After Kotaku’s full-blown spoiler nuke; Activision has officially come clean with a reveal trailer for Modern Warfare 3. For lack of a better description; it’s a Call of Duty trailer… just schizophrenic glimpses of ambiguous gameplay moments. It’s immediately apparent that the engine has improved and the scale is nothing short of epic. The trailer even dubs the conflict as “WW3” before reverting back to the regular “MW3” logo in it’s closing moments. The initial trailer is enough to entice most gamers, but lets hope for more info on the multiplayer components to spill out during E3. The trailer confirms a release date of November 8th 2011.
In this day and age, everyone and their mother knows what “Call of Duty” is. The T.V. spots, the online ads, and just the overall popularity of the series has made this one of the top grossing video game series to date, joining the ranks of other big shots like Mario, Pokemon, and Grand Theft Auto. Black Ops, the latest title in the series, is the number one selling video game of all time (and it didn’t even take it that long to get there). So obviously this series is huge. Enormous. A titan among the video game industry. There are reasons why these series get popular, stay popular, and continue to produce game after game after game: people enjoy them, and Call of Duty is no different. I am here to rain on everyones parade and explain to you why Call of Duty will, or at least should, come to an end.
Now don’t get me wrong, I own the majority of the Call of Duty games for the home consoles and have at least played the ones I don’t own a fair amount. They are addictive and hard to put down; I do not deny this. I have probably put around 60 days worth of time into Modern Warfare‘s online mode alone. This, however, does not make Call of Duty and more special to me than the other games in my collection like Bioshock or Dead Space. I have put an ample amount of time into all of them as well and love them a lot more than I do Call of Duty. That doesn’t matter though, that is my personal preference. I can see past the smoke and mirrors and flashing lights that Activision is throwing our way and I have come to the realization that Call of Duty may very well be doomed to the same fate as True Crime, Tony Hawk (Tony claims they’ll still make games, but come on, lets be serious, no one likes those games), and the music titan itself, Guitar Hero.
The COD series has changed so much from its roots in the passing years. Probably the majority of the changes were with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. New war, new time period, new weapons, completely revamped online system, and so much more. From there the changes just get more and more drastic from the original three. If you don’t recall, Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3 were all set during WWII, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare switched things to present times, Call of Duty: World at War went back to WWII, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came back to modern times again, and finally Call of Duty: Black Ops went for the Vietnam War. In the beginning Call of Duty was a fast paced shooter for its time and had a strong level of complexity for its time, but as time has gone on the complexity has increased to a point where I believe it to be too convoluted for its own good. I have barely even played Black Ops (amidst rave reviews from all of my friends) because, among other reasons, I didn’t care to learn all the new features that had been added. Especially not all the new “Zombies” features. Back when “Zombies” was initially released with World at War, I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I played that original zombies level countless times with my friends, just resetting it every time we finally lost. I like “Zombies” back then. It was simple: start off with the basics, buy weapons off the wall, take a gamble with the mystery box, and just board up and defend all the entry ways so the zombies didn’t get you. I don’t even have that much fun playing the “Zombies” mode on Black Ops. The funky weapons, the different juices, the electricity and teleporters, the different forms of zombies. Sure, I’m all for innovation, but too much too much. I can’t handle playing it because it’s just too much to worry about. The Call of Duty series has become so wrapped up in being a twitch shooter that it’s lost almost all sense of realism and pacing for me.
This plays over into the online matchmaking. I CAN NOT stand the Call of Duty online community. It is a bunch of slanderous words and 12-year-olds. I know other games suffer from this syndrome as well (…coughcoughHALO) but it still doesn’t make it right. Nine times out of ten I find myself in an argument with some internet tough guy because the fact that he can hide behind the anonymity of a Gamertag automatically means that he can spout all the homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks he wants. It ruins the fun for me. If I’m not playing in a private chat room with my friends, I don’t use a headset anymore. I can’t stand listening to the garbage that comes through Xbox Live. And this kind of defeats the purpose of the communication aspect of the game, seeing as you’re supposed to use the headset to communicate with your teammates to work together and win the game. Although it’s not like you could actually for a good strategy and play it out. Call of Duty has become so fast-paced and so twitchy that almost any strategy you want to employ wouldn’t work because of the speed of the game.
Back to the complexity. The online modes suffer from this as well. I really liked Modern Warfare‘s online mode. There was enough there to keep me busy (like working towards the golden guns), but not too much to make it seem laden down with unnecessary crap. As time has gone on the additions have just kept coming and coming. Some of them I praise, like host migration. No more rage quitters ruining my kill streak fun. Most though, not so much. Modern Warfare 2, and especially Black Ops have become so burdened with extra garbage in their online modes that I find I have too much stuff to take care of. Modern Warfare 2 was about the max I could stand in terms of complexity. The leveling up on each weapon to unlock new upgrades and attachments, the leveling up of your perks, all the challenges, the kill streaks, camouflages; it all seemed like so much, but I managed (I was severely disappointed in the removal of golden weapons). Black Ops, however, introduces a whole new money-based upgrade system which I really just can’t stand. Just another number I have to watch.
Why such a big hatred to the complexity? It’s not because I can’t necessarily handle it, because I can. I play many complicated games that require a lot of time and effort. It’s because of two reasons: (1) I‘m not compelled to learn all the new features, and (2) it detracts from the single player. Call of Duty got to it’s high position in the video game world because of it’s single player campaign. That was the original reason why all the critics raved and why everyone originally fell in love with it. Over time, however, the focus has switched from the single player to the multiplayer. Of course this is where the majority of your time is going to be spent now, but that doesn’t mean they need to neglect the single player. Now, from what I hear, Black Ops‘ campaign is amazing, and I’ve been meaning to play it. This was refreshing to hear since lately the reviews for game shave been saying there was not enough time spent of the story or it’s too short. I still worry though, I love a good story.
Another small little reason why I believe Call of Duty is doomed to fail is that they are running out of wars. WWII is definitely overplayed, and I am starting to get sick of modern shooters as well. If they don’t switch to a new time zone after Modern Warfare 3 is released, I think they’re going to be in a lot of trouble. With every other major war shooter series out there now switching to the modern era, the market is overflowing with sand and turbans. The Vietnam War was a good play on Treyarchs part; there just aren’t that many wars to make games out of. Anything earlier than WWII would just be boring in my opinion, with such low tech they had back then (and plus WWI was 99% trench warfare, which doesn’t exactly pan out for a fun video game). The Vietnam War is a fresh, new face for the video game industry and I see that sticking around for a while, but it won’t take long for the market to get tired of that war as well. The market wouldn’t be getting tired of these wars so fast if they would pace out the games a little more, but I’ll talk about that later.
My main inspiration for writing this editorial is all of the news circulating Activision, the loss of Guitar Hero, the news surrounding Infinity Ward, and the switching of developers for the Call of Duty series. Activision’s name has now become synonymous with evil in the world of video games. We’ve all seen the the things Bobby Kotick has said. They have a history of taking something great, milking it dry, and then throwing it to the side. This happened with Guitar Hero. What was something great was taken over, forced to pump out countless games every year, and then tossed to the side when people stopped buying plastic peripherals. This is exactly what is happening with Call of Duty. All of the above mentioned complaints may not be quite so bad if the games had more than one year between each new edition. I do not think that Call of Duty needs an annual release. They try to pack so much stuff into the games and then try to pack as many games into the market as they can. There is more than enough content in Modern Warfare 2 to hold me over for at least 2 years. The problem comes when Activision expanded the development community of the Call of Duty franchise. As of right now, there are FIVE developers working on the franchise. FIVE! They are as follows: Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Raven, Sledgehammer, and Beachhead. Let’s start off with Infinity Ward. The creators of the series. It’s good to know that at least the original guys are still behind the games…oh wait, scratch that. We all know what happened over a year ago. The giant fight between Activision and Infinity Ward. The epic battle that resulted in the loss of the two heads of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella. They were let go by Activision, which lead to lawsuits and a huge chunk of Infinity Ward’s staff quitting on the spot. West and Zampella were forced to open a brand new development studio: Respawn Studios. Well, there goes the original talent. But what remains of Infinity Ward is still here, working on the 2011 installment to the Call of Duty series.
Next is Treyarch. The other main Call of Duty developer. The ones who made Call of Duty 3, World at War, and Black Ops. I have never been a particular fan of Treyarch’s Call of Duty games, but they aren’t too bad. I much prefer Infinity Ward though. They’re still around and doing fine. No big deal. Now comes Raven. They have been reportedly working on DLC for Black Ops. Why is this necessary? Why are you outsourcing Call of Duty to other developers. Infinity Ward and Treyarch know how it works and how everything is designed. Handing it off to another developer and just saying “Here, make us some DLC” is stupid. What sort of busy schedules do Infinity Ward and Treyarch have? Are they too busy trying to working on the next installment in the series that they can’t stop to support the one that’s already out? Here’s an idea: STOP MAKING COD ANNUALLY.
Now the one that makes me livid. Sledgehammer. This fourth developer is reportedly working on a whole new, completely separate Call of Duty game. But it’s not a shooter. It’s an action adventure game. What? Why is this even here? Remember that time I said Activision likes to milk popular property for all it’s worth? Yeah, that’s whats happening here. We do not need an action adventure Call of Duty game. It’s made to be a shooter and that’s the way it should be. Lastly, with all that extra money and space Activision had from getting rid of Guitar Hero, True Crime, Tony Hawk (and I didn’t even mention Activision dropping Bizarre Creations, the development studio that brought us Geometry Wars and Blur), they decided to open up a brand new studio to, guess what, focus on the Call of Duty franchise. What is this fifth developer doing? They are in charge of developing an online hub/waypoint/community for the franchise, a la Halo Waypoint. For the third time I ask, why is this necessary? Why can’t Infinity Ward or Treyarch take a break from making annual Call of Duty games and make this new community thing. It was not necessary to create a whole new studio for it (especially at the cost of losing Bizarre Creations).
Have I made my case? With all of these new studios opening up just for Call of Duty, Activision is going to find it hard not to have those development teams create their own Call of Duty games. Then the market will really be crowded. Just look at the other big blockbuster series. Halo had its time and it has come and gone. There were spin off games, like Halo Wars, and a giant online community with their own community hub. Bungie could easily have made more Halo games expanding on the rich world they created, but they decided against it. Enough was enough. Don’t saturate the market. Leave something to be desired, don’t stuff game after game down our throats until we get sick just by looking at them.
I could be wrong about all of this. Call of Duty could live on for a long time, thriving in our video game world. But I personally don’t see that happening. Halo was the game that people thought of when you mentioned video games. Now it’s Call of Duty. If the developers were fewer, the games fewer, and the had a different publisher paving the way, the future of Call of Duty may be a little brighter. But right now it’s pretty bleak.
UPDATE: Well the rumor pool is churning when it comes to the newest edition to the series: Modern Warfare 3. Some apparently “leaked” details suggest that the game is a direct sequel to Modern Warfare 2, features “Soap” MacTavish and John Price, will travel to locales such as Dubai, NYC, and Paris, and has been jointly developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Raven Software.
UPDATE NUMBER 2: It has been recently announced that the fifth developer, Beachhead studios, which was the developer working on an online community, has come forward with their upcoming product. It is called Call of Duty Elite and is a paid online stat-tracking service, similar to what Bungie.net does for free.