Do you cringe every time you hear those three words? Call of Duty. So do we.
When you talk about shooter games, you’d be living under a rock if you didn’t mention the Call of Duty franchise. Starting in 2003, this game began as a way to take the real war and put it in the hands of gamers everywhere. Since then, the series has grown and expanded each year to the point where it gets a lot of hate.
Many times, games, movies, and TV shows will get a lot of undeserved hate for one reason or another, but there are some franchises that truly deserve the criticism they get. Case in point: the Call of Duty franchise. As Activision turned this franchise into a cash cow, many problems have come up with how the games are structured, turning them into problematic messes that rehash just about everything you did in the previous entry.
However, the games still sell very well, and there are plenty of people who are ready to go down in flames defending this franchise. With the recent announcement of Call of Duty: World at War 2, we’ve decided to take a look back at the history of the series and break down why we think it’s one of the worst franchises ever. But instead of just one point for argumentation, we came up with 15. Enjoy.
15. The Guns
Kicking off this list is an essential element of shooter games: the guns. A shooter game is only as good as the weapons that are in it, and Call of Duty’s track record in that department isn’t doing it any favors. While it began with classic recreations of real-life weapons, it has slowly evolved into strange futuristic guns that are cheap imaginations of what firepower would be like several years from today. It seems that the guns are only getting more advanced and crazy just for the sake of catching attention. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.
Even if you take a few steps back and look at how they’ve handled weapons in games set during older time periods, some problems become evident. The first thing is the reuse of many of the same weapons. The second problem is that it doesn’t really matter what which assault rifle or shotgun you choose; most of the weapons in a particular class function the same. There are little differences, but because of how the game plays, these differences hold very little weight when you’re in the middle of combat. Besides, the knife is the way to go.
14. Campaign Mode
Every Call of Duty game can be summed up in three gameplay styles: a multiplayer, an extra mode (like Zombies or Spec Ops), and Campaign. The campaign mode was something that they spent a lot of time with when the franchise began. You’d expect then that they would only get better with their storytelling over time. However, as many of you might already know, this isn’t the case.
After World at War, Activision was more concerned with making each story more bombastic than the rest. We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower get taken out, friends get blown to bits, and guns firing in space. These moments don’t serve to enhance the story that’s being told either — they’re only there to catch the attention of people watching the commercials. That would be excusable if the stories themselves were realistic and well told. Yet, this also is not the case. Many of the campaigns, especially recently, are actually cheap and poorly told. They involve many unrealistic stunts that would kill a normal human being and offer up half-baked twists that anybody with a brain could see coming. Even as a style of gameplay, the campaign doesn’t offer much in terms of longevity.
13. Zombies Mode
When Call of Duty: World at War came out, with it came the new Zombies mode. This game placed up to four people in a small building with boarded windows. Zombies would break down the boards in order to get in, and it was up to the players to take them out. The number of zombies and their difficulty would increase with each passing round.
When this mode first came out, it was a smash success. My brother and I spent many hours on this mode (more so than the campaign or the multiplayer for that matter). Unfortunately, this caught Activision’s attention, and they decided that they would expand it in future games. It’s clear that much of the care normally placed in Zombies had left by the time Black Ops 2 came out. The mode was filled with frustrating gimmicks and impossible easter eggs that didn’t sit well with anybody. Zombies mode became less about survival and more about elaborate stages and complicated stories. It lost a lot of what made it great in the first place.
12. Expensive DLC
Let’s be honest: DLC is going to remain a staple of the gaming world as long as it still sells. Even Nintendo has jumped on the bandwagon. That’s not to say that all DLC is horrible — there are times when it’s actually fairly priced and enhances a game really well. However, this is not something that Call of Duty does. They churn out DLC in a terrible rhythm that has only gotten more and more expensive.
With each entry in the franchise, four DLC map packs are issued. They’re usually priced around $14.99. While that doesn’t seem like much, you’ll end up paying for the entire game twice just so that you can have a few more maps at the end of the day. It’s a cheap ploy and shouldn’t be supported by Activision. To make matters worse, even the people who only want to play Zombies can’t escape this. Each map pack introduces a new Zombie map. However, you can’t buy Zombie maps separately. You have to buy the entire map pack if you want a new Zombie map. All of that money adds up quickly, and the only way to get it to stop is if we don’t support it.
11. Yearly Release
One of the biggest issues I have with Call of Duty is that it gets a new game every year in the month of November. Why is this a bad thing? Because they only give themselves a year to work on a new title, and they’re not willing to budge on that because they want more money.
There’s something known as the Project Management Triangle. It supposes that with any project, there are three dimensions: quality, time, and cost. Because it’s structured as a triangle, neither dimension is more important than another. They’re equally important and are dependent on each other. Because of this, if you sacrifice one of them, the entire project suffers.
This is the issue with Call of Duty coming out with a new game every year. Activision sacrifices time, which in turn affects the quality of the game, and ups the cost because they want more money. If they allowed themselves another year or so to develop a new game, we could actually get a complete Call of Duty with all of the maps ready to go. No more buying a game in chunks.
10. Same Game
Jumping off of the Project Management Triangle, there’s a big complaint among gamers that Call of Duty is essentially the same game with minor graphical upgrades and gameplay additions. After witnessing different entries in the franchise, we would have to agree. Because Activision sacrifices the quality of the game by pressing themselves for time, they reuse many of the assets that were present in previous entries in the series. It’s been years since a Call of Duty game has changed the conventions of the mechanics. Even Nintendo, for all of its consistency, is doing this right now with Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
In this aspect, Call of Duty is very similar to the iPhone. Each year, a newer model is introduced that has minor upgrades over the previous one and is touted as the “next gen” device. Then, anyone who has an older model suddenly feels that their object is now inferior. Thus, their brand loyalty motivates them to get the new one. People who play Call of Duty will swear up and down that each entry is so different from the rest. But when you peel back the layers, nothing’s changed for the series.
9. Borrow Ideas
We understand that nothing is truly original anymore. Every game, movie, or book borrows some cliches and ideas from other properties. However, when they can put their own spin on typical conventions and create their own identities, it’s perfectly excusable and desired in the gaming industry. Call of Duty takes it to the extreme, though. Remember when Titanfall was announced? It wasn’t long after that Activision began structuring Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 to have many similar mechanics to that of Titanfall.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the recently announced Call of Duty: World at War 2. It’s clear that they weren’t succeeding with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and saw that Battlefield 1 was a smash hit. Because of this, they decided to go back to the World War 2 era themselves with their newest release. While I agree that they needed to go in a different direction that didn’t involve space, directly mimicking what a competitor has done is a cheap way to aim for success. Fans of the series are likely hyped for this game, but those with a sharper eye see right through it.
8. Lack of Strategy
Gamers are pretty spoiled nowadays. We have heavily strategic games like Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, and Halo 5: Guardians that emphasize working with your comrades in order to find the best solution and take a win for the team. Being able to switch between multiple classes means that you constantly have to be on your toes to counter your opponents as well as support the other players on your team. It adds an element of critical thinking to the mix, which makes those games some of the most beloved in the genre.
Then you have games like Call of Duty. Yes, there are different guns, skills, and classes, but none of them make a difference. Everyone on one team can pick whatever they want and still scrounge up a win. The way the game is designed allows for players to just go off and do whatever they want. It’s like playing a game of soccer but telling everybody to ignore positions and just go for the ball. It’s chaotic, and there’s no teamwork involved. This makes many multiplayer matches a matter of who can shoot whom first. The likely reason for this style is so that they can get as many casual players to buy the game over and over because they don’t need to think critically.
7. The Players
Speaking of which, that brings me to my next point. While this isn’t a problem with the game franchise itself, there’s no denying that Call of Duty attracts a certain demographic that’s difficult to play games with. Many people who play are young kids who have mics and attempt to sound big and bad by saying every cuss word in the dictionary (and some of their own design). Without any logical reasoning, people like that are willing to scream at other players and say how excellent they are at the game. There are people like that in every online game, but Call of Duty gets most of them.
For those that are genuinely interested in playing the online side of the games, knowing that there are so many players like that could persuade them to avoid it. It’s not a fun time when somebody’s always screaming into their mic while you’re trying to enjoy a game. Activision could theoretically avoid this by making the game more strategic and thought-provoking, but that’s not what brings in sales. There could be another reason for this decision, but this is what we’ve concluded.
6. Lag and Migrating Hosts
For some reason, after Call of Duty: Black Ops came out, the entire franchise suffered from a terrible rise in lag and a horrendous dip in the quality of their online servers. Many times in multiplayer matches will there be some element of lag, which almost always leads to the game being disconnected altogether, forcing you to start a search all over again. This problem has continued in the series, and the fact that there hasn’t been much done to fix it is shocking.
On the topic of bad connections, another issue that has popped up is host migration. Oftentimes, when putting a match together (mostly Zombies), a team will get ready to go only for the game to begin “Migrating Hosts.” When this happens, expect to be removed from your team and have to search for another game. In an era where online play is almost a necessity, it’s shocking that there would be so many problems across multiple games in a series focused on this aspect of gaming. Yet, there aren’t many complaints about it, so people are either content with the issue or are just oblivious.
5. Unbalanced Multiplayer
Many Call of Duty games have employed a “rich get richer” scheme when structuring their multiplayer. What this means is that those who are good at the game are going to reap all of the benefits of the online functionality even while a match is running. Meanwhile, everyone who is learning how to play or is lagging behind will be further punished for not employing the “git gud” strategy.
This leads to a multiplayer that’s fairly unbalanced. Because of how easy it is to be killed in the game, camping is heavily rewarded. People can sit in the same spot for ages picking others off and not getting penalized. As you progress through the game’s ranking system, you’ll gain access to new and more powerful attributes. Unfortunately, many of them result in unbalanced fights against inexperienced players. Many people who play Call of Duty, as a result, are those who are dedicated to the franchise. People who are bad at the game generally don’t have enough fun with it to keep coming back. That, or they simply get it for the campaign and playing locally with their friends (however long that feature remains a thing).
4. Stereotype for Gamers
Because of how popular Call of Duty is, it gets talked about quite often whether in public or on social media. Unfortunately, this creates an idea in many people’s heads of what gamers are. Gamers are often stereotyped as the lazy bums who play Call of Duty while screaming profanity into their mics while they tell everyone how good they are. I will say that this stereotype is becoming less and less prevalent as millennials get older, but it still exists today.
We all know that not all gamers are like Call of Duty players, but it’s hard to combat how a person creates their idea of something or someone. It discourages many from talking about the games they play in public because they never know how people perceive gamers. It’s important to note that the stereotype hasn’t just stopped with people who play Call of Duty. It’s expanded into many other popular games. That being said, the idea began with the franchise and is the core of why many people believe that video games are a negative thing.
3. Desensitizes Combat
When Call of Duty was first created, it was to simulate the actions of war in a reverent yet entertaining way. Since then, it’s been heavily dramatized and put through the ringer of modernization. Because of this, people have become desensitized to this kind of violence, and it doesn’t affect them anymore. What makes this tragic is that there are people who give their lives for our country fighting in these sorts of wars. By playing numerous games on the same subject, a lot of respect for what soldiers go through is lost. People marvel at explosions; they shout when someone gets a headshot — it’s really messed up when you think about it.
However, it is possible to employ a solution without getting rid of realistic shooters altogether. Take a look at Battlefield 1. This game was primarily concerned with re-establishing the reverence for those who gave their lives in the war. The game doesn’t shy away from the horrors of combat, and that’s part of the reason why people like it more than Call 0f Duty. It honors what soldiers have to live through and, by being a game, gives the player an idea of what that life is like.
2. Only Done for Money
When Call of Duty began, it was easy to tell that there were many people who had a passion for what they were creating. Since then, it has sold extremely well, and Activision has turned it into an entire franchise. This isn’t because there’s a genuine interest in the series (there are some who are passionate about it, but not many), but instead because it makes a lot of money.
This is why we see Activision taking notes from developers who create more popular games like Titanfall and Battlefield 1. They know that those games sell and try to recreate that success by putting their own spin on it. Furthermore, if they were more passionate about the series, don’t you think they would put more effort into expanding and experimenting with new ideas? Instead, they retread familiar territory year after year only because they’re guaranteed from past games that they’ll make a lot of money off of it. When the primary interest isn’t in the people playing the games, then many corners will continuously be cut until something changes.
1. It Still Sells
At the end of the day, it’s clear that there are a lot of horrible decisions surrounding Call of Duty. However, despite all of this, the games still sell very well. It’s like a Transformers or 50 Shades of Grey type of situation. The product isn’t good. Period. However, people will continuously throw their money at the franchise for one reason or another. Yet, there are many who openly speak against the franchise.
I will clue all of you in on something: because they’re motivated by profit, Activision will not end the Call of Duty franchise or reinvent it unless people decide to stop giving them money. Until that day comes, the series will still sell incredibly well. What makes this an even more bitter pill to swallow is that there are other games that deserve the support much more than Call of Duty. Take a look at indie developers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating games that respect the players and are of the utmost quality. There may be a day when the age of Call of Duty comes crashing down, but it’s definitely not this day — not as long as they’re still getting support.