This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on July 21st 2015.
The Call of Duty series has taken its fair share of derision over the last few years, as it seemingly got too popular for its own good. Hating on the franchise is fashionable nowadays and I’ll confess I already started doing it by the time we were at Modern Warfare 2. Still, even I realize that the majority of the games are in no way bad. They actually have a lot going for them. For a start there aren’t many shooters out there that can match the satisfying kick of Call of Duty’s weapons, and the franchise really knows how to pull off the odd inventive set piece when it needs to.
Nonetheless, with new installments being released annually, something of an overhaul is needed. And not the kind of overhaul that Black Ops 3 is pretending to be, but something that will really shake it up. So here are my five ways to ‘fix’ Call of Duty.
Okay a controversial one to start with. The mode that has become many players’ favourite thing about Call of Duty, is the first thing that I suggest scrapping… Anyone still reading? If you are, just hear me out. I had absolutely no problem with zombies the first couple of times around, I understand the appeal, I do. But there’s a general consensus that the current marketplace is more than a little over-saturated with the undead. So rather than getting rid of the mode altogether, here’s what I propose; just replace zombies with something else. What could possibly be more fun than fighting off a hoard of the walking dead? Well off the top of my head, dinosaurs? That would be fun right? You could have varied enemy types, like raptors as grunts, the T-Rex as a big boss, and pterodactyls as aerial enemies. My point however isn’t ‘Bring in Dinosaurs’, that would be weirdly specific. What I am suggesting is to replace zombies with something new. It was fun for a while, but it has started to become strangely bland.
2) Make Multiplayer Tactical
If I haven’t lost you already, here’s my second proposition: make multiplayer more strategic. Maybe I’m just really bad at Call of Duty, but half the time it seems to reward people for running around like headless chickens, without using any tactics whatsoever. No one is asking for Operation Flashpoint style realism and pacing, and I understand that, at its core, CoD is a first-person-shooter and not a military simulator. But with such condensed maps and limited options, it seems like you’re only ever given one choice, which is to flail around, firing like a twitchy crack-addict until you manage to get a kill streak going. Of course it’s not quite that simple, but doing anything else (like sniping) requires you to be some kind of wizard at the game. So how about adding in some larger maps? Or putting more of an emphasis on teamwork? Anything to distract from the monotony of simply running around in circles, being blasted away by the same guy, over and over again.
3) Let Us Do Cool Things
This one may need some elaboration. Yes, Call of Duty does have a history of letting you do cool things. But too often these things are merely glorified quick-time events, or just regular cut-scenes. Take Advanced Warfare for example, about halfway through the game there’s a sequence where you are flying after a plane in some kind of iron-man suit. And it looks really, really fun. I say it looks really fun, because you don’t actually get to do anything. You get to ‘Press X’ to latch onto the plane, but that’s about it. This is symptomatic of several of Call of Duty’s best looking set-pieces. Things are so heavily scripted to appear amazing, that letting the player have an ounce of control would ruin everything. So instead you get to watch and occasionally press a button to feel like you’re involved in what’s happening. Well how about not scripting everything so rigidly? It doesn’t matter if we loose some of the spectacle, it’ll be worth it to actually take part in something we haven’t done before.
4) Let Us Be Vulnerable Again
This one is especially pertinent as the franchise travels further and further in the opposite direction. Again, Call of Duty was never supposed to be the epitome of realism, we have other games for that. However there reaches a point where things have gone too far. This isn’t war anymore, it’s James Bond. And you’re no longer fighting as part of a unit, you’re a superman who has regenerative healing capabilities, can run along walls, and can win wars single-handedly. A bit of narrative jeopardy wouldn’t go amiss. In the middle of all the mech-suit driving and Michael Bay-esque action of Advanced Warfare, there was one sequence where it managed to do just this. Towards the end of the game, your prosthetic arm is removed by the bad guys, and you’re forced to go through the next mission with just one hand, removing your ability to reload. What followed was a sequence in which you had to constantly pick up enemy weapons to switch them for your empty ones. It was smart, it removed some of your power and, for me at least, it was the highlight of the whole game. Just give us a few more moments like this, or return to the earlier days of the franchise and give us a proper sense of vulnerability.
5) Have Campaigns that Last Longer than 5 hours.
This one speaks for itself. Granted most people pick up Call of Duty for the mulitplayer, but with a £60 price tag, every aspect of the game should be just as fleshed out and extensive as the online modes.