Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has been the subject of controversy for months, largely thanks to the violent content in the campaign. Unsurprisingly, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ESRB rating is M for Mature, thanks to Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Drugs. The ESRB website has more details for the rating, which reveals some potentially disturbing scenes from the campaign that haven't been talked about by the developers just yet.
According to the ESRB, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will have players threaten a family with a pistol, a hostage blown up by an explosive vest, and a torture scene. Apparently, there is one part in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign where the player character will be interrogated and tortured via waterboarding. Waterboarding, for the uninitiated, is a hugely controversial torture technique that simulates drowning, causing severe physical and psychological trauma to those who are subjected to it.
The ESRB rating for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also details a scene that has already been talked about at length, and that's the child soldier mission. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare child soldier mission will have players kill enemy combatants as a child, as well as witness a gas attack that kills civilians, including other kids. As one might imagine, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare depicting dead children is a decision that has already seen some backlash.
Controversial content will be found in other Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game modes besides the campaign. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ESRB rating mentions that multiplayer badges feature marijuana images, as well as images of "partially exposed cleavage and buttocks." However, the most controversial aspect of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer mode isn't mentioned at all in the ESRB rating - white phosphorous.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare includes white phosphorous as a killstreak in the multiplayer, which has prompted some outrage from people online. White phosphorous is a controversial weapon that has been used against both enemy combatants and civilians alike in the real world, and its horrific effect on people is why some feel it is inappropriate to include it as a reward in a video game.
At any rate, here is the ESRB's full write-up on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's M rating and why it's receiving it:
This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the roles of special forces soldiers and freedom fighters as they battle terrorists. Players can engage in a variety of combat missions, such as saving hostages, escaping/infiltrating war zones, and assaulting enemy compounds. Characters use machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and explosives to kill enemies in frenetic combat. In some situations, players must quickly determine which characters are terrorists and which are just innocent bystanders. Combat is highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and large blood-splatter effects. A sniper rifle causes increased damage (e.g., decapitation, dismemberment). Some sequences prompt players to make choices that influence enemy behavior: using a pistol to threaten a suspect's family during an interrogation; timing actions to prevent terrorists from shooting hostages (failure scenarios may occur). One sequence depicts players' character interrogated/tortured via waterboarding; if players select certain dialogue options, then a bound prisoner is seen executed. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence: a hostage killed by an explosive vest; civilians (including children) killed by a gas attack. Some scenes depict terrorists threatening and, in rare instances, attacking or shooting young characters (e.g., a boy held hostage; young siblings attacked in their home—players can control their ability to fight back). The game includes multiplayer badges that depict illustrations of marijuana leaves and smoking; other illustrations depict close-up angles of partially exposed cleavage and buttocks. The words "f**k" and "sh*t" appear in the dialogue.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches on October 25 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.