Some time ago, I wrote an article about pricing models in games and took a swipe at CoD:WW2 for its greedy business practices, but also stated that I still enjoyed the game on the whole. The return to the “boots on the ground” gameplay rekindled my excitement for the series as it marked a return to the era when Call of Duty ruled the roost; to a time when it blew the genre open and took down the goliath that was Medal of Honour. At the time of writing that article, I was still excited at the prospect of this release returning Call of Duty to that former glory as I found myself ploughing hours into the multiplayer again.
So, what changed?
Well, life got in the way and I took a break from playing. I moved 200 miles into a new house, started a new job and gaming unfortunately went on the backburner. After about 4 months of not playing, I picked up the controller again to play a few matches with some friends. We picked the same gamemode as we always do, hardcore team deathmatch, but something was different; we weren’t having fun. Why?
Let’s go back a few years to the start. In the mid-2000s my mates and I would go to our local LAN gaming centre to play Call of Duty 2 on the PC. The game back then was simpler, no killstreaks or perks, just running and gunning action in classic team deathmatches for bragging rights over your friends. Everyone had their favourite weapons with different characteristics and well defined trade offs; there were no attachments to compromise for the pitfalls so players had to adapt their play style accordingly.
Every game felt winnable. With the limited number of guns, you could pick classes to counter the opposing team without complex balance issues getting in the way; and even though choice was low, it was still exciting. The maps were varied and focused very defined play styles, whether it was the classic streets of Carentan or the rooftops of Toujane, each map demanded different skills from the players.
It could be argued that the current generation of games still have the elements that first slingshotted the series into the top spot for war based first person shooters, but something felt off. The last time I played WW2, I didn’t feel I had the flexibility to play how I wanted to play, something that the older games in the series allowed me to do. Every map, regardless of the gameplay style intended by it’s design, featured one gun class; the light machine guns.
Gustav Cannon. A map that you’d expect to benefit sniper mains or rifles, was dominated by the LMG. With hardly any damage drop off, you could pick targets off across the open map without the disadvantage of incredibly slow, bolt action fire rates of a sniper rifle; in close quarters, the high damage, automatic weapons can be fired inaccurately, yet confidently, from the hip to shred enemy players. The weaknesses of the gun, such as slow reload times and delayed ADS, can be safely overcome by using perks and attachments. I felt cheesed in every game as players abused respawn points.
And once the spawn camp had set in, and the advantage had being gained, it was hard to disrupt the flow of the game. The scorestreaks to break the onslaught were becoming more unachievable for the team that needed them, whilst the team that had the advantage were using theirs to extend their lead. For a casual game mode, it didn’t feel rewarding to play anymore as the negative experience outweighed the positive. It was the same for every map. Everyone seemed to be using the LMG because of its power and once the spawns had set, and the leading team had gained their advantage, it was hard to win.
Maybe it’s me?
Almost definitely. I am not a hardcore player so I’m not that good. I only really play it to catch-up with a few old friends who don’t own a decent spec PC; but the game used to be fun. I guess as the player base has become smaller, with only the most dedicated players remaining; a side effect of this was my friends and I feeling continuously outclassed by other players.
Well, no. Why would I invest time into something that’s no longer fun? If I had more time, Call of Duty wouldn’t be my FPS of choice. Games like Rainbow Six: Siege and Counter-strike: Global Offensive are a better offering in my opinion, even with the insanely steep learning curve. With so many strategies to learn and constant changes to the meta, the games have more longevity. Not to mention they aren’t based on an annual release cycle so you know you’re going to get your monies worth. Call of Duty does have it’s high strategy modes too but I want something to play casually.
Other games have managed to offer a great experience for new players. Overwatch has a high skill cap but can still be fun at a lower skill level for players who don’t have as much time to master the game. Matches always feel winnable as the winning team don’t gain huge advantages for getting ahead. There always feel like there’s an opportunity to swing a game through a clutch play which keeps it exciting. It too is objective based, but the gameplay is still fluid through continuous respawns, unlike Siege and CS:GO.
So where does it leave me with CoD.
It’s going to be hard to get me to return to the series. Their latest offering continues one of my favourite CoD series, Black Ops, but I don’t think I’m going to invest. The multiplayer is shifting towards class based gameplay, but I’d rather play Siege. They’re introducing a battle royale mode, but Fortnite is free and I’ve not bought into the genre. And they’ve removed the campaign, so for a single player experience I’d be looking elsewhere anyway. I think they’re making the right move to focus on multiplayer; but until they make drastic changes to their income model and look at removing DLC map packs I’m going to look towards Overwatch for my FPS fix. This is without mentioning the rebirth of the arena shooter is coming back, both Quake and Unreal Tournament have new offerings that are more enticing for the nostalgia factor alone.
Sorry CoD, but you broke my heart.