Call of Duty has cemented its status as one of the most recognized gaming franchises to date. It has built its reputation heavily upon the multiplayer aspect, in which it boasts a community with over 100 million unique users. The stature that Call of Duty obtained resulted in its incursion within Major League Gaming (MLG).
Major League Gaming can be traced back to 2002 and it has brought a new level of competitive gaming to the world. MLG tournaments vary in the different genre of titles used, such as Halo and Mortal Kombat for example. Call of Duty was added to the catalog of titles in MLG, which is no surprise due to the competitive nature of the online in COD. I was one of those people who spent endless hours on Call of Duty; fully immersing myself in the online features that it had to offer. However, recently I have found the franchise less appealing with each new installment. I continue to question if the Call of Duty franchise will come to an end or when it will meet its maker. The series has failed to replicate and live up to the expectations that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare once offered. I personally don’t think that any of the new titles will rival the reputation that Modern Warfare built.
Personally, I trace the decline of the franchise back to Call Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Although the game itself had certain flaws, this was the last title in the series which produced the standards that the franchise should be achieving. Call of Duty hasn’t been producing the quality it should be in newer titles but this doesn’t mean that they are bad titles. They improve upon certain aspects like graphics but fail to deliver that core gameplay which COD really needs. New innovations are needed in the series which is something we saw in the transition from Call of Duty 3 to Call of Duty 4. It would help in revitalizing and bringing the flair back in the franchise. Call of Duty is heading down the route in which Activision will continue every incentive to cash in on the franchise. This will no doubt run the name of the franchise into the ground (some may debate that is already the case) and join the ranks of Activision’s other dead franchises: Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk.
Call of Duty has the potential to be the best FPS title of its generation but why does it continue to underachieve its expectations? One of the fundamental answers lies within the gameplay itself. No game is perfect, but in the case of Call of Duty, it should be continuously trying to offer the right balance in the online multiplayer. From overpowered grenades in Call of Duty 4 to finding the right balance in weapons (e.g. the overpowered AK-74u in Call of Duty: Black Ops); issues within the game continue to unbalance and cause problems within the multiplayer. In most cases these weapons are patched but another gun will take its place due to the strength, which is why the right balance needs to be found within weapons. Call of Duty would benefit from an open beta testing and this would be something which I would be happy to participate in. It would give the developers more time to understand the right balance required as well as receiving community feedback (Gears of War 3 was similar in its beta testing). Quick Scoping is an issue which continues to haunt the franchise and the developers need to put their foot down on the issue. I personally believe that it ruins the purpose of actual sniping in the game and also leads to certain gamers suffering in team-based competitions. There are several instances where I’ve seen someone running around Quick Scoping in a Team Deathmatch and ending the game with three kills and 24 deaths. This is due to their motive of jumping off buildings trying to pull off ‘trick shots’ for a YouTube Montage. I can’t tell people how to play the game that they paid for, but Quick Scoping is a broken mechanic that ruins the game for the majority of people.
The series has continued to change the Killstreak layout which is a controversial issue for some people within the COD community. The introduction of Scorestreaks and removing the ability to gain Killstreak via other Killstreaks has brought in some balance. However, I still believe that a better and more balanced system needs to be introduced. Furthermore this also includes the removal of the Nuke Killstreak from any further COD titles (getting rid of one incentive for players to boost). Call of Duty’s multiplayer is either a hit or miss depending on the title; and the franchise needs to trace back to a similar style of gameplay like COD 4 and develop on it rather than overcomplicating it with each new title. Obviously new additions need to be brought in but nothing over the top which will ruin the online experience.
Community feedback and the way developers have handled problems in the past are also reasons that Call of Duty is on the decline. The community feedback has been poor in the past and this has resulted in some of the worst online experiences in Call of Duty’s history. Remember when I mentioned that Modern Warfare 2 was the point in which the franchise went downhill? Well it didn’t stop at the launch of the game; this was down to the failures of both Infinity Ward and its Creative Strategist and Community Manger Robert Bowling. Rather than patching issues with the online, they led the game to ruin; allowing it to be riddled with hackers and a broken Danger Close/One Man Army combination (this gave players an unlimited supply of Grenade Launcher Shells with the damage/radius increased by double using Danger Close). I’ll give Infinity Ward credit when its due as the team did deal with issues like the Javelin Glitch (allowing players to fire a missile upon death) and the Care Package Glitch (this allowed players to duplicate a kill streak as many times as they would like), but they took long enough to address these issues.
If there was any moment in which the developers angered me the most it was Robert Bowling’s comments on Last Stand and Commando not featuring in Modern Warfare 3. Bowling said that they wouldn’t be in the game but instead the team decided to remove the Commando Perk, which granted players the ability to lunge from distance with their knife, but not the lunge itself. The worst was when death streaks were introduced, including a welcome back for the much hated Martydom from Call of Duty 4 and Final Stand. Final Stand returned from Modern Warfare 2 which had all the perks of Last Stand but also granted the player the use of their primary weapon when down and eventually the ability to be revived if they weren’t killed. And let’s not forget about Dead Man’s Hand, which gave players a C4 when they’re on the floor in one final martyr attempt (cheers Robert Bowling).
Don’t get me wrong, the COD community hasn’t always been let down; Treyarch (the other studio making COD games) has been pretty good at supporting its titles. However, the two studio system is another problem that I believe Call of Duty suffers from. Treyarch and Infinity Ward continue to rotate between the Modern Warfare (now Ghosts) and Black Ops franchises each year. The yearly release of these titles can divide the community which will have some people opt for Treyarch due to the Zombies mode whilst other may prefer Infinity Ward’s approach to the title. The one year life span (in terms of post-release support) makes each title less enjoyable as it feels like each new title is rushed into development. Little innovation is brought in certain aspects and the franchise becomes a money machine like E.A. Sports FIFA titles for example. I believe that each game should have at least a two year life span in which the title can be fully developed on and expanded with the full use of DLC. It should develop itself with the use of expansion packs including map packs, new weapons, and games modes. I would love to see this happen and it could bring a longer life-span to these titles in which we can enjoy getting to 15th Prestige rather than rushing it through in a year.
The franchise needs to be reinvigorated which is what a worthy advisory could bring. I thought that Battlefield would have taken on this task and at one point thought it would bring Call of Duty to an end. The two titles have been seen in a constant tug of war style competition but nothing has really come of it. Activision hasn’t seen the COD franchise threatened in any way by Electronic Arts’ Battlefield series. If there is any future game which could serve as a true test for Call of Duty, it would be the upcoming Respawn Entertainment game: Titanfall. Developer Respawn Entertainment was founded by the creators of Infinity Ward (consisting of many of the old workers) after their departure following a legal battle with Activision. It would be just deserts for the people of Respawn Entertainment if they were the ones to finish off the Call of Duty franchise. Whether Titanfall will be successful or challenge COD, is yet to be seen.
Looking at the state of Call of Duty is painful to see. The franchise was at its peak when titles like Modern Warfare were coming out. With a series that receives so much hate; it would be a shame if the developers don’t achieve the success that they did with earlier installments. Call of Duty developers need to return to the fundamental aspects that made the franchise great. It needs to add a flair which will make it appeal to many hardcore FPS gamers again. When Call of Duty will end is now a waiting game, so long as the title is successful in the money department, Activision will continue publishing it. Call of Duty: Ghosts is the next entry into the franchise and it will be the first of the series to feature on the next-generation consoles. My expectations aren’t high for it but hopefully the series can recover and move into a better direction.