I recently, against my own thoughts, bought the new Call of Duty game last week to see them wrap up the story and try out the multiplayer changes I felt may improve the game. While having fun with the multiplayer, I also enjoyed the campaign and finished it on Veteran after around 8 or so hours play. Although I was not disappointed, or regret my purchase, I do feel that I need to talk about my feelings about  the single-player campaign.

Warning to those that care, this will be full of Spoilers. You have been warned.

Call of Duty

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The opening scenes and first few hours of the game were rather enjoyable. It followed on exactly where it needed to, where Modern Warfare 2 left off and set up the final battles rather well. It’s some of these main story beats that just doesn’t sit right with me, however. Not only was the story itself pretty predictable, at least from my seat, it just felt like they hadn’t had either the time, or the talent, to really craft something spectacular. Just something good, not great.

Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that. For the most part I did enjoy the wrap up to the story and the game itself was a lot of fun. There should have been a little more of a step up for this last game in a trilogy of modern games, and it really didn’t blow me away, no matter the amount of helicopters crashing and explosions every 5 meters.

The main pivotal moment that I felt could have been handled better was the eventual death of Soap. Although it was one of the moments I didn’t predict like the later segments, it still didn’t surprise or shock me. Sure, killing off main characters is pretty common place these days, not only in the Modern Warfare games, but this felt unnecessary. Myself, as a player, felt a lot more connected to Soap than Price, as I played as him the majority of two previous games. While Price was just a mentor you followed in all of Infinity Ward‘s games, his moustache made more of an impact than his personality. In the previous games, the delved into Soap’s character rather well. He felt like a real soldier, and it was even cooler that he was actually Scottish and not a bad guy. The moment his body was caught in that explosion, I knew it wouldn’t be good, and the long slug bringing him to his death just felt too long and too similar to the opening of the game.  Price’s reaction also seemed a little too over-dramatic. He hadn’t shown much love for his battle-brother previously, and suddenly he’s filled with emotion he’s never had before? It didn’t fit, not only for Price but for the games tone. If you want to see how this can be done right, I feel that Gears of War 3 had done this much better part way through that game.

Another moment, which actually acts as a parallel to the “No Russian” mission from the previous game, acts as the “shocking” scene which you’re warned about before you even play the game. It features an American family having a lovely holiday in London, right near Big Ben. You’re in the lens of the Dad’s video camera as you walk, ever so slowly, towards your wife and child. That’s when a terrorist chemical attack happens, blowing up your wife, daughter and killing the dad too. This had little to no emotional impact on me whatsoever. I don’t know if its because I’m not actually American, or it just wasn’t executed well. Perhaps both, but it just felt like they wanted to shock people again to make headlines. Why should I care about these people only there by happen-stance?  Sure, it’s a family getting murdered, but they were there by chance. Surely it would have made more of an emotional impact to the masses to see the real citizens and residents of London being the ones getting killed? I feel like seeing what the public did in this situation would be a lot more compelling and hit closer to home, no matter what country you’re from. Why? Because no matter where you live, the reaction would have been extremely similar. Panic, people crying over lost loved ones, and in general human life just being extinguished. I’m sorry, but this failed to have any sort of effect on me. Perhaps that makes me cold, perhaps not. I just feel this was poor and didn’t feel like it benefited the game or story in the slightest.

The ending of the game brought some potential back in my mind, just before the last moments. As you take the role of Price, with Yuri (the guy you spend the rest of the game as) you storm Makarov’s final hiding place in Juggernaut armour. It’s intense and very cool, slowly plodding into a building with a light machine gun, tearing into the security forces around. This, however, lasts no time at all, and soon you’re back into the regular fighting again. Eventually, you almost die and surprise surprise, Yuri is injured severely. Then you catch up to Makarov, quick time events ensue, Yuri wasn’t really dead, helps you out and Makarov finds his grim end attached to a wire from a helicopter round his neck. Sure, the fight looked kinda neat, but it felt really disconnected being one of the few quick time events in the game. Not to mention Yuri’s injury and death being pretty damned predictable as soon as you lose the Juggernaut armour that made the first opening of the level so awesome to begin with. Though to be completely fair, Price lighting a cigar after finally killing that bastard was pretty epic. Well deserved.

These three moments, I have picked because of the scale these are supposed to have. They just don’t feel genuine. They feel like they’re there to TRY and make you feel these emotions but fall so short of the mark they feel silly and out-of-place in a war game. It also feels kind of lazy after finding out that not only Price, but Soap are both called John. Really? You couldn’t think of any other names for guys? I know it’s not exactly an uncommon name, but two main characters called John? Not needed, I actually laughed out loud when I saw this.

This was a very enjoyable campaign. No where near my favourite, or the most fun, but it was good. I think the next time Call of Duty comes out with a game they really need to step things up in some way. Less turret sections, less set pieces or at least more interaction. Make us feel like we’re doing these cool things and not just witnessing them like we’re watching a movie. We’re playing a game here, it’s interactive for a reason. Make use of that. This isn’t Metal Gear Solid, we don’t play Call of Duty games for the “epic story.”

This world certainly was on fire throughout the game, but it felt less like an out of control forest fire and more like someone’s barbecue.

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