With Christmas season in full, albeit early, swing, gamers have been faced with difficult decisions about how to allocate their gaming dollars. Yet with the year's largest title looming, I find myself once again on the outside looking in.
I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I just cannot get into the Call of Duty series. I recognize its graphical excellence; the innovative, addictive attraction to multiplayer competition; the cinematic set pieces replete with dramatic score. I have not played the entire series, but I tried to go through the ones that mattered: Call of Duty 2, COD4, MW2. For a person who does not often finish campaigns, even moreso when the campaigns are single player affairs, I have managed to finish these because they were experiences to be had.
If one goes back, he'll see I similarly resisted BlackOps and posted a blog before its midnight launch. Some complaints, I admit, remain perhaps peculiar to me. As much as I enjoyed the intense firefights of campaign, they do not physically have a great effect on me. I get clammy hands, the sweats and dizziness playing the COD series. It's a shame because there are no shortage of memorable moments in the series from the tank passing overhead to making my way through an area in my ghillie suit and silent to the black and white, hi-tech death from above.
But the great moments are unfortunately countered by ones I find heavy-handed and melodramatic. From the airport terrorist option to the slow-motion quick-time event sequences, I can do without some of gimmicks. Double that disdain in discussing me feeling for the preachy quotes about the negatives of war following each, frequent death. As for my previous complaints about the perks system, I recognize the perks made easy fodder for my criticism when in fact my poor gameplay was as much attributable to lack of skill or practice than any weapon disadvantage.
No, for me, keeping me on the fence are two newer issues. The first, not entirely legitimate reason is the game has just become so popular. I know it does not make sense to not like something because a lot of people do. Such reasoning won't keep me from buying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, but come Tuesday night, when my friends list is full of folks that have passed on Gears and Halo and Forza, I will resent Modern Warfare 3 and its popularity. I will hear stories of my nephew's friends that I believe to be too young to be playing it talk about "pwning n00bs" or hear about a co-worker who on a good day would call himself a casual gamer talk about spawn camping and it makes me cringe. I kind of like the exclusivity that accompanies the nerdiness of gaming. Seeing Entertainment Weekly include MW3 on its Must List evokes a mixed reaction of reluctant acceptance by the mainstream of our passion without understanding.
The second, bigger issue stems from the first — the introduction of Call of Duty Elite. Because of its popularity, MW3 is seeking profit beyond its $60 sale. While not completely familiar with the advantages of Premium membership (found here), I can say what I fear are the repercussions such an idea may have on future titles. It appears for $49.99, the key features will be DLC and participation in a special-prized, year league. I confess that maybe I am part of the problem. I am a sucker for DLC and have recently ponied up for season passes in both Gears of War 3 and Forza Motorsport 4. I thought of it as a discount more than anything, assuming that I would, in the future, spend the MS on the map and car packs. But league competition?
I recognize that a premium for the service may ultimately be put to paying for the actual upkeep or maintenance and promotion of the league, maybe even go towards the prizes themselves. Perhaps the premium itself leads to a more refined, reliable infrastructure that allows lag-free games in which gamers can't complain about host advantage. Maybe I would have paid for that for Gears of War. However, if successful, will the experiment lead to more companies following the same, money-making model? Will online multiplayer be changed to the extent that the best or the full competition can only be had for a premium in addition to my online service? It's reason enough for to just say "no" to the service and the game.
Now where's my lancer?