I’m willing to admit that I’m getting a little sick of seeing Call of Duty titles come out on a yearly basis. And it’s hard to deny that this series was the genesis of the first-person shooter flood that has saturated the market with copies and pretenders over these past few years. But Call of Duty is the game that everyone else is trying to copy, and that’s mostly because of its quality. It has innovated in ways that other shooters simply haven’t, and, regardless of how you may feel about current COD titles in relation to one another, they always offer a solid multiplayer experience that keeps millions playing for years after any title’s initial release. How can a franchise that appeals to millions of gamers “suck?” Is Call of Duty actually the Honey Boo Boo of gaming, or has its impact simply been misunderstood?
Let’s look at what Call of Duty has given us over the years. While it isn’t the first shooter to feature regenerating health, it was easily the shooter that popularized it, as it was one of the first shooters to make the entirety of your health regenerating. Halo gave you a shield that regenerated, but it also gave you a standard health bar, a holdover from the days of GoldenEye.
Until Call of Duty, most shooters just assumed that you would need to pick up health packs in order to restore your health, and, as a result, health bars were longer and people were far harder to kill (with the exception of a few more realistic shooters like Counter-Strike). Call of Duty introduced a shorter health bar, but it made the whole thing regenerate. This meant that you would most likely die if you got caught in someone’s sights, but if you managed to get to cover you can head back into the battle at full strength (minus some ammo, of course). This gave the whole series an action/war-movie-type feel, allowing you to dive into cover to catch your breath after surviving a hailstorm of bullets. It’s this formula that has become the accepted gameplay system for nearly every shooter on the market, and it’s all because of Call of Duty.
But that’s in the past. So let’s look at the present. Call of Duty’s multiplayer has successfully integrated RPG elements into scoring system that otherwise wouldn’t give you anything but bragging rights. To this day, the franchise manages to integrate new concepts into its level-up system, like the achievement-style perks. And the perks themselves continue to change, fleshing out how each particular Call of Duty title plays. Modern Warfare 3’s different killstreak tracks even change a fundamental rule of the game, how killstreaks are awarded. You are seeing elements like this creep over to other shooters as well. It’s hard to find any multiplayer shooter without a killstreak knock-off these days.
Then again, these are all gameplay elements. What about story? Well, if you remember correctly, the original Modern Warfare put you through the hell of witnessing a nuclear bomb and watching it sap the life out of you. That was pretty revolutionary in terms of war game stories, and it can be argued that events like this and the infamous “No Russian” scene paved the way for more artistic shooters like Spec Ops: The Line. Of course, not every Call of Duty game is a masterpiece of storytelling, but the very fact that they continue to include twelve-hour single-player campaigns in a game that mostly sells itself on multiplayer shows that Treyarch and Infinity Ward have a real devotion to narrative.
I could go into how Call of Duty also popularized the “aim down sights” mechanic, or how it made cover an important part of shooters even without a built-in cover system, but I think it’s fairly obvious that Call of Duty doesn’t qualify as a game that “sucks” right now. So what do people really mean when they say Call of Duty “sucks?”
What they really mean, I assume, is that they are tired of CoD’s dominance over the market, and that is something entirely different than it just sucking. Anyone who is keeping up with Call of Duty has to pay another 60 dollars every year just to keep up with the most current version. This is rough on gamers that aren’t made of money.
Then, as I said before, there are all the pretenders that try to take Call of Duty off the throne. It’s hard to deny that there are countless ADS, regenerating-life, military-based cover shooters on the market, and most of them are rarely ever touched because everyone is playing Call of Duty. So in a very real way, CoD did created this shooter-saturated hellhole that we are currently in, and the fact that Activision refuses to take a year off helps perpetuate that.
But these aren’t the side effects of a game that sucks; they’re the side effects of a game that’s good. Any time something becomes popular enough it will inevitably spawn a backlash. So there are plenty of people out there saying Call of Duty sucks because they are upset about what it is doing to the gaming market, but there are just as many out there hating on it because it’s the cool thing to do.
Call of Duty is kind of like the My Little Pony of the video game universe. It has attracted a far bigger audience than anyone first thought it would. So now it’s just the “in” thing to hate on it, even though this doesn’t accurately reflect on the game’s quality in any way. So yes, in this metaphor, Call of Duty players are all bronies, and anyone who hates on the game is just being a brony-hater. How does that make you feel?
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: November 6, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*