Before I begin, it is worth noting this article is simply the opinion of one person. While there may well be others who share my view, this is not a definitive piece on Call of Duty: Black Ops. This is not a review, simply an article from one person who, I admit, is not a particularly big fan of First-Person Shooters. Hopefully that’s out of the way so I can move on to explain what I think of the latest entry in this multi-million dollar franchise...
In the beginning, there was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. (OK, that’s a lie, obviously it started with Call of Duty 1, but bear with me) The first three CODs had been good games, but nowhere near the essential status that they were often handed. It took the two-year development period and the start of the Infinity Ward-Treyarch cycle (More on that later) to finally break the duck they’d formed. Call of Duty 4 was a masterpiece- It currently stands alongside GoldenEye on N64 and the Xbox’s Halo as the most influential and important first-person shooters ever made.
It also ranks up there as one of the best. In the campaign, every hour you’d get something new and online every new thing was another hour- No wonder it’s the most-played online title of all-time. The best thing about it was the fact that it sold the literally millions of copies it deserved to. While the likes of Super Mario Galaxy may be superior games, they couldn’t tap into one specific userbase in the same way that COD4 did, in this case, the online gamer. Since the title took off Xbox Live subscriptions flew off the virtual shelves and the FPS genre exploded into life, in the kind of way it never had done before. Now every developer worth there salt seemed to be bringing out a 360-exclusive shooter and the Halo/Metroid Prime/Killzone battle was suddenly insignificant. If you wanted to see plenty of bang-bang-bang for your buck, you could forget your Wii. Samus Aran could finish her adventures somewhere else.
And this is exactly why I believe the latest entry in the series, Call of Duty: Black Ops, should be boycotted. The FPS genre may be more popular than ever, but none of these titles are getting a look in as gamers, who can’t afford too many games due to the current economic climate, are sticking to what they know, what gave them the love for gunning down foes in the first place- Call of Duty and Halo. The worst thing is, the studio responsible for the reinvention of the COD franchise, Infinity Ward, are all but dead meaning we’re left with the ever uninspiring works of Treyarch.
The developers of the odd-numbered COD games (Except the first game) have been the makers of ‘classics’ such as Max Steel: Convert Mission and Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer. No wonder review scores have dropped. While they may still be keeping above the 90% mark in quality, this is almost entirely down to them shamelessly ripping off what the series creators did. Yes, they’re working on a sequel, but the best thing that ever happened to the series was re-inventing it in a bold new fashion by bringing it right up to date with modern weapons as well as gameplay mechanics- Why can’t they show some of this originality and do something new? While Infinity Ward where slaving away at a follow-up to Modern Warfare they even reverted back to the already done to death WWII (And not just by them- Medal of Honour had been around the 1939 block a couple of times, too).
Unfortunately, sales have not dipped with the public blind to the lack of imagination that the game posses. The multi-player always has been the key selling point, and if someone else has adapted to COD5, then naturally everyone else will flock to the latest edition. While this is not only too late but bound to be read by too small a group of people to have any impact on the sales figures, the less and less who buy this game the better, if only to prevent such cynical game manufacturing going on in the outside world.
This cynical edge is summed up by one man: Activison CEO, Bobby Kotick. The COD publishers’ main man has admitted to only wanting to publish games that can be "...exploited every year across every platform with clear sequel potential that can meet our objectives of over time becoming $100 million plus franchises.”. Kotick is clearly the most hated man in video games and was even publically compared to a particularly rude part of male anatomy by Monkey Island creator and legend of Point ‘n’ Click games, Tim Schafer. While we won’t go into whether or not he deserves the tag, but him and his dollar-based dreams are certainly what fuels the Call of Duty franchise, but not Infinity Ward, today.
Call of Duty: Black Ops has hardly been played by anyone in the world, let alone to completion, but I can safely say, here and now, Black Ops will not be as good as Modern Warfare, or even Modern Warfare 2. Anyone who’s watched trailers can tell it looks almost identical to Infinity Ward’s input, but lacking the little spark that only the best developers can add. And just to add insult to injury, if you do buy it, you’ll be forced into paying upwards of £40 for a title that isn’t as good as one that you probably already own, thanks to Kotick’s economic schemes. It’s a three-year-old game that’s been played to death put into a Cold War skin. It’s a fact that’s blatantly obvious to everyone. The game hasn’t been sent out for reviews yet and the Wii version hasn’t even received a single video or screenshot, let alone demo and the game’s out inside twelve hours. The sad fact of the matter is that even Activison can tell this is going against what laid the solid foundations for the modern FPS boom. I may not be an FPS expert, but even I can point out that Black Ops is a waste of time and money.