Modern Warfare’s Vladamir Makarov and the Nature of Evil

It’s hard to believe now, but back in the day, you couldn’t keep a Call of Duty game on the shelf. On release day, there were hundreds of people in line at Best Buy, GameStop, GameCrazy, Walmart, you name it. If it sold video games, we were there, picking up our orders at midnight.

It’s hard to believe now, but back in the day, Call of Duty games were good. The gameplay, the storylines, all of it.

It’s hard to believe now, but back in the day, Call of Duty’s game developers were brazen and had balls. They didn’t care if you felt uncomfortable with a video game based on war. They didn’t care if you didn’t like that there were only men in the games. They didn’t care if you thought a mission was too uncomfortable.

There’s no better example of this than the Modern Warfare trilogy. (No, not the remastered one from 2019.) Released in 2007, Modern Warfare (aka Call of Duty 4) was the first CoD game not to take place in World War II, instead focusing on, well, modern warfare. Developed by Infinity Ward, MW took players into a completely different setting and not only set the stage for one of the most controversial moments in video game history in its sequel, Modern Warfare 2, but also created the greatest villain the franchise has ever seen, still to this day: Vladimir Makarov, leader of an Ultranationalist terrorist cell in Russia.

When Alex asked me to write this article in response to Lethal Lightning’s video on Makarov (which you can see above), I told him I didn’t really have anything more to add; I completely agree with everything Lethal says about him. Which is still true. So, the only thing I really have to say is this:

Makarov is, and for now at least, always will be, Call of Duty’s greatest baddie. He’s ruthless, unsympathetic, dedicated to his cause, and very much a believable and realistic representation of radicalists as a whole. His unwavering loyalty to Russia drives him to the most extreme, even killing its own citizens at an airport (that’s that controversial moment I mentioned earlier), framing the United States, and stopping at nothing to start World War III.

He’s everything you think of when you think about a Russian warmonger, and my favorite part about it is that not once does the game try to make you sympathize with him. You want him dead just as much as the now infamous Captain Price does, and that never wavers; it only continues to grow as the games grow.

Vladamir Makarov

So many modern entertainment outlets have gone the route of “sympathetic, misunderstood villain” that we’ve forgotten what evil a person can truly do and be. The Modern Warfare trilogy leans on the opposite hard, and as a player, you’re given a deep look into what a radical extremist is capable of. The game developers wanted you to get a firsthand look at just how evil this man was, and they succeeded. I mentioned earlier that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare set the stage for one of the most controversial moments in video game history, and I meant it. In the CoD MW2 mission “No Russian,” you get to play as PFC Joseph Allen, an undercover CIA agent moonlighting as one of Makarov’s crew, barging into a Russian airport and opening fire, killing hundreds of innocent people in a mass shooting terrorist attack.

To say people were clutching pearls in shock is an understatement. The outrage was real; there were calls for a boycott, for the game to be pulled off the shelves. Infinity Ward didn’t say much at the time, just let the game speak for itself, but what wasn’t talked about with those who were anti-the-game was that active participation was entirely up to the player. Players had the option to skip the mission entirely or not participate at all once the mission started. You could simply walk around and complete the mission without ever firing a shot. The game developers were well aware of how sensitive this massacre was and took measures to make sure you didn’t have to participate if you didn’t want to.

Vladamir Makarov

The impact of the mission did its job, as did that of the subsequent mission, “Wolverines!” which takes you through a heart-wrenching defense of the United States as Russia launches a surprise invasion. I remember sitting there at the end of Modern Warfare 2, just staring at the screen, thinking, “What are we gonna do now?” If you were anything like me playing these games, you were practically vibrating in your seat when it was finally time to stop Makarov for good in Modern Warfare 3. Even his own people were sick of him by that point.

Infinity Ward had no qualms about going all in on the Modern Warfare trilogy, and for that, in my opinion, it’s the greatest set of Call of Duty games out there (along with World at War, but I digress). The Call of Dutys of today are nowhere near as good as the Call of Dutys of the past. The ruthlessness, the hard-to-bear missions, the very real radicalness of the villain are unmatched to this day. I hope one day we can go back to the basics of good vs. evil, but until then, no Call of Duty baddie will ever beat Vladimir Makarov.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the new updates!