The Call of Duty franchise is among the biggest intellectual properties in the world right now, and has been for years, so clearly, there’s no doubting that it’s an immensely popular franchise that there always seems to be a ridiculous level of demand around. But in spite of how unstoppable and relentlessly successful the Call of Duty machine clearly has been for years on end, there’s plenty about it that many aren’t massive fans of. Here, that’s exactly what we’re discussing, as we go over some of the biggest issues with the Call of Duty franchise that are hated by many in the series’ fanbase and community.
There’s usually a certain stigma attached to annual franchises, because very rarely do you see a franchise that releases on a yearly schedule also consistently maintaining a certain level of quality and freshness. That, of course, is something that Call of Duty struggles with as well, as annual franchises almost always do. From multiplayer issues to single player content, it’s not uncommon to see Call of Duty games feeling like letdowns in different areas from year to year, and it’s fair to say that a lot of that comes down to the nonstop annual release cycle that Activision is so dead set on following for the series.
LACK OF INNOVATION
This goes hand-in-hand with Call of Duty’s annual release cycle, because with a release schedule as relentless as that, it’s hard to imagine a series being able to keep on innovating for any consistent stretch of time Call of Duty obviously has its formula that it largely tends to follow from year to year, whether that’s with its single player offerings or its multiplayer suite, and though we do obviously do get some new tweaks or mechanics from time to time (like with the open world Zombies experience in this year’s Modern Warfare 3), by and large, very rarely do we see the Call of Duty franchise trying anything meaningfully different from what it’s been doing for years already.
KEEPS GOING BACK TO OLD IDEAS
There was a period a few years back where the Call of Duty series was experimenting with its settings and narrative premises from year to year, with games like Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare being perfectly emblematic of that, but by and large, it feels like Call of Duty has sort of got itself stuck in a pattern where it keeps repeatedly going back to old ideas that the series has already been milking for quite some time. Black Ops, Modern Warfare, and World War 2 settings- that’s what Call of Duty keeps oscillating between, and we’re honestly desperate to see the series try something – anything – that isn’t related to those three.
MONETIZATION AND MICROTRANSACTIONS
No one is going to be surprised at this being one of the things that this feature goes over, because how Call of Duty is monetized has been an issue with many for as long as anyone can remember. Yes, the series has, by now, moved past the era of paid post-launch DLC map packs, but from Battle Passes to randomized purchases to the plain and simple fact that Activision pushes out a new full-priced game once every year for $70, there’s plenty of examples to point to when speaking about Call of Duty’s excessive monetization practices.
DILUTED MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE
Multiplayer is obviously the bread and butter of the Call of Duty franchise, and if there’s one thing no one can ever blame the series for, it’s not providing enough multiplayer content. Across Warzone and new annual premium releases, Call of Duty fosters and maintains massive multiplayer communities all year long, something that it keeps doing with each new year- though as many in its fanbase will tell you, the series’ multiplayer experience was better when it was more focused. Split across new annual releases and Warzone, all of which try to remain aligned with each other in different ways, Call of Duty seems to have lost the focused flavour its multiplayer offerings used to boast when the series more clearly demarcated its annual cycles.
To be fair, being grindy is a criticism that you can levy at most multiplayer live service experiences out there, since that’s often among the most effective ways of maintaining persistent engagement for players. Sure enough, that’s something that Call of Duty is usually guilty of as well. We obviously see tweaks in games and their progression systems as we go from year to year, but Call of Duty titles somehow always find a way to make their progression mechanics exceedingly grindy, so that you’re either spending way longer than you should so you can make progress, or you’re being pushed into spending on the in-game monetization.
CONSISTENT LAUNCH ISSUES
Credit where credit is due here- the Call of Duty franchise deserves plenty of praise for the technical state it manages to find itself in more often than not, especially for a series that has such a packed release schedule. But it’s still often quite problematic on this front as well. Whether it’s simple bugs and glitches or crippling server issues, Call of Duty games have often been dragged down by technical issues at launch. Obviously, you always expect some level of technical issues in games that are targeting such widespread connected playerbases right out the gate, but it can be a bit frustrating for players to see those issues cropping up repeatedly.
CHEATERS AND HACKERS
To be completely fair, this is something that Activision has taken significant steps to address in recent years, and this is obviously an issue that you’d run into in any active multiplayer game, much less one as huge as Call of Duty. At the same time, it’s also far to criticize the series for still being a bit too populated by cheaters and hackers from time to time. Whether you’re trying to enjoy the game on a more casual level or if you’re playing it more competitively, it’s never fun to run into a hacker who just completely ruins the experience.
LIMITED TIME EVENTS
This is more an issue with the games industry at large than with just Call of Duty in particular, but Call of Duty is a frequent and prominent offender here, so it’s not like it’s immune to criticism. Publishers exploiting FOMO and trying to get players to spend money on microtransactions through limited-time events is not a new practice by any means, but it feels like Call of Duty has got it down to a science by now, and boy does the series keep leaning into it.
INCONSISTENT SINGLE PLAYER OFFERINGS
Multiplayer is obviously what Call of Duty has built its foundation on, and it’s what has ensured that the series remains as massive it does from year to year. Even so, single player remains an important part of the experience for many in the series’ playerbase- and yet it’s also a part of the series where you never quite know what you’re going to get. Will you get an excellent single player campaign like in Infinite Warfare? A painfully bland and forgettable one like the one in Vanguard? Or will we get something like Black Ops 4, which didn’t even have a single player campaign? Call of Duty has no real consistency in this area, and for those who have enjoyed the series’ solo offerings over the years, that can be quite frustrating.