It's the game franchise that divides. Whether it be that you prefer DICE's latest offerings, or you're just done with online FPS's with this style, or even you just dislike the repetitiveness of the series, Call of Duty's success is one that angers a good proportion of gamers. When Jim Sterling gave the game a sterling and well deserved 9.5, there was a little bit of uproar that the game hadn't scored lower.
I recently got my Level 80 and Prestige�d in the multiplayer component of that latest Call of Duty game, having never played a Call of Duty title online for more than a couple of hours before. Now, however, having given the series a chance, I have sunk 40 good hours into Modern Warfare 3, and for the most part, had a great deal of fun. In fact, any time I wasn't having fun can be blamed on other players themselves (H4X0RS!)
In order to see what needs improving, I thought I would first make a list of what ought not be changed: 1
The Levelling and Gear systems: Part of Call of Duty's appeal is the ongoing levelling up a player can do the longer they play. As you play more, your points unlock a higher rank, which in turn unlocks more equipment and guns. Even guns have a level attributed to each of them, which as you use them more rises and unlocks new perks and bolt-ons for each gun (better scopes, bigger magazines and silencers for example). It's a way of crafting a playing style that works for you. I myself favoured charging through narrow streets and tunnels, blasting away unsuspecting enemies with my fully levelled Striker shotgun with extended magazine and the Kick perk attached, meaning better shooting from the hip, giving me the edge over those assault rifle carriers who need a second to aim down sights, or those akimbo bastards who need a second to steady their aim. It adds incentive to keep playing, and even when you're the very best, like no one ever was, you can reset all your stats and receive a shiny badge to say how awesome you are, and start all over again. It just works. 2
The Engine: It looks decent enough. Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer are doing mighty well at squeezing every last bit of life out of the aging engine, and I would recommend they continue to do this. Yes, Battlefield 3, the games biggest competition, is a mighty fine bit of eye candy, but perhaps the competition need not be fought on this front. I have ideas where Call of Duty should strike. 3
Lack of Dedicated Servers: I'm pretty sure most of my PC brethren will happily throw a knife in my eye for this remark, but it needs to be said; I'm sick of playing Left 4 Dead 2 or Team Fortress 2, getting all my friends together, and then joining a server with stupid rules and mods. Without dedicated servers, developers can ensure their game is being played how it is meant to be played. Plus, dedicated servers with funny mods or rules could mean exploitation of the rather brilliant levelling system, as modified rules could mean more ease in levelling up, which would give an unfair advantage. Maybe they could throw in a different mode for this kind of game, which is separate from the levelling systems.
However, if Call of Duty and Activision wants to win back the hearts of gamers, there needs to be some changes. People will only fall for playing what is pretty much the same game with new maps only so many times. Here are some suggestions, hope you're listening guys: 1
Refine the Single Player: When I "reviewed" MW3 in my backlog journal, I gave it a perfect score. It was emotional, well paced and basically brilliant. But a lot of this enthuse may have had a lot to do with the fact that I was genuinely surprised how much better than MW2 it was. MW2 lived in Call of Duty 4�s shadow, and was definitely more Two Towers than Empire Strikes Back (as in, the weak second entry, not the strong point of the series). However, MW3 was definitely the Return of the King (arguably best one) as opposed to Return of the Jedi (fucking Ewoks?).
The ultra violent and scary moments where the public get screwed over are one of the strong points of the series. In this respect, MW3 wins again, with the scene of the family getting blown up highlighting the true villainy which Makarov and chums were capable of, making you want to hang the bastard from the furnishings all the more. The airport scene from MW2 kind of worked, but you had to really look to find the true meaning in the scene other than �Shoot innocent people? Whoopee!� More context should be built into these scenes, so that the player knows why they are seeing what they are seeing; to build resentment of your enemy, and to give you motive to get to them. With this motive, the game becomes more than a five hour multinational bloodbath, and more an exercise in questioning whether war is really what is needed right now.
My idea for a Call of Duty campaign would be to take a family, for whom many of the male members (and maybe a female member for the modern day) are all drafted into their respective wars; the great great grandfather in WW1, the great grandfather in WW2, the father in the Falklands War (yes this article is brought to you by a Brit), and now you, after looking back on what your family has given to their country, before shipping out to Madeupistan to settle the latest conflict. Maybe the protagonists could talk, or the narration could be done by letters, but the important thing would be to craft a story that examines warfare over the last one hundred years, which conveniently would allow the developers to show off all the skills they�ve picked up since the original Call of Duty on PC.
Or, you could even have one of the relatives be a German soldier during WW2. Crazy I know, but don�t forget that many people didn�t fight for the Nazi�s necessarily; they just fought for Germany and their family. This new perspective could turn the genre on its head if done right and tastefully.
So yeah, to summarise, more thought put in, and don�t just nuke us and burn us in a ditch. 2
A new way of fighting online: When it comes down to it, you get home from work, pop in a disc (or open Steam) and jump into a fight. Easy. Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and Domination prove to be most popular amongst the masses.
But what if there was something else? What if you could level up and unlock gear in these aforementioned modes, and yet there was another, deeper, more complex mode, which hid even more juicy equipment and perks?
It�s easier said than done, I know, but perhaps all it would take is a little outwards looking. How about actual real life battles played out on historically accurate maps, with the chance to rewrite history, or preserve the time line? How about a new implementation of killstreaks which reflect the time? Rewrite D-Day, by upping max player numbers to 32, and having the option as the leading player on your team to command tactical insertions, new defences and mortar fire? Any battle could conceivably be remade; I know you Americans are quite proud of the Alamo, but what if the Mexicans (correct me if I�m wrong on any point here) had conceived of a more effective method of attack? Scary, no?
Some people might suggest vehicles and the like, and to this I would say that it should only be done if it works. It isn�t absolutely necessary though.
Also, as a fan of Left 4 Dead�s versus mode, I�d like to see something that encourages team work. How about having medic gear, allowing you to heal the wounded? Rather basic a suggestion, but heck, could work. 3
For the love of God, follow Valve�s example: Activision, I�m about to say two words that might just make you shit your breeches. Ready? Free content� now go clean yourself up and hear me out. A map here and there, a game mode every three months, or really just anything as a sign of good will to your players. It works for Valve, one of the most beloved developers in the industry. You have a lot of money, so why not rock the boat a little and see how much it pays off in adoration from, dare I say it, your new fans! Remember those guys who played Call of Duty 4 who you haven�t heard from in four years? They�re back, and what�s this? Could it be two �20 notes in their hand and eager look in their eye? Wow, guess it paid off after all.
Another, perhaps more outlandish suggestion would be to release a trial version of Call of Duty multiplayer with a free-to-play business model, which would perhaps restrict access to single player and certain modes, but would allow players to build up a taste for the game, and then either purchase the full product, or some kind of multiplayer license, enabling them to gain full access to the multiplayer. This model would work well for those who don�t give a flying toss about the campaign, and could still work on consoles if Sony and Microsoft (and maybe even Nintendo) are willing. Oh, and a PS Vita version might work out well too.
I guess what I�m trying to say is that whilst Activision and chums are feeling quite comfortable on their mountain of money, there is still hope for the franchise yet. Whilst paid content and the Elite service are the dominating thing right now, we can only hope that someone in those golden walled offices with their platinum urinals and caviar dealers on speed dial are actually thinking �What is this franchise really capable of? What are we trying to say about warfare as we know it today? What can we do to keep our multiplayer component fresh and interesting? Where is that boy with my caviar tacos?�
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