With Advanced Warfare on its way to store shelves some time in November, it being the first game since CoD4 I won’t be able to get, I thought now would be a good time to cover the old games. Especially what they did wrong. You see, I have an odd love/hate relationship with this game. I appreciate the fast-paced action and in-depth class and weapon customization, but I hate how the series is shackled to questionable business practices and a CEO who is most likely Satan incarnate. This is gonna be a longer piece, so there’s your warning.
Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
So this is where the series went from “decent shooter series” to “We’re running out of places to pile our extra money.” I actually got started on MW2, so my knowledge is a bit limited on the things that were broken, but here goes:
- Stopping Power and Juggernaut were generally the best tier 2 perks. The only real competition was UAV Jammer. Double Tap came with the obvious drawback of increased recoil and ammo consumption, making it only useful at ranges where you couldn’t miss.
- No fire rate caps on the semi auto rifles. This means everyone grabs a modded controller and wrecks shit with a gun that can beat an SMG at burst damage while still being accurate enough to snipe. I guess we can chalk this up to naivety.
- Not-quite-ideal lag compensation. You still need to lead your shots a bit in MW. This is admittedly a technical issue more than anything else, but still bears stating.
Call Of Duty 5: World At War
A step back to World War II, courtesy of Treyarch. Thanks to a lack of real assault rifles, the game put a little more value into perfectly aiming your shots. Once again, I don’t think I have the best info thanks to my limited experience. In the game’s favor:
- The maps are huge, which does give you more angles of approach to worry about, but also allows you to stay away from campers and you’re not forced down one open corridor to reach an strategic locale.
- Adding tanks to maps is a cool feature. They can be focused on and destroyed, but a careful player can have a lot of fun with one before that happens.
That said, the game still had issues.
- MP40 + Juggernaut on consoles. A gun that deals 50 damage a bullet, combined with a perk that makes guns take 1 more bullet to kill you. This is basically the best set-up you can get, and thus it was everywhere. I don’t know why they only thought to fix it on PC, but there you go.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
I had a great deal of fun with this, it being my entry point into the series. That said, I also know damn well about its assorted flaws, and I’ll be pulling no punches, even though it’s my personal favorite title. I will say that there’s a great variety in the maps and weaponry available, so much so that it’s easily half the reason I got into analyzing games in such detail. But enough of that, let’s hear the mess-ups!
- Stopping Power with no counter. I understand what they were trying to do. Remove Juggernaut, and tier 2 is less polarized, but, Infinity Ward, you left half the problem behind! Unless you used a gun that really didn’t benefit from Stopping Power (a short list), or you were making a stealth class, there was little reason not to use this perk.
- Gun Balance, starting with the UMP45. Good lord. A submachine gun with controllable recoil that can kill you across the map in 3 shots while silenced and not using SP. How did anyone think that was fair? Then you had useless weapons like the F2000. Also, there were some weapon bugs that never got fixed, like the MG4 having misaligned irons. That is just lazy.
- Commando. Anyone that’s played MW2 is probably having flashbacks just reading that word. For those who were spared the horror, Commando increases your melee range. In theory, it added a reasonable lunging step to the attack, giving you better CQC ability. In practice, it let you teleport through incoming fire to kill people instantly over ridiculous distances. And it homed in on targets, often doing the aiming for you.
- One Man Army and Danger Close. AKA Infinite Ammo and Improved Explosives. That’s all that needs to be said, really.
- Killstreaks were ridiculous. It was way too easy to get a streak going where one killstreak could easily carry you to the next. So get five kills, get a giant missile from the sky. Kill two people with that missile, get an airstrike that leaves a harrier hovering overhead. A few more kills, and you are now in the gunner seat of an attack chopper. CoD never understood that close games are more enjoyable for all parties than lost causes, and the killstreak system exemplified this lack of thought.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops
Having never played a Treyarch entry before, I only picked this up because all my friends were doing the same. I still ultimately had a good time with this title as well. The game had some merits, and while I’m more an IW fan than a Treyarch one, I’m eager to cheer them on for:
- Your first perk determining your character’s appearance. This was especially important because you know Ghost players at a glance, or you knew not to waste explosives on Flak Jacket players.
- Continuing to have a variety of maps in different sizes. As in MW2, there was a decent vertical component to many maps as well, which made the space go even further.
- The emblem editor. Yes, you had to deal with a lot of crude (or incredibly detailed) drawings of penises, but you also had surprisingly good bits of art, considering the limited number of layers and icons available.Buuuuuuut the game has some serious flaws too:
- Weapons were designed to be painfully similar. Most of the SMGs and assault rifles had another weapon that shared all their major statistics. You might have expected the weapon balance to at least be good. You’d be wrong. The FamAug (named after the best 2 nearly identical weapons) ruled the assault rifle tier, while SMGs were dominated by the AK74u.
- Locking pro-perks behind challenges in specific game modes. I hate certain game modes, and thus, I hate being told I need
to play those game modes to get the secondary abilities for my favorite perks. I understand the concept, but I still hate it.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
There were a couple positive points to this entry, but this is when I started to sour on the series. Let’s get the good out of the way.
- The support system. Why did no one think of this earlier? Objective-focused players tend to die, and thus players that ignored the objective and focused on kills were rewarded more often. It’s good that they tried to cut down on that. The execution was terrible, but the concept was good.
- The game mode Kill Confirmed. It’s a nice way to help cut down on campers in matches, and make it less about holing up in a building and killing anyone unlucky enough to wonder into your line of sight.
- Hearing the mics of the people you just killed. Be honest, you love hearing screams of frustration after getting a kill, we all do.
- Making Rapid Fire an option for light machine guns. Whoever did this, I love you.
Now for the bad.
- Terrible weapon balance. The ACR was easily the best rifle overall thanks to its ease of use, losing only to the also badly balanced Type 95 in terms of sheer power. The UMP45 was nerfed into the ground after MW2, and to pour salt on the wound, was put up against super-accurate bullet-hoses like the MP7. And then there’s crap like the FMG9 machine pistol, which combined with the above screams “didn’t play-test this at all.”
- The spawns. Good freaking God, these are the worst spawns I have ever encountered in my entire gaming life. You would routinely get put down right in front of enemies, and vice-versa. You would die, respawn, and then be killed by the guy who originally killed you. It got to the point where seeing killcams inside killcams inside killcams was nothing special. Seeing as this was the third game by Infinity Ward (well, what was left of them), this was inexcusable.
- Outright laziness in design, such as the 1887 having a “2 attachments” proficiency, recycled challenges and titles (down to challenges referring to old perks), and implementing really sloppy lag compensation which rewards terrible connections at the expense of people who paid for something faster than dial-up.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
This is where I started really hating the series. Again, there’s always some good with the bad, but this is when it latter outweighed the former, at least for me personally. Let’s cover what I liked first, as usual.
- The return and expansion of the Emblem Editor. Yes, more penises because our fanbase is immature, but you can always report those guys. I lost track of the times I said “you can make that with the emblem editor?”
- The improved customization system. Now, you can take whatever combination of equipment you want, as long as you stay within ten “points” used. Give up equipment for more attachments, ditch your secondary for more perks, whatever. The resulting freedom gave us a lot of interesting class builds, and I love that.
- Trying to balance Rapid fire by making it reduce the distance bullets could travel before losing damage. I’m not entirely sure how well it fixed the problem of people just slapping rapid fire on to kill faster, but points for effort, eh?
Now for the bad.
- Utterly horrible lag compensation.
To sum up what the gentleman in the above video says, there are stupidly large gaps between “Player A sees Player B” and vice-versa, even at ideal ping. This means that issue that people complained about over the years actually came true: Getting killed by people you literally did not have time to react to.
- The shotguns were either terrible or too good. The Remington can one-shot consistently enough at long enough ranges to be the new commando. There’s enough areas you can hang out in that anyone approaching is within the 1-shot kill range. Shotguns are supposed to reward aggressive play, not be another camping tool.
- The Target Finder. Anyone that shows up in this sight in marked with a red diamond and a flashing display. It takes all the effort out of acquiring targets, which is half the work of shooting people. What was originally designed to root out campers became the attachment of choice for campers everywhere. Worse yet the real anti-camper tool, the Millimeter Scanner, wasn’t worth using.
- The maps. They’re too small, for starters. As a result, the spawns are often terrible, especially on Hijacked. It also makes using sniper rifles and machine guns a risky proposition, as there’s no good spot to set up. Then, they brought back Nuketown for everybody, which means I can’t skip it by uninstalling the pre-order map-pack. Not appreciated.
- A general lack of focus (something the video above originally pointed out to me). I couldn’t tell whether Black Ops 2 was trying to be a super-arcadey slaughterfest (thanks to the tiny maps), or a tactical combat simulator (thanks to cover points on every single corner). Whatever it was, I didn’t like it.
- Select fire is badly implemented. Using it either gave you a ridiculously effective weapon (any burst/semi auto gun), or gave you a joke gun (any weapon that was already fully automatic). There was no middle ground, and the joke guns still existed even after extensive patching. Was it a good concept? Of course, but Call Of Duty wasn’t designed with such a function in mind, and it showed.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
I know opinions on this are mixed, but I personally consider it a step back in the right direction. I’ve detailed some of these said reasons below.
- The maps are huge. Snipers and machine gunners have a reason to exist again, but there are enough close and medium range engagement areas for the other weapons to be useful as well. This also cuts down on bull**** spawns.
- The Squads system is another cool customization mechanic. This lets you build a team of AI buddies for certain modes, based on your own loadouts. It lets you enjoy that same tense combat against bots rather than human beings. There were bots before, in the Black Ops entries, but they always felt like glorified training dummies rather than proper opponents, always being noticeably inhuman in combat (“You sniped me with an uzi? What? How?”), and all having weird builds that never made sense.
- Weapon variety returns, while still having few weapons feel unfair. A gun that is better than average in one type of fight is less effective in others, as it should be. Using a silencer on gun B makes it nearly useless past close range, while using it on gun A had less effect at range, but it still loses to gun A in close combat. Things like that.
- Trying to balance Select Fire. Guns that are switched to semi auto now get a noticeable boost in firepower, often gaining a 2 hit kill when fired at center mass. Black Ops 2 realized that single-shot guns set to full auto needed turning down, but never worked on the other side of the equation.
- Less emphasis on killstreaks. This has the added bonus of making matches a little more ‘down to the wire’ instead of being decided by the first guy to get a big-ticket killstreak.
- Removing the UAV. This makes stealth a much more varied affair. You can make yourself immune to whatever you think will be your biggest threat, and there’s rarely any detection system that is useful in all situations.
Not to say this game doesn’t have problems too:
- There’s a number of camping spots with only one real approach, giving campers an advantage that, frankly, they don’t need. A dug-in player already has an edge in many cases, you don’t need to give them more of one.
- The map Stonehaven. This is the Nuketown of long range maps. Unless earlier large maps like MW2’s Wasteland, there’s no central point that encourages close combat, so you’re forced to rely on spotting enemies before they see you. This wouldn’t be so bad, except…
- The target finder is still in the game. WHY? Half the challenge in these larger maps is just finding an opponent, and the sight does it for you. Thermal can be just as much a hindrance as a help, as players of pure white levels like MW2’s Derail can attest.
This series has done many things wrong over the years, but it has maintained a large fan base off of everything it has done right. I hope the series continues to deliver enjoyable gameplay, while sorting out the problems of earlier titles. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, devs!