Hey, I actually have a gaming-related topic this week! Holy crap!
Though first, I’d like to touch-upon something else quick. The Flashbulb’s new album came out this week, and you should all give it a listen. Benn Jordan is one of the most astounding musicians I’ve ever heard, and his newest album, Opus at the End of Everything, makes him even more deserving of that praise. I don’t know how to continue talking about it without sounding like an ass, so just give it a listen here. Now, on to the real topic.
I’ve pretty much played little-to-no games over the past month and a half asides from boatloads of Modern Warfare 3, essentially because I’ve had trouble finding motivation in my depression to play anything else. I suppose there’s some kind of catharsis to be found in gunning down wave after wave of player-controlled fodder. If anything, though, it’s made me realize how little of a step forward MW3 took, especially when compared to Black Ops, and what is really missing from Call of Duty to make it exciting again.
For starters, there are the improvements Infinity Ward has made which, while few, are worth noting. There’s the weapon proficiencies which are a decent way of slightly changing a gun’s playstyle, even if everyone uses Kick or Attachments anyway. The new point streak system is also a great addition, with Support being a terrific compliment to snipers and Specialist being the optimal way to play a SMG class. The new Tactical (Portable Radar) and Lethal (Bouncing Betties) equipments are also pretty great.
The only downside to these improvements is that they apparently came at a cost, that cost being the near-complete ignorance of the additions that Treyarch brought to the table in Black Ops. Heavily customizable gun loadouts? Gone. Emblem/playercard creation? Gone. Wager match game types? Gone from matchmaking. (until now?) Varied, well-thought out maps? Gone. Better in-game scoreboard? Gone. And the worst part? All of that is gone because Infinity Ward is apparently run by children. People who can’t accept that another team is iterating on their franchise. While I understand the sentiment of having another team working on something you’ve been the sole developer of for years, there should still be some humility and respect to be found when that secondary team actually makes meaningful, fun changes to your game. Black Ops really gave me the impression that the team working on that game’s multiplayer really gave a shit about it, and did so because they were huge fans of the multiplayer themselves. That IW goes and rips out all of Black Ops’ improvements gives me the exact opposite impression of them.
Despite being entirely cosmetic, I miss being able to etch my clan tag into my gun, or display my emblem on it. I miss creating my own emblem, too. The Callsign titles and emblems are fun to see and unlock, but everyone still shares all of them. It was really cool to see all the really dumb shit that people came up with on Black Ops, even if half of them were weed leaves.
I also felt like the maps in Black Ops were much better. There was more variety in the environments and the actual layouts were better, even if the spawns didn’t always hold up so well at times. The omission of a Nuketown-esque map in MW3 is a god damned shame, and that every map is varying shades of brown and grey is even more annoying. There is also a laziness to their layout that irks me in certain maps, with Downturn being the biggest offender I can think of. Downturn is a terrible map, with no real flow to combat and its open spaces being nothing more than a 20ft area cluttered with blown-up cars. There are no areas that direct players into combat, there are no shortcuts to anywhere (only hallways that take twice as long to take) and there’s a complete underground system of tunnels that are never used because they lead to the least crowded areas of the map.
Fortunately, players seemed to have come to the same conclusion, as I have no played a match in Downturn for... well, weeks. On the other hand, the other maps remain. While they aren’t bad, they’re just bland in a way that makes it really unexciting to play on. I’m brining up Nuketown again, because it’s such a brilliant map. It was compact, it had one area for major combat (the street/lawn) and two minor areas for run around skirmishes. (houses and back of the street) Best of all, though, is that it was colorful. It was bright and sunny, and the objects that composed the map were all as bright and colorful as the sky. The 50’s-like design to everything was a refreshing change of scenery, and was a complete guilty pleasure when the Nuketown 24/7 playlists came on. You knew the spawns would be broken and you knew playing Domination on it would lead to so many grenade deaths, but you played it anyways because it was so frantic and fast-paced. You never had time to take a breath because shit was always going on, and it was always a ton of fun to look at.
This is the biggest thing I’d change in Call of Duty. See, not too long ago my friend and I were talking about how great Doom used to be. The pure, unhinged fun of a shooter that made no god-damned sense and you didn’t want it to, because why the fuck do you need it to when all you really want to do is to shoot stuff. The game has terrific level design, great enemies and weapons that were a ton of fun to use because it didn’t restrain itself. The same applied to subsequent games like Quake and Unreal, yet all of this went away thanks to the sense of realism and storytelling that developers began to think was where the genre needed to go. While I can’t criticize this decision, (Since I do enjoy some of those experiences) it’s something that needs to be loosened up a little. This is especially so in Call of Duty’s case, where it does not hold itself to realism very well and has proven this with every iteration of the franchise since COD 2.
So my suggestion? Let the developers go nuts. Make a map that’s set on a cruise ship, a moving train, a series of high-class apartment rooftops, an underwater facility, a not-abandonned amusement park... the moon, even? There are creative teams on these games having their actual creativity be stifled, and I really do feel like opening this door to them a little would bring great, fun things. As an artist, I can assure you that once you have carte blanche to let loose a little, the possibilities are so much greater and so much more engaging.
The same applies to the game modes. Gun Game and other Wager Match types are gone from matchmaking, with some of them being sent to private match types instead. I probably spent half of my Black Ops play time in Wager Matches. They were so unbelievably fun, which is where the series always stands best--when it’s ridiculous. Removing them from matchmaking was a horrible idea, because there needs to be a way for players to let loose a little. After all the serious gaming, it’s great for there to be a place to just relax a little and play something with less serious rule sets. I know I am not the only one who thinks this, because Infected is currently one of the most played match types on MW3. The last-man standing mode was exclusive to Private Matches since launch, but was integrated into the Community Playlists last week to great success. Lobbies are constantly full, and most players joining and general parties of 2-3+ players just talking and hanging out. The relaxed, social and fun experience is back. I haven’t heard anyone get angry or cuss at players in the match type, because it’s so insane that there’s no reason to. It’s just smiles all around. I can only hope that they’ll add Gun Game to the rotation.
Oh my god, I can see text if I look at my walls. I need to wrap this up before all I see is text.
The point I’m trying to get across is that maybe, just maybe, games like Call of Duty shouldn’t take themselves so seriously. There’s a time and a place for it, like the single player, but the multiplayer’s variety and fun shouldn’t be crippled because of it. If the whole development team just had a little wiggle room for their ideas to come out, I bet we’d see a game that would be drastically more fun to watch and play.
Also, Infinity Ward should quit being babies and bring back my god damned created emblems. The gaming industry iterates constantly, so quit being sore losers and actually add in the improvements you failed to come up with yourselves. Maybe it’ll give you some ground to work on and further improve them instead of taking them out altogether.