This article contains spoilers for the campaign of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.”
In the post-credits scene, three hooded passengers on a Russian airplane surreptitiously assemble 3D printed pistols in preparation for a hijacking. When one of the gunmen texts that he is ready, the other party, named “M,” greenlights the mission with a response that should be familiar to longtime “Call of Duty” players: “No Russian.”
The reboot series reintroduced familiar protagonists from the original, such as British SAS officers Captain Price and Soap MacTavish, but most of the antagonists have been new additions. One exception was Imran Zakhaev, a Russian gun runner and revolutionary in “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” who was reworked as a high-ranking Soviet official in 2019’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.”
In the original trilogy, Zakhaev was the leader of the Ultranationalists, a revolutionary paramilitary group that accuses the current government of being corrupted by Western ideology and interests. He is killed at the end of “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” and Makarov takes over the Ultranationalists in the ensuing power vacuum. Makarov then commits numerous heinous terrorist attacks, the most notorious of which is the infamous “No Russian” mission in 2009’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
“No Russian” put the player in the role of an undercover CIA agent who is embedded with an Ultranationalist cell as they carry out a horrific terrorist act at a Russian airport. Before the attack, Makarov warns the squad — “Remember, no Russian” — in English before stepping out of an elevator and brutally gunning down dozens of civilians waiting at customs. The rest of the map involves slowly walking through the airport and killing all the other innocents in sight. As the player, you can choose to participate in the slaughter or walk through without firing a shot, at least until the police and military show up. Regardless of your choice, the slaughter continues around you.
At the end of the mission, Makarov kills the player character (the CIA agent), informing him that he knew his true identity all along. When the Russian authorities discover the body of an American soldier and determine that the mass shooting was carried out using American guns, it incites an all-out war between the United States and Russia.
The level was enormously polarizing upon release. Some game critics hailed it as evidence that games were a legitimate art form willing to tackle uncomfortable topics; other dismissed it as a clumsy sequence played up for shock value. Beyond the industry, politicians and religious leaders demanded a cultural reckoning, arguing that video games were an especially dangerous incubator for violence because of their interactivity. “No Russian” was censored in Germany and removed outright in the Russian version of the game. Not even the game’s own development team could agree on “No Russian”: Infinity Ward studio art director Joel Emslie said that the studio’s workers were deeply divided over the mission.
“There was a side of the studio that felt that it should be played from the perspective of a security guard that got caught up in it, then there was the other side that liked the way it was going,” Emslie told Game Informer. “There was a point in time where we were discussing how gory we would get with the people who were getting hit. I pulled back, and I said, ‘You don’t need it. People are getting tagged and their squibs are going off; it’s all good.’ ”
Although it’s clear that Makarov will be the Big Bad of the next “Modern Warfare” campaign, it’s unknown how he’ll play into the greater narrative; the reboot series has diverged quite a bit from the original. The post-credits scene references several beats that don’t precisely match the “No Russian” mission from the original — but still rhyme well enough. The “M” from the post-credits scene is almost certainly Makarov, though it’s unclear whether he’s one of the three gunmen or if he’s ordering the hijacking from afar.
More broadly, General Shepherd, the traitorous American officer who was killed in 2009’s “Modern Warfare 2,” fulfills a similar role in the reboot, and vanishes at the end of “Modern Warfare II.” Philip Graves, CEO of the shady private military outfit Shadow Company, was ostensibly killed in “Modern Warfare II” but we never saw the body. Both could be involved in a subplot that marks Makarov’s rise to power.
From the story in “Call of Duty: Warzone,” we can assume that Makarov took over the Ultranationalists after Price killed Victor Zakhaev, son of Imran Zakhaev. The recent Modern Warfare campaigns have not prominently featured the Ultranationalists, but it’s heavily implied that the Ultranationalists have been pulling the strings behind all the global threats that Task Force 141 has been facing. The villain of 2019’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” was rogue Russian general Roman Barkov. Barkov was vehemently anti-Western and ruled over the fictional country of Urzikstan with an iron fist, justifying war crimes and atrocities in the name of law and order. Although never stated outright in-game, Barkov clearly had sentiments that aligned with Ultranationalist ideology.
The post-credits scene may have also set up the return of “Alex,” the CIA agent from 2019′s “Modern Warfare,” whose background is shrouded in secrecy. In the finale of “Modern Warfare,” Alex stayed behind to destroy Barkov’s clandestine chemical factory and “died” (off camera, of course) in the ensuing explosion. He was confirmed alive when he returned for “Call of Duty: Warzone,” but lost his left leg while escaping.
Makarov’s on-screen debut may not be far off. “Call of Duty” will be skipping a 2023 title release in favor of “Modern Warfare II” DLC which will add more campaign content, according to noted “Call of Duty” leaker TheGhostofHope. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier corroborated the claim.
Infinity Ward has made a habit of remixing memorable set pieces from the past games, such as the ghillie suit sniper scene in “Modern Warfare 2,” which was one-upped by a much more impressive sniping mission in “Modern Warfare II.” We may get to play out that post-credits scene — depending on how much the developer wants to push the envelope with “No Russian” more than a decade after its original release.