The lights are on
About a month ago, I was scrolling through the comments on one of our stories about Resident Evil 6. As anyone who has ever used the Internet can attest, you’re bound to run into some misguided statements and opinions in the comments section of any website. One in particular irked me as I read the negative reactions to the Resident Evil sequel. I couldn’t find the particular comment now, but it was along the lines of “man **** Capcom, this game is as bad as Call of Duty now.” It’s not a particularly noteworthy comment, and I’ll go ahead and ignore the fact that (as much as I dislike it) Resident Evil 6 doesn’t resemble Call of Duty at all. However, it did get me thinking about the general climate of opinions on the most successful series in gaming today. Call of Duty isn’t perfect, but I feel that the widespread hate towards it is entirely unjustified. Here’s why.
Big Doesn’t Equal Bad
A certain portion of the population loves to rag on things that are successful, and that’s not confined to gaming. It doesn’t matter if it’s McDonald’s, Walmart, Apple, or Lady Gaga. Anything or anyone that becomes a massive name in their field or industry has to expect a certain amount of criticism.
When the first Call of Duty released in 2003, it received a very different reaction from “hardcore” gamers than it does on the message boards and comment sections in 2012. Its intense action and tight controls won it several game of the year awards, and the series' debut was a huge success critically and commercially. Its sequel continued this wave of success as an Xbox 360 launch game. Despite a disappointing third entry in the series, Infinity Ward came back with a juggernaut in the form of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
I point to this game’s release as the turning point for the series’ perception amongst the average gamer. Modern Warfare was so well-received and so successful that it began to turn off gamers that find it cool to crap all over whatever the most popular flavor of the day is. Because of this, you started seeing the first traces of venomous comments and reactions as soon as the series moved forward past this entry.
The turning tide of opinion at this point is due to many factors. Some gamers didn’t like the idea of Treyarch (developers of the sub-par COD 3) being behind another entry in the series after Infinity Ward took it to such insane heights. Others were understandably fatigued by World War II games, and were disappointed in World at War’s return to the era. Another factor was fear that Activision would milk the creativity and freshness of the series with annual installments. While it's no fault of Activision, after the first Modern Warfare moved the bar forward so aggressively that every shooter, from its chief rival Battlefield to failures like Homefront, have aped the single-player trademarks. This undoubtedly contributes to an overall sense of shooter fatigue in some gamers.
All of these were (and many still are) legitimate fears and complaints. However, they ignore one key factor: these games are still fun. They’re highly polished thrill rides that make no attempt to ignore their status as the Jerry Bruckheimer movies of the gaming industry. All of the elements of the original Call of Duty that hardcore gamers loved are still present in the series. The only difference is, it’s turned into a massive sales force. Hating on successful things comes easy for message-board trolls, but the series has made few genuine mistakes. Successful properties and companies are successful for a reason – they’re doing things right.