Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II Photo: Activision
Every Friday, AV Club staff will launch a weekly open thread for discussing game plans and recent gaming glories. this weekend?
Tyler James Williams on “Abbott Elementary” and “Everybody Hates Chris”
1:39 p.m. yesterday
Discussing Call of Duty from a critical perspective can be complicated. The series is so big and popular that each new game sells his 100 million copies, no matter what anyone says. So it’s not very fun for writers and readers to say that the graphics are better, the gameplay is better, and therefore the game is better. How nice. This provides an opportunity to dig into and address what the game is saying. This is almost universally crude. An army with unbridled power is actually better. War crimes are fine as long as they are committed against bad people. Guns are cool. gun gun gun gun gun gun. (I’ve spent years trying to find something to say about Call of Duty on this website, so I certainly did this too.)
But getting bogged down in the tacit endorsement of so much macho military crap means you miss what the game is really trying to do. I think this is worth talking about the new Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II. Great, but I think a big part of this game is a mess. They’re an interesting mess, though, and speak more to the developer’s wild ambition (or an unwarranted level of trust in the player) than some kind of dubious willingness to portray war crimes.
During the Modern Warfare II campaign, I thought a lot about Titanfall 2. The forefathers of Respawns Apex Legends are the best first-person shooters ever made, in part because of the genius single-player campaign where each level plays with a few new things. A mechanic that takes what you learned in the previous level and tweaks and expands on it (this is also the structure of the perfect video game Kirby Superstars). MWII has tried something similar, and each time it has been very convincing.
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For example, the series almost always has very few shakeup levels, and instead of being one guy walking, you’re actually a tank gunner going through a firing range or something. At one level, MWII sets things like that by forcing characters to provide covering fire for friendly convoys mounted on helicopters. Assuming how the level unfolds, minutes later a helicopter is attacked, thrown out of an open door and hanging upside down from a rope. It’s great and meets expectations in a smart way that also serves as a small showcase for the kind of tricks developers can do.
Then the level lasts another 6 hours (if you have as much trouble as I do) and it’s excruciating. You quickly move away from the helicopter and switch to a new gimmick: you have to jump from car to car in a convoy. At a constant speed, keep the chasing bad guys from running away.
Almost every level that does cool stuff is like that. Raiding an oil platform in a storm is all about cool rain effects and sneaking marching guys, but then switches to a big freighter rocking in a storm, a triumph of modern video game technology containers. is an infuriating set piece that slides across the deck and kills you as soon as it touches it. The smart way to win is to ignore the level’s great design and sprint to the finish line.
Sitting in the back of a lair, popping out to kill bad guys while doing the same thing, to the point of being desperate for traditional mindless COD action, but surprisingly little war in this big war game. There is none. Instead, many Hitman-esque sneaking his missions and horrifyingly punishing open-ended stealth levels that make him inexplicably 100 times more fragile than any other.
But those levels look very interesting on paper. Collect random objects and craft them into weapons. You have to hide and outsmart the bad guys. The whole game is built with that kind of setup, and here he toss COD as another thing, probably a problem, from shooting people to shooting other people. The developer makes the game do things that aren’t actually shown, like sneaking missions, or asks the game to accomplish things that aren’t actually taught, like sneaking missions .
So does a big swing that goes wrong make for a more compelling experience than doing the same thing every other year? If failed. New enough. But at the same time, the standard multiplayer is excellent as usual. Die-hard fans will complain about the gradual changes, but whatever. they are good Shooting other guys and catching them before they catch you makes a satisfying noise. Get enough guys and crazy shit flashes on screen telling you you did a good job. You might want it in other ways, but that’s all a video game needs to do sometimes.
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