From the numerous issues in the gaming industry, delusion and oversaturation often go widely unnoticed. An avid gamer will be able to tell you there is a significant disconnect between the audience and the developers alike, further shrouded by the illusion of a successful franchise. Most gamers agree that no genre knows oversaturation like first-person shooters(FPS), with every developer trying to make their magnum opus to redefine the universe of first-person shooters(often done with middling success).
Whenever FPS is mentioned, Call Of Duty immediately comes to mind; and initially, Call Of Duty was the magnum opus and did redefine the genre; however, repetition and irritating business models ruined the franchise making it a ghost(pun intended) of its former self.
An essential aspect of video games that is sometimes overlooked is a story or plot that is easy to follow and engaging at the same time. The balance between the two is essential in a story where the player controls the story as it can overlap and lead to confusing plot lines or inconsistent characters.
Even though the original games got lost in the pool of world war-themed shooters, they still had some semblance of a plot that made them stand out more than the competition. However, a considerable change came with the release of the “Modern Warfare” series in the Call Of Duty franchise, which completely shifted the dynamic by changing the setting from a world war shooter to a modern-day one. The Modern Warfare series effectively set the standard for first-person shooters by doing something which had not been done before.
The Modern Warfare plotline was engaging and made the player feel like the protagonist was in an action movie due to the immersive storyline. The characters were likeable, and it was pretty easy to understand their motivations and justify the reasons for their actions. The entire series felt like a roller coaster of twists and turns, with characters being fleshed out with their own backstories and arcs, all met with a satisfying conclusion. The trilogy as a whole was lauded for its creative writing, direction and change of pace from the previous FPS games.
The core gameplay is the same for all the games in the series, which according to some critics may get monotonous. Call Of Duty like any other first-person shooter has a heavy emphasis on aiming and gunplay. Each title in the series is played from a first-person perspective, with a large chunk of the screen being taken up by a rifle or weapon.
The series matches guns from different eras and tries to make it accurate to the period, but done with mediocre success. Each game generally comes with a story-based campaign and a plethora of multiplayer modes to choose from. The game started off being a balance of a single-player story and multiplayer game modes but eventually became a multiplayer-focused, competitive shooter competing with franchises like Battlefield, Fortnight and PUBG, entering the world of survival sandbox games.
The multiplayer mode became widely popular, with millions of users worldwide competing against each other on the leaderboards. It also helped that it was released during the peak of online gaming, providing a catalyst which ushered it into the big leagues.
The multiplayer mode was met with critical and commercial success worldwide and was being enjoyed by millions of players. Developers of the franchise, Activision, supported the competitive scene by organising events and tournaments to continue its success. The booming success led to other franchises focusing on their multiplayer capabilities, trying to copy what Call Of Duty did, although none stood the test of time, or came close to the experience provided by Call Of Duty.
Most critics agree that the Modern Warfare era was when the series was at its peak. Unfortunately, it became apparent that each new release didn’t have much except for different guns, skins and maps; sometimes even those were absent. More issues started when the game took a futuristic sci-fi turn with the release of Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The subsequent games had little to no variation and were ultimately the same game being re-sold at full price as if Activision was left with no other option than to ineffectively recycle the same old ideas.
Call Of Duty: Zombies mode was included in one of their early franchises “World At War” and eventually became one of the most popular game modes. It displayed a standard Co-Op, player vs enemy scenario and simplistic gameplay. The players had access to semi-open maps with waves of zombies trying to attack, with the primary objective to survive as long as possible. Each kill warranted some in-game cash which could be used to upgrade weapons and armour. Over time, the waves would become harder and harder as players struggled to keep up with the zombies. Upon its release, zombies became the perfect place to practise your aim and reaction times making it a huge success for the franchise.
Call Of Duty was at its peak during the Modern Warfare era, but alas, things started changing when Activision began demanding more than what could be done to increase profits. One after the other, the dominoes built by Activision fell, starting with overworked employees, reusing assets and ideas, etc. Even though the third iteration of Modern Warfare was met with success; however, critics worldwide agreed that this was a step back from the previous games. Modern Warfare 3 did not match expectations and was seen as a rehashing of earlier titles; this started a landslide of hostile reception towards the series, which hit its peak with the infamous “Call Of Duty: Ghosts” release.
Ghosts was a game made by unenthusiastic developers who didn’t have the support required to make a genre-defining game. Albeit, it was still a critical success due to the franchise’s name; however, it was an acute failure and quickly became one of the most hated games in the series by critics and fans alike. The story ends with a typical end-of-the-world scenario once more as Ghosts cemented its place as the peak of oversaturation of Call Of Duty.
What followed suit was nothing but miscommunication and distrust. The trailer for Infinite Warfare became one of the most hated videos on Youtube at the time of release. Although the game was still a critical success, most gamers were thrown off by this transition to the new science fiction setting, eventually becoming unanimous disapproval towards the series.
Activision tried pulling back with safer ideas, moving towards the release of the remastered version of Modern Warfare and introducing the likes of Cold War; however, it soon became evident that these were not attempts at reviving a lost series but rather an attempt at cash-grabbing an already popular series and milking it to no bounds.
The release of Call Of Duty Vanguard came as a last-ditch attempt to save the series by rehashing what had already been done to save the sinking ship. Unfortunately, Vanguard was met with a hostile reception from audiences and critics alike, who blamed the lazy development and mechanics on the unbalanced gameplay and unoriginal map design reminding us once again how Call Of Duty stands no more than a Ghost of its former self.
Written by Advaith Gurunath for MTTN
Edited by Aditya Kapur for MTTN
Featured Image by Vaibhav Singh for MTTN