Call of Duty’s incredible popularity is not something that can be easily explained, but the many factors that work together to make the game what it is are rather distinguishable. What makes Call of Duty such a sensation across the world is the combination of a fast pace, simple control scheme, and a direct, competitive system. But on the other hand, constant new “features” and developments in the series has made it into a weird mix of a hardcore experience and popular casual game. This being said, is it too late for Black Ops II to shift the Call of Duty series more towards what its creators, and hardcore fans, want it to be?
Call of Duty: Black Ops II comes at a weird time in the series. The game is as big as ever, and estimates project it will topple Modern Warfare 3’s record for pre-orders and potentially sales as well. However, the game has continually built and built and built from its roots. It has introduced excellent concepts that create for insane and fun gameplay. At the same time, these additions have created a phenomenon that would be best explained by relating socialism to the level of skill in players. The more ways there are to get a cheap kill, the lower the level of player and team ability it takes to win a game.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is largely considered the height of the series among competitive players, mainly due to its simplicity. Only three killstreaks, straightforward weapons, and interesting maps are but a few of the driving forces that made the game such a success. Sure, 3x Frag, the Stopping Power/Juggernaut dilemma and and the pure existence of killstreaks at all might have tampered with its pure competitiveness slightly, but overall, Call of Duty 4 just did things right. The game never seemed out of control, and the superior players would always win.
FPSs have had a decent history in the eSports world, but there’s no doubt that MLG and other pro circuits have almost ignored the genre as a whole since the surge in popularity of more strategic games such as League of Legends, StarCraft II, and even Street Fighter. This uprising has left FPS classics such as Counter-Strike and Halo 3 in the dust. Part of the problem might be this enhanced level of customization and options that Call of Duty has brought to the genre, which the older FPSs and many current games forgo.
The live streaming aspects also seem fantastic for competitive players, but lag has been the biggest problem with the game for years. If it takes a second for a bullet to register in someone’s body, what will be the point in watching professionals or high-ranking players do their thing? It also makes me wonder how much the streaming capabilities will add to the tremendous latency issues.
While the question will be answered in just a few short hours, what else could Black Ops II have in store to ensure a solid competitive population? The “progressive” cycle of each game seems to be the main thing that has contributed to the “anti-competitiveness” of the series, and Black Ops II seems to have continued that trend, even if it plans on building greatly in every other area. This isn’t exactly a statement of pessimism, but I think Treyarch and Activision may have bitten off more than they can chew, even for the biggest gaming franchise in the world.