Thursday, 3 May 2012

Whatever happened to fun?

Okay, so the big gaming story this week is the official Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 reveal. Apparently it's set in the near-future, around about the same time Crysis was set (though apparently in an alternate universe with far less gameplay innovation (ooh, edgy)). Anyway, I was discussing it with a friend of mine who's into that sort of thing when this exchange took place:

Him: "I've always thought they should set a Call of Duty game in the near-future."
Me: "Will there be jetpacks?"
"Why not?"
"Because that wouldn't fit the Call of Duty gameplay style"
"It would be made more fun because there would be jetpacks"

My point is that Call of Duty gameplay is very, very dull. It's like someone took the Quake 3/ UT shooter formula of "Run, Jump, Shoot, Repeat" but then changed it to "Run, shoot, die, blame lag, repeat". I played about half an hour of MW3 during the steam free weekend which served to reinforce my opinion on that matter.But by setting Black Ops 2 in the future Treyarch have the opportunity to rectify this and make an actually fun shooter with awesome shit like laser weapons and jetpacks. But no, from what I can tell Treyarch is taking the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" path (or in this case, the "it's not technically broke but it is a giant congealed brown mess that people keep giving us money for so let's make it again" path). They can have as many bloody armoured quadrotor killstreaks as they want, they're still just something else that flies around shooting ordinary old bullets into ordinary old non-flying soldiers (Though if Treyarch were to add an orbital laser cannon killstreak that would be a step in the right direction. At least that adds spectacle if nothing else).

If you asked me why I think Call of Duty exists as a gaming property I honestly couldn't tell you. It doesn't seem to be so people can have fun playing it, considering that every match plays out like a carbon-copy of every other match (unless everyone who likes it just slams their head in a car door between games to forget the last 15 minutes of their lives). It doesn't seem to be to provide the world with a realistic simulator of modern armed combat (unless the US army has some kind of "Suicidal Retard Squadron" that I'm unaware of). It's certainly not for an engaging narrative And it doesn't seem to be so people can have fun working alone or together to achieve some kind of goal, considering that pretty much no-one works together and the only measure of one's success is how many people they killed and how much dying they did/didn't do. So I really cannot comprehend why this property is considered to be gaming nirvana by the masses when it's compared to other games that have genuinely fun and involving gameplay or actual charm and character.

I suppose the obvious comparison to make here is Team Fortress 2. The gameplay is fun and caters to all flavours of the gaming spectrum (sneaky-pants stealth to capturing objectives to killing as many people as you can), you can switch styles whenever you want, the player-characters are actual characters and the visual design matches this well (and stops people from blending into the background). And that game is bloody free too! (even when it wasn't it was like $20 or something). I just really don't see how people can compare those two games and actually believe that Call of Duty is more enjoyable to play. 

So, the main point of this rant is to say that somewhere along the line we lost track of fun. We traded Half-Life for COD (Completely Obviously... Bad) and Super Mario for EVE online (Which is basically the space-themed version of Microsoft Excel). Why is this? how did this happen? When did we decide that cliche and repetition deserve our praise and money more than fun and imagination? I'm going to stop typing now so that I don't become any more depressed than that aforementioned half-hour of MW3 already made me.

*Footnote* Pretty much everything I've said about cod applies to Battlefield 3 too. I rank the latter as being slightly less horrible because I at least have the option of jumping in a car and running over every motherfucker I see.

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