In the Spotlight: Captain Price

Welcome back to yet another entry in PSU’s ongoing Spotlight feature. Here, we scrutinize the hottest heroes and heroines that have graced a PlayStation platform over the last 15 years. Last time around we took a trip down memory lane and dissected Final Fantasy VII’s iconic pointy-haired protagonist Cloud, so it’s back to the present day for our latest offering.

This time, we’re taking a trip to the gray skies of good ‘ol Blighty for a chap who has become one of this generation’s most prolific sidekicks. Yep, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, grab a mug of Earl Grey and kick off your muddy boots as we turn the spotlight on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s legendary British Bulldog himself, Captain John Price.

– – – – – – – – –

Call of Duty’s seen its fair share of memorable military sorts over the years, though none have quite attained the ubiquity and impact than old boy Price. Not to be confused with his quintessentially old school WWII incarnation seen in Call of Duty I and II, the modern day Price—who may or may not be related to his 1940s doppelganger—has become the unofficial poster boy of the Modern Warfare brand since zip-lining onto our screens in 2007. Voiced to perfection by London-born Billy Murray (who’s pedigree includes major roles in UK juggernauts such as The Bill and EastEnders), Price’s tough-as-nails persona coupled with his subtle sprinkle of British humor make him a rewarding accomplice throughout Modern Warfare’s pop-in, pop-out shooting shenanigans.

Still, don’t expect any mollycoddling from the old git. Boasting a meaty military career spanning over 15 years, Price has seen first-hand the grim realities of war and has little time for idle chit-chat. A man of few words, Price doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has no compunction letting his professional streak take a back seat in times of jeopardy. Indeed, if there’s an informant in need of a good kicking, Price will happily oblige in grabbing them by the balls and squeezing every last ounce of info out of the unlucky blighter (figuratively, at least, though we can’t claim to possess unequivocal proof that the old chap isn’t partial to a spot of below-the-belt interrogation). Cross him at your peril, though earn his respect and he’ll stand by you until the bitter end.

Happily, the SAS supremo’s contributions in battle are a far cry from the inconsequential efforts of the endless streams of obtuse, AI-controlled squad mates in past Call of Duty iterations. Price displays remarkable proficiency with the pointy end of a high-powered rifle. Indeed, while many first-person shooter games require you to handle the lion’s share of the work, Price will cap off any opposition careless enough to wonder in to his unwavering line of sight. In short, he’s got your back, which results in a genuine trust and admiration for the old fellow—a feeling that is very much reciprocated when you bail his backside out or land yourself a sweet head shot.

Much of the Price’s early days remain a mystery to his fellow war buddies, though game players are treated to a glimpse at his past via a playable flashback to the early 1990s. Here, we join Price and old dog Captain McMillian as they surreptitiously snipe their way through a war-torn city in Ukraine in an effort to assassinate the notorious arms dealer, Imran Zakhaev. In fact, it was due to Price’s valiant efforts that his superior was spared a sticky end at the hands of Zakhaev’s flunkies after McMillian was wounded following a close encounter with a falling chopper. A decade and a half later, we find Price as reigning overlord of the SAS’s Bravo Team and its gaggle of hardened, burly types including cheeky cockney Gaz and the perpetually silent Scott, John “Soap” MacTavish. It’s here that the events of Modern Warfare transpire, with Price leading Soap and crew in to the thick of a brutal, arduous manhunt to apprehend Zakhaev. After slogging their way through enemy bases and muddy fields, the action culminates in the death’s of Bravo’s Gaz and Riggs, Zakhaev’s death at the hands of Soap, and the apparent death of Price himself—viewers are left gawping at the stomach-knotting sight of a medic trying seemingly in vein to resuscitate the fallen SAS Captain.

Regardless, Price popped up in 2009’s mammoth selling sequel Modern Warfare 2, a testament to rapturous fan reaction. Likely, the writers at Infinity Ward realized that they conceived one of the series’ most memorable characters to date and folk would be miffed if he ultimately went to that great barracks in the sky. This time around, though, we find Soap’s mustached mentor banged up in a grimy Russian Gulag for the first half of the game, until the Scottish hero—now under the player’s control—and his rabble lead a daring rescue and successfully extricate the former SAS leader from his freezing prison. Now back in the fold, Price’s natural born leadership credentials accommodate a seamless transition to Captain of Task Force 141, much to the delight of MacTavish—and indeed, possibly the chagrin of others. Landing himself in the midst of the team’s scout for the unscrupulous Vladimir Makarov, Price immediately gets down to the nitty gritty of infiltrating a Russian submarine at a base near Petropavlovs, ostensibly to capture the vessel. The old dog has other ideas, however, and launches a ICBM that later detonates in outer space, with the resulting EMP saving the lives of countless soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment pinned down by Russian troops in the heart of Washington D.C., U.S.A.

Price later unearths the dodgy dealings of U.S. Commander Shepherd after snooping around an Afghanistan base to observe an arms deal, and hooks up with Soap again to embark on a seemingly suicidal assassination attempt on the traitor. True to his unfaltering tenacity throughout the series, Price pursues his target alongside his old chum in an adrenaline-fueled chase over rapid waters, all the while ducking and dodging copious enemy gunfire and explosives. Perched precariously on the edge of a waterfall in a measly dingy, Price pops a cap in an escaping Shepherd’s chopper, but not before the trio barrel over the edge in to the abyss below. All three survive, albeit heavily injured, and after a brutal scuffle between Price and Shepherd—observed by an in-and-out-of-consciousness Soap—the dastardly general is finally dispatched by an immaculately-timed knife throw, courtesy of a revived MacTavish. Battered and bloodied, Price and his comrades find themselves on the run, and vacate the area via chopper. His current whereabouts are unknown.

– – – – – – – – –

Nothing like a little colloquial banter between squaddies to lighten the mood, eh? Check out some of our favourite Price quotes below.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Captain Price: "Nice shot! Captain Macmillan would be proud."

SSgt. Griggs: "I was starting to think that you were gonna leave me behind."
Captain Price: "Yeah I was, but your arse had all the C4."

Captain Price: [door starts to open slowly] "Gaz, can’t you make it open faster?"
Gaz: "Negative, sir. But you can try pulling if it’ll make you feel better."
Captain Price: "Cheeky bastard…"

SSgt. Griggs: "It’s just TOO hot, man… but room temperature? Please. A beer should be ICE COLD."
Captain Price: "A lager maybe. Or a glass of water like you drink. But a pint of stout?"

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Price: "This is for the record. History is written by the victor. History is filled with liars. If he lives and we die, his truth becomes written-and ours is lost. Shepherd will a hero. ‘Cause all you need to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood. He’s about to complete the greatest trick a liar ever played on history… But only if he lives, and we die."

Captain ‘Soap’ MacTavish: "Dogs. I hate dogs."
Price: "These Russian dogs are like pussycats compared to the ones in Pripyat."
Captain ‘Soap’ MacTavish: "It’s good to have you back, old man."
Price: "Roger that."

Price: "The healthy human mind doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking this is it’s last day on Earth. But I think that’s a luxury, not a curse. To know you’re close to the end is a kind of freedom. Good time to take… inventory. Outgunned. Outnumbered. Out of our minds on a suicide mission, but the sands and rocks here stained with thousands of years of warfare… they will remember us for this. Because out of all our vast array of nightmares, this is the one we choose for ourselves. We go forward like a breath exhaled from the Earth. With vigor in our hearts and one goal in sight: We will kill him."