Call of Duty Modern Warfare Brings Back Killstreaks With Some Controversial Choices

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Brings Back Killstreaks With Some Controversial Choices

Modern Warfare seems dead-set on tackling the tough topics.

The new Modern Warfare definitely wants to capture the sometimes controversial spirit of the original. Killstreaks are coming back to Call of Duty, and Activision showcased a few, including one very questionable one: white phosphorous.

While Call of Duty has had streak-based systems of some kind for a while now, in more recent games it's been score-based, meaning most things you do that benefit the team moves the needle higher. Killstreaks are strictly kill-centric, which some feel moves the focus away from playing objectives in favor of playing for kills.

Beyond the gameplay reasoning, there's also the weapons Activision showcased. Among the fairly typical killstreaks like a Juggernaut suit and an assault vehicle, there was one for dropping white phosphorous.

A weapon that does some really terrible things to people, white phosphorous is banned for use against civilians and is often intended to be a smokescreen rather than direct weapon. As the description of the CoD killstreak reads: "Cover the battlefield with white smoke flare canisters that will disorient the enemy, and burn any that wander too close."

But in the real-world news, white phosphorous has been the subject of debate concerning its use in Syria, and according to an Amnesty International report may amount to a war crime. It's been in previous Call of Duty games like the Black Ops series, as well as famously used in Spec Ops: The Line during a pivotal moment in the campaign.

The new Modern Warfare certainly isn't shying away from controversy, already showing portrayals of child soldiers and civilian war zones to dramatically evoke real-life military conflict. As my colleague Caty wrote after seeing the new Modern Warfare, "At its best, the series makes us uncomfortable but contemplative. At its worst, it's exploitative and makes us feel gross in a whole other way. That's just talking about the campaign though, and not the multiplayer that is unavoidably often at odds with the story's tone."

There is room for, like in Spec Ops, a thoughtful portrayal of ethically grey weapons and their ramifications, though using it as a killstreak reward in a virtual deathmatch doesn't seem like it'll get any larger message across. We'll see how it looks when the dev team unveils the entire multiplayer experience on August 1, ahead of Modern Warfare's release on October 25.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

Read this next

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Alpha Times: PS4 Gunfight Alpha - Do You Need PS Plus?

Here’s what you need to know about the Modern Warfare Gunfight Alpha on PS4.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's 2v2 Gunfight Mode Getting Open Alpha This Weekend

You don't even need PlayStation Plus to get into this open alpha.

Blaming Video Games For Gun Violence is a Tired Old Song

We've been here before, and it's never worked out.

Inside Modern Warfare's Push to Rebuild Call of Duty's Multiplayer From the Ground Up

Animation director Mark Grigsby and multiplayer design director Geoffrey Smith break down the huge overhauls in Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Won't Be Going Too Crazy With Colorful Cosmetics, Say Devs

Don't expect neon colored gun skins in this Call of Duty.

The Pros and Cons of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Battlefield-Style Maps and Player Counts

From 10v10 to more than 100, Modern Warfare is pushing its player count to the limit, and not necessarily for a battle royale either.

More News

Remnant: From the Ashes is Quickly Becoming 2019's Breakout Hit

A multiplayer Souls-shooter is picking up steam.

Former Artifact Designer Says Expansions Were in the Works Prior to His Departure

He hopes the maligned card game can still find an audience.

More on PC

Trials of Mana Interview: The Developers on Topping the Fan Translation and the Possibility of New Mana Games

"[T]he localization team took a look at the translation and the first thing they said was, 'We're going to show them up.'"

Oninaki Review

Oh now feel it, comin' back again.

Remnant: From the Ashes is Quickly Becoming 2019's Breakout Hit

A multiplayer Souls-shooter is picking up steam.

Former Artifact Designer Says Expansions Were in the Works Prior to His Departure

He hopes the maligned card game can still find an audience.

Final Fantasy 14 Director Details Upcoming Job Changes for Ninja, Samurai, and Summoner

Future collaborations with other games remain top secret.

More FPS Games

Cyberpunk 2077 Producer Details Law Enforcement and the Rich Areas of Night City

There are no cops in the poorer districts. That all changes when you get to the affluent areas of Night City.

Borderlands 3 Stadia, Release Date, Prequel DLC, Gameplay - Everything we Know

Here's our complete roundup of info on Borderlands 3, including a release date, gameplay, prequel DLC, characters, weapons, and more.

Cyberpunk 2077 Stadia, Release Date, Keanu Reeves, Trailers - Everything we Know

Here's our overview to Cyberpunk 2077, including the release date, E3 2019 gameplay, the Keanu Reeves character reveal, and more.

Ion Fury Developer Donates $10,000 to Charity After Furor Over Transphobic Comments

The studio is apologizing for comments both in and out of the game.