In my cynical mind, I have a vivid scenario of the big sales pitch for Call of Duty: Black Ops II and it involves a dark war room similar to the movie Dr Strangelove. Everyone shuffles uncomfortably as they announce the next instalment will feature futuristic action set in 2025, and also announces that they will throw in more zombies, because gamers can’t get enough of zombies right?
A man wearing black gloves starts a slow clap, and all of the other lackeys then follow suit. There you have this year’s updated franchise, which is rapidly becoming an annual £70 subscription service packaged as a new game.
Love it or hate it, this series will once again split the gaming community into two camps. One will defend their favourite game to the end, whilst the other will attack both the publishers and developers for stifling creativity and innovation, by essentially releasing a rehashed version of the same game each year.
Many of even the game’s biggest fans will happily say something along the lines of “single player is not worth bothering with; it’s all about multiplayer”. This is more than a little concerning for anyone who has a genuine love of gaming or the art of storytelling, with characterisation over shiny explosions.
If explosions and zombies don’t convince you to buy the latest instalment, there was one final trick up their PR’s sleeve: a big release party full of celebrities enjoying a game of COD, whilst also posing happily for PR photos.
The last few weeks have already caused many gamers to be suspicious of big gaming websites or magazines, and their relationships with game publishers and PR. So I’d like to think that the average punter is above little tricks like this now.
Sure we are living in the age of celebrity, but to gush over staged PR shots of Professor Green or Chris bloody Kamara playing Call of Duty is of no help to anyone at all. It further clouds the relationship between publication and publisher, where everyone gets cosy with the latest round of rent-a-celebs.
Call me cynical, but I am always wary when a big release has a review embargo of until after most hardcore fans have already purchased the game. I also question just how long the reviewer in question has actually spent with the game in question, rather than just rush a review out to be one of the first to get the quick hits.
The fact that I awoke to four emails containing photos to show how various celebrities enjoyed themselves at the launch party, but still no reviews of the game are allowed to go live, left a bad taste in the mouth.
Only time will tell if incorporating science fiction into COD game will pay off. I suspect people will get carried away with the hype again this Christmas, only to be left with that horrible empty feeling several months later and the realisation that the bastards have done it to them again.
Believe it or not, I am quite partial to playing COD. It’s my guilty pleasure that I spend an hour or two with when I just want to switch off, so please don’t be fooled into thinking I’m just another hater. However, when I hear Black Ops II’s director Dave Anthony stating that his game will overtake most Hollywood releases financially, whilst also referring to movies as “100 years old”, I am left thinking: “you arrogant prick; I don’t want anything to do with this and the effects it is has on the industry that I am so passionate about.”
Although Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, sometimes it’s what the franchise stands for that I have an issue with. There is a fear amongst gamers that if some publishers have their way, this will be the only type of game you can play and the days of exploring an unquestionably beautiful world for hours at a time like such as Skyrim will rapidly become a forgotten pleasure. Our tiny minds will instead be bombarded with 10 images a second, until we have the attention span of a child flicking through channels on the TV.
So enjoy your COD fix, and I will even join you for a game now and then. That said, why not try something else too this year, and support a developer that has created something brave and unique when making that must-have Christmas list?