Monday, April 9, 2012

On why I dislike Call of Duty

I recently completed my first Xbox 360 game in over 8 months. For no reason in particular other than it's relatively short campaign length, that game was Call of Duty: Black Ops. I was interested in playing this game after the Guinness World Records voted it as having "the greatest video game ending of all time". Now, for the record I don't give the award any credence myself, but it did pique my interest in a game I would otherwise have overlooked.

Now having finished the game, I have come to two conclusions. One - the ending was pretty cool. And two - I really dislike Call of Duty games.

To be fair, I already knew COD games weren't my cup of tea, but it had been a while since I had actually played one and this just nailed that feeling home. The main issue I have with this series is its manufactured sense of chaos. COD never earns its mayhem, it simply drops the player into it. Typically I begin a mission with no knowledge of what is going on or what I am expected to do. All the information I am given is a "follow" marker over the head of one of my allies. This in itself is problematic and often counter intuitive as I typically must push forward past this AI character in order for the mission to progress. "Follow" indeed.

Then when the bullets begin to fly I more often than not have no idea what is happening. Superiors bark orders and commands at me which are only occasionally audible, they will tell me where to go, what gun to use or what vehicle to procure, mission critical objects will sometimes glow yellow to catch my attention, other times they will not. Sure it feels chaotic, but not because I'm a soldier out in the field with everything falling apart around me. No, instead it feels chaotic because I'm continually wrestling with the game, trying to figure out what it wants me to do or waiting to be told what to do. All the while avoiding the billions of bullets and grenades the fill my screen.

Call of Duty: Black Ops, and the COD series in general, have never made me feel like I'm a soldier. A man with his life on the line and everything at stake stuck in the chaotic hell of war. Instead they make me feel like a frustrated gamer, waiting for the next muffled instruction which I will need to decipher through multiple trial and error attempts. Not my cup of tea.

Having said that, the ending of Call of Duty: Black Ops is pretty rad.

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