A critical look at why Salen Kotch is the dullest antagonist in the Call of Duty series by comparing him with other villains and their motivation.
The Call of Duty series has introduced several of the most nefarious and iconic villains in gaming. The latest entry in the franchise, Infinite Warfare introduces gamers to Admiral Salen Kotch (played by Kit Harington) of the Settlement Defense Front.
With a memorable introduction and being played by an acclaimed performer, one would assume Admiral Kotch would be a villain as memorable as Vladimir Makarov or Johnathan Irons. However that is not the case here as he ends being nothing less then a one dimensional character with a simple worldview.
As pointed out in my review, Kit Harington performance was stellar but he was underused while the character was uninteresting. Compared to other antagonist in the series, Kotch is the most dullest in the entire franchise. When one analysis several notable villains from previous games then comperes their character traits with that of Kotch, it becomes apparent how dull and one dimensional he is.
Makarov and Shepherd
Lets start by examining the most notorious villain in the entire Call of Duty series, Vladimir Makarov. Prior to the events of Modern Warfare; he was a captain in the Russian Army who was forced to resign after the European Union opened an inquiry into his actions during the Second Chechen War. Makarov resented the Russian Government for forcing him to leave the army and held an passionate hate for the West, which got the attention of Imran Zakhaev and the Ultranationalist Party.
Makarov’s hate of the West continued to grow after the British Government attempted to assassinate Zakhaev in 1996. During the Second Russian Civil War and the Middle East Crisis, it was Makarov who was responsible for detonating the nuke that killed 30,000 US Marines. Yet his actions had dire consequences as a joint Marine and S.A.S. task force help the Russian Government to take out Zakhaev.
Even though Zakhaev was killed, the Ultranationalist Party was successful in taking over Russia. These events would result in blowback for Makarov when General Shepherd starts to walk the path from hero to villain. After the death of his soldiers in the Middle East and the lack of international action to hold the Ultranationalist accountable, he sought his own justice by orchestrating World War III.
Makarov and Shepherd used each other to achieve their own goals while unaware of the others ambitions. Which is why they are the perfect villains. Despite their differences, they are the same as its their sense of patriotism that drives them while unaware of their selfish motivations. This is best demonstrated when Makarov is whiling to work with Capt. Price, his sworn enemy, to take out General Shepherd. When their goal is achieved, Makarov goes back to his old ways by working to prolong the ongoing war that he started all in the idea of making Russia a world power.
The next antagonist to examine is actually the most multilayered and sympathetic one in the series, Raul Menendez from Black Ops II. He is a villain who is the byproduct of American foreign policy in Central America and CIA blowback. Most of his family was killed and his sister badly burned when a warehouse they were living in was burned by its American owner for the insurance money. He soon became a major arms dealer known to work with communist regimes, which got the attention of the CIA. The boiling point hit when the Special Operations Group and Panama Defense Force botched a raid on his compound which resulted in the death of his sister.
But unlike other villains in the series, he actually does regret some of his actions. The most notable is the remorse he has for killing Alex Mason in front of his own son, thus emotionally scaring him. Despite being enemies, Menendez dose not taunt or mock David over the death of his father but instead shows his regret. Because of the shared experience they have over the death of a family member, it’s impossible for him to not show empathy.
Another of his significant characteristic trait that sets him apart from other villains is his overall objective. At first it appears Menendez plans to use the US drone system to attack major cites. In a twist, he ends up destroying the system while encouraging his followers to rise up against the global system. The uprising never happens but he does succeed in crippling the drone system which sets in motion the events of Black Ops III.
Finally there is Jonathan Irons from Advanced Warfare, an embodiment of Americas current conservative politics that believes business leaders are better fit to control and manage the state. Irons worldviews are based on the fact that his company (the largest PMC in the world) is always contracted to resolve conflicts after the state is incapable of resolving it themselves along with the death of his only son.
To resolve the problems caused by governments, Irons goes to extreme measures by allowing a massive terrorist attack to happen just so he can swoop in and rebuild. This allows Atlas to become a global power and Irons becomes a major player on the world stage. Once he crosses that path, he begins a journey to seek absolute power and to transform into the very entity he despises.
Now we come to Admiral Salen Kotch of the Settlement Defense Front. All he does is mastermind the attack on Geneva, has the biggest starship ever built, taunts the player and that’s about it. While other villains in the series were either driven by revenge or a lust for power, Kotch seems to be driven by simple hating Earth. What did SATO or the UNSA do to make him have such a hate, I ask since there is no real explanation for why he justifies his hate. Instead all we see him do for most the game is just utter the same one liners while consistently demanding Captain Nick Reyes to surrender so that he may be executed.
One could just brush it off as nationalism but that is such a common thread in the series while no real backstory is given to how he became such a fanatic. Remember that Makarov blamed the West for ending his military career while General Shepherd wanted to avenge the soldiers he lost in the Middle East. But what happened with Kotch that made him have such a hate for the the UNSA? This is never explained and thus its hard to even want to hate or sympathize with him.
Also we are never given a reason why his soldiers follow him blindly knowing that he could impetuously kill them on the spot just to prove how uncompassionate he is. True, we need to hate the villains but even they have emotional attachment to those that serve under them. Again the lack of a real backstory that would explain how he became a hero among his troops doesn’t allow the audience to respect him as an antagonist.
With so many why’s and no real backstory to who Salen Kotch actually is as a character, this makes him one of the most uninteresting antagonists in the series. Hopefully later games in the Infinite Warfare story could fill in the gaps and correct this mistake so as to redeem the character.
Have you played the single player story of Infinite Warfare and what are your thoughts about Admiral Salen Kotch? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.