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Killstreaks return in the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Including the use of white phosphorus.

This year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will bring back killstreaks, publisher Activision has revealed.

The rebooted boots-on-the-ground shooter is the first in a while to include the feature. Other recent games have used a simpler "scorestreak" system which tracks other actions as well as kills.

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019, you'll be able to unlock the hulking Juggernaut armour and drive a tank. But perhaps most eye-openingly, you'll also be able to call in a burning white phosphorus smokescreen.

White phosphorus is an extremely horrible material I encourage you not to Google, and which you may remember from a harrowing scene in Spec Ops: The Line. The chemical is banned for use against civilians (but not soldiers), and its recent deployment in Syria prompted Amnesty International to suggest its use against the country's general population there constituted a war crime.

"Cover the battlefield with white smoke flare canisters that will disorientate the enemy," Activision's killstreak description reads, "and burn any that wander too close."

The chemical is most frequently used as a smokescreen, as is described here, but it can also be an incendiary weapon which does enormous damage to human skin. It's this latter application which was memorably featured in Spec Ops: The Line - a game Eurogamer reporter Emma Kent has written about previously - and where its usage is questioned. (Avoid the following paragraph if you care about spoilers.)

"In Spec Ops: The Line, the player is faced with an impossible situation where they must use white phosphorus in order to progress: but the player must also face the consequences of their actions," Emma told me this morning, "and is forced to walk through a gory scene showing the civilians they killed with horrific chemical burns. As the decision to continue playing rather than walk away is the player's choice, Spec Ops asks whether the player is truly the hero, and questions the uncritical use of warfare as a subject for light entertainment."

Call of Duty: Modern Warefare is, of course, no stranger to controversy. Expect more from the game's full multiplayer reveal later this week.

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