Lack of innovation, or why Call of Duty: World at War sucks

Recently the video game Call of Duty: World at War (CoD: WaW, WaW in short from now on) was offered on Steam with a heavy discount for a few days. Because it was heavily discounted I decided to buy it, which I now regret. Keep in mind that my criticism is based on playing through the single player experience of WaW, as well as it’s predecessors Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2. I wasn’t interested in multiplayer, because if I want to play a multiplayer first person shooter I prefer Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Counter-Strike: Source and recently America’s Army 3. In WaW, very little has changed in comparison with it’s two predecessors. Mostly it’s improved graphics, but the gameplay is very similar in all three games, and most problems I perceived with the gameplay apply to all three.

The player has to follow a compulsory route. Sometimes you can choose a different route, but that doesn’t hide the limitation. Other games like Far Cry, released in 2004, give you a lot more freedom. In that game there was a designated route, but in many cases you could stray from that route or choose a different route, allowing you to use your creativity and providing more enjoyment. Of course there are so called sandbox games which provide even more freedom, like Morrowind (2002). In other first person shooters which take place mostly indoors I don’t experience it as a problem, but in the Call of Duty series I do, because it takes place mostly outdoors. Then this limitation gets annoying because you expect to be able to take a different route.

Enemy soldiers behave like you killed their pet goldfish, they have bullets with your name on it. As soon as the player exposes himself to them, they ignore your allied soldiers which are controlled by the AI, and focus all their fire on the player, even when your allied soldiers are closer to them. Your allies will not advance until you do, everything depends on the player’s ability to assault the enemies. Your commanding officer often singles you out to this or that, while he relaxes. Combined with your allied soldier’s inability to provide you with good cover, this makes the gameplay quite annoying. In some cases your enemies receive seemingly infinite reinforcements, which stop only when you complete a specific objective, like killing specific enemies (inside the Reichstag near the end of the game you have to kill a few enemies on a balcony, otherwise the enemies are infinitely reinforced). Near the end of the game it mentions that Berlin was even defended by child soldiers and the elderly, as was the case in history. But you don’t encounter any child soldiers, every soldier you encounter seems to perform identical.

The developers of the Call of Duty series also seem to have an aversion for the Russian language. Germans speak German, but Russians use a ridiculous English accent in all three games. And why did you never have the opportunity to play as a German soldier? Do the developers think all of them were pure evil? Probably it’s a serious case of political correctness.

The lack of innovation can probably be explained by the saying ‘never change a winning team’. Because the Call of Duty series is successful, and will probably continue to be. The only way to stop this is to vote with your wallet, as long as gamers buy this junk it won’t stop. I will not buy any game in the Call of Duty series until they try something new.

I don’t think producing sequels is a bad thing, as long as they are innovative. Take for example the Grand Theft Auto series, I think GTA III, GTA Vice City and GTA IV are all awesome games. Those games feature similar gameplay throughout the series as well, but they managed to innovate. In some cases I think innovation in the field of gameplay isn’t even necessary to produce a good game if gameplay isn’t a deciding factor in the equation determining the enjoyment of the game. For example in games which depend more on telling a story, like Baldur’s Gate and it’s sequel Baldur’s Gate II. Those games played and looked mostly the same, but the content was very different. In the sequel you had access to an entire new ‘world’ and a new story was told, which made it enjoyable. But a games like in the Call of Duty series don’t have a story, the only thing they have going for them is shooting stuff, so it’s not interesting anymore is a sequel merely provides more of the same.

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