'Modern Warfare 2' game sparks battle in Britain

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The Independent Tech

The hotly-anticipated video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" was launched in Britain on Tuesday amid a political row over its levels of violence.

Its launch saw tanks and soldiers descend on London's Leicester Square, the first game launch in the square normally home to red-carpet film premieres, as shops opened at midnight to sell the first-person shooter game.

Set in Russia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Brazil, the conflict also spread to the British parliament as lawmakers battled over the game's content.

Keith Vaz, a former Europe minister, urged the government to ensure children did not get their hands on the game, created by California-based video game publisher Activision Blizzard.

"It contains such scenes of brutality that even the manufacturers have put in warnings within the game telling people how they can skip particular scenes," Vaz told parliament's lower House of Commons.

Former digital minister Tom Watson said he had seen the game and it "wasn't pleasant, though no worse than many films and books".

"Everything that comes out of parliament in relation to video games is relentlessly negative."

Lawmakers should "support the many thousands of games designers and coders and the many millions of games users, rather than... create moral panic over the use of video games."

In a review in The Guardian newspaper, Charlie Brooker said the game was "the 'Citizen Kane' of repeatedly shooting people in the face".

"The storyline makes less sense than a gas ladder, but in terms of technical achievement, this is an undoubted masterpiece... not so much a game as a borderline nightmare experience.

"Don't worry. It won't turn anyone into a killer."

Some 722 British stores opened overnight for the game's launch.

At the launch at HMV's flagship store in central London, around 700 fans queued up to get their hands on the game.

"The guy at the front had been queuing for 22 and a half hours," a spokesman for the launch told AFP.

"He was queuing up in full combat gear, he had camouflage, netting a mask and goggles, the full ensemble."

Games retailers have taken more than 750,000 pre-orders, The Guardian said.

"We estimate that the game will exceed one million UK sales in its first week, which would be a new record," HMV spokesperson Gennaro Castaldo said, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile online retailer Amazon said its pre-orders were the highest they had ever seen for a video game.

"Grand Theft Auto 4", released last year, holds the first week sales record with 800,000.

The console version of "Modern Warfare 2" costs around 54 pounds (90 dollars, 60 euros) in Britain, while the PC product retails for around 35 pounds.

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