There seems to be this masochistic obsession with the war based shooter game from the majority of the gaming populace. Many people claim to hate the Call of Duty franchise and games like it yet every year they empty out their pockets in an effort to attain another sixty dollar DLC that they ultimately end up hating.
I don’t understand it.
At any time during Modern Warfare 3’s release, one could go into any lobby belonging to the game and quite easily hear people verbalizing their frustrations with the title. Indeed, very few people would honestly say that Modern Warfare 3 is good and yet it is the same game that broke records upon release.
What is the cause of this?
Simply put, it is the consumer’s willingness to settle for questionable quality when purchasing a branded item. One does not have to be a conspiracy nut to be apprehensive about the quality of a game that is released once every year; on the contrary, I think it is one’s responsibility as an active consumer to question the intentions of a company that releases a sixty dollar game annually. It may be difficult to see how this seemingly isolated phenomenon can affect the whole genre so I will start from the beginning.
Modern Warfare 2 marked the rise of the “no skill shooter”. Things like commando, infinite noob tubes (grenade launchers) and heartbeat sensors only cemented people’s idea that the game never intended to promote skill in players (which should be the goal in the development of any competitive game) and rather just strove to increase their consumer base by targeting a younger demographic or, at least, a demographic that had nothing to do with the series’ popularity in the first place.
As the game’s age began to increase, more and more casual gamers began to recognize its counter-intuitive design and started to cry foul. The people in charge of the next game in the series, Treyarch, were immediately given a list of demands from the relatively new but exceedingly loud next generation Call of Duty players.
Their list was composed of things that were obvious; the removal of commando, noob tubes and danger close were things they felt needed the utmost attention.
However, a silent minority, who in fact were the original players of Call of Duty and were responsible for the game’s initial popularity, warned the players that the need for game balance was paramount. Things like commando and danger close were merely symptoms of the actual disease and not the disease itself; removing those things alone would not fix the series. For the series to be repaired, the developers would need to devote themselves to the idea of balance, as imbalance was the portent signifying the bastardization of the genre.
A year later, Treyarch’s Call of Duty Black Ops was released to the excitement of shooter fans the world over. People rejoiced at the eradication of things like commando and stopping power while others merely waited in humored anticipation for the metaphorical crap to hit the fan.
A few weeks into the game, gamers began to notice big gaffs within its design. Suddenly, the perks Ghost and Second Chance, both of which were present in the game’s predecessor Modern Warfare 2, seemed a lot more present and pervasive than before. In similar fashion, sniper rifles, shotguns and LMGs (light machine guns) were confoundedly inefficient when compared to the weapon classes of assault rifles and SMGs (sub machine guns). Players found themselves forced to wield the automatic small arms since choosing anything else was tantamount to suicide.
It was then that players began to understand the notion of imbalance as a cancer within the gaming community. Ghost became such a malevolent entity within the Black Ops community only because Stopping Power was removed at the behest of said community. The checks and balances relationship between Stopping Power and Ghost went largely unnoticed.
As Ghost and Stopping Power were the two most effective perks within their class, there was an equal gain and loss if a player chose one over the other. But since Stopping Power was removed, the choice of Ghost as a perk was a no brainer resulting in Ghost being the most overused perk in the history of the Call of Duty series.
For those that don’t know, Ghost was a perk that essentially made the character invisible on the map except for when firing an unsuppressed weapon. The obvious method of ameliorating this was to ensure that you choose a suppressible weapon and suppress it. The result was an invisible team of super soldiers. The majority of players were forced to adopt this loadout since if you were the only person on a map who was not invisible, your death was guaranteed.
A year later, Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 was released with the promise of reintroducing gun on gun gameplay back into the shooting game genre.
How such an inextricably linked trait to such a genre was lost sight of on the part of the developers is something that will always give me pause. Needless to say, Infinity Ward failed in the implementation of this seemingly laughably simply endeavor.
Killstreaks (powerful rewards gained for killing enemies without dying) were now ever present since players were now able to choose setups that allowed them to attain these rewards regardless of whether they died. So essentially players were rewarded for nothing.
Players camping religiously in an effort to attain these shockingly simple killstreaks. Things like heartbeat sensors and noob tubes remained a staple to the gameplay but were now joined by the remarkably omnipotent motion sensor that, when placed, not only showed an enemies location but showed it to the whole team.
Weapon balance became an even bigger issue since, players having had their eyes opened by Black Ops, knew what to look for. Shotguns and LMGs once again were forced to remain the masochist’s weapon of choice, failing to perform adequately on even unmoving targets.
The community’s frustrations came to a head when Infinity Ward announced that they would be buffing (strengthening) certain assault rifles and SMGs and nerfing (weakening) certain shotguns.
It became clear that the developers simply had no interest in the concept of balance and variety in the form of gameplay.
The challenger to Modern Warfare 3, a game known as Battlefield 3, seemed to be the answer to the monotony made staple by the Call of Duty series and in many ways it was.
Boasting a totally revamped engine and having been in development for over three years, many of the older players that became fed up with the nonsense known as Call of Duty fled to the safety of Electronic Arts’ new title. Unfortunately, even with all of the game’s technology, balance and solid development, it failed to make a dent in Call of Duty’s sales, forcing many gamers to fear that the series was now marked for death.
Apparently, gamers no longer wanted a quality game worth their money.
Crysis 2 attempted to answer the call but, at most, the title was just a nice little distraction. Crysis’ genius lay in its singleplayer, not its multiplayer as many gamers quickly found out upon playing.
Many other contenders were spewed forth, attempting to challenge Call of Duty’s dominance over the genre but they all fell flat.
Gears of War 3 was successful but that series possesses the “Madden trait”; many people that play Gears play it alone and are often uninterested in games of similar genres (Madden players don’t consider themselves sports games players, as they may very well not play any other sports game, they consider themselves Madden players).
Call of Duty is on the verge of completely usurping the entire genre. Pretty soon there will no longer be a “shooter genre” and it will simply be called the CoD genre.
I know it may seem farfetched or unnecessarily apocalyptic but one must remember history in order to hypothesize on the future.
This is Activision we’re talking about.
Consider this, several years ago a game entered the scene that changed the music game genre in ways unprecedented; this game was Guitar Hero.
In similar fashion to Call of Duty, a game was released annually; each sequel being more and more identical to its predecessor with less innovation being implemented with each release. Many gamers expressed apprehension at the company’s belching forth of title after title every year. Common sense seemed to suggest that the game would become old before its time if the market became incessantly flooded with the titles; it was inevitable.
Several years later, there is no game within the music genre worth speaking of. The genre is, for all intents and purposes, dead.
Still don’t buy it?
How about we look at another series birthed by Activision?
The once upon a time face of the extreme sports genre, Tony Hawk. At its release, Tony Hawk was a game that not only got people into gaming but got gamers into skateboarding. Pretty soon, Activision began to release a Tony Hawk every year, each iteration becoming more ridiculous than the last to the point that it felt like one was playing a Jackass episode rather than an actual skateboarding game.
The end of the series (and genre) was marked by the release of the laughably horrible and poorly implemented Tony Hawk Ride. The game sold about 114,000 copies in its first month, which is essentially a joke.
The series is showing signs of life by announcing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, which is basically the old games with new graphics in an effort to cash in on gamers’ nostalgia.
Although the arrival of Electronic Arts’ Skate seemed to breathe new life into the extreme sports genre, the genre is, once again, for all intents and purposes, dead.
The shooter genre, or perhaps more realistically the first person shooter genre, may be destined for the same fate if November 2012’s Black Ops 2 fails to fix all the issues causing monotony and frustration within the genre.
Yes, even though they are only one player within the genre as a whole, it is their actions that ultimately determine how the consumer perceives the genre as a whole.
As I say in this ridiculously long vid; cross your fingers.