After being banned from the shelves of US games distributor GameStop and UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox calling for a boycott in Britain, Electronic Arts have buckled under the weight of criticism for letting gamers play as Taliban and kill US soldiers in the multiplayer mode of upcoming shooter Medal of Honor.
The developers of the game - which was created alongside a team of active and retired veterans of the war in Afghanistan - say the inclusion of the Taliban in the game was for authenticity, and that they meant no disrespect to the lives lost in Afghanistan - the setting for the game which sees players take on the role of an elite Tier 1 special forces soldier.
"We feel a deep sympathy and respect for the soldiers and people with family members killed or wounded in Afghanistan", EA have said on the game's mini-site, but that "Medal of Honor is a soldier's story, told to us by Tier 1 Operators who fought in Afghanistan."
As a further justification for the inclusion of the Taliban as a playable multiplayer faction, the Medal of Honour site has posted an "Understand the game" section, which states:
"Multiplayer combat is a long-standing, common and popular feature of videogames. The dynamics of multiplayer require that teams assume the identities of combatants on both sides of the conflict. One team plays the good guys; the other plays the bad guys".
Despite this, EA have announced that the multiplayer Taliban side will now be known as "OpFor" (shorthand for "Opposing Force"), in a bid to appease critics.
Whatever the case, the controversy will no doubt only help boost the sales of the game when it is release on October 15th, if the stink over the Moscow airport massacre in Modern Warfare 2 was anything to go by.