Like many gamers today, I'm a fan of Call of Duty.  The franchise has excellent campaigns, the controls are tight and easy to learn, and the gameplay is addicting.  However, I've never been totally sold on the Call of Duty format.  I can't blame one thing in particular for my general disdain for the franchise; don't get me wrong, once in a while I'll play Call of Duty with my friends, but nowadays the thought of playing it competitively by myself makes me sick.  Now that the Battlefield series is pushing to outdo Call of Duty with Battlefield 3, I'm being swayed from one modern FPS to another, and I'm sure that eventually I'll be sick of the genre altogether.  But in the meantime, I'm reviewing the Call of Duty series, and as a former fan, I've got some advice for Activision that might improve the series, at least for me.


Variety Is The Spice Of Life (And Death)

Call of Duty's multiplayer has the right idea in terms of customization and variety.  Unfortunately, the extent of this variety is just putting camouflage on your gun and picking which tactical grenade you have.  On the battlefield, you basically point your gun and shoot.  To break up the maddening monotony, you're occasionally treated to a brief driving or other shooting minigame through killstreaks.

Mario Party could learn a thing or two.

Even the campaign lacks pizzazz.  Sure, there are big guns and large explosions, but they're about as genuine as your average Schwarzenegger movie from the 80's.  Each mission forces you down a single path, makes you shoot at the same enemies, and use the same guns.  Occasionally, there are the breach sequences in MW2, and Black Ops has the one helicopter scene, and other than that, it's the same sh*t, different place.

My advice to Activision is this:  Give us some options, man!  No matter how many times I play the campaign, it boils down to the same old, same old.  The title says 'Modern Warfare', but it skips over several parts of modern warfare that would be pretty sweet to play.  By combining a slew of different ideas, the whole campaign comes off as stale and a bit repetitive.  It feels less like an original narrative and more of a first-person episode of 24.  And if I have to sit in a helicopter and shoot at some three-inch tall hostiles, I'm going to shoot myself.  By allowing for different ways to play the game, such as different paths or skills to specialize in, Call of Duty would go from Rambo III to Full Metal Jacket in terms of excellence.

Or it would make it into a modern warfare Mass Effect.

I'd be amazed if I could say, specialize in sniper rifles and have a campaign dedicated to being a sniper in a squad, or even improvise how I approach situations.  Instead of shining a laser on my targets for a tank, I'd like to be able to commandeer the tank and blast the enemy myself.  I'd like to see either Infinity Ward or Treyarch or whoever's making the game that year add choices to the standard campaign, with new ways to solve the problem in every mission.  And speaking of tanks...



You're Driving Me Crazy

Getting back to the multiplayer, when you compare Call of Duty to Battlefield, there's one trump card that Battlefield has.  Actually, there are fifteen trump cards.

Fun Fact:  Geico insures 80% of these vehicles.

Multiplayer in Call of Duty has two options:  run and shoot.  In Battlefield, you have 15 vehicles at your disposal that allow you to destroy your enemies in new and exciting ways.  From tanks and jeeps to helicopters and even boats, just adding vehicles that you can drive in the multiplayer would be welcome additions to an overall stale state of gameplay.  Battlefield 1943 had the option to drive jeeps, fly planes, and even man a bombing run over the fray, whereas Call of Duty lets you pick points on the map that you want mortars to fall.

Off the top of my head, the only instances of drivable vehicles in Call of Duty that I can remember are the 3-kill RC-XD cars and the 11-kill Gunship reward.  Pathetic.


Public Betas Work Out the Kinks

Often associated with Call of Duty (besides the 12-year-old sailors) is the glitches and hacks that plague the online multiplayer.  Seemingly every week there's a new way to cheat your way to the top.  Halo: Reach had a public beta a year ago before its release, and doing so gave Bungie a list of things that could be improved.  With a public beta, fans of Call of Duty would not only be able to play it sooner, but the developer would be able to snuff out glitches ahead of time.  And snuffing out glitches is the first step to snuffing out the trolls.

More on this fellow later...

When Bungie released its beta for Halo: Reach, the new focus rifle was a super powerful beam that could wreck enemies in no time.  When it was released, the focus rifle was dumbed down slightly, making it less of its former self.  If Call of Duty could get the same treatment, we could avoid these super-powerful Model 1800 dual shotguns that get the patching up they deserve six weeks after launch.

If one is enough for Arnold, it's enough for me.

So Activision, don't be afraid to let some other people play Call of Duty beforehand and let them know what they think.  They may be able to spot things you seem to overlook, and doing so could prevent these pesky exploits and glitches everybody finds within days of the initial release.  Who knows, you might even be able to rebalance certain aspects like weapons and perks that would make the game more enjoyable, instead of turning higher level players into unstoppable juggernauts.

Don' you know 'ho 'e is?

While we're at it, releasing an average stat tracking system and making people pay for it isn't a feature, it's annoying and unnecessary.  Your typical FPS games like Halo and Battlefield have these same features, but totally for free.


Avoid Making The Same Game Twice

The past few Call of Duty games have been woefully similar.  While the stories in each are thrilling and generally fun, the extras haven't changed the game(s).   Multiplayer always has the same number of players shooting the same guns on the same maps (charging me for maps I've already played is a ripoff, Activision!) and earning the same killstreaks.  Treyarch's games have the Nazi Zombie modes, while Infinity Ward's Spec Ops modes seem like the same Zombies modes, but with a different skin.

But hey, every FPS needs a Gears of War-esque Horde mode these days.

Visually, there doesn't seem to much difference between Modern Warfares 2 and 3.  There's no notable differences that I can see, but if that's just me, that's fine.

The thing that kills me (besides trolls and campers) is that Modern Warfare 3 is going down the same linear path.  The boat scene from the E3 trailer looks exactly like the end of MW2.  Breaching sequences make a return, and I'm betting right now that there will be at least one on-rails chaingun sequence or a fight from a helicopter.  I hope that in the future, Activision and the Call of Duty franchise will change up the formula and stop making the same games over again.



As much as I hate to say it, the Call of Duty franchise is perhaps the most successful franchise of this generation, which is unfortunate because the series hasn't shifted its formula dramatically since Call of Duty 4.  Hopefully Battlefield 3 can give Call of Duty a run for its money and cause it to rethink its strategy.  Or hey, even taking a year off to make their games better would be a start.  But the likeliest outcome of the Call of Duty franchise is that Activision will just over-saturate the market with too many of the same games, causing consumers to become disinterested, and it will become the new Tony Hawk franchise.