Call of Duty: The Inevitable Consequence of ‘Progress’
How multiplayer purity was lost…and can be found
by David Hilton
© 2012 David Hilton
Poor Call of Duty.
I really do feel sorry for the franchise sometimes. It is held up as the example for everything that is wrong in gaming right now.
While laziness of design leading to more of a ‘interactive blockbuster movie’ experience and a multiplayer that is accused of rinsing and repeating may be valid criticisms, it cannot be denied that the game has become a juggernaut in gaming, with so many gamers who wouldn’t normally play games joining in the fun, particularly the multiplayer.
It is a victim of success and massive sales. Who would seriously be silly enough to change too much of a thing that is working? Where is the incentive? Build it and people will buy.
In multiplayer the Call of Duty franchise found the key to gamers’ wallets: from its great beginnings it progressed, was imitated to death, and then slowed innovation, because the consequence of progress and success was a lack of need to progress and change.
But innocence of another age was lost. Something pure has gone missing, replaced by a cleverly addictive system of perks and customisation.
It may, however, not be lost forever, and it would be easy to restore the old while keeping the new.
Once Upon A Time…
My nephew, who as a young lad many years ago used to come visit me for gaming sessions, recently returned from a 2 year stint working in London.
With his fabulous new girlfriend safely away across Australia tending to her sister and her new nephew, it was time to invite him over and revisit the gaming universe, this time with my own, now older, children.
The first game we stick in? Of course. Modern Warfare 3, the latest Call of Duty.
Unlike other gaming franchises which have foolishly abandoned split screen gaming altogether, Call of Duty has been heroic enough to resist the ‘inevitable consequence of progress’ here.
After awhile it became apparent that my eldest son and my nephew were the ones who were by far the best players.
Not only that they kept getting much better with all the perks and weapon level ups, while the rest of us (myself in the rear, unfortunately for me) struggled to contain their massive advantages, avoiding bombing runs and helicopter strafing.
Eventually even they tired of the experience, until my nephew, clearly reminiscing to an earlier time when he came to visit, suggested we dust off Call of Duty 2.
A More ‘Civilized’ Age (of Gaming)
Seriously, that was a 360 launch title in Australia.
My scepticism grew when I first saw the visual difference. I couldn’t believe I once saw these graphics with awe.
And the weapons. The primitive weapons. That don’t upgrade at all!
No classes! Hardly any customisation!
No sprint button!
I decided I’d humour him as he wasn’t going to be around long before heading off to rejoin his lady-love across the continent.
What followed was the most fun my sons and I have had with multiplayer, online or off, in years.
The simple weapons, lack up upgrades, lack of perks and helicopters and bombing runs, and complicated classes to balance, meant that we each killed or were killed on an equal footing.
My nephew and my eldest son still kicked our butts, but we enjoyed every moment of it, because it was pure, non levelled, true luck and skill-only fun.
Modern gamers have been hooked into the upgrade system which in turn keeps them invested in the game they are playing. The more they play, the better things they get as they level up.
This keeps them playing that same game, because why would they want to start from scratch at another game’s multiplayer when they have invested so much time in one already and don’t want to risk their friends doing better and getting more? Or start from the bottom when they are already doing so well?
It makes multiplayer addition to other titles almost a waste of time and resources. Outside Battlefield, Call of Duty and Halo, why bother with another shooter multiplayer?
Add to the addictive ‘if I keep going I’ll get more’ features of modern shooters the added content and occasional new DLC map or mode and the developers have got people hooked for longer looking elsewhere less.
Just when people might realise they are getting too good, or never will be good enough, along comes the next title in the series, and the cycle repeats. The race to be better starts again, because you just know your ‘friends’ are going to all be playing it.
The big losers here are casual gamers or those who don’t have the time to invest into hours and hours of play to upgrade and just want to jump in and jump out occasionally without getting their asses kicked and tea-bagged because they aren’t spending hours on the game.
The pure multiplayer experience has been corrupted into a gaming zone where the time rich get richer and the time poor get poorer.
Back to the Future
The solution is easy.
While some might argue that perks, upgrades, complicated classes and customisation is essential to their enjoyment, I argue that there are many who will appreciate the opposite: purity and simplicity.
Why doesn’t Call of Duty decide to cater to both?
I propose a true ‘classic mode’ where the game’s only nod to the present and future of multiplayer gaming is better graphics and maps, a sprint mode, a few more weapons and modes, destructible environments and a larger variety of customisable ‘outfits’ that don’t impact gameplay.
Where casuals and busy players can jump in and have fun without needing to be a high level eSports supercommando to hold their own.
Others can play the modern way, but even they might like to test themselves in the classic mode.
After all, not all of us have time or need to be perked up longer to feel pleasure.
Some have attention spans that don’t need constant reaffirming ‘rewards’ to keep going.
Sometimes progress destroys something we end up later missing and didn’t even know it until we rediscover it by accident.
What do you think? Comment below.
© 2012 David Hilton
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