It wasn't that long ago when my brother popped a copy of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in our Xbox 360 and I became hooked on Infinity Ward's military FPS. The height of my Call of Duty craze really hit its stride around the release of World at War. In the subsequent months following World at War's release – 1o to be exact – I became all but consumed by the first-person shooter, so much so that all that ever seemed to matter was the next big Call of Duty release.
With the days of World at War but a distant memory, Call of Duty has since seen the release of two Modern Warfare sequels and Black Ops. Now, with Call of Duty poised to bring gamers its next big installment on November 13, 2012 in the form of Black Ops II, my enthusiasm for the franchise has sadly waned to say the least. And for first time in a long time, I find myself caring less and less about Call of Duty.
You see, in the days of Modern Warfare 2, I used to make YouTube videos of my reaction to playing the FPS online. It was riddled with all sorts of cussin' and swearin', but overall, was a modest hit in the Call of Duty community. Like most serious Call of Duty players, I find the immaturity that dwells in the online scene to be somewhat frustrating – and that's putting it lightly. But such behavior has never really deterred me from enjoying these games. Quite the opposite actually – I played these games in spite of the obnoxious behavior of others. That was all a part of the online gaming experience and I honestly wasn't about to let a bunch of prepubescent brats ruin my good time. And that's when I realized that the problem was with the games themselves.
Looking at my shelf now, two games stand out to me the most: Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops, a pair of Call of Duty games that I do not recall playing at all. I know that I have experienced some particularly rewarding matches, but I honestly could not tell you from which game it was. The games have blurred so much together that I can no longer tell where one ends and another begins. And this is a problem – a big problem.
Call of Duty is a fantastic shooter franchise, probably the best of the generation. But the ways in which the series evolves is just so painfully slow that it becomes harder to enjoy these games year after year. Every year we get another Call of Duty, and every year the experience gets more muddled. Perks seem to mesh together and maps become nothing but vague memories. For their loyalty, the community is 'treated' to a host of map packs and modes. Rinse and repeat. Does the experience every really change? No. Does it have to? Definitely. Games like Battlefield 3 and even Left 4 Dead 2 have given gamers more reasons to look elsewhere for their online shooting fix. The unique scenarios in Left 4 Dead 2 play right into the creative and competitive minds of players, while the environments and leveling system of Battlefield 3 give a new challenge to genre veterans. And regardless of what the fanboys say, these are legitimate threats to the Call of Duty franchise, and the onus is on Black Ops II to once again raise the bar, just like Modern Warfare did nearly five years ago.
Blacks Ops II looks to breathe some new life in the franchise with its branching paths, two distinct settings, and a Zombie Mode that is going to be much more competitive. But as Treyarch embraces this sense of making the IP fresh again, so too does it need to shed the ideals of yesteryear such as the series' cycle of map packs, and really give gamers a title worth investing in. I know that somewhere down the line I will eventually play Black Ops II. But at this point I can honestly say that it won't be a Day 1 purchase for me, maybe not even a purchase at all. Not until something drastically changes.