Modern Warfare 2's glaring plot holes exposed!

Mutually assured destruction

We’ve already discussed why the setup for the invasion was flawed, but now let’s consider the invasion itself. We’re pretty sure that mutually assured destruction (MAD) is still a thing, so the best-case scenario for Russia is that America, with its dying breath, launches a world-ending salvo of nuclear warheads. Soooo… it’s a suicide mission, then? Since Modern Warfare is especially fond of quotes, we dug this one up on the Wikipedia:

To continue to deter in an era of strategic nuclear equivalence, it is necessary to have nuclear (as well as conventional) forces such that in considering aggression against our interests any adversary would recognize that no plausible outcome would represent a victory or any plausible definition of victory.
President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Presidential Directive 59, Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy

Above: One of the Cold War’s MAD men

The Price is wrong, bitch!

From the tenuously connected Rojas, Task Force 141 learns that Makarov “has the mad-on” for a prisoner in a remote Russian gulag. This prisoner is none other than the beloved Captain Price, whose roguish charm delights all whom he doesn’t kill first. Giant question marks loom over how Price ended up in the gulag and how he and Soap became separated in the first place.  Last we knew, Price and Soap were being medevac’d by Russian loyalists and we didn’t know if either man would survive his wounds. The gulag, we learn, is where the Russian government puts people they don’t want but can’t kill. So Russia returned Soap to the UK, but chucked Price in the gulag? That doesn’t make sense, they were allies at that point and would have seen both men safely home.

Above: Last thing I remember was the tequila shots… 

The other possible scenario: the loyalists were overrun by ultranationalists before they could get Price out, but Soap’s chopper got away. In that case, the bloodthirsty ultranationalists would have nursed Price back to health and then shipped him off to a gulag run by the government they were revolting against. That doesn’t make sense either, as the ultranationalists would have killed Price on sight. All deliberation aside, though, it sure was touching to see our boys Soap and Price reunited, and that white-knuckled escape really kicked our nuts into our throat. Explosions!!!

Above: Military logic at work. The Navy will: bomb the shit out of a building knowing full well that their allies are inside. They won’t: bomb the shit out of an oil rig because a few hostages are inside (see previous mission) 

To nuke America, press “1” now

With his newfound freedom, Price’s first order of business is to launch a nuclear warhead at the east coast of the United States, with the goal of snuffing out the Russian invasion. Of course, he wasn’t planning to nuke America outright. When a nuclear explosion occurs in space, the only effect is an EMP blast that destroys all unshielded electronics in its line of sight.

Above: Authentic control panel of a Russian nuclear submarine 

While it made for an intensely dramatic scene as the burst rippled across America and demolished the ISS, there’s no way Price could have launched a missile from a Russian nuclear sub by himself. Did he just ring up Nikolai on a payphone to get the launch codes? How did he singlehandedly defeat the physical safety measures? You don’t just push the glowy red button with the mean face on it. There are elaborate control systems in place to prevent just such unauthorized launches.

Above: Two people have to turn launch keys simultaneously to fire a real nuclear missile 

One more thing: how did Price get it to detonate in space, anyhow? We’re pretty sure that wasn’t part of the missile’s original instructions. Regardless, if the Russians were serious about their “kill America” plan from the get-go, they probably would have launched HEMP and nuclear strikes of their own as a precursor to the invasion. But then, American missile silos are hardened against just such attacks, to ensure MAD (see top of page for irresolvable logic loop.)

Above: Concept art for Russian submarine base 

Next page: Bringing it all full circle


  • You What? - May 23, 2012 3:42 a.m.

    Er, this is Call of Duty. It's never claimed to be an exorcise in narrative genius or continuity. It's just a big dumb blockbuster with gripping set-pieces. It's pointless arguing about its plot holes. Heavy Rain or Mass Effect 3's ending? Totally justified. Modern Warfare 2? Waste of time.
  • You What? - May 23, 2012 3:43 a.m.

    *Obviously I meant 'exercise.' Though in truth, consistency IS exorcised in COD games.
  • viniciustlc - March 21, 2011 6:24 p.m.

    I'm from Brazil,and just for your information , we don't have tacos here! This is not Mexico!
  • TheWebSwinger - March 6, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    You could get the same results dissecting any game's storyline...they're just not as well planned out as movies, cuz you have to build gameplay around them
  • Imthedoctor - March 2, 2011 11:38 p.m.

    i always wondered how they were able to find the shell via survielaince and not able to see the russians doing the terrorist attack..idk, they didn't think it too well. That's mainstream gaming for you :/
  • Westenra - September 8, 2010 5:29 p.m.

    I don't buy it. None of those things are legitimate plot holes, not for a video-game at least. It's called suspension-of-disbelief, and every shooter in history has relied on it to some point; MW2 gets ragged on more because of it's success, nothing more, nothing less. You're not supposed to know the details of every action / counter-action in the game, that would defeat the purpose of the mystery and suspense. This all reads like a remnant of the Bad Company 2 anti-MW2 fanboism that went on during release out of rage for how much success the game received. I suggest taking a short-fiction writing course when you get to college, maybe then you'll be able to appreciation the subtlety of the MW2 story. Your blatant article-trolling is noted Games Radar, and ignored.
  • Athenacas - July 25, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    The Russian government did know that Makarov was responsible for the attack on the airport, but they thought that since a US soldier was found helping them, the CIA was working with Makarov. Thus, the president of Russia retaliated against the US thinking the United States government has some sort of plan to end the current Russian government and put Makarov, the supposed ally, in power. Most of the information on the other stuff is within the game. The above is from newspaper clippings found in cutscenes and in Makarov's safehouse. Shepherd and Makarov aren't friends. Shepherd uses Makarov as a scapegoat to depict himself as a hero having eliminated a major terrorist. There really aren't any plotholes within the story. The only thing that personally didn't make sense was how Shepherd got the Shadow Company.
  • gilgamesh310 - March 23, 2010 11:21 p.m.

    In all fairness some of the later seasons of 24 have more plotholes than this.
  • Micronauts - March 7, 2010 9:50 p.m.

    They also made an awkward setup in the 2nd mission. When you wake up as Pvt. Allen and Shepherd fires a few rounds from his revolver, acting like he's doing domework, he picks you up and says "Rangers lead the way", pushing you towards the battlefield. Once you go through that scene a second time, it makes him seem like a total tool from the start. If you look behind, he just then casually walks off (tool) and fiddles around with something in his hands ("Keep it clean!"). It almost looks like he is making a call.
  • jar-head - March 3, 2010 5:18 a.m.

    "Who were the dead HVI and soldier with the unusual tats? That whole subplot was dropped as quickly as it came up" It Was implied Makrov was "leaning house" and removing all ties to him, as did shephard later on, hence tyhe VIP who was killed must have been a major player if he ahda Freaking Panic Room in the suburbs
  • OnyxOblivion - January 18, 2010 4:54 p.m.

    So glad that ghost died. His mask looks so stupid.
  • Cwf2008 - January 16, 2010 8:56 a.m.

    @KillDrone: Well there is the fact that in space there is no atmosphere so there actually would be no shock wave
  • superrip - January 11, 2010 3:07 a.m.

    Also i had another thought. Didnt Allen being an American soldier wonder why Makerov was using American weapons and speaking English on his attack of the airport?
  • superrip - January 11, 2010 3:02 a.m.

    Well in IWs defense captain price was ordered by sheperd to nuke the usa in order to stop the russians, so theres a possibilitiy that he had some sort of intel for launching the nuke. After all its only a game. And killcrone, nukes are not easy to launch.
  • AndyGiff93 - January 8, 2010 5:43 p.m.

    Completely forgot this existed, I avoided it at first because I didn't want to ruin the game Glad I found it again cause it is so right, the plot really doesn't make any sense
  • DriftBus - December 28, 2009 5:23 a.m.

    I'm just wondering why no one has mentioned this; In the montage showing Mak-daddy (as I like to call him), it clearly states he sells his skills to the highest bidder, so Russia have no national connection with him. Just because he could have been identified on a security camera means nothing. Much like the real life Afghan government would report and search out bin Laden. Now, if an American is spotted in the group, this opens a whole other can of worms. The link could be made that America is supporting, or even paid for Mak-daddy. If they know he was CIA, even more of a smoking gun. Russia would also not think to check the bullets once an American is found, pretty clear cut case. Also, special forces would NOT stop an Ambulance fleeing. Just my plot hole hole covering. Other than that, I didn't remember the files linking Shepard and Mak-D, I figured he was just cleaning house after the CIA agent he placed with Mak was killed, starting the war, and not stopping the Airport massacre. Might need a replay. But nice article.
  • Geoffish - December 5, 2009 7:22 p.m.

    just wondering, do we actuly know that the russian ultra nationalists are communist? I mean, idk what ultranationalist means, it probablt means comunist, but if it dosent then they could be any regieme?
  • Onedown - November 29, 2009 10:42 p.m.

    What is the soaphawk thing?
  • SohaibArif - November 27, 2009 4:36 a.m.

    Gamesradar's immaturity and perhaps racism seeps through this entire article as this game unlike the anti-Arab and anti-Russian COD4 had an American villain and so you have to negate the story which is very much plaussible as much of it has already happen or been narrowly prevented. Regarding the airport scene, the Russians cameras did not recognize Makarov as he has already covertly entered,known terrorist or not,you are not allowed to enter an international airport with automatic or other weapons the camera operators would probably have been on Makarov's payroll or be part of his organization. The Russians did not scan the bullets as they had much bigger evidence pointing the attack to the US(do you really think India scanned every bullet fired in the Mumbai attack, they just saw Ajmal Kasab who may or may not have been Pakistani and pinned the whole thing on my country). The Americans scanned it because they knew they did not do it. Makarov did not have political support as he was a known arms dealer in MW1.Which brings us to a plot hole in MW1, why was the main villain Imran Zakhev.How could he be a Muslim and a Communist at the same time, considering Muslims had a huge role in destroying the USSR?
  • ensabahnur - November 26, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    This was hilarious, have to say i didnt think about some of these until now, especially soap and price at the end.

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