With the impending release of Call Of Duty – Advanced Warfare it seems appropriate to have a look back at the Call Of Duty (COD) legacy. It’s a storied one, a controversial one and I doubt I’ll make new friends here, but let’s see how we do.
COD began life when some of the team behind the Medal Of Honour (MOH) series decided to branch out. Infinity Ward was born with the first planned project set to take on MOH head on. As far as it’s game changing nature goes, COD had one key attribute, variety. That sounds crazy to say now given its reputation as being stale and repetitive but at the time it threw out the mould and gave you multiple character’s perspectives of a given period in WW2 and added a storytelling depth that was less striking in previous WW2 shooters.
But sure, it wasn’t entirely groundbreaking, just another first person shooter. No, ground was broken with the third main line sequel, Call Of Duty 4 – Modern Warfare. It seems crazy to think it now but once upon a time, war games were set in the past or the future, rarely in the somewhat present day. COD 4 took what we were seeing on the evening news as war raged on in the Middle East and put it on our consoles. The landscape changed forever. Sure it had its detractors, I for one was appalled as I’m a WW2 nerd, but for the most part it was heralded as the dawn of a new era for multilayer gaming. Then came the follow ups.
Given that Treyarch’s return to WW2 the next year was made without knowledge of the Modern Warfare plan, Call Of Duty – World At War featured all of the solid staples the series had possessed so far with little change. Change came with Call Of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), for better and worse. As far as I’m concerned if you’re still a die hard COD fan to this day then you A) started playing after MW 2 or B) you got the Tactical Nuke at least once. You see MW2 was where COD really first tapped into that special strain of anger that only COD can conjure, and it did so with killstreaks, particularly the nuke.
Yes, if you got enough kills on a row without dying you obtained the Tactical Nuke killstreaks. It was a win button, albeit one that required a considerable number of kills to acquire. But it encouraged camping, cheating, boosting and more as player after player wanted it on their CV. It was infuriating. I began playing COD in earnest with the 09 release of Call Of Duty – Black Ops and that had the Attack Dogs for its highest streak. Annoying, yes. Mind numbingly infuriating, no. Every COD since has always struck a more delicate balance but MW2 caused damage you could argue was irreparable.
Which is a pity, because COD hate nowadays is based on anger and the notion that the series is stale. Were any other company aside from Activision publishing it, maybe the hate would be lessened. You see these guys have, in a genius way, made their money with annual franchises. Tony Hawk, James Bond titles, COD, movie adaptations and of course Skylanders. There has not been a period in the last decade where they haven’t published a game that isn’t at least a sequel to one from the previous year if not the third fourth or fifth in a franchise. But remember they don’t make these games, developers do and they care about the quality.
There are now three principal developers behind the COD series – Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games who are making their debut with Call Of Duty – Advanced Warfare on Monday. Fair enough Infinity Ward proved with Call Of Duty – Ghosts that they have some rebuilding to do since the departure of West and Zampella who were two cornerstones of the COD origins. But with each company now on a three year development cycle a shift in gear for COD is coming. Ignore the annual nature of the beast. Ignore the microtransactions, they’re the modern model. I would implore you, if you have ever been a COD fan, give the series another shot.
The hate is strong, and a lot of it tangentially justifiable, but if you think about it it’s being brought about in a rather silly fashion. Buyer’s choice at the end of the day, but my advice would be to go once more, put the faith in that potential return to form. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.