Call of Duty, We Need to Break Up
It’s almost time to start the new year and I want to do it thinking positively. By which I mean if I hurry and talk about Infinite Warfare this year, I can do the things I want to in early January next year.
There is almost nothing interesting to say about Infinite Warfare because there’s nothing interesting in Infinite Warfare. The first gunfight the game put me in, I was immediately bored because I had been doing Call of Duty gunfights just like it for the last 10 years. The first cutscene in the game lasted for so long I put my controller down and made some food, when I came back Kit Harrington had killed everyone and I was some white guy walking around a skyscraper towards a carbon copy of the Pelicans from the Halo franchise. Same as the plot to Black Ops 2, and Ghosts, and, Black Ops 3 (and maybe Advanced Warfare, I think. Damn you Kevin Spacey).
All of our superior weaponry had been turned against us and the bad guys are a bunch of douchebags for taking our peacekeeping metaphorical gun to their head. Because it’s okay when we hold the gun and only threaten to fire it, but when it’s in their hands, it’s less fun, I guess. So the pelican crashes (naturally) and a firefight ensues and there’s smoke and explosions and lights and boats and cars and robots and it’s just a huge assault on my senses. I got into the second boring firefight that felt just like all the hundreds of other firefights and I just quit. The game hurt my head. It hurt my heart. It just hurt.
I know, it’s “cool” to bash Call of Duty because it’s so popular and good and teenagers think it’s on fleek (or whatever you tweeters are saying with your instant grahams). But that’s not what this is. This isn’t an appeal to fit in or be respected by the masses. Let me prove it to you.
I started in COD with Call of Duty 2. I never managed to get my hands on the first one, still haven’t, but I enjoyed the second game a lot. I don’t actually remember much of it other than the African campaign which I thought was cool. And it didn’t matter at the time because it was unlike anything else I had played, it was a fun, high octane, and interesting shooter. Call of Duty 3 carried on the legacy and introduced Dixon and Guzzo, two awesome characters who I genuinely enjoyed going through the campaign with.
Modern Warfare was a solid successor. The end of the first chapter where your helicopter goes down in the nuclear explosion was an amazing scene; one of the best scenes in all of gaming, really. I knew people who had retried that mission because they didn’t think the death was scripted and just assumed they did something wrong. It was the first time you did everything right and still died, and it was delivered in an epic and powerful way that I’ll never forget. Of course, it goes without mentioning No Russian and the stories of Price and Soap are some of the best tales told in a video game medium.
I’ll layer on some more praise. Black Ops was a fun and amazing game that I loved experiencing. I know not everyone feels that way, drawing some obvious parallels to The Manchurian Candidate, but I played Black Ops before I saw that movie so joke’s on you, Denzel Washington. Black Ops 2, while nowhere near as good as the first one, was also fun to play and see how Alex Mason and Frank Woods carried on after their time in Vietnam. Plus, the dynamic nature of the story was interesting and I actually did replay the campaign a couple times to get all the possible scenarios and endings.
Unfortunately for Call of Duty, this is where my praise runs out. The next games in the line are Ghosts, Black Ops 3 and Advanced Warfare. Ghosts was the last Call of Duty I bought on launch day. It was the first one where I felt cheated for doing so. We had come so far with such interesting characters only to devolve back to the stupid silent protagonist Logan with his dumb moron brother Hesh and their dog named after another, better, Call of Duty character. The whole plot of Ghosts was like a COD fanfic with the porn edited out.
Advanced Warfare was just as dumb and it felt like they had run out of interesting stories to tell and replaced it with cool gadgetry, Kevin Spacey, and Troy Baker instead. Black Ops 3 was meant to be my saving grace. A return to the world of Mason and Woods. Except BO3 could have been a totally standalone game like Ghosts was and it would have made just as much sense. There was absolutely zero connection to the stories of the first two Black Ops games that I loved and it really was the last time I’d ever even pretend to care or be interested in the series.
So now you understand where I’m coming from. Multiplayer be damned, it’s the campaigns I’ve always loved about Call of Duty. But this isn’t the COD I knew. This is just a direct IV of explosions so American that I wouldn’t be surprised if the game came with a free slab of bacon (I mean it’s already forever linked to Doritos and Mt. Dew so why not?). I wouldn’t buy Infinite Warfare if it came with a better game for free (which it does, Modern Warfare Remastered). However, I would download and play the thing if a free trial ever released for a weekend on Xbox Live (which it did.)
I’m under the impression that Infinite Warfare must not be doing well. When you see a game like Overwatch go free over a weekend and they do it mid-November, they’re likely to get some Black Friday sales out of it and it feels like a smart move that a stable game can afford to make to expand the player base.
Overwatch famously adds new content and tweaks their games for the long haul and it’s much appreciated by the people who enjoy it, so it’s no surprise they want to bring more people in who might have played it before and didn’t like the way things worked or who never got to try the new heroes. Now when Call of Duty releases a new game every year and their newest and shiniest release just came out a month before the game went on a free trial (just in time for younger kids to download it, play it, and then ask for it for Christmas), it seems less like “a stable game trying to expand the playerbase” and more like “a struggling game trying to exploit a younger demographic to recover from their once venerable, but now butchered series and awful pre-order numbers”. I don’t have the sales for Infinite Warfare in front of me, I’m just assuming they’re desperate because the free trial less than a month after release seems like the actions of desperation.
Call of Duty. It’s time to stop. It’s not me, it’s you. We need a break. And by “we” I mean “the world.” The world needs a break from you.