Not so Modern Warfare

With the recent sackings at Infinity Ward, and the worrying press release from Activision stating that three new Call of Duty games are being developed, and that they are looking at “new digital business models” (subscriptions?) for the franchise, the question is where does the money making war machine go from here?

Modern Warfare 2 is a good game, but there are a few things that could be improved. The graphics engine is nearly three years old now and it’s beginning to show its age. Killzone 2 may not be the COD killer Sony hoped, but it certainly destroys Infinity Ward’s game graphically. Modern Warfare 2’s textures just aren’t as crisp or detailed, and the characters look like Action Man figures rather than people. Fellow FPS Battlefield: Bad Company 2 utilises the Frost graphics engine, and basically everything can be flattened and disfigured by the surrounding warfare. Compared to Modern Warfare’s rigid environment it feels a lot more visceral and more akin to what you would expect in the battlefield. It also makes every game vastly different, and gives players the freedom to create sniping spots for themselves. A lot of people (mainly the hardcore) might disagree, but vehicles also add something different to the game, and are well balanced in Dice’s game. Think Grand Theft Auto in a warzone and you’re not far off.

Dice's Battlefield Bad Company 2 uses the superbly destructive Frost graphics engine.

A common complaint of the COD series is the relatively short single player experience. Modern Warfare 2 only takes around 4 to 6 hours to complete, which is disappointing, considering games like Bioshock 2 and Uncharted 2 have single players that can take 12 to 20 hours to complete. The multiplayer modes in these games are just the cream on top of the gaming cake, not the main course, and gives the gamer a lot more value from their purchase.

In Zipper Interactive’s MAG and the Battlefield series there are different character classes like Medic and Engineer, who can heal comrades and repair vehicles/structures, as well as the stock assault or sniper class from the COD franchise. This adds extra tactical elements to the game, which Activision’s series currently lacks. MAG and Killzone 2 also have decent clan support, with the ability to form and also challenge other clans in a leaderboard structure, which is a lot easier than using a third party website to organise matches, that you currently have to do when playing COD. For such a hardcore online-centric game to not have this feature is a major omission in my opinion.

Killzone 2's graphics are far superior to Modern Warfare 2's

One thing that disappointed me in Infinity Ward’s latest game was the multiplayer maps. I really enjoyed Highrise and Terminal, which felt new; but a lot of the other levels often felt overly familiar to some COD4 maps, with the re-use of textures and elements from the original game perhaps making the problem more apparent. I have a sneaking suspicion they may be holding back some of the better maps as downloadable content for extra revenue. The servers and online matchmaking could also do with a revamp. As MAG has shown, you can have a lag free game, and even when the host leaves the game there is no interruption to the battle, unlike the quite common disconnections in the COD series.

The Spec Ops part of Modern Warfare 2 is probably the most interesting addition to the game, and I’d like to see this expanded in future editions, with perhaps the ability to play through the full game with a squad of mates. In many ways playing along with friends is more enjoyable than taking on a mob of obnoxious teenage Americans, who invariably camp or use lag switches to gain an advantage. Cheating is quite rife in the COD universe, and not long after Modern Warfare 2 was released I met many people with maximum prestige, even when it was impossible to achieve in that time frame. Looking at the top of the leaderboard you can see players with unachievable scores, and this is something that needs addressing to preserve the integrity of the series with law abiding gamers.

Spec Ops is a great new addition to the COD franchise.

I know I’m being ultra critical, this is Critical Gamer after all, and the COD series still has that crack cocaine addiction, and is still one of the top FPS games around. I just feel it’s needing an overhaul or re-imagining to stay on top. Activision have already admitted that they don’t expect this year’s apparently Vietnam based entry to fare as well as Modern Warfare 2 last year. Perhaps they realise that the competition is now overtaking them in certain areas and they need to rethink the following year to stay ahead of the game. Or more likely, with the addition of another developer and a third game, they are just going to milk the franchise dry while it’s still popular with the masses, who will religiously buy the latest game regardless.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

One comment

  1. steven g /

    A good article. COD is about to go through its toughest 12 months. With the VERY controversial exit of Infinity Ward’s bosses, and possible exodus of other staff, it’ll be interesting to see what on earth is going to happen to that IP.

    The game IS great, but the gulf between it and other shooters is not what it was. I just got Battle Field Bad Company 2 and am already very into that.

    For sure Ill still be regularly playing MW2, but I won’t be buying things that say COD on them for the sake of it. Mind you I never have – I skipped World at War and will be skipping the Vietnam game coming out end of this year.

    I hope Activision doesn’t water down the IP, but based upon what they do with their Guitar Hero games, it looks inevitable that they will.

    COD, World Tour coming soon!!!

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