I’m about to tell you about one of the most underappreciated triple A franchises of all time. That’s right, it’s Call of Duty, and this… is Barrage.
Whoa, whoa. Hold the phone. Has ANY video game franchise ever been more accused of being the same old game every year? Has any franchise ever been more disrespected, where if you play any other game in the genre and you don’t like something or you’re not very good, you’re told to go back to these games? Madden and other sports games don’t count because they’re based on static, unchanging arenas and new entries in sports franchises are enriched only with slightly better graphics, updated rosters, and one major new feature that replaces a feature from last year.
Now, I’m not saying that Call of Duty is perfect, or even fantastic. On the contrary, the franchise has had a lot of issues in recent days. Such issues include overpriced DLC, bad netcode, rehashed maps and reused assets, and weapon imbalance, among other things. Is Call of Duty deserving of the criticisms it usually receives, though?
Let’s start with the skill level of Call of Duty players, which is implied to be the lowest of the low. There is no lower insult to a first person shooter player than “Go back to Call of Duty.” At least when someone tells you to uninstall, they’re not telling you to go back to a kiddie game. Here’s where you need to understand one of CoD’s strengths. I want you to pay attention to this match. I am a first person shooter veteran and I’ve played every major game in the franchise. I’ve never played on this particular map before and I’m not sure when it was added to the game, but also note that there are no hackers or aimbotters in this lobby. Pay attention to the scoreboard especially at the end of the video, when you get to see just how well some of these people who have been playing Advanced Warfare for several times as long as I have are.
Now take into account that Call of Duty is designed to be accessible, which is the reason people think it’s so casual. Guns are generally hitscan, and people generally have low health pools. The highest number of times you’ll have to shoot someone in the body is about six or seven, and that’s with the lowest damage-per-bullet guns at long ranges, where damage falloff comes into play.
What critics are missing is that due to the speed of the game, especially recent entries – hell, look at how insanely fast Advanced Warfare is – the skill ceiling is monstrously high! In order words, Call of Duty embodies a hallmark of great game design – easy to pick up, difficult to master.
Let’s move on to the “same game every year” accusation. Ugh, I feel filthy even acknowledging this, but there’s so many people who believe it to be true. A cursory search of the franchise will show you a significant evolution over the course of the many years Call of Duty has existed. Call of Duty 1 and 2, for example, were slow World War II shooters with non-regenerating health that required you to pick up health packs. Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare, was groundbreaking both in its modern military setting and in its level-based progression system, not to mention the introduction of perks, killstreaks, and heavily customizable multiplayer loadouts. Just take the jump from the near-featureless CoD 2 to CoD 4 and there’s an incredible change of pace.
The next installation in the franchise was World at War, by Treyarch. World at War introduced the famous “CoD Zombies” mode that took the four-player zombie co-op formula and radically shook it up by setting players in an enclosed map that offered them guns, perks, upgrades, secrets, and new areas in exchange for a point-based currency earned by killing zombies and maintaining defenses.
So where did things appear to go wrong? The consensus is usually Modern Warfare 2, which was the next entry in the franchise. Modern Warfare 2 did little to add to the franchise, with the exception of a sizable series of co-op challenges that put one or two players in a special scenario and required them to complete specific objectives. However, Modern Warfare 2 also invented the customizable “calling card” system that’s been employed in a multitude of shooters, including Gotham City Imposters, Battlefield, Planetside 2, and more.
Black Ops, Modern Warfare 3, and Black Ops 2 all did little to expound upon the formula, it’s true. They all tried to be slightly different, and they were, with different guns, maps, campaigns, co-op features, progression systems, and loadout customization, but the action was generally the same.
Then Advanced Warfare came out and added exo suits, which is why everyone is boosting around and flying all over the place. It’s harder to track a player in this game than it is in Unreal, if the player is good.
Let’s be honest – if you still think that Call of Duty is the same game every year, then you probably aren’t criticizing much more than the fact that most loadouts boil down to darting across the map and aiming down sights at someone, then holding down the left mouse button. How would you change that, anyway? This has been Barrage.