Medal of Honor drops Taliban team from multiplayer mode

Medal of Honor has changed the name of one of the teams in its multiplayer mode. But the gameplay remains the same.

Electronic Arts
Medal of Honor, a new game from Electronic Arts.

Earlier this month, military bases across the country moved to block sales of the upcoming Medal of Honor, a long-awaited reboot of the popular military video game series created by Electronic Arts. The reason was simple: Medal of Honor included a multiplayer mode that would have let users pretend to enlist as members of the Taliban, and shoot at pixelated versions of American troops.

Critics like Karen Meredith, whose son, Army Lt. Ken Ballard, was killed in Iraq in 2004, said EA had crossed the line.

"I don't see how shooting soldiers based on real Americans is entertainment while people are dying every day for this country," Meredith told the San Jose Mercury News. "How can they say it's OK for someone to play the Taliban? You'll have people sitting at home, drinking beer, shooting at American soldiers, maybe missing, then starting over. Well, Ken didn't have a chance to start over."

Today comes news that Electronic Arts will pull the Taliban appellation from the multiplayer mode. Crucially, Electronic Arts has not toyed with the actual gameplay – it has merely changed the name of one of the teams.

"[B]ecause 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," executive producer Greg Goodrich wrote on the Medal of Honor blog today. Goodrich stressed that the update would "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," Goodrich added.

Does this whole Medal of Honor kerfuffle sound familiar? It should. At around this time last year, many blogs began pointing to a scene in the then-forthcoming Modern Warfare 2, which allowed players to assume the role of a terrorist carrying out an attack on a Russian airport. In that scene, the user had the option to fire automatic weapons into a crowd of civilians. Some thought Activision, the studio behind Modern Warfare 2, had gone entirely too far.

But the game – which was released unaltered, with the airport scene intact – went on to sell 4.7 million copies in the first 24 hours alone, tallying up an initial earning report that topped $310 million. Within a week of launch, Modern Warfare 2 had grossed $550 million worldwide. Activision, bowing to market pressure, eventually released a censored version for the Russian market, which left out the terrorist attack at the airport.

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