-The following is not a representation of the views of Capsule Computers or it’s staff. This is also not about Modern Warfare 3, which I have yet to play; so for all I know, it could actually be quite good. This is a generalisation on the impact that the series has had on the market-
Call of Duty, arguably the most influential game of our times, is obviously the worst influence on gaming this generation. In this article, I hope to dismiss Call of Duty for what it is, an influence on gaming that has forever altered it for the worst.
Unlike the influential titles of past, the present title has inspired an entire generation of rip offs and generic clones hoping to cash in on the success of it’s highly accessible and unskillful multiplayer portions, the poorly written stories that are all style and no substance; and lastly, the poor level design that encourages unsportsman behaviour amongst competitors. While it’s possible for developers to commit to developing a game that deviates from this formula, publishers make it increasingly difficult for them to do so. Everyone wants a slice of excrement and publishers are more than willing to force people to make it.
Since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare appeared on markets, very few new first person shooter titles have dared to deviate from the poorly designed template and try something original. Call of Duty can be likened to a Michael Bay film, there’s lots of explosions, lots of faceless enemies that spawn endlessly and little to no difficulty. It’s lowest common denominator dribble that should have only worked once; not 7 or 8 times now. However, developers and publishers are seeing that this is what is selling at the moment, people don’t want a deep or moving experience; hell they don’t even want a fun one. They just want a game that’s the same as everyone has, because it’s the benchmark for peoples taste, they see it as something their friend likes and something that they should be liking themselves.
What I largely attribute to Call of Duty’s success, is not anything that it should be renown for (a good story, fun gameplay, an innovative experience), but rather, how may people had their first competitve experience in gaming with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2). There have been popular multiplayer based shooters in the past (Quake, Unreal Tournament, Battlefield) and each have had a much better design behind them. However, when Microsoft and Sony made this generation of consoles the must thing to have, it created a playerbase that was not present before; the casual gamer.
Now these casuals have probably never played a competitive game in the entirety of their lives and suddenly they have this game where, not only are they able to score some points against that hardcore guy (at school, work, etc.), but that they could also easily surpass him, not through skill, but through a poorly designed system that encourages camping by creating points that are easy to have players conceal themselves into while remaining (mostly) invisible to other players, or otherwise cheap in that any player turning into that area would be in a compromising position themselves. Unfortunately, this is where the lack of skill comes into play. With sticky(roflmao)-aim (seriously, this is just auto-aim), any player turning that corner, or bend, could be killed without a chance to react themselves. I’ve actually done this myself in MW2, so broken.
While gaming has always had auto-aim features, generally in multiplayer games, this feature has been disabled to create a fair and level playing field. Call of Duty changed this, and now all titles that are trying to become big have this feature. Nearly every console shooter now has sticky-aim in multiplayer matches, you can turn it off, but why would you?
With kill-streaks encouraging camping by rewarding players with bigger and meaner ways to kill their opponents, is it any wonder that players would like to find the best places to set up shop and camp? While you can argue that players would eventually run out of ammo and need to come out of hiding to get more, this would be the rare occurance considering the few amount of shots it takes to actually kill someone. And with the amount of kills being made, taking a risk to collect ammo is a lot less risky than it should be. Add on sticky-aim, and you’re damned near invincible.
The last multiplayer point I really want to talk about is the community. With a playerbase as large as Call of Duty’s, non-gamers are going to start looking at the largest fanbase within our past-time as a representation of the entire gaming community. Unfortunately, Call of Duty hosts the largest number of foulmouthed and annoying imbeciles that the world has ever known. Anybody who has played a Call of Duty game over Xbox Live or Playstation Network will know exactly what I mean. There is always that one group of people who will go out of their way to abuse other players, or broadcast pornographic audio over their microphones. While it can sometimes be hilarious listening to, it is almost always annoying any other time. It also reflects badly on the gaming community as a whole.
While the community remains strong, the popularity of the game (as well as the simplicity of the gameplay, skillwise) makes this a prime target for children to pick up and play. Whilever our medium is called ‘Video-games’, parents will think that a title of this nature is okay for a children to have access to and will let them play it, online, with one of the most anti-social communities on the planet. This sends the wrong messages to children about, not only gaming, but general courtesies when engaging with other people. The next generation of gamers are going to be trolls who do nothing but hurl abuse and play poorly designed games because they can’t cope with difficulty, and do not know any better.
Let’s get off multiplayer for the moment and talk about the influences that it’s had on single player games. Most single player games in the past would have all of their budget allocated to the single player experience, and if developers thought it would be cool and had the time, they’d tack multiplayer on as an afterthought. Not today though, now the majority of a games budget is in balancing the multiplayer system, because publishers see that multiplayer is what sells Call of Duty titles, so therefore, it must be what sells their games too.
With this reduced budget, the single player campaigns usually end up being a poorly written and/or designed mess. Furthermore, they will often try to copy whatever was in the last Call of Duty game in the hopes that fans of CoD will be interested in it for its similarities. This logic is close to stupidity. A person has not played the game you’re currently developing, how would they know that it’s similar to Call of Duty outside of screenshots and the few videos available to them? They wouldn’t, that’s how. So instead of focusing on copying what’s popular at the moment, how about coming up with something original and engaging? Seriously, if I wanted to play Call of Duty, I’d play Call of Duty. If I’m buying your game, I want to play your game. Unfortunately, right now in the war simulation styled games, I’ve bought your game and recieved a knock-off of Call of Duty. Why not just merge with Activision and pool your resources into changing the fundamentals of how CoD is played? It has the brand name and the playerbase, maybe you can change gaming for the better?
And what of all this hand-holding in games today. I can’t play a game without going through a lengthy tutorial on how to press an A button on my controller. I’ve been gaming for 20 years of my life (hey that’s nearly all of it), so I know how to do this quite well. This isn’t really a specific gripe about how CoD has influenced gaming negatively, but I’m starting to run out of ideas on things to complain about.
It’s okay not to like Call of Duty people, it’s alright to flush excrement down a toilet; and it’s more than fine to want to play something else.
The video posted below sums up my feeling of playing a Call of Duty clone in comparison to an actual good game.
Be sure to check out the rebuttal by Darren Resnekov here.