Something really strange always happens when Call of Duty is free for a weekend on Steam: I usually end up playing it for the majority of the weekend, but I never end up buying it. You'd think that a game that I clearly enjoy playing I would purchase, but Call of Duty and I have always had a really strange relationship; A real will-they-won't-they love story.
See, I really don't think that CoD deserves all the hate it gets. I know, I know, it's incredibly unpopular both here and on Reddit to actually enjoy
playing CAWADOOTY, but I do. And yet, I haven't actually bought and regularly played
any CoD game since Black Ops 1, and even that I didn't play for long. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the game itself... Which is why I actually feel a little bad for the series.
I think it's best to start from the beginning of what I call the "CoD Cycle", and that'd be when I first start playing a new entry into the series. From the first moments I fire the default AR and get my first 100 points, I'm instantly remembering why I enjoy CoD's gameplay. It's quick, snappy, and has a really laid-back arcade feel to it that has been refined and polished to a shine. Whether you think that shine is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective, but you'll have to admit that if Call of Duty is anything, it's consistent. I'll do well in a few games, get some unlocks, and really begin to wonder why I don't play more Call of Duty.
Then the first pebble hits the windshield.
I wasn't having a great game. Some assbag on my team will pipe up about it, complaining about the "Free weekend noobs" and "I'm so poor I can't buy the game". Admittedly, this was probably my fault for going into the Hardcore playlists with only a pistol and a bunch of perks, but I was having a whale of a time anyway and I gave zero fucks if we won or lost, or how good my K/D ratio was. I'M JAMES BOND YOU UNCULTURED SWINE. (By the end of the weekend I had unlocked a silencer and a red dot sight as well as a blue camo for my pistol of choice... Named that sweet-ass class "Nightfire")
Anywho, someone else decides to also chime in, but he's on my side. However, he chooses to use similarly unfavorable language to berate the original antagonizing individual. They start fighting, tossing favored four-letter language back and forth, insulting mothers as they go. Then, as if on cue, a third man adds his voice to the mix, telling everyone
to shut up and just play the game. Then it's just a circlejerk of insults and teamkilling and... Well I left shortly after that.
Like I said, this was only step one.
I decided to get out of Hardcore land and try some of the lower-populated lists like Mercenary Moshpit. I always like when games provide moshpit playlists because above all things, I appreciate variety in my shooters. But, this being the PC version, there weren't many people in it. "No problem!", I thought, "Games like Halo 4 have 300 people in playlists all the time, and I still get games." So I queue up, hoping to get a lobby. I wait for a bit, and since there are no matches to join, it stuffs me in an empty lobby. I think you can guess what's coming next.
I waited for almost 10 minutes, watching people enter and within 10 seconds leave because there was nobody else in the lobby. There's not a more impatient gamer than a Call of Duty player, and I felt the full brunt of it. While I don't like the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del anymore, I do remember one particular comic from the old days that really rings true in today's gaming world as much as it did then. I tried finding it, but it's buried somewhere in those archives and a quick google search didn't turn up anything.
The comic depicts a man coming into a gamer party, but he's the first to arrive. He immediately spins on his heel, gives the bird to the one guy in the room, and claims that the whole game sucks and exits. That's pretty much what those gamers were doing to me. The funny thing is, I was seeing the same
gamertags popping in and out of those lobbies. These people were so desperate to get into a game, they couldn't be bothered to wait around and try to build a party. Even though they knew they weren't finding openings, they were still just mashing buttons hoping that their impatience would win the day.
I really bet you're wondering by now why I'm even bothering going over all of this. What does this have to do with anything? Well, here's the crux of it: Call of Duty is ruined not by its gameplay, but by its people.
Let that sink in for a moment.
"But wait! Call of Duty's gameplay is homogenized and repeated every time! There's no change! It's terrible and bad for the industry!".
My answer to this is: So? You already know that. You know what Call of Duty's gameplay is like and you know if you'll like it or not. So if you already know you won't like the game, then you're not going to purchase it... And no harm no foul! The problem is if you're someone like me, who really does enjoy what Call of Duty has to offer gameplay wise, but really can't get into it because of some external reason.
That's not even touching the numerous issues I have with Activision's business practices, what with creating a useless Elite
service, giving the shaft to PS3 and PC users on numerous occasions, and having the gall to release constant DLC at $15 bucks a pop. If Activision had their way, you'd be spending upwards of $100 a year on Call of Duty, and that's a little ridiculous if you ask me.
And I suppose that in this way, the people
in charge of Call of Duty also taint my experience. One of the biggest reasons I can't support buying the next CoD title is because I feel like my purchase will be worthless in only a year's time... Especially if my purchase is on PC. There's already only 40k or so people playing on a free
weekend, so I expect that to at least halve when it's back to its normal userbase. Say I do purchase, and then Modern Warfare 4 comes out this November or whatever. My guess is that 90% of that userbase will move on. So now I'm stuck with a campaign I've already played and a completely dead multiplayer...10 months after I purchased the game; 12 if I actually got it on release day.
That sure doesn't sound worth it when you really think about it. And I do think about it...
As the free weekend was drawing to a close, I sat there looking at Blops 2, discounted for this weekend only. It's 40 dollars. But what does that 40 dollars get me? A game that full to the brim
with the absolute worst kinds of gamers imaginable, is pretty much shoving DLC down my throat, and will be dead in a year unless I pony up 60 more dollars to buy the same thing I'm already playing.
But I really like the gameplay!
Logic wins in the end, and I end up closing the store tab. It's a shame is what it is. I haven't found another game that really scratches the CoD itch. I've tried, but it just isn't quite the same. So I'm stuck in limbo, occasionally getting to play the game for a while whenever it's free, and sincerely hoping that in some alternate reality out there, Call of Duty is just a good game without any of the fuss.