Since the recent release of the newest Call of Duty, the media attention it was getting spurred some ideas of mine about the series in general, and weather or not the famed game is a perfect example of the inevitable fate a decade-old franchise must always be subjected to. Looking at the whole series in tired retrospect, one has to wonder when the series began to stop evolving or trying to differentiate itself from its highly successful predecessors, or when the series began to revert to a typical fail-safe reboot ‘crowd pleaser’ system. And yet some people still argue that COD is still fun even now, that it is worth the pricey next-gen title it boasts today. I suppose the purpose of this article is to try and find out who is right.
PLEASE NOTE: I own Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One on PS2, Call of duty: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Modern warfare 3, Black Ops, Black Ops 2, and (regrettably) Ghosts on my PS3. I have played each campaign to full extent save for Call of Duty 1, and I have played most multiplayer modes until around prestige one. To avoid all possible bias I should disclose that I feel that the series has turned into a fail-safe reboot system, but I will try to write this article as objectively as I can.
MAKE A CHANGE
I title this article: ‘Call of Duty: The game’ because I feel that when you look at the series as a whole, Activision’s era on the PS3 and XBOX 360 really hasn’t changed that much and all the titles can be classed as one game. Assuming that you can still regard Advanced Warfare as a contender in that range of PS3 games, when you compare it to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, how ‘evolutionary’ is it? I can hear the fanboys now; “GOSH VAHRKALLA, UR DUmB, ITZ CHANGED SO MACH, NOW OnE HAZ JEtPAKZ xxxXXXxxx”. I mean sure, the jetpacks allow for some new ways of traversing and exterminating, the graphics are a bit shinier, the mocap is ‘Kevin Spacey’ tier good, and… and… and…that’s it. When I try and look at the two titles comparatively, what else have they really done to ‘change the game’ as they so often claim? Of course they have made minor improvements such as adding scopes that can see through walls, and barrel endings that can suppress muzzle flare, but there has always been attachments. Sure, they have Kevin Spacey to play one of their characters, but there has always been a stereotypical bad guy in a stereotypical campaign. This is why, despite the abnormal review scores, Ghosts was such a hated game because it didn’t bring anything significant and original to the table.
The thing that irritates me is that when the game does try and make a change, for example the addition of the hailed zombies mode, or even the underdog aliens mode in Ghosts, that’s never what the game markets itself for. Zombies was my favourite thing about the whole franchise simply because it was different to anything else I’d seen before, even outside the circle of Call of Duty. Left 4 Dead was fun but I found the arsenal of guns lacklustre, Dead Island was fun but the open world dynamic let the game down, but COD zombies was an extremely enjoyable, at times terrifying co-operative experience with a genuinely intriguing back story regarding Dempsey and Richtoffen and such. The mode was so well designed, with Easter eggs that could take you days to find, and a retro-artistic spin on the maps that shone through all the dirt and dust. But the mode was always overlooked by the repetitive round-the-corner shoot ’em up multiplayer that everyone, including myself, insisted on being faithful to. And in Black Ops II the zombies mode went through a small decline in quality, where the new characters were unimaginative, and the zombies maps had a slight identity crisis. Imagine a game where zombies was the main attraction, where Treyarch spent just as much time developing the aspects of the game which have the most potential, instead of breaking out the Black ops II files, and copying and pasting the same damn game again and again and again and again and again and again, with only minor, arguably unnecessary improvements.
YOU GUYS LIKE LASER SIGHTS? LASER ARMOUR?? LASERS???
One thing that Call of Duty has lost sight of is why its Modern Warfare predecessors were so successful. The developers seem to think that if they just take that successful formula and just add more ‘stuff’ then it’s automatically better than them, but that’s just not true. What the developers fail to understand, and what games like Titanfall and Team Fortress 2 understand implicitly is that LESS is MORE. Now the series has become so convoluted in its tangled webs of ‘pick 13’ create a class system and it’s 5,000 attachments to choose from that I believe it makes the basic thrill of shooting someone cumbersome. With a game like Call of Duty, people don’t think about these kind of tactical game choices because it’s not a tactical game. If someone has the better gun than you, no matter what thousands of perks or attachments you have, you’re still going to be in the body bag at the end of the day. In call of Duty 4 there was a grand total of 7 assault rifles to choose from, and each gun its own prominent merit that in EACH CASE could overpower and enemy in selective circumstances. But now, in a game with a billion guns, a bloody laser gun, there is always going to be that one completely overpowered firearm that gives you an instant ticket to god mode. In short, the game takes itself too seriously when it comes to selecting ‘tactical approach’, when the game offers no way of actually implementing proper Battlefield 4 like tactics or fairness into your play style. And that’s why COD 4 was the greatest, because it was so simple compared. In that game, instead of applying all these attachments that give you the false pretence of actually doing something, the players made the tactics for themselves.
“I KNOW YOU’LL UNDERSTAND…”
Being a story snob, the most annoying thing is that the stories of COD have morphed into a boom-a-second Michael Bay-esque generic brown shooter narrative. Ghosts was by far the worst, I heartily laughed out loud at the failed attempt at character development. The main problem nowadays is that the characters are so forgettable. Hesh…He…Heskey? Was that his name? The one who was the guy’s dad…or was it the other way around?
For whatever flaws the characters in the Modern Warfare trilogy had, EVERYONE remembers the unexpected, genuinely shocking betrayal in MW2, and the word for word memorable monologue that Shepherd imparted on your bleeding protagonist. Dare I say it, Modern Warfare 2 was a leap in interesting narrative for multiplayer shooters at the time. Now it’s almost as if the new antagonists in the series rely on you to ASSUME they are just as bad as shepherd for you to hate them. The best thing about Modern Warfare 2’s story was that the emotions the game expected you to feel were FOUNDED.
Personally, I think after Black Ops is when the franchise started to decline. Some may think the game has got slightly better each time, but each time you release a title that is only slightly better, that could be made as dlc for its predecessor, I view it as actively worse, not just for its lack of innovation but also for the absolutely unreasonable price tag when I already own, and will always own the best that is in my opinion, MW2. So many franchises, like Dragon Age, has so many differences between the titles. If you say to someone ‘I’m playing Dragon Age’, you would ask “WHICH ONE?! WHICH ONE?! NOT TWO!”. But ‘Call of Duty’ is such a generic term that you could just be able to say ‘I’m playing COD’ it frankly wouldn’t matter which one because they’ve been mostly the same for a long time. If you like Advanced Warfare, I respect that, but if you continuously buy all the latest instalments then you’re actively funding and encouraging the production of a game that hasn’t improved itself in almost 5 years.