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By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

August 9, 2023 | 3 min read

A terrifying new film that blends live-action with animation alerts Call of Duty fans that Vladimir Makarov, the franchise’s main antagonist, resurfaces in the upcoming game.

Activision Blizzard has today released ‘Makarov Returns,’ a cinematic trailer for the third installment of its critically acclaimed franchise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, slated to be released November 10, is a sequel to last year’s record-breaking release. The new campaign utilizes both live-action and VFX animation to remind fans of the series’ main villain: fictitious Vladimir Makarov, a terrorist leader and the grand mastermind behind World War 3.

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Set to a remixed version of Just So You Remember by Pusha T and Six Day War by Colonel Bagshot, the film opens with a voiceover from the game’s main protagonist, Captain John Price, as Makarov is walked down the Gulag by guards to deeper solitary confinement. “The danger we face is clear and present. This is not a threat, not an if, but when,” he warns.

Meanwhile, Makarov gets a new next tattoo in his cell, signaling his next attack. In an effort to foreshadow his sinister intentions, the ad leverages VFX to bring the characters inked on his skin to life.

The campaign arrives just before the upcoming global gameplay reveal on August 17 and the launch of the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone experience.

“Call of Duty is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and that means 20 years of epic and emotive advertising. This piece of creative builds on that history by reintroducing one of the most iconic Modern Warfare villains of all time, Makarov,” Tyler Bahl, vice-president and head of marketing at Activision, told The Drum.

“To bring this asset to life, we wanted to capture the intensity of the infamous gulag that players know all too well, while incorporating visuals from Modern Warfare III that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats for our full gameplay reveal trailer next week. To accomplish this, we filmed in a Hungarian ketchup factory and worked closely with our partners at 72andSunny to bring to life Makarov's tattoos and smoothly transition from live action and gameplay.“

Creative agency 72andSunny led the campaign, while Salomon Ligthelm directed the trailer. “Our camera choreographs the unveiling of a character both terrifying and tantalizing, revealing Vladimir Makarov through the story his tattoos where every note of darkness gives a glimpse into the abyss of his mind,“ said Zach Hilder, executive creative director at 72andSunny.

The campaign goes live today across paid digital, with key placements on TikTok and YouTube.


Agency: 72andSunny

Film production: Prettybird

Director: Salomon Ligthelm

Editorial: Work Editorial

Color: Company 3

VFX/post-production: The Mill

Sound design: Lime

Mix: Lime

Music composition: Andy Huckvale

Seeking more creative campaigns? Check out The Drum’s Ad of the Day and Creativity sections.

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