I committed in my mission statement that I would steer clear of reviews for contemporary games. One reason for this is that as a student at the age of 26 I cannot afford to keep up with the latest releases on my current budget. By the time I get them the craze has passed and a review is pretty much pointless. I have however managed to weasel my way into borrowing a copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts from a friend. Not really a “current” title but its recent enough that normally I wouldn’t mention it. But after playing it over the last weekend I have to say something, and that something is: WTF has happened to the series I loved?
As it stands I have played every major Call of Duty release. Single-player, multiplayer, LAN, online, co-op, zombies, aliens, zombie aliens, alien space zombie aliens from outer zombie space. I’ve done it all. Some of the greatest scripted and non-scripted moments of my gaming history have been a result of COD, what is arguably one of the most popular franchises around today. So with so much money and promise, what went wrong?
In my opinion Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was easily the series’ shining star. The iteration that introduced the new engine and the gripping skin-of-your-teeth narrative the series is so famous for. It was a commercial and critical success. Activision realised they’d landed on a winning formula and so seven years later, not much has changed. But this is exactly the problem. Well that and an insatiable thirst for money.
If ever there was an example for cookie cutter game design, the Call of Duty series is it. There are only so many times I can jump to grab onto a leaving helicopter or tap X to avoid getting stabbed or slip and fall from a dizzying height or use the shoulder buttons to crawl to pick up a weapon in order to save my friend or….. I’m going to stop there but I could go on. These scripted scenes litter the series on a laughable scale. The worst part about them being that no matter what you do the outcome is always the same. What’s even more ridiculous is that any person would ever be able to survive the numerous and horrifically dangerous scenes that play out in these instances.
Call of Duty is without a doubt a massive cash cow. With regular annual releases bearing only small tweaks and changes Activision has consumers lining up like iPeople at an iPhone release. The very sad truth about this is that a very small percentage of gamers actually bother to finish the single-player campaign at all. Most of the changes seem to come in the multiplayer aspect with the single-player component dropping further and further behind with each new game.
In my opinion the multiplayer has even reached ridiculous levels as the system for levelling and upgrading has become ludicrously convoluted. It’s fair to argue that maybe I just haven’t invested enough time to understand it enough, but if I’m going to shell out the massive price of new game I’d like to know that there’s at least a single-player component to it that I can enjoy on the couch with my friends without having to deal with the dickheads you meet playing online.
I think Activision need to figure out what it is they want out of Call of Duty. Other big multiplayer titles like Battlefield 4 or Titanfall manage to pull a massive following with little to no single-player. If Call of Duty is going to continue to push out these rushed releases and rehash the same overused cliché moments then they’ve lost me as a fan.
There is a small glimmer of hope however as Activision have now handed the franchise to a third development studio Sledgehammer Games, giving the games a three year development cycle instead of two. Hopefully this, with the addition of a big name like Kevin Spacey in the mix for the next title, will bring a little more focus to the storytelling and save the series in my eyes. If not, then maybe it’s time they moved to multiplayer only focus and stop wasting both their and my time.