Sunday, May 10, 2009

The problem with Call of Duty 4

I liked Half-Life a lot. It was the first time we'd gotten these cinematic scripted sequences in FPSs. And they were done very very well. But that was back in the good ol days of 1998. Now Doom 3 and Call of Duty 4 foist that heavily scripted stuff on us every goddamn time you cross a room or street corner and I just shake my fist and yell "Damn you Valve! Damn you for condemning me to this scripted hell!"

What I want from an FPS now is not what I wanted from an FPS in 1998. The key is to move away from the Call of Duty 4 model. Which isn't gonna happen if Modern Warfare 2 sells as many copies as its predecessor. What's the CoD 4 model? Sticking you on a straight and narrow path with scripted sequences. Every. Five. Fucking. Steps.

I'm in love with this video. It says pretty much everything I have to say about scripted games. Everybody seemed to love Call of Duty 4, it won all sorts of Game of the Year awards, but this video really shows off all of my problems with it and what the alternative can provide. I played through CoD 4 pretty quickly and have absolutely no desire to replay that campaign, since it's all going to be exactly the same. Same scripts here, there, and over that away. But that video really makes me want to go back and play through Crysis again.

And if anybody from Infinity Ward is reading this... hey, I think you're probably a nice guy in real life and all. But uh, I really hate what you're doing to the industry so... ya know... stop it. Stop it right now.

There's also this inherent laziness in the scripted nature of CoD 4 and other similar games. I remember playing Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and working my ass off in every single mission to make sure that every one of my eight operatives made it back alive. Sometimes unfortunate events occurred and that wasn't possible. Just a part of playing the game.

You play CoD 4 and you have this squad fighting with you at points, but it's all out of your control. There aren't any squad orders you can give em. Well, perhaps it's unrealistic to expect the same control that you get from a game like R6. Okay, fair enough. Maybe it'll be more relaxing to not have to order the teammates around, sure. Just rely on their AI.

But wait, what's this? They don't have any AI, they're just invincible meatshields that fire occasionally but never hit anything? Why is this interesting? A bunch of invulnerable AI, on opposite sides, firing at each other ad infinitum. All to try to create an epic battlefield that feels curiously hollow and meaningless. It's not epic or exciting to fight with a bunch of AI teammates who get showered by these tremendous barrages of gunfire but do not die, or only die at specific scripted moments.

Why should I the player work hard at all to kill the enemy when my performance has no impact on the squad? In R6, I tried hard to down enemies so my squad wouldn't take hits or die. In CoD 4, there's no urgency to protect my squad, they're all invulnerable. If I kill 30 tangos or just 1, it's not gonna save any of my guys. They're just static, might as well be statues leaning on a wall.


  1. multiplayer is more important. single player part lasts a day and you beat it. it's all about online play which makes COD awesome.

  2. Maybe so. But I was discussing the singleplayer campaign of CoD 4.

  3. i realize that i was just giving my opinion on the multiplayer part. you are right about the single play mode. it's pretty straight forward but I didn't buy the game for the single player. I'll buy Modern Warfare 2 for the multiplayer.