The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Call of Duty?

What are Call of Duty’s roots, and how did we get to where we are today? When the first Call of Duty released for PC in 2003, it took place during WWII and the things you could do were relatively limited. It was a traditional warfare FPS type with a long and enticing storyline. The gameplay was certainly slower and multiplayer felt more like Battlefield now than it does Call of Duty and I was an instant fan. I can remember sitting on my computer playing Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, and Call of Duty : United Offensive for hours with no custom classes or kill streaks, but instead vehicles and bolt action rifles. Activision has announced recently that 2017’s Call of Duty will “return to its roots“. Being someone who has played Call of Duty since it’s start, both single and multiplayer, as well as competitive multiplayer, it’s something that I’m excited about. I feel that Call of Duty has lost it’s spark, as if its mechanics haven’t been oiled in years.

In 2007, Activision graced us with the release of Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare . Call of Duty 4 introduced a lot of things to the series that have stayed in future iterations since. Modern Warfare brought the fight to current times (as opposed to the WWII setting), gave us custom classes for multiplayer, perks, kill-streaks, prestige mode, and weapon camos. What Activision did so successfully here was they didn’t throw us another “Call of Duty” per say. Instead, we got what felt like a brand new game altogether. The campaign stayed traditional in the sense that you played as a British soldier and an American Marine. The campaign was an emotional ride, giving us missions like The Coup, where you play the first person view of a man executed on live television, Aftermath, where you get hit by a nuclear missile and experience you character dying in the first person, and my personal favorite All Ghillied Up, where you play as Cpt. Price in a flashback as he crawls through Chernobyl for what would be a failed assassination attempt. This mission has been considered one of the best “Stealth missions” ever made, and easily one of the best Call of Duty missions.

Modern Warfare 2 was released in 2009 and brought another staple campaign mission, No Russian, which placed the player in a Moscow airport murdering civilians. That mission still remains controversial to this day. What isn’t controversial, is the game’s impact on the series multiplayer.The gameplay was competitive but fun, every gun was different in its own way, and nothing was too overpowered in a sense that made the game feel “unfair”. A couple things have stuck with the series since, such as prestiges now capped at 20, custom classes were up to ten instead of five, you could add a title and emblem, and you could customize your kill-streaks. These are all things we still see today up through Infinite warfare. So, where did it start to fall apart?

With the introduction of Black Ops: II, the gameplay was still boots on the ground, but we started to enter the “futuristic” war zone. The game introduced “new technologies” like scopes that could see enemies through walls, drones for kill-streaks, and shock grenades. Introducing these items changed the way the game was played, and offered a lackluster feel of what this series was. Black Ops II was Call of Duty’s slow transition into what it would be today. They tested the waters and then gave us Call of Duty : Ghosts, the most traditional feeling game since Modern warfare 2. However, the issue with Ghosts was that it still didn’t feel level. The game was still about who had the faster connection and who could get the first shot. I wanted to get into a gunfight with someone and have it be a challenge, not lose because they had the faster internet or the higher ranked weapon. I wanted to be able to throw a frag grenade more than 10 yards, and have it’s explosion actually do some damage. There were no robots but there were juggernaut suit kill-streaks that made you practically invincible for a decent amount of time. While Ghosts had it’s issues, they weren’t major and I had hoped to see them follow through on that.

Then a major mechanical shift happened: with the introduction of Black Ops III and Advanced Warfare it gifted us with exoskeleton suits, jet packs, wall running, and character classes. Just those four features alone have completely shifted the gameplay in the Call of Duty series. Just as Call of Duty 4 did, introducing new gameplay mechanics shifted the series and for that reason Black Ops III will remain a staple. For the old school Call of Duty players, this was frustrating. It’s like when Halo : Reach added a sprint button after 4 games into the series, it changed  everything. Call of Duty became much faster paced, but not in a good sense. Competitive games went from three minute rounds to one and a half, maps became smaller, and sub machine guns became the king of all weapons. You could sprint, double jump, and wall run your way across the map and it caused total chaos. Gun skill and strategy became unnecessary. It seemed like there were one or two guns that could actually kill people and the rest would be too weak to actually secure a kill. Having character classes completely changed the concept of warfare in Call of Duty. Being given the option to play as an AI robot who comes equipped with a mini-gun for an arm just didn’t seem right, and at times, downright unfair in a sense. Call of Duty was never a game about “power ups” or “special abilities”, but the newer series pushed it into this realm. The problem was – or is – that it just wasn’t Call of Duty. It just didn’t have the same feel of being able to out-strategize and play your opponents.

The most recent installment in the series, Infinite Warfare took the futuristic warfare even further; outer space. It was something that interested me so little I had no intentions on getting the game, until they bribed me with the Modern Warfare Remaster. So yes, I did contribute to Call of Duty’s earnings in 2016, but I never downloaded Infinite Warfare to my console, and I probably never will.

Even through all these changes throughout the years, Call of Duty has remained the highest selling video game every year for the past eight years, and that is an amazing accomplishment. Since 2003 the Call of Duty series has created such a name for itself, I think it could sell without advertisement. It’s the yearly release that everyone is always talking and in 2017 we’re returning to our roots. While we still don’t know exactly what root we’re returning too, I wouldn’t mind to see them bring us way back to the WWII days. I’m excited for boots on the ground and no robots. Hopefully they’ll bring back a game that strategic gunfights can happen and you have a chance even without making the first shot. Maybe pure skill will out-do the tech this year. I want a first person shooter game that challenges me, a game that I can do something unpredictable or out of the ordinary, yet somehow it works. Maybe the cycle will repeat itself of the past, present, and future warzones all over again. All I truly know is I can’t wait to see what they give us this year and I can’t wait to play a traditional Call of Duty again. Let’s hope they bring back the spark and ignite a fire.

Ryan Joaquim
the authorRyan Joaquim
21 years old. Lover of all things video games. If you would like to discuss things further tweet me @RyanJoaquim

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