Medal of Honor was a first-person shooter set during a still-raging war, co-written by people fighting in that war. Despite this impressive grounding in fact, Danger Close's conveyer belt campaign was only a qualified exercise in historical documentary. The game didn't shy from portraying the actions of US soldiers, including the antics of mysterious "Tier 1" operatives. But showing things from the perspective of the other side? A bridge too far for publisher EA - and in this regard, the just-announced sequel Warfighter may be a step back.
The Taliban were originally down to appear in Medal of Honor's multiplayer, developed by DICE, but the decision was branded "disrespectful" by evergreen friend-of-the-squeamish Fox News. Several governments and veteran organisations also protested, including UK defence secretary Liam Fox, who found it "shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban against British soldiers".
Executive producer Greg Goodrich was aggrieved but unsurprised by the backlash, much of it springing from knee-jerk assumptions about the game's content. "I think people oppose books before they read them," he told OPM in an interview conducted near the game's release in 2010. "People will oppose films before they see them and people will oppose games before they realise what they are. What the audience is and what the tone is. What the intent is."
Speaking more recently to Games Master (via CVG), Goodrich recalled the heartache he felt over plunging the team's clandestine military sources into an international media squabble. "Having to deal with the secrecy of these communities, keeping their reputations intact and holding their livelihoods in the palm of my hand - not even having earned the right to yet... then having that break out!
He even considered resigning over the affair. "There were a lot of things going on. There were two specific incidents when I decided I just couldn't do it... Everything that these guys have built and lived for over the last 15-20 years of their careers is now in my hands. I took that very seriously and had a lot of sleepless nights and did a lot of staring at my ceiling thinking 'what have I gotten myself into?'"
EA's initial response was refreshingly lucid. "If someone's the cop, someone's got to be the robber, someone's got to be the pirate, somebody's got to be the alien," a PR manager told AOL News. "In Medal of Honor multiplayer, someone has to be the Taliban." But the pressure was too much in the end, and the publisher repackaged the Taliban as a sanitised "Opposing Force".