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.
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You made valid points, but you missed one of my biggest arguments against the series. Notably, is the difficulty of play. When you have a shooter that allows such extreme levels of customization, you uneven the playing field. Players who have been at the game for longer, even one's lacking skill, will always have an advantage simply because they have unlocked some beneficial customization. When I can take a particular build and give the controller to my girlfriend, who has little to no gaming experience, and she can manage a kill streak, you have a problem. Moreover, taking two players of equal skill, the one with the better build is inclined to win. That is my biggest qualm with the series. This argument is validated by the reason that Modern Warfare was the first in the series to find the current level of success. This was due to its reduction in skill requirement (and some better advertising). Anyone could pick it up and get some kills. It made anyone feel good, but I don't think that should be the case with something that is designed to be a competition. The thing with online multiplayer is that there must be equality of competition. I want to be on equal ground with anyone else on the field, so that only skill determines the winner. That's why, to me, the series died after COD2. Sadly, I'm only one of the few here who have followed the series since the beginning, and probably one of the few so disappointed in the series "evolution" [read: devolution].
This was a good article to me, mostly because i AM one of the people that generally hates all insanely popular things. It's not because they get popular that i hate them, it's because when things reach a certain level of fame it's generally not because of creative or talent (the pop industry has been manufacturing the same catchy beats with idiot singers and gimmicks to mind control idiots into listening to the biggest hit song all day every day until the next comes out), but because they're soullessly constructed for mas appeal. That's not to say because something is widely loved that it's automatically bad, look at Eminem, possibly the best rapper of all time, and he's insanely popular (as opposed to say, Lil Wayne who is insanely popular for being an absolutely talent less piece of ***). Now i i used to hate CoD. I absolutely did. It bored me. I thought, "Ok it's polished as hell, but where's the interest? It's just another damn modern-military-shoot-everything-that-pops-up-till-you-win, and the multiplayer is just millions of raging twelve year olds wasting thousands of hours of their lives doing the same exact thing over and over again day in and day out. Then i played Black Ops. Black Ops completely changed my opinion of the entire series, it was creative, well written, insanely fun and it was actually different from anything i'd seen before. The 1960's setting was compelling as all hell, it introduced me to portions of history that i never considered awesome before, and it had a mind-bending Fight Club-esque twist ending! I honestly think i've beaten the single player campaign at least ten times, it's just so entertaining. Then 3 came out, and *** 3. Same exact *** they've been pumping out for cash for the last five years. Nothing new. Just shinier guns. It even had LESS features than Black Ops. It was downgrade in every sense but for the graphics, and if that's how you judge a game you shouldn't be allowed to have eyes. Black Ops II looks like it's going to change everything up far beyond what the first even did, they've made changes to almost every boring played out aspect that hasn't changed in years, and i can not wait to play it.
Very well done article. I am a big Call of Duty fan and while I do have my complaints about the series, it is not because the games are bad. They are all high quality games and some of the best shooters ever made. It's nice to see someone defending the series instead of bashing it.
It's weird how Dan can sound like such a dumb guy on Replays and stuff, but he writes so damn well. Great article, Dan.
I agree that COD is evolving and such, if only by little steps every new release, but that's not what I personally dislike about it. What turns me off is that I don't find them fun to play. I find the weapons feel like nerfguns, the set pieces are so obviously over the top that they avtually LOSE excitement, and most of all they there is not nearly enough variety in any single campaign. As for multiplayer, the studios do right by the series, however its the players I find obnoxious.
I agree with most of the points here, and I do think the COD-bashing gets out of hand. Most don't like it because it's so successful. I don't think they are evolving as much as this article claims though. Me and my friends put countless hours into the first modern warfare, for the third one I spent a while convincing myself to buy it, and was disappointed when I did, while they appear to try and change things, it still feels like I'm playing exactly the same game, which for me puts me off it. If you look at other successful franchises, there's a lot less intensity on them, partly because they're less successful, but because they have made significant changes e.g look at Halo 4 and Assassin's Creed 3, while I feel they can continue for a while, COD seems to be fatiguing, not in terms of sales, but for me at least, enjoyability.
Not posting this to have a go, just my opinion, and I'm hoping Black Ops 2 turns out to be as significant as the first modern warfare was.
I'm glad someone agrees with me.
I consider myself a fan of the series since it's first game, but I'm far from a "fanboy." But these ignorants who try to fit in with the "I don't want to fit in" crowd quite simply piss me off with their blatant disregard for ANYTHING of merit Call of Duty has given us.
Still, you can't avoid trolls. They have almost nothing to do with their lives as they scour forums and comment sections, spewing filth to try and get us to fight one another. It's sad to know it works still, but we're learning.
...It would be nice if Black Ops 2 was the last COD of this generation and take the time they have after to innovate and revolutionize COD for next-gen. What do ya'll think?...
And that you have Dan, but it's time for other games to get the recognition they deserve, just like you said, home front was really fun but it wasn't cod so people didnt pay that much attention and that reason right there is y I don't support cod, I play with my friends but I've only ever bought mw2 and that's because all of my friends were so into it.
Personally, I hate the series for any reasons, but I hate that people SAY they hate it, purely because it's the popular thing to do and can't even make a well-reasoned argument on why they hate it. I can appreciate what it DOES do right, and I don't go around loudly proclaiming that I hate it. I do so silently.
I am one of the anti-COD people, but after reading this article, I realize that I was just being my usual "quick to judge" self. There are a lot of valid points that Dan makes, such as the fact that if it's popular, it's going to be hated. I also realized that I hated COD because of the high pitched annoying kids, but it also bothered me when older people called them out. If they bother you, mute them, don't encourage them. It's like those people that have music or some kind of sounds blasting into their mics, just mute them. Also, Activision has done what any successful business should do: learn from your mistakes, make the changes, and when something doesn't work, get rid of it.
There will always be something that we will be angry about when something is popular, but Call of Duty is popular and successful. The hate is jealousy. If you don't like it, play something else. It really can't be any simpler than that.
Good read Dan. Usually I think you're a moron but I agree with this. Black Ops 2 1 week!!
This argument seems a bit oversimplified, and it targets the wrong complainers.
Yes, the comment referenced in the beginning of the article was stupid, but to base a counterargument that lumps us all together based on that comment is like arguing that all Christians are evil because you've met Fred Phelps.
There have already been plenty of well-written responses in the comments regarding the actual reasons that rational adults find the franchise to be poor.
Should we all have to think that a game is good just because many people buy it? Think about this - does the commercial success of Miley Cyrus make her an excellent musician?
I'm sure there are people who believe so, but really, the burden of proof is on them.
Kudos to you Dan. I personally don't like CoD, or most FPS for that matter, but I can still respect it as a good game, even if it comes around a little too often.