The Downfall of the Modern FPS | Why Call of Duty Sucks
A brief preface: This is all coming from a gamer who wants satisfaction for spending time mastering a game; if what you find fun differs from me, it’s probably better that way – you’ll be enjoying games a lot more than I will.
Call of Duty is breaking records. Since CoD:4 Modern Warfare, the first person shooter series has taken the video gaming world by storm, perennially outselling most games on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Black Ops was labeled the “best-selling entertainment title of all time”, selling over 7 million copies in the first day of release, and Modern Warfare 3 is looking to gross more than it, boasting a 32% increase in pre-orders. Battlefield, the rival FPS franchise, has been selling more and more each year as well, culminating in Battlefield 3 recently selling 5 million copies its first week.
The problem with the two FPS’s: nothing, if you’re Activision or EA. Or if you’re just a casual gamer looking to simply shoot down some people on the weekends. But for more hardcore and competitive gamers, the departure in quality of first person shooters has been very, very apparent.
Call of Duty is leading the charge for this drop of FPS quality, but why would it fix anything? Technically, at a fiscal standpoint, it’s not even “broken”, in fact it’s doing better every year! This is the reason for the loss of innovation in the FPS genre – if a game wants to be successful, it has to follow the “tried and true” structure laid down by Call of Duty; a cinematic, linear, single player campaign, fast paced, gun-on-gun multiplayer. Video game publishers aren’t willing to take risks in trying to sell unconventional takes on FPS’s, so innovation is almost shut out completely across the board.
When did it become mandatory for a first person shooter to have a single player campaign? Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 didn’t and they did fine – the games were received as groundbreaking and people couldn’t stop playing them. It started with Call of Duty, who from the onset included a campaign. CoD:4 brought it to the mainstream, though. Modern Warfare’s single player mode was filled with explosions, flashy cut-scenes, and no creativity whatsoever. You had to go where the arrows pointed, and do exactly what you were told. Battlefield followed suit with the Bad Companies and Battlefield 3, including short, “intense” campaigns in an attempt to attract more buyers (campaigns make better commercial fodder).
The problem is that the developers started spending more time in making these modes and less in multiplayer modes, where gamers barely even spend any time in the single player (most players probably play one play-through – 6-10 hours, while spending weeks or usually, months, on the multiplayer).
An Ode to the Casual Gamer
With the success of Call of Duty and Battlefield heading into more watered down versions of their previous selves, the key to success in the FPS industry has become obvious – cater to the casual gamer. Game developers have found that for more people to buy their game, they have to make the average gamer feel like (s)he is good at the game. Hard-to-learn games apparently aren’t worth playing anymore… Easy, instantly gratifying games are?
- Call of Duty has had a recurring theme – guns with ridiculously small amounts of recoil. This takes away the need to have any skill for gun-on-gun combat; you don’t need any practice, you just point and hold the trigger. Sniper rifles in the Modern Warfare series simply zoom in and one-hit-kill at any range, requiring very little skill.
- Grenade launchers (commonly known as “noob-tubes”), have been a part of Call of Duty that has angered the community every single year, but the developers insist to keep them in the game, to cater to gamers who can’t aim. They’re perennially labeled as annoying, overpowered, and bluntly, dumb, but yet they have stayed in the game. Modern Warfare 3 has even tried to hide the fact that grenade launchers are still in the game; in the previous games, there was a unique symbol in the kill-feed if someone was killed by a grenade launcher. Not in the last installment of the franchise – the symbol in the kill-feed is gone, so basically, the developers are trying to hide the fact that people are getting killed by the noob-tubes and pretend away the problem.
- Knives kill in 1 hit. Guns kill in 2-4 hits. Knifing is easy – another ode to the casual gamer. Similar to the grenade launcher, you don’t really have to aim your knife. Many interesting ideas about knifing taking 2 hits to kill from the front and 1 from the back have been suggested, but to the chagrin of the gaming community, no changes have been made.
- In addition to easy to use weapons, death-streaks, basically benefits for dying many times in a row, have made a comeback in Modern Warfare 3. There’s absolutely no need to reward players for doing badly… the only use for them is for securing the sub-par-player demographic.
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