COD: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Rag Of Times

By Alec Meer on April 24th, 2012 at 10:30 pm.

Sepia FTW

My digi-sighing about the initial marketing tease for the latest Call of Dudebro reminds me of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Somerset, at least) when I was still conjuring genuine excitement about what a new CoD might entail. Before they were cranked out anually, when the series’ creators still had full creative control, when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s singleplayer turned out to be an ambitious, spectacular and occasionally surprising epic and not an unsmiling, absurdist, arrogant snack alongside DLC-crazed multiplayer. When the series was relaxed and playful enough to include an unlockable ragtime mode.

Apropos of nothing. Just because. Sniff. /Salute.

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54 Comments »

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  1. sinister agent says:

    Ah, I remember this one so well. It’s the little guy who gets taken out by the truck that clinches it. Of course he’s not dead! Can’t you hear the music? He’s just taken an amusing tumble. And that’s not a gun he’s carrying; it’s all part of a corking jape by some rascally students.

  2. Drest says:

    Too bad COD games are pretty much upgrades for the multiplayer now.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Upgrades?. More like reskins.

    • Shooop says:

      MW3 is hardly an upgrade in any sense of the term.

      Unless you hated larger, more diverse maps and loved MMO-style grinding. Then yes it’s a huge upgrade.

      • Alexander Norris says:

        MW3 is certainly an upgrade from MW2; they actually made some efforts to balance the game.

        • KTAxJewzz says:

          WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!?
          MW2 was by far extremely balanced.. All guns are TWO Bullets.. I don’t wanna play a shitty game like BO that takes 2 sots for a sniper and 4 to 5 shots for a damn AR, That’s just stupid and if anything un-balanced.. in stead of bitching about being balanced you guys need to play the game and analyze how wrong of you are.

  3. f1x says:

    I played Modern Warfare 1 campaign all over again like 1 month ago,
    to be honest, it has “aged” (its not that old actually) really well, its still epic, with so many memorable moments (the mission set in the past where you play as captain price its still so damn awesome)

    • suibhne says:

      I had the opposite experience, alas. Re-playing it a few months back, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t deeply irritated with the linearity and the constant inability to open any goddamn doors when my grunt companions seem perfectly happy to do so.

      I think the game’s flaws seem much more jarring to me now because they’ve been magnified by its successors. Its flaws may have been somewhat tolerable at the time, when I didn’t know any better than to hope they might be anomalous, but now they simply remind me how much I’ve come to hate the standard tropes of the entire series from CoD4 on.

      • f1x says:

        I get your point, after playing MW3 you can see magnified what in MW1 was harmless

        still I quite enjoyed my replay, but I knew I could not play MW2 and MW3 right after, for the same reasons you mention

  4. Sirico says:

    Needs dialogue cards

  5. PitfireX says:

    It almost hurts me to say that i played CoD:UO so much people always reply “me too!!!” and i retort “no….no you didnt”

    • frenz0rz says:

      I always regretted never playing that, having played the original to death and heard marvelous things about the bit at the start in the Lancaster bomber. Unfortunately I was fourteen at the time and couldnt afford it.

      • Rich says:

        UO was good. The US bit was just a continuation of the Band of Brothers story in the Bulge. The British bit was The Guns of Navarone. The Russian bit was bloody hard but far less cliché than Stalingrad.

        The bit in the bomber was fun, if a bit arcadey. It was a B-17 flying fortress lend-leased to Britain by the way. Not a Lancaster. Although I think it had too many gun positions for one of the B-17s we actually had.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I liked the series’ brief sojourn into Battlefield territory. Slowly turning a flak gun on a tank rumbling closer and closer, hiding in a bunker as enemies tried to stop you blowing it up, hunkering in a shelled-out farmhouse with a panzerschreck as panzers rolled around outside.

      The single player was kinda insane, though. It’s like they took the first one and thought “everything should explode, always.”

  6. Bhazor says:

    Personally I couldn’t stand MW1. So blatantly scripted, filled with respawning mooks and littered with crappy gimmick levels. Playing as Price being the prime example of both the rediculous level of scripting and the gimmicks. It’s also the point that the stories managed the rare feat of being both stupid and incomprehensible.

    COD 2 is the still the most technically impressive game in the series.

    Basically I hated COD before it was popular to hate it /ironic hoodie

    • Casimir Effect says:

      Are you me? I think you’re me, as this is exactly how I feel. MW1 had some awful levels which couldn’t really be done without taking so many bullet wounds that realism flies out the window and fucks an ocelot. It’s also the place where good AI started to die as everything became scripted, immortal or respawning.

      CoD 2 kicked all kinds of ass though, providing loads of tense moments and the perfect amount of scripting. Sure it had some annoying levels, but there was always something satisfying about completing them; the sort of satisfaction which even made you look forward to playing them again.

      • Bhazor says:

        COD 2 was filled with brilliant little set pieces that never felt scripted. The highlight for me was the section where you clear the German occupation of a little village. You had multiple objectives across the whole village, each a mini mission in itself with ambushes in the streets between and cross fire from the MGs in the windows and daredevil assaults and cautious sniping. Picking your way from cover to cover and seeing your ai allies fighting their own battles or even completing objectives on their own. It was a brilliant and far far more emotive experience than anything COD has managed in the past 5 games.

        MW1 on the other hand was so heavily scripted I was bored witless almost the whole time. So many sections broke down to just doing *exactly* what the designers told you to. The only part that stuck with me was the last bit of the Price section where you make a last stand at the ferris wheel. That actually felt like I had something to do, it actually felt like I wasn’t just shooting ducks.

      • Max.I.Candy says:

        totally agreed!!

        i think CoD 2 has the best singleplayer campaign of any (war based) FPS i have ever played.

        i remember playing it over and over and always enjoying how precise the gunplay felt.
        veteran difficulty made it so that 1 or 2 shots would kill you instantly and would make the whole thing so satisfying once you completed it.

        ive not played a campaign like that since and i really miss it.

    • woodsey says:

      I agree.

      For me the experience was characterised by some terribly, terribly boring missions in the Middle East, and some relatively more interesting ones with the SAS, but in which I had no clue why anything was happening.

      And several hundred instances of crashing inside of a helicopter. And a slightly rotund Russian chap.

      To be fair, I thought it at least showed some restraint in regards to scripting, but even then it was like being held on a leash.

    • rapier17 says:

      …but CoD2 was over-the-top with scripting! It was incredibly blatant. CoD, ever since the first and onwards, has been brimming over with blatant, obvious scripting. You couldn’t move for scripted events in CoD2 – trucks blowing up, machineguns firing through doors, planes flying overhead, constant explosions and ground-shaking stuff. Lots of setpieces & so on. Loads of bits where you’d take tons of damage & keep going just like CoD4. Claiming that CoD4 was worse for that is a bizarre, rose-tinted view.

      Fair enough you don’t like CoD4 because you didn’t get on with it, but don’t claim that CoD2 had less scripting, less over the top stuff because it was ram packed full of it.

      Whilst I do love CoD1, UO & 2, CoD4 has a special place in my gaming collection purely for the first mission ‘Crew Expendable’. That set the game up (for it to be let down by the US bits) for some cracking missions and entertaining gameplay. The bit at the end was particularly poignant and well done – also who will forget the first time they went through the nuclear bomb part? It was akin to the first time I did the beach landing on MoH:AA – full of atmosphere, gritty and highly memorable.

      Shame the series took a massive nosedive after CoD4 (in my opinion).

      • Bhazor says:

        I really have no idea what you’re talking about. Yes COD 2 was linear but to say it was as scripted as MW is just plain wrong.

        There were scripted moments but they were few and far between. The car chase for example was tightly scripted and probably a low point for me.

      • Casimir Effect says:

        CoD2 did have plenty of places which felt unscripted though, Hill 400 especially springs to mind.
        The first half sees you running up and around the hill, trying to get into position to assault the summit, and much of it is just: here’s enemy soldiers and a bunker, take out the bunker and advance. Even when you get to the top you are simply tasked with clearing out the main bunker up there and you’re given a whole field to find a way over there. Left flank, right flank and straight down the centre – it was your call.
        Then in the second half of the mission you must defend the area, which sees scripted half-tracks, tanks and bombing runs occurring. But while they are scripted it is only to the extent of the vehicle appearing. Once it is there is moves & fires of it’s own accord.

        See, there’s good scripting and there’s bad scripting. The former is what I’ve just mentioned: things occur but you are left to deal with them in a manner of ways: this is found in Half Life 2, Crysis and even CoD:MW onwards (although it is very rare here). The latter is what MW and it’s ilk tend to do more, setting up situations where there is only one way to beat it, almost becoming glorified quick-time events at times. A tense chase through Pripyat? Only one route you can take. Helicopter attack? Pretty much only one safe place. Sneak through village in the middle of nowhere? One route to take and becomes all-out assault no matter what you do. There is just no choice at all in those games and that’s what kills them for me.

        Incidentally I did suspect the rose-tinted glasses effect so replayed CoD2 about 6 months ago – loved every minute (except defending the hill, as your teammates are retarded there). Would have played CoD1 as well but there is a nasty bug on Win7/Steam where you can’t advance past a part of a level.

        • Bhazor says:

          Yeah I try to play at least the Russian campaign of COD2 every year as a reminder of what COD used to be and of how to do scripting right.

          The running battle through Stalingrad, the openess of the train yard assault, the tense sniper hunting and just the feel of the combat all through it. That is how you make me care about your game, you let me play it.

          A little moment has stayed with me far longer than anything since. Cowering behind a tiny piece of cover in the train yard as battle rages on all sides and I’m blinded by the dust from the mg chewing up my cover and my allies are screaming and dying around me and my vision is covered in my own personal jam and suddenly one Ruskie breaks through (a woman called Natasha, I remember her name) suddenly the gun turns away from me for a second to fire on her. Only a second but it was enough, I slipped to the side took aim in the sudden peace and emptied the nest with a quick burst of fire. In the glow of relief I turn and there she is Natasha, I remember the name, sprawled on the floor scant feet from where I saw her last. I stare at her for a moment and turn to see the chaos of open battle. I see someone who looks just like her. She’s called Anna, I remember her name, shes pinned behind cover. I imagine her and Natasha would have been friends. I lead the charge to rescue her. I owe our departed friend that much.

          What happened in MW3? Fucked if I know.

          I will just say I did quite fancy the Russian lady soldiers in COD 2. Low poly models and comedy russian accents are a fetish of mine, see.

          • Casimir Effect says:

            So many moments in that game. The Defend missions always got me in that I both loved them and hated them. CoD2 is one of the few games I’ve ever felt compelled to finish on the hardest difficulty, and beating some of those Defend missions on Veteren was a nightmare. But my god the satisfaction that followed was immense, and the difficulty never felt cheap (unlike the grenade spam you get on the recent games when turing up the difficulty). But even on Normal, the levels were still worked well enough to feel tense. Being pushed right back to the cliffs of Point du Hoc and desperately trying to keep your head down, find a good bit of cover, conserve ammo and protect the flanks while waiting for the airforce to turn up was such a great moment.

            And the Russian campaign just contained so many great moments. Repairing the wire, destroying the tanks, defending the factory and taking the Reichstag – all so memorable.
            Whereas I remember so little of CoD4, and I must stress that I didn’t go into it wanting to hate it. I was looking forward to it so much, especially seeing as it had factors such as bullet penetration. The demo level was underwhelming but still I thought it’d be great. But then I got it and realised on the final level that I had forced myself to get that far, that I didn’t really want to do it. I tried replaying it last year but burnt out after the American guy dies. World At War I like better, but after playing CoD2, FarCry2 and Crysis I have no need of subpar Call of Duty games.

          • Ateius says:

            I didn’t like CoD2 as much as the first one, which remains my favourite. While the more open mission structure was a neat twist, the way they interspersed all the different fronts with each other made it harder for me to identify with my squadmates. It felt disjointed and schizophrenic, hopping from Normandy to North Africa to Russia and back again. CoD1 kept each campaign self-contained (apart from the final missions) and was, I feel, stronger for it.

    • Kryopsis says:

      I hated CoD since Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. There.

      • Alexander Norris says:

        …yet you love MW3. This doesn’t make sense. :P

  7. fyro11 says:

    They’ve always been cranking them out annually since the first in 2003. I was there for every single one of them, through console and PC.

    The first and its expansion, as with many, were the most memorable for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      AlexClockwork says:

      Agreed. Until some years ago I still played the original game and it’s multiplayer. The SP was amazing in hard difficulty, and the MP was so enjoyable too. Mostly with some mods installed (I remember one that allowed you to place mines and hurted you “reallistically”, more or less, and it actually involved some strategy…).

  8. Bungle says:

    Good stuff. It’s important that we keep explaining to the youngsters exactly why we hate Call of Duty so much. It’s because we used to love her and she turned into a tramp. We wouldn’t hate her so much if she hadn’t originally been so sweet and beautiful.

  9. Bungle says:

    I like how the truck ran over one of its soldiers as it drove away at the end. I wonder if that was scripted. Anyone wanna play it over and over and see if it happens every time?

  10. hosndosn says:

    Boycott marketing. If it doesn’t contain any NEW concrete gameplay information and that information is noteworthy enough to have a front page position next to announcements of entirely new, interesting games, reviews and feature length interviews… don’t post it.

    • Real Horrorshow says:

      Maybe you should run your own site instead of telling the RPS guys how to run theirs. I didn’t think you could manage a more twatty response than the “Really, RPS? Really?” you edited your reply from, but you did a bang-up job.

  11. Real Horrorshow says:

    Call of Duty 1/United Offensive is the best multiplayer game of all-time. How the mighty have fallen.

    • somini says:

      I played the demo for United Offensive for an entire Summer, I still remember all the voices.
      “Ender, I would find that funny if I wasn’t FREEZING MY CAN OFF!”
      CoD2 was amazing, and MW blew me away too.
      Still managed to play MW2, but it took me an afternoon. Gave up on the series after that.

  12. PJMendes says:

    Mandatory linking to Dudebros the sitcom:

  13. QualityJeverage says:

    I don’t understand the apparently common viewpoint that MW2 and 3 were “arrogant” and “stupid” but MW1 wasn’t. It isn’t so much that I agree or disagree, I just don’t quite get what makes MW1 different.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve enjoyed the campaign in every Call of Duty. Literally every single one, from the very first all the way up to MW3. That doesn’t mean I loved them or would nominate them for any kind of awards, but I’ve mostly been able to ignore the silly plots and just enjoy some solid manshootin’.

    So it isn’t that I particularly dislike MW1, or that I love MW2 or 3. I just don’t see a huge divide between them, as so many others seem to.

    I’m sorry if this sounds snarky or negative. I’m legitimately curious what people think is different about the original Modern Warfare, that makes it acceptable while the sequels weren’t.

    • GSGregory says:

      I think it’s more that MW1 when it released was new and amazing as was each game in the series before it but when you go to mw 2 and beyond its just a rehash of the same engine and mechanics with some new flavor thrown in it each time. At least that’s my take on it personally I disliked the original cod games as they just weren’t my style at the time while respecting that they were good games but now I just hate the series and how it’s meant to be nothing more than the flavor of the year or month it’s released in.

      • thegooseking says:

        That’s pretty much my thinking. It’s not that MW2 and later are bad; they’re unnecessary, because CoD4 already did it, and one is enough for that kind of thing.

        I’d probably like MW2 more if there were a big divide between it and MW1. As it is, the divide isn’t nearly big enough.

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      I had never extensively played a Call of Duty game before 4, and it was to my understanding that the franchise was (in comparison to the Medal of Honor games I had, anyway) more focused on “real” war, about being a grunt stuck out on the frontlines rather than being some sort of OSS superspy sent to foil whatever evil those damned Axis had cooked up this time.

      As such, I thought Call of Duty 4 was a very interesting departure. It seemed like a deconstruction of the previous games, and I thought that the focus on special forces and nuclear topics was an interesting statement on how conflicts in today’s day and age aren’t as simple as the World Wars are perceived to be, how new and destructive technology has distanced us from the horrors of battle, et cetera.

      In that regard, I hold Modern Warfare 2 and 3 to a lower standard because they lack that kind of subtlety. Most of the toys presented in 4 are actual, tangible systems that have seen real use. There’s this air of authenticity that the sequels, in their “oh hey look at this new fancy experimental thing SO MODERN” attitude, lack.

      Everything from the plot to the aesthetic in 4 is much more down to earth and respectful, I feel. Everything from the bright colors and fancy guns to the plot’s ridiculous pseudo-intellectualism don’t really mesh with the original on any level. The Modern Warfare series jumped the shark in the first sequel and I guess I haven’t really forgiven Activision or Infinity Ward for that.

      On the other hand, I absolutely loved most of Black Ops. While I hated the multiplayer for continuing to do the things I hated about MW2’s multiplayer (the whole “+50 +50 +50 unlock unlock unlock dingdingdingdingding you’re a WINNER” schtick), the singleplayer campaign was a hilarious, absurd cinematic rollercoaster that never really seemed to take itself that seriously. It didn’t pretend to be anything other than ridiculous and I have to applaud it for that.

    • Real Horrorshow says:

      If you want the god’s honest truth…it’s because Call of Duty 4 came out before groupthink took hold of the entire PC gamer community and told them that they needed to think the series is stupid and for 12 year olds with Xbox lest they be considered stupid kids themselves.

  14. oversoul17 says:

    I find that I agree with most of the things being said here, but I still laugh that we all sound like cranky old people. “These youngsters don’t know what there missing, back in my day Call of Duty had less of them scripted sequences and that’s what made it good!”

    The companies responsible for today’s CoD have hit on a formula that makes them a LOT of money for less effort, and I’m not going to fault them for using it. I personally will not buy their games anymore, but most of my friends will… (perhaps I need new friends?)

    That said, my biggest personal gripe against the series is how short the campaigns are now. I want more bang for my buck offline. Got to the end of MW2 and thought, “That’s it?” I was expecting more.

    • GSGregory says:

      I am not that old at the age of 22 but I have a love for snes, genesis, n64 and ps1 games along with many other consoles and games throughout those gaming generations. I have seen what true quality is for example cs and css both still played actively to this day and games like mw2 or 3 or even bf3 do not bring me in with the glamour they sell themselves on.

    • jwoozy says:

      Wait, a developer hit on a formula that requires little effort and basically just skirts forward on the strength of their franchises own inertia without doing anything to advance the genre or keep their games relevant, and you’re “not” going to fault them for it because, hey, money?

      • oversoul17 says:

        jwoozy: Yes? Why not? If they can keep people buying the same thing year in and year out I cannot blame them for doing so. It’s making them rich. I can at least grudgingly admire any company who has set itself up in a position to do that. Though I would rather they act like Valve or Blizzard and make quality games all the time, they’re actually being more successful doing it this way. As I said, I personally will not pay for any more of their games (and it’s not like there is a lack of good games out there for me to spend my money on), but, as I also said, the majority of the console gaming guys I know will purchase anything named “Call of Duty” regardless of what I say.

        GSGregory: I am age 23, so we are quite close you and I. I am also an avid css player though my life has gotten much busier since I’ve graduated college, and unfortunately I have not had as much time for it as I’d like to. <– Lament

        • shizamon says:

          Well for one (albeit extreme), the same reason why we don’t admire heroin dealers and casino owners who profit from others psychological/chemical addictions.

          And for the other, the fact that a few higher ups are profiting from an idea built by a company that they have now destroyed. The devs are treated like shit most likely in order to crank out the games at the rate they do. But yeah, they (a few at the top) are getting filthy rich, so it’s great! yayyyyy!

          Oh, also the stagnation of game design/innovation and the desensitization and glorification of American superiority in violent conflicts.

  15. Shooop says:

    The best part of the CoD4 was the mission to rescue the stuck tank crew and then escorting it through city streets while it blasted buildings.

    The bit where RPGs fly over your head as you walk through the alleyways was surreal.

  16. SirKicksalot says:

    Treyarch’s CODs are even more playful and ridiculous (and packed with more content). They embraced the goofiness and are full of fun toys, scenarios and game modes while IW went all serious dudebro.

  17. ScottHarrigan says:

    It would be awesome if Call Of Duty put in more fun game modes instead of just making single player a multi-player tutorial. The games are generally barren and uninteresting. That is why it is good that companies like Starbreeze still exist, putting effort into story telling and atmosphere. Syndicate may have been a highly imperfect game, but at least they tried to create a cool world that the player cares about.

    http://www.videodetective.com/games/syndicate/631726

  18. Was Neurotic says:

    CoD 1, CoD 2, brilliant. But I was always a staunch BF man, so even though I played MW1 and most of MW2, they were just flirts on the side. My heart belongs to DICE.

  19. roryok says:

    COD games are to games what Michael Bay movies are to movies. We all give out stink about them , but we secretly enjoy them when nobody is watching.

    And we hate ourselves for it, and go out into the park and flay ourselves with birch branches.

  20. Iconik says:

    I lost it at “Call of Dudebro”.