Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Call of Duty: What is the Difference?

Over the weekend I decided to play the newest Medal of Honor and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 single player campaigns. After about ten hours of this I began to forget which game I was playing honestly. Each game has waves of enemies coming at you, and you mow them down with advanced assault rifles and what-not. Each game lets you be a sniper for a bit, lets you bomb raid stuff, and lets you hooah your way through awful plots and faceless characters. The only way I could really tell I wasn't playing Modern Warfare 3 was the ability to power slide in Medal of Honor, which to me makes it the better game automatically because I can do something fun like power sliding rather than nothing interesting in MW3.

But is this really ALL I can say about the differences between these two games? On a single player account, yeah pretty much. You can argue the levels in MW3 were a BIT more interesting and had better set pieces, but in the end they still all blur together in a bloody mesh of shooting things for hours on end. The only real differences come in the multiplayer...right? Well it's supposed to be different...right? Or did Medal of Honor just copy-paste Call of Duty online with the level up system and the....yeah they did....right down to that little white x that appears if you score a hit on the enemy. I can BARELY discern the difference between these two games when watching online matches apart from looking at the HUD. Don't even get me started trying to tell the difference between MW2 and MW3.

I only bring up Medal of Honor as my first example of how all of these games are exactly the same because it's made by a completely different developer and team, you would THINK it would be a different game! What angers me about all of this isn't just that these are obviously all the same games since Call of Duty 4, it's that fans of the series actually have opinions on which is the best or worst, or Battlefield 3 is godlike and MW3 is trash, Medal of Honor is awful!, blah blah. But really play these games, think about the mechanics of what is happening, think about what you are ultimately doing here, what is the difference if you get +100 for killing a guy in MW3 as opposed to getting +100 in Battlefield 3? And yeah, I can tell that some guns that were once really good in MW2 or Black Ops got better or worse in MW3, or this or that gun is overpowered and should be patched. Or how we all complain that it's really stupid people who played longer get all the good weapons unlocked and those who don't play much struggle with the shitty weapons.

How is this a measure of which game is ass and which is good though? Look at what we're comparing, weapons or rather firearms. All of them shoot bullets but some shoot them better than others...ok? So what? It's not like MW2 offers a distinctive difference in strategy just because it had a better P-90 than MW3 does (I do not claim this is accurate, just saying) sooooo you just use something else in MW3 that works with equal efficiency right? You're not really DOING anything different, you are still pointing and shooting trying to kill stuff fast and stay alive.

This isn't like a fighting game where each character has fundamental differences in how they can and should be played and how each game has to be approached with different strategies depending on your opponent. In these shooting games you can take one approach to everything all the time and still be successful at it, but in a fighting game if you play Vega like how you should play Ryu, ie trying to cross-up the opponent then you will fail consistently every time since Vega can't cross-up at all. And what is amusing even more-so here is you can't play, Vega for instance, the same across each iteration of Street Fighter. If you played Street Fighter 2 Vega the same as Street Fighter 4 Vega or even Alpha 3 Vega, you will never be successful with him. But hey, you can pick the P-90 in any Call of Duty game and still kill shit...

Now I don't consider myself a first person shooter aficionado like I do with fighting games by any means, but I am an avid video game player and I can often gauge the differences in games very quickly. I can play Resistance 3 online and tell you without hesitation that it is a pretty different experience to playing any of the Call of Duties even though they gave it the exact same RPG elements. Despite this the weapons are more unique and different than just the run of the mill point and shoot, and unlike Call of Duties you can actually base strategies around using some of these weapons and perks whether you are using them or combating people with them. Does this make it a better game you ask? Well it makes it a unique game and that's saying something. I can actually tell when I'm playing that game and when I'm playing something else.

I grew up on Doom, Goldeney, Turok, Perfect Dark, Timesplitters and so on. Each of those games were unique and offered something the other didn't. Opinions on which was worse or better actually made sense and weren't the rhetoric of gibbering fanboys. Even Halo was a welcome step up from those games offering unique gameplay elements and sticky grenade based strategies. But how did we as gamers in this generation of gaming, the one with the most potential being the online generation become so stagnant in the FPS genre? What happened? Why did it become so unabashedly cookie cutter?

I don't claim fans of the series to be stupid either. I assume most of them know that these games are basically the same every year and only the younger ones will crow about how x game is better than x game mainly due to the subconscious fact that their parents could only afford the one they think is best and they can't buy the newer one themselves so they defend the one they have to find some measure of self worth...? That may be too deep, but it's not uncommon for game companies to get away with this. Madden hasn't changed much for a decade and it does obscenely well still and it isn't  because gamers aren't aware they are getting ripped off, they know they are buying the same game every year because they like it. That is fine too, I'd buy Mega Man through 100 if they made that many, but after a while I wouldn't be able to tell you that Mega Man 31 was better than Mega Man 43. Hell, I still don't get the argument that Mega Man 6 wasn't any good but people love Mega Man 2 despite it not having charge shot, slide, and the awesome jetpack attachment of Mega Man 6.

But there may be some hope yet for the FPS genre, maybe. Black Ops 2 actually looks interesting to me mainly because they changed the setting quite a bit and it appears they added some different gameplay elements. Maybe it will be the Perfect Dark of today we have been missing. Maybe the weapons will be more interesting than quantifying them by their damage per second or the noises they make. Hey, the first Black Ops gave us a leaping prone ability that was fun as hell, hopefully they'll expand that uniqueness to other elements of the game.

*Call of Duty taught me people are only worth 100 points.*


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