The script-writer of Modern Warfare 2 says that the airport mission was needed to push the game to the next level.
Jesse Stern was a scriptwriter on both of the Modern Warfare games, in addition to his day job as writer on NCIS. In an interview over at GamePro, he discusses why the airport level was a risk that needed to be made in order to make a great game. (Spoiler note! If you are uncomfortable with reading spoilers to the story of MW2, you shouldn't have clicked on this story and you should definitely stop reading now.)
"I hope that game developers take the lesson that you've got to try things. You've got to go out on a limb sometimes. This is a triple-A game and the top grosser of all time with this huge budget behind it, yet we're still taking major chances wherever we can and the airport level was a risk we had to take. Sometimes you take huge risks and it really works. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. But if you don't take the chance, you're not going to make something new," Stern said.
When asked what would be the "right" moral action when you are playing an undercover CIA agent posing as a terrorist, Stern said,
There's three things you can do. Once you realize what's happening, you can open fire on the other terrorists that are with you. They'll turn around and kill you quickly, but that is an option. You can do nothing for the first half of that level too. You're not obligated to do anything other than walk and watch, which I think portrays another completely different feeling of helplessness. And the third option is [that] you can open fire.
Every single person in testing opened fire on the crowd, which is human nature. It feels so real but at the same time it's a video game and the response to it has been fascinating. I never really knew you could elicit such a deep feeling from a video game, but [that level] has.
Given that Kevin McBride, the actor who voices "Soap" MacTavish, has mentioned talks of a MW2 film, it was inevitable that Stern would be involved. "Jason West, Steve Macuda and the rest of the guys from Infinity Ward have an interest in doing it and Activision wants to do it. I'd be very curious to give that a try. You've got your source material to draw on, which is the biggest advantage in getting one of these movies off the ground," Stern said.
It is interesting to hear about the game from a script-writer's perspective, instead of just the game designers. Perhaps other studios will take a cue from Infinity Ward and think about hiring top-notch Hollywood script writers to the team.