Grumpy Gurevitz: Franchise of Duty

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Have you carried out your duty and bought CoD: Black Ops? I ask as it seems that as gamers, and as consumers, we are now expected by everyone, from Activision Blizzard to the world’s media, to go and automatically purchase the latest game. So I ask again, have you gone, taken out a pre-order or filed into your local supermarket and bought it on impulse with the sense that it’s what is expected of you? Do you feel you won’t be able to look other serious gamers in the eye knowing you don’t have the latest version of the FPS bible?

I’m not here to review the game, not least because I haven’t played it. I’ve seen the reviews and they are all saying that its good, but not a 10/10. Whatever; instead I’m concerned with the power this franchise now has over the entire industry.

Of course, before I get on my high horse (before?!) this isn’t a new situation. Years ago, and still to an extent today, people would automatically go out and buy the latest FIFA like a pack of sheep, resulting in the gameplay becoming stagnant. Eventually consumers started to get wise to the  ‘drug’ they had become addicted to and moved to sticking with the version they had or moving to alternative yearly upgrades. The result of this was a slowing of the FIFA franchise in terms of numbers sold, and a renewed effort by EA to revitalise the game. Recent years have shown a huge return both for publisher and consumer as the title has had a couple of major overhauls, resulting in better core gameplay and many more modes within the traditional FIFA offering.

Despite all the hype around the latest Call of Duty, and despite the sales figure for Black Ops being an almost certain success, it is possible that this version of the game is going to be the franchise’s peak. I have said that I haven’t played the game, but I have watched it on various websites showing the first ‘x’ amount of footage. It looks great, great in the same way MW2 looked great. However I do feel I’ve seen and experienced it all before as its the same performance in slightly different clothing and staging. Perhaps I am the only one, but I’m guessing a number of potential purchasers and those who have already purchased the game will feel the same, resulting in next year’s installment holding steady in terms of sales – if not actually seeing those sales decline.

It's ironic that both 'World at War' and 'Black Ops' have zombie modes, as most of its consumers have acted liked Zombies when it comes to buying it. Is the joke on us?

That is, of course, only if CoD doesn’t get a major overhaul. What improvements could be made? Less scripting, and much better AI is a must. There is a clear split between the way Halo plays and the CoD games. However, now might be the time that they start to come together and cross fertilise each other’s franchise. In fact you could argue that Halo Reach has already started to do this. Halo has excelled with having pretty amazing AI, but less set pieces. Halo Reach improved the AI, added more enemies on screen at once, and increased the number of set pieces. The game also incorporated some of the ‘fighting with your comrades’ experience traditionally experienced in the CoD games.

It is clear that the CoD games need to improve the AI. For those of you who have not played Halo Reach, I am not overstating how great the AI is. It’s not perfect, for sure. But being chased by an enemy who then backs off and then takes stock is thrilling, and when victorious very satisfying. Imagine a CoD set in the ‘real world’ (rather than the world of Halo), with the traditional size and execution of the set pieces alongside well executed AI routines. That would be worth getting.

This cross fertilisation of ideas is ironically what has happened in the football game market, as PES and FIFA have both been forced to drastically change to keep the demand for such games alive. It’s also clear who has ‘got’ the need for this process more, with FIFA winning both the consumer’s mind and the critic’s.

The other problem I have with the rollout of this all consuming franchise is it encourages players to start over in the multiplayer world. I’m only level 33 or thereabouts on MW2, having spent quite a lot of money on the download packs. I’m certainly not going to ‘upgrade’ to the new game which will undoubtedly pull me from the MW2 experience. There is only so much time in a day, week or year, and there are other games to play! Really, there are. Yet, what makes the CoD games great are their multiplayer which is fast, intelligent and imaginative. Black Ops adds some great new features, including wagers on experience points, which I’m all for. However, not enough to make me want to start from scratch, and in effect abandon my investment in MW2.

Remember this game? It was great. Lets play it again, but this time set in the 1800s with muskets....

What is the solution? Well some kind of CoD ‘career mode’ would be great where I can build up an online profile and have a consistent career rank. Basic multiplayer with any CoD title would be free, but a CoD Plus account would allow me to pool my XP; a service with a price that’s worth paying for. Over time that profile could be carried into other possible areas of CoD such as a persistent war type game, like MAG, if they ever make one.

So before the fanboys attack me, let’s go over my position on the CoD franchise. Am I a fan? For sure, I own more than one title in the franchise, and even have the limited edition MW2 console. Do I think the basic gameplay has tired and needs refreshing? You bet. Am I starting to get annoyed with the lack of continuity in the multiplayer, when it’s clear that each version is an upgrade on the previous build? Yes, affirmative.

What would I pay for this CoD Plus? £5-£15 a year along with some other freebies, perhaps. Beta trials, some exclusive weapons and maybe a discount on map packs.

My question to you is this; how much duty do you really have to CoD and would you be willing to make the investment if called upon?

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

4 comments

  1. KrazyFace /

    Well Gurevitz, I guess I’m the wrong person that got here first! Why? Coz I’m nowhere near a CoD fan! Infact, the last one I played was 4, and even then all the time I spent with it was as long as it took me to complete the main story (one night and an hour on Sunday morning).

    Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an amazing experience, but I’m not much of a fan when it comes to online frag-fests and because of this CoD, MoH or anyother shooter for that reason, is why I couldn’t care less about the latest release. Does that mean I’m not “Hard Core”? Who’s to say…

  2. I’ve actually never purchased a Call of Duty game, though I’ve played demos for 3 and MW2. I certainly don’t feel any shame for not playing them… rather, I feel a sort of stupid pride for stubbornly ignoring the trend. They seem like fine games, but I’m more than ready for this military shooter phase to end. And you’re right; eventually Activision will be forced to try something new. I think we’ve already seen this cycle with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Eventually people lose interest in modifications of the same product year after year.

    I’m not sure where they should take the series (I’m definitely not the one to ask) but I can tell that it’s about time for a change. But as long as the hype keeps on drawing crowds, Activision might not see things in the same light.

  3. 1. Spawn systems is probably the worst I seen.

  4. I love call of duty but I don’t think it’s possible for Activision to go more than 6 months without releasing a new version.. They are cashing in biggg

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