The Price of a ‘Call of Duty’ Campaign: $10

Image Credit:

Alex Moreci, Spear Contributor

To those unaware, Activision recently announced that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” will not feature a campaign. The game will only include the multiplayer and zombies.  Last generation fans will receive a ten dollar price cut and a copy of the original “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” According to the publisher, Activision “The ambitious scope of the 1-4 player Campaign design of the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions could not be faithfully recreated on old generation hardware.” In my opinion this represents everything wrong with “Call of Duty.”

I loved this franchise when it was still young. “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” is one of my favorite games without doubt but lately, the series has gone downhill. Every new game is trying to innovate the genre with double jumping, wall running, or a cool dog, while at the same time there are the same attempts to recreate “Modern Warfare,” the gunship, the helicopter gunner, the obligatory stealth mission. Activision no longer cares about single player, that’s clear, but I still do.

I was talking with a friend and he said that the campaign does not matter and people only play online. There is a clear demographic, I will admit, who don’t even touch the campaign. Players who will pay 60 dollars solely to play multiplayer. Sadly this demographic is growing, and with it Activision’s money as they have their developers put less and less time and money into the campaign with every new release. They always show off a big name celebrity to keep people thinking that this year will be different, and the campaign will make a comeback, it never does.

With this new announcement, the franchise moves closer and closer to a multiplayer only format, similar to “Titanfall,” without the online story. However, if all “Call of Duty” games had no campaigns, they would not all be priced at fifty bucks. Activision would never allow that, and the price would swiftly return to sixty dollars. I don’t even think 10 dollars would be enough to justify ditching the campaign. Multiplayer seems like it would only be worth 30 dollars at most. It would be ridiculous to pay the same amount for a definitively worse product.

I feel as though a large contributor to this decision is Activision assuming that people only play for the multiplayer. The big issue with this logic is that that people play more multiplayer every year because the campaigns are getting progressively worse. If they made a worthwhile campaign, people would play it and the demographic would expand to players without online capabilities. When I played the older “Call of Duty” games I was in this demographic, and I did eventually start using online features, but I will always respect campaign more.

I have long thought about why “Call of Duty” campaigns no longer capture the mood of the old ones. Why the name that once perfectly captured the mood of the game now feels like a hollow promise. After replaying “Modern Warfare,” I think I understand what could make the campaigns great again.

The first obvious difference between the old games and the new ones is the setting. The franchise is constantly moving farther into the future. I can see why they insist on this, the future allowing new gameplay, but it might be better to refine what they already had. In addition, I associate much less with anyone in that world. Any fiction with a future setting needs a strong exposition to have the player involved with the struggles of the universe the writers have created. How can I be motivated to save a world I haven’t seen. I understand what it was like in World War Two, Vietnam and of course modern day. I can be motivated for the nation I am fighting for in those games. There also was a nation I was fighting for, rather than a fictional PMC.

The new games always have the player elevated to the status of some hero, before the game even starts. “Modern Warfare” one and two both open with the protagonist in boot camp yet to prove themselves. With these characters, I felt like no one special, and that supported my opinion of the game. The protagonists were decently relatable, and had not already killed busloads of people.

In my opinion the biggest concept lost in the new games is the concept of fighting alongside an army. “Modern Warfare” had us fighting next to your squad constantly making the missions you were alone in much more memorable. These teammates all had their own names, making their deaths more influential to the mood of the game. Constant perspective changes aided in the feel of being part of something larger. Remember switching perspective to the AC130 instead of pulling an IPad out of nowhere, or crawling away from your crashed helicopter after a nuke. You never have as large a team in the new games and I feel that has been the biggest problem with the newer campaigns.

I doubt that Activision is truly struggling with hardware restrictions. If last generation consoles can run “Metal Gear Solid V,” they can certainly handle a six to eight hour campaign.  Activision has been quoted as saying that “Delivering the best possible gameplay experience on all platforms is always our highest priority.” Does anyone remember the last generation ports of “Advanced Warfare” where once you enter multiplayer the textures become extremely blurry. It is clear that Activision doesn’t want to scale back the campaign assets for last generation hardware. If a strong last generation experience is truly the highest priority then they could redo all of the visual assets and create a campaign with barely any difference to the next generation versions. Activision must have misspoke because clearly the campaign is not a priory.

What perplexes me is the fact that this news emerged so recently, barely over a month before the game launches. Likely they waited until just now to get confirmation from High Moon that the game wouldn’t be compatible with last generation hardware. The beta was highly unstable and it seems possible that Treyarch could be behind in development for the game. The game will shurely not be delayed and I would not be surprised if there was an unstable launch. For a yearly release, “Call of Duty” does usually have a very high quality, when it comes to production so I do find this unlikely.

More likely Activision was waiting for pre orders before coming out with the truth. I hope anyone who has already purchased this game will get their money back. This whole issue really demands some form of pre order regulation demanding the ability for pre release refunds to amend behavior like this. Could any company promise whatever they want before turning around and saying it was cancelled. Could Activision announce that everything was cancelled except for the title screen, and keep the money for the pre orders? In pre-orders, what is false advertising. A similar thing could be said for services like kickstarter with groups like 21 Cans over promising and releasing a product lacking in advertised features.

As a once fan of the franchise, I truly wish them the best with “Black Ops 3.” I have said a similar thing about “Destiny,” Treyarch will likely do well, and any major issues with the game will likely be by Activision. If the company stopped being so greedy there is some potential with a return to form for the franchise, however, if all of the current business decisions are continued, “Call of Duty” could soon go the way of “Silent Hill.” It could be a license in which all the people who created it have left, a hollow shell of it’s once greatness. Activision can choose here, and I hope they choose well.