. Its time to take a step back and have a really hard look at the state of Call of Duty’s Multi player offering.
In 2005 the world was introduced to the XBOX360 with a small launch line up consisting of some up scaled ports and some original titles and a little game called Call of Duty 2. Only the second game in the series it had already established its credibility with a well received introduction on PC.
Being a new console ; gamers flocked to whatever software was available and Call of Duty 2 filled the gap that Perfect Dark Zero left in the FPS genre at launch. It wasnt until Gears of War launched in 2006 tha gamers relented its hold on Call of Duty but even then it was a short lived vacation .
Call of Duty 3 arrived in 2006 as well and although it wasnt the game that everyone had hoped for it continued the trend of an anual release schedule for the soon to be gargantuan franchise.
It wasnt until COD 4: Modern Wafare did the gaming industry get the sense that thi was a freight train just about to pick up steam!
Modern Warfare was the first Call of Duty to take place in a modern setting and give players a chance to run around its many maps using contemporary guns and military assets. It also created a new experience for gamers who had grown accustomed to tradditional First Person Shooters. Blending RPG elements in its online multi player mode it teased players with a bevy of unlockables ranging from guns to attachments for those guns. Players where drip fed small amounts of upgrades with only the most dedicated players receiving the coveted items that players deemed ” the best”.
FPS games now had a recipe for success and it wasn’t long before other games started adopting a leveling system with XP and Unlockables becoming he norm in almost every shooter to follow.
As the years went on Call of Duty gathered momentum and before we knew it there where 4 more games in the series staring at us when we went into the game shops. Every year wwe where greated with a new entry and from 2007 onward there was no one alive playing on video game system of anykind that HADNT heard of Call of Duty.
2013 marked the begining of a new console cycle and looking back at the roadmap of Call of Duty games revealed one major but not so obvious fact…We had been playing the same game for the past 8 years!
To compare ; Gears of War launched its first title in 2006. Its followup launched in 2008 and its final game in the series launched in 2011. Each game had approx a 2 year hiatus before gamers could jump back into its game world.
With each release came major gameplay changes and graphical overhauls ( New game engines where used with each release to raise the bar graphicallly). Whether you loved it or not the developers gave you a reason to sink money on each subsequent follow up title.
Today there are many developers behind the game Call of Duty and because the title has a yearly release schedule, too many cooks are now working in the kitchen.
A game francgise need not HAVE to make radical changes to its winning formula in order to be deemed a quality product, and I think everyone would agree that if too much change is introduced into a games subsequent sequals then the core audiance will lose interest and perhaps feel alienated by the very game it fell in love with. This si the slippery slope all game developers walk on when creating a long running IP. How do you innovate without alienating?
In the case of Calll of Duty the developers decided to keep using the same development engine since the series inception. The result in this case is a game that looks almost identical in presentation sequal after sequal after sequal. Each game in the series have been accused of reusing graphical and sound assets to the point that they have all blended together into one big mash up of COD games.The game literly looks the same as it did back in 2007!
Graphics do not define a games strengths and despite the recycling of assets that has been going on with Call of duty over the past decade we need to take a step back and evaluate the current state of the game on more than how pretty it looks.
Gameplay is paramount when it comes to a shooter. If you arent having fun then it doesnt matter gow pretty the game itself looks. Call of duty started its rise with gameplay that was balanced and challenging. A game that brought out the competitve side of gamers and removed HALO from the running as the definitive Competitive shootter on the market. COD started its life as a game that challlenged players and rewarded better players. A game that rewarded players for thier efforts and coaxed and encouraged players who were not quite as good as others. It had an amazing reward loops that kept everyone happy and happy gamers kept playing.
Fast forward to current day. Call of duty: Ghosts has just launched and the Developers claim that it is the definitive COD experience; pulling from all its years of learnings and improvements. Then why does it also seem like the most flawed version of the game I have ever played?
The decline of COD started after Modern Warfare 2 was released. Arguably the most successful game in the series( COD 4 is still the most loved by franchise veterens) it was also plaugued with the most Drama. The Creators of the Call of Duty franchise became embroiled in a EPIC lawsuit with publisher Activision and the end result was a splintering of the developement studio who created Call of Duty ( Infinity Ward). The bulk of the team were fired/left and headed off to form their own studio called ” Respawn entertainment” ( Creators of the soon to be launched Titan Fall). The remainder of the studio stayed behind and continued work on future versions of Call of Duty.
This was the turning point and it was almost as if you could see a switch get flicked. Gameplay that in the past was funely tuned all of a sudden became erratic and inconsistant. Balancing that was a top priority in the past seemed to have been neglected in favour of just dumping more and more options and cool gadgets. Solid game systems have crumbled and player skill now is a afterthought. Broken Spawn systems and overpowered killstreaks combine to make Multiplayer a complete mess at times!
The game became a proverbial melting pot of ideas. Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown into the mix ( and I swear I saw one in Black Ops 2!) in the hopes that something would stick. The settings started jumping all over the place from Modern Warfare to Cold War era vietnam to World War 3 and even near and post future settings. Call of Dyty : Ghosts has you playing a level in outer space shooting guns!
COD has lost its way and is in a state of flailing but all is not lost…
The hope is that someone in whichever development team is working on this years title realizes the state of the game and more importantly takes some chances to reinvigorate the franchise and set sail in a new more positive direction.
The game has still maintained its solid core foundations regardless of what version you are playing. The progression and reward systems are what drive the player behavior and as long as the newest version of the game incorporates that the game will still inspire its players to log massive hours online.
The real questiion is with millions of people buying it every year in its current form…does it even really matter?
Dwayne”EVO Knight” Morash