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Electronic Arts nukes Taliban from upcoming Medal of Honor game

October 1, 2010 |  9:00 am

MoH screen Electronic Arts, facing criticism from some in the U.S. military, Friday morning said it will eliminate the ability for players of its upcoming Medal of Honor video game to assume the role of the Taliban.

Instead, players fighting opposite the U.S. military will simply be called opposing forces, or OpFor, for short, the Redwood City, Calif., game developer announced on its blog.

The decision comes after military bases last month banned the upcoming sale of the game from nearly 300 stores located on its bases because it would allow players to shoot U.S. troops as Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, where the war game is set. Critics said the ability to take on the role of the Taliban and kill U.S. and British troops was insensitive to the family of soldiers who had died in Afghanistan.

"It came down to our core value of honoring the soldier," said Greg Goodrich, executive producer of the game, which will be the 14th title in the 11-year-old Medal of Honor series. "We're making this change out of our deepest respect for the men and women serving in the military. The core tenet of the game has always been to honor the soldier."

Set in Afghanistan, the game follows a handful of elite soldiers through the opening months of the U.S. involvement towards the end of 2001 and into early 2002. Players in the single-player mode will get to play one of several U.S. soldiers, including an Army ranger, a Tier 1 elite special operations sniper and an Apache helicopter gunner.

The controversy came with the multi-player mode, where players go online and form two opposing teams, one comprised of coalition forces and the other being Taliban insurgents. EA on Friday began testing its multi-player option by letting a small portion of the public play the game online. The company plans to release the game on Oct. 12.

U.S. Army and Air Force spokesmen did not immediately respond to an email asking whether the military will reverse its ban of the game as a result of EA's modification.

The change affects only the name of the opposing side, leaving the game itself untouched, Goodrich said. Jointly developed by two EA studios in Los Angeles and Sweden, the latest Medal of Honor is the first game in the billion-dollar franchise to be set outside of World War II. Earlier versions allowed players to assume the role of German Nazis battling against allied forces.

Goodrich said the decision to base the game in Afghanistan came when its designers began consulting soldiers who were in the military's elite special forces known as Tier 1 units.

"These Tier 1 operators are fascinating people," Goodrich said, "and not just because of what they do operationally. When working with them, we found the backbone of our narrative."

Goodrich said the game is fictional but inspired by the historical events that occurred when the U.S. began sending soldiers into Afghanistan in late 2001.

Last year, another game company, Konami, bowed to public pressure and cancelled an ambitious game re-enacting a pivotal battle in the Iraq war, the 2004 seige of Fallujah that left 71 U.S. troops and about 1,600 insurgents dead.

The controversy surrounding Medal of Honor's ban does not seem to have affected sales. On the contrary, EA on Thursday reported a "record" number of people who have reserved copies of the game compared with prior versions of the franchise, although it did not release an actual figure.

To read Goodrich's announcement about the decision to remove the Taliban from the game, click the continue reading link below.

The following post is from the Medal of Honor blog:

In the past few months, we have received feedback from all over the world regarding the multiplayer portion of Medal of Honor. We’ve received notes from gamers, active military, and friends and family of servicemen and women currently deployed overseas. The majority of this feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For this, the Medal of Honor team is deeply appreciative.

However, we have also received feedback from friends and families of fallen soldiers who have expressed concern over the inclusion of the Taliban in the multiplayer portion of our game. This is a very important voice to the Medal of Honor team. This is a voice that has earned the right to be listened to. It is a voice that we care deeply about. Because of this, and because the heartbeat of Medal of Honor has always resided in the reverence for American and Allied soldiers, we have decided to rename the opposing team in Medal of Honor multiplayer from Taliban to Opposing Force.

While this change should not directly affect gamers, as it does not fundamentally alter the gameplay, we are making this change for the men and women serving in the military and for the families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice - this franchise will never willfully disrespect, intentionally or otherwise, your memory and service.

To all who serve: We appreciate you, we thank you, and we do not take you for granted. And to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines currently serving overseas, stay safe and come home soon.

Greg Goodrich, Executive Producer
Medal of Honor

-- Alex Pham

Photos: Screenshots from the Medal of Honor website. Credit: Electronic Arts.