There was a time when it was all so simple…there were the good guys and there were the bad guys. There were bolt-action rifles and LMGs, pistols and grenades. And those good old-fashioned tanks that trundled over the familiar war-torn landscapes we’d all seen in the movies.
That was 2003 when Call of Duty was in its infancy.
There were no perks back then, and no sliding or killstreaks. Most of your time was spent escorting a vehicle, taking part in a hostage rescue or storming a seemingly impenetrable outpost. With little more to protect you than a bit of Khaki camouflage and a sturdy steel helmet, the early games in the franchise felt gritty and tough, and sympathetically (most of the time) dealt with the horrors of conflict.
Fast forward a few years and the games evolved, the warzones shifted, budgets grew and graphics improved – yet the core gameplay remained intact…
"Has the move towards futuristic sci-fi warfare now moved the series too far from its roots? Is it more difficult to relate to, and appreciate, some of the newer missions when they are often so far removed from reality?"
Some of the missions in the early parts of the series are among the most memorable in gaming, whether they were set during World War II or the more modern, current day setting that started in Call of Duty 4. From the siege of Stalingrad to dogfights above Japanese waters, or donning ghillie suits to creep past patrols in Chernobyl and racing snowmobiles to evade enemies in Kazakhstan, there were some truly epic scenes that really resonated. And what of the hostage rescue on an airborne jet in Mile High Club and that haunting Normandy beach landing?
Has the move towards futuristic sci-fi warfare now moved the series too far from its roots? Is it more difficult to relate to, and appreciate, some of the newer missions when they are often so far removed from reality?
Set in 2065, the 12th Call of Duty instalment, Black Ops III, continues the series’ leap from the familiar into the realms of the unknown. Jet packs, invisibility, virtual reality and a raft of soldier classes and customisation options are far removed from the days of World War II warfare.
"Black Ops III offers a smattering of chaos, frenetic fast-paced action, glossy cinematics, frequent deaths and a level of customisation and character classes never before seen in the series. It’s undeniably a sales juggernaut and a sign of the times… but personally I miss its humble beginnings."
That hasn’t stopped it from flying off the shelves though. According to Activision, Call of Duty: Black Ops III became the biggest entertainment launch of the year – amassing an eyewatering half a billion dollars of sales within its first three days. It also saw a record 75 million hours of gameplay in that same period – setting a new benchmark for the series!
Based on those figures, you could assume that gamers don’t give a hoot about the good old days…
There’s certainly plenty going for the modern path of Call of Duty. Judging from forums and reviews, most love the fast paced futuristic gameplay, the varied classes, innovative weaponry and visuals. There are clear parallels with recent games such as Titanfall or Destiny so this kind of game is definitely in vogue.
Our very own review praised its gameplay, varied modes and the level of content, and we awarded it a rather healthy 8 rating. Yet it did say that it was starting to get a little stale and although lots of fun, the series “desperately needs a reinvention”.
Gone are the days of protagonists like Martin and Moody, or good old Soap and Price. Nowadays, the story and characters take a bit of a back seat and it’s all about the wall running, bio-technology, cybernetics, zombies and Jeff Goldblum!
We may have the likes of Sniper Elite III available on current gen systems but I can’t help but feel there’s a void that needs filling by an FPS that at least has a hint of realism of history… something like a classic Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms or Battlefield game.
Black Ops III offers a smattering of chaos, frenetic fast-paced action, glossy cinematics, frequent deaths and a level of customisation and character classes never before seen in the series. It’s undeniably a sales juggernaut and a sign of the times… but personally I miss its humble beginnings.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.