Call of Duty. The biggest gaming phenomenon of our time, selling in the millions and making more money than any other form of media, despite James Cameron’s best efforts.
When anything becomes this big, the human race seems unable to accept it. When a band that started in a garage signs the record deal, we call them sellouts. When Apple puts a phone in everyone’s hand, we need to take them down a peg or two. It’s like we fear great success. And as we know all too well – fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.
Call of Duty has more haters than any other game out there, but this has never translated to the sales figures. We still queue up at midnight launches, hand over our 40 quid and go on our way. Until Modern Warfare 3 that is. The figures show that while MW3 sold in the millions, the rate of sales slowed much earlier than previous titles in the franchise. So have the haters got a point? Is Call of Duty fatigue setting in?
Modern Warfare 3’s campaign is very good, perhaps the best in the series and its multiplayer is solid, but you get the feeling that Infinity Ward may have trod the same ground one too many times. There may also be something else working against it – Treyarch.
Treyarch brought us Call of Duty 3 and World at War and have always been seen as the Call of Duty B-Team, releasing games we just pass the time on while we wait for Infinity Ward’s latest.
But with Black Ops, things changed. Not everyone liked Treyarch’s third entry, but it is difficult to argue with how much effort the developers put in. They shifted the setting to the Cold War, bringing the likes of Vietnam to the series. They brought us Combat Training, 2-player split-screen online play, 2, 3 or 4-player split-screen with AI bots, Theatre mode, the Wager matches as well as a deeper level of customisation. When Infinity Ward released Modern Warfare 3 a year later, their biggest innovation was messing around with the killstreak system. They even pinched things from Black Ops – namely the Gun Game and One in the Chamber. They brought Theatre Mode over as well, but somehow managed to mess it up. If you’ve had Theatre Mode switched on all this time, MW3 has been filling your harddrive up with a Game Replay Save for every match you’ve connected to. Since November! Have fun deleting all that lot!
It’s possible then that Modern Warfare 3’s weaker reception is less about the quality of the product, and more that we liked Black Ops far more than we realised.
Treyarch are not resting on their laurels either. Black Ops II will push the series into the near-future with all the futuristic gubbins that brings with it, such as mechs, drones and….horses.
And they’re introducing Strike Force. A game mode linked to the single player in which success or failure will affect the events in the campaign. Call of Duty, for the first time, will have a branching story.
Infinity Ward’s next Call of Duty will most-likely be next gen, so they have a great opportunity to shine once more. But for now - well and truly off the bench and no longer the B-Team – Treyarch are spearheading this franchise into the future. And it’s Black.