I remember when Call of Duty’s final venture into WWII ended with a zombie attacking. It was jarring after an emotional story, even mean-spirited in a way after paying tribute to fallen heroes, but it was fun. It accentuated the zaniness of this universe Treyarch likes to create, so fine. I’ll play along.
Then, Black Ops II happened. The story is framed with a disabled Frank Woods. He retells his story of Menendez, a radical seeking revenge and a break from America’s capitalist ways. In his eyes and through his words, Woods still wants to be in the fight. He would be too, were his legs not taken right in front of the player. This even comes after weeks of torture inside a truck with dead soldiers rotting, Woods barely surviving. His journey is one of anger and frustration. He hates that wheelchair.
Woods is seen backstage wearing an Avenged Sevenfold shirt. He’s taunting a weary Menendez, acting as a guitarist. They chat back and forth about the upcoming performance when the band members walk in, slapping Menendez while giving props to Woods. Then, Woods gleefully stands up, kicking the wheelchair away. Menendez is shocked; Woods replies:
“Oh that shit? I’m just fucking lazy.”
Here’s a veteran, and a game that despite offering ludicrously scaled firefights, is supposed to be about the “call.” It’s that urge military men and women feel to fight for their country. Black Ops II even carries a brief segment wherein a husband and wife argue over his service at Christmas.
But, now Woods is lazy. Without context, it’s nothing. And hey, I’ll be the first to admit that it could be over reactionary, politically correct idiocy. After all, we have a popular band in our video game performing a shameless plug using two key characters from the narrative.
“I’m lazy.” That’s the part that gets me. This was a man who minutes ago was desperate, even delusional with rage. Now, he’s written as lazy. Even worse, Woods becomes the drummer. He never had to get out of the chair in the first place.
Maybe there’s another side to it. He’s tough enough, even after sustaining such injury, that he can still walk. I suppose that’s one interpretation. I would buy it too, but to suggest he’s merely lazy? It’s more than a complete breakdown of established character for a weak attempt at a laugh. I’m picturing a disabled veteran viewing the sequence and being stunned at the nonchalant attitude of it all.
The series, I guess, remains about that call. Soldiers rush into astonishing scenarios with little regard to their personal safety whether for their country at large or a specific target. Black Ops 2 portrays a harrowing rescue of the President through a crumbling California. Building are falling around them, helicopters are crashing, and one character thanklessly covers up the President for protection. I can only imagine debris taking his legs and forcing him into a wheelchair.
When he doesn’t walk, he’ll just be lazy though.