With Call of Duty WWII revealed, I feel that it’s time for a controversial opinion, Modern Warfare 2 ruined Call of Duty.
When I say this I don’t mean that Modern Warfare 2 is a bad game. Far from it I actually really like what Modern Warfare 2 does on a technical and gameplay level. In fact if you asked me which COD I hated it would be a tie between Ghosts and the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition for reasons I’ll go over another day.
But when I say MW2 ruined Call of Duty I mean that it took the series away from it’s unique premise and roots and turned it into just another action shooter. One with amazing production values sure; but when you strip away the nice graphics, sound, and action set-pieces you find that MW2 rips the series’ soul out and doesn’t replace it with anything.
In order to understand what I mean we have to look at why COD was created in the first place. The team that made COD, Infinity Ward, split off from the studio who made Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. They were frustrated at making generic World War shooters that had one man ripping up Nazi shit and wanted to make you part of a squad. They wanted to make you feel like just another cog in the war machine, not so much winning war’s but surviving them.
In that regard I would argue the first COD was mostly successful, with the exception of two mission’s in the American campaign and just the entire British campaign which makes you, wait for it, a special agent tearing Nazi shit up mostly solo. The Russian Campaign is a masterwork in that regard as outside of a single sewer level the Campaign perfectly captures the feeling of survival. Whether it’s house to house fighting, charging up a hill with only a clip of ammo without even a gun to support you, or desperately holding out against hordes of enemies, you almost never feel like a badass, you feel like a survivor.
Then COD 2 rolled around and basically all the kinks were worked out to give us the second best COD. You simply never feel like a badass whether you’re holding out against hordes of Nazi’s, creeping through pipes, or fighting through abandoned cities. Remarkable given that COD 2 introduces auto-regenerating health, which should kill that feeling but it in reality helps with pacing and level design without holding the experience back.
Now one might argue that the jump to the modern day would kill the feeling of survival and I’ll admit that COD 4: Modern Warfare does have more “action-heroy” scenes than COD 2, namely on the British side of things. On the other hand what happens in the American campaign more than makes up for it.
It’s things like that and being forced to see the disconnectedness of an AC-130 gunner as he mows down hordes of Russians. On top of the fact that the new heroes, the SAS, operate a lot like thugs than soldiers always COD 4 to feel just as grimy and dirty as COD 2. In fact it’s that and the amazing multiplayer that allow me to say COD 4 is my fave COD. Heck even World at War kept up the brutality factor and sets it to max, even further than COD 4 could dream of. But the carbon copy multiplayer holds it back to being only my third favorite COD in the series.
But with MW2 something changed, no longer were you just a soldier surviving against impossible odds, now you were a badass secret agent and the scenarios you were in were pretty over the top. Stealing nukes, leaping across ledges on snowmobiles, and mowing down entire Brazilian Favelas. The COD series had changed and not for the better, the series had become what IW was explicitly trying to subvert when they broke away form Medal of Honor, just another action shooter.
Ultimately each game kept going further and further down the rabbit hole with some changes here and there. Black Ops tried to actually tell good stories, Advanced Warfare had Kevin Spacey. But ultimately what had made the series stand out had been rooted out and the COD series had become the Michael Bay of gaming, pointless explosions and plots that just made you yawn with boredom. And certainly Infinity Ward’s games became the worst in that regard, I’m looking at you Ghosts and Infinite Warfare.
Can COD turn this around though? It depends on one thing, do they remove the action hero mentality and put you back in the grime and the muck of war like COD 2 did? If so, then I have high hopes for this game.