that will doubtless sell millions of copies worldwide.

All the same, this all feels much more relevant than past Call of Duty games. At the very least, the opposing force won't simply consist of Russian Ultranationalists and Middle Eastern religious extremists.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation [Official Page] The Shanghai Cooperation Organization [Council on Foreign Relations]


Comments

    "At the very least, the opposing force won’t simply consist of Russian Ultranationalists and Middle Eastern religious extremists."

    Hooray. That particular plotline got old about ten years ago.

    This sounds a lot like the plot for the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex where a government agent tries to orchestrate a war between Japan and the US via political/social/economic tensions. The story could be interesting if the game play didn't just dissolve into the typical 10-Michael-Bay-movies-a-minute cluster-****-pacing that CoD is known for.

    I don't really see why you need to try 'justify' the Chinese as enemies. Sure there's going to be dicks in the Communist Party or claiming that this is some sort of new form of agression against China by the US, but they are paranoid twatwaffles who should go crawl back into their coffins and feed off the misery of the people they're causing the people in China or something.

    Sure, ultimately they're just slightly different NPC models you shoot, but as Aidan said, between those guys and Germans, something new is nice. Well, as nice as shooting an unnamed NPC gets, I suppose.

      " but they are paranoid twatwaffles who should go crawl back into their coffins and feed off the misery of the people they’re causing the people in China or something."

      These ar ethe same "twarwaffles" who openly announce at the start of the year clear plans to improve environmental clean ups, better paid wages and most of all a crack down on corruption with an iron fist. You don't see that in western 'democratic' politicians who whack around the bush just to announce a 2% commitment to greenhouse gas reductions.

      Human misery or not, at least they admit to needing improvements in a growing/emerging country. But I guess all the good is just smothered by the 'western' propaganda machine that they ONLY "feed off misery", are you not a product of that?

        Ahah!
        Ahhhhh, yes, yes, I suppose I am subject to that propganada.
        Look, I'm sorry I might have been so hyperbolic in some elements of my comment, and I did mean to imply that they were the more extreme elements of the Chinese government, but I suppose that doesn't come out as it should have.

        My point is those who would complain are just glued to an older fashioned style of thinking in assuming everyone is out to get them, the rest of us take it as it is and don't care.

    Will there be any connection with the Modern Warfare series in this?

    " the United States has become locked in a second Cold War with China due largely to a shortage of rare earth elements"

    Unrealistic future, at todays rate with advancements in refining capabilties in Malaysia, Thailand and some Middle Eastern nations, China's grip on rare earth materials will drop from 90% to 65% by the year 2018. By the year 2025 this will then further drop by predicted African start-ups.

      Like Red Alert 2.

      But are they saying that the USA is suffering from the shortage, or China? If China is the one suffering, it might be reasonably realistic.

      I always had a theory that if China ever got too big and didn't have enough resources, the odds of them eventually taking some by force might be pretty good.

    Here's and idea. How about not making either side into 'bad' guys? Fight campaigns for both sides, and let the player make up his mind who he/she believes are the 'good' guys. That arbitrary distinction between good and bad is so childish.

    does this mean the game will feature hot asian girl characters?

    I like this move towards contextualizing videogames with real world scenarios - the "what-if's". Whilst I don't think they're playing off a perception of people's paranoia about the rise of China as a super power, I think rooting a game in the real world, and real world economics, can only make for a more engaging and interesting play experience. They've taken a small nugget of actual truth and can now populate their fiction with some real-world figures and organizations to ground the game a little further, and make us care a little more.
    The story will probably end up being as incomprehensible and outlandish as usual, but if they can make me care enough in the first few missions by setting their story within a context I find compelling, I may even finish the game for more than just the booms and the blood-sprays..

      But these 'what if' scenarios are completely implausible batshit crazy that comes from armchair generals like Tom Clancy. China doesn't own all the rare Earth metal, they simply control the supply chain that refines the vast majority of it. This is like saying the USA will go to war because of China's monopoly on Foxconn manufacturing. It's simply cheaper and easier to do these things in China.

      That said, the plot sounds almost identical to C&C: Generals. USA and China being initial enemies but turns out both were being manipulated the whole time by some terrorist organisation.

    I can't believe Kazakhstan is allied with those arse-holes Uzbekistan.

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