Saturday, July 13, 2013

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PC) - My Thoughts

When they announce a new Call of Duty game - I am optimistic. Maybe this time around things will be different; maybe its not, all flash and no substance; maybe they don't treat gamers like puppets; maybe the gameplay will justify the hype and just maybe the game is going to be good.

Then I play the game - and disappointment ensues. Within the first couple of missions, I know exactly how the entire game is going to play out - pretty much as badly as the previous ones. This serves to reinforce the point - just because the marketing people managed to get a lot of TV coverage for a game, it does not make the game any good. It just means the marketing people are doing one hell of job, while the developers are rehashing the old formula to death.

The visuals are not good, the story is incoherent for the most part, poor level design, invisible walls everywhere, linear gameplay - the list goes on. I did not care for the Strike Force missions. They were boring, and after playing for 10 minutes, I realized there is no fun to be had, and considering they were optional, I skipped past them. The game informed that in a strike force missions that I never played, some world changing event happened. I will take its word for it. I thought to myself, would playing these missions somehow make me enjoy the single player more? Would the linear levels bother me any less? Would it make the invisible walls go away? I know the answer is no, for all the above. 

Exactly who would turn off their computer while a game is saving?
If ever there is a course on game design, I think the Call of Duty games should be used as an example on how not to design levels. Its crazy how backwards the design is. I've played games in late 90s and early 2000 which had more freedom and better level design than this. Return to Castle Wolfenstein, No One Lives Forever, Half Life, the first Call of Duty were all excellent examples of creating a linear game without the kind of mindless restrictions that the new call of duty games have.

It seems to me that the only reason for this kind of level design is to ensure that the developers don't have to spend time thinking about what the player might do. They don't have to account for player action, when all actions except the ones that are strictly developer approved are removed, including deviating from the pre determined path by just a few steps. How this has not caused an outrage, I will not know.

My word, the game manages to look uglier than Modern Warfare. 
Perhaps the trick is to cater to a generation of audience that do not know any better. For them, invisible walls, unskippable cut scenes, game taking control of player action every 5 minutes, quick time events, 4 hour long single player campaign which pretty much plays itself are the norm. This is unfortunate, because there is no money to be made in making a game that is intelligent, well thought-out, and allows players the freedom to explore, and try different styles of gameplay. Crysis did this, and while it received rave reviews, PC gamers shunned it somewhat. Crytek made more money by giving players less in the follow up games. They called it a choreographed sandbox - which is a fancy term for linear levels. 

If this is going to be the trend, then I am not excited for the next generation of games. If they are not trying anything different than the cut scene-checkpoint-QTE-cut scene-checkpoint tedium, what good are the shiny new visuals? Something as basic as quick save, console tweaks which were taken for granted years ago are now considered features when they are supported - which is not very often. This makes even less sense because gamers complain about absolutely everything - sometimes about games they haven't played and never will.

So how is it that these games still exist? I don't know, but after playing this game - which was released in 2012 - it just made me sad at the current state of gaming. At this point, I am willing to bet that Call of Duty: Ghosts will not be any different.