“The ghosts are real.” My desire to own it…not so much. As the hype machine gets rolling for Call of Duty: Ghosts ahead of its November release, I wanted to […]
As the hype machine gets rolling for Call of Duty: Ghosts ahead of its November release, I wanted to bid a proper farewell to the series. See, I decided at some point in 2012 that Black Ops 2 would be my Call of Duty swan song. I’ve had my fill of killing random people on the internet and I’ve sure as hell put in more than my fair share of hours played, so it’s time to hang up my uniform and my assault rifle, and find a better use of my spare time. I hate to use such a cliché, but I really am getting too old for this shit.
First, some backstory on my history with the Call of Duty franchise. It began with Call of Duty 2, which I never played online, but I had played against other friends on my buddy’s TV. I only played it a couple times, but I remember enjoying it. It wasn’t until I finally bought an XBOX 360 Elite in October 2008 that I would revisit the series, when World at War became one of my first 360 games. I cut my teeth on Call of Duty multiplayer with that game, met some great people online that I still play with today, and discovered that my game mode of choice was Domination. I never owned Call of Duty 4 and I don’t think I’ve ever played it, either. I know a lot of people still think COD 4 was the best COD multiplayer experience, but I never cared enough to buy the game and find out for myself after the fact. I’ve bought every COD game since World at War on release day, and for Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, I was among the nerds standing in line to buy a copy at midnight at my local Best Buy.
In World at War, winning was everything for me. I had so many friends who played Domination that no matter when I hopped online, I could always find at least 3 or 4 people to play with. It wasn’t long before all 100 spots on my XBOX friends list were full, with at least 85 of them being Call of Duty players from places as far and wide as California and England. I was all about the W back then, and I didn’t care if I had to die 40 times in a match to hold that goddamn B flag long enough to win. That would eventually change as I figured out on my own you could capture the flags without dying more than 20 times (that’s my cutoff by the way – if I die more than 20 times in a match I consider that a mediocre-to-bad game, depending on how many kills I had). I eventually became obsessed with the Domination leaderboards (before they were hacked and rendered utterly worthless). By the time the World at War cycle had ended prior to Modern Warfare 2‘s release, I was in the top 150 players in the world for Domination wins, with more than 3,000. (I was probably more proud of this than I should’ve been.) I had several friends who were deep into the top 100, even a couple who were in the top 15. And I’d played with almost everybody on the top 100 list. There was a sense of community amongst the Domination players that I don’t think has existed since. It’s probably because there were fewer people playing back then. Sadly, this changed in MW2. There were suddenly a LOT more people playing Domination, and you almost never randomly came across people you knew hopping from lobby to lobby, which happened frequently in WaW. World at War is the most fun I’ve had on COD as far as meeting new people, because it’s where I met almost everyone I’ve played with in the years since.
My favorite COD game of all time, though, despite its many flaws, remains Modern Warfare 2, which I’m frightened to admit I have 46 days played on multiplayer. Don’t judge me. It’s by far the video game I’ve played the most in my life, and it was the most fun I ever had playing online. It was also the first time I ever prestiged, but I stopped at 9th prestige, level 70. Why not do 10th prestige and finish my progression? Well, if you played MW2, you know how little 10th prestige actually meant to most people because of the millions of a-holes who cheated and used various hacks to jump to 10th prestige without putting in the time to earn it. To me, 10th prestige was tainted on MW2, so I chose to abstain in protest. That’ll show you, cheaters!!! I also really liked the 9th prestige symbol, so there’s that. MW2 was the first time I took the in-game challenges seriously, and I was proud to say that I completed Mastery on every single weapon. Nobody else I knew had done that, and I’m pretty sure it was a fairly uncommon accomplishment throughout the community.
I also did all the major killstreak achievements legitimately, with zero boosting whatsoever. I got 17 nukes, which is pretty good for someone at my skill level who rarely had the nuke turned on (my preferred killstreak setup was the classic Predator-Harrier-AC130). As bold an idea as the nuke was, I’m glad there have been no game-ending killstreaks since. The MW2 AC-130 is my favorite COD killstreak ever…by far.
I finished my MW2 career with a 1.23 K/D (that’s kill-to-death ratio for you lames), which was the best I’d had to that point. It’s never been a priority for me to be a high-K/D player, because the way you have to play to achieve that bores me to death (using the same 2 or 3 weapons and attachments, the same perk and killstreak setups, etc.). I play these games to have fun, not to impress anyone with my stats. If I were serious about being the best “killer” I can be in COD, I could probably maintain a K/D in the 1.60 range, maybe even higher if I’d ever played on an above-average internet connection (which, it should be noted, I haven’t). One of my favorite things to do in MW2 was to try and stop good killers on the opposing teams from getting their nukes. I called myself “The Nuke Killer” because I was very good at hunting down opposing tryhards.
I’m also proud to say I only had 2 “Last Stand” kills in MW2, and pretty much never used it in any of the other games. Because fuck Last Stand, that’s why.
In general, I enjoy trying to be good with every weapon in the game as opposed to being the master of just a few in order to keep my stats up. Without that variety and the dozens of challenges available, I’d have quit COD a long time ago due to pure monotony. Using different weapons and going for achievements is the thing that keeps me going after the newness of each new title wears off. There are 3 phases to each Call of Duty title: Phase One is the first couple months after the game comes out and it’s new and fresh and fun (from release in early November thru the first week of January), Phase Two is where you know the game by muscle memory and you try new weapons and challenges to keep it fresh (January thru mid-summer), and Phase Three is from about June til November as you’re just playing to play because that’s what you’re used to doing as you wait for the next game to come out. It’s kinda pathetic when you think about it. Activision has quite a thing going where they’ve got millions of people mentally trained enslaved into this yearly routine. It’s great for their profits, but I say it’s bad for society. In my case, I’ve finally found the willpower to break myself free of those chains to move on to other, more efficient uses of my time. That’s the idea, anyway.
It should also be noted that MW2 had the best set of maps of any COD game I’ve played, although a few of the them were poorly designed in the sense that if your team got stuck on one side of the map, you had a clear disadvantage (like, say, Bailout and Salvage from the first map pack).
Also noteworthy was the MW2 score done by Lorne Balfe, with themes from Hans Zimmer. The COD games have always had fantastic soundtracks right up to this year, when Trent Reznor did the main theme for Black Ops 2, which I think is brilliant:
Call of Duty has reached the point now in pop culture where a star as big as Eminem just debuted his brand new song on the Ghosts multiplayer trailer:
This brings us to the original Black Ops. I wasn’t thrilled about the game going back in time and being Cold War-era, but was still very excited for it to come out and still played the hell out of it anyway. One thing that sticks out in my memory is how much I thought Black Ops‘ graphics were noticeably inferior to MW2, which was off-putting, but if you look at my stats (a 1.57 K/D for Black Ops), it’s the COD game I was best at from a killing efficiency standpoint. I was especially good with the futuristic, weird-looking G11 burst rifle. During the Black Ops period, the number of people I played with on a consistent basis whittled down to about 10-15, as I’d become “close” with a small group of buddies (or as close as you can get just by talking shit and having fun over XBOX headsets). I dunno what else to say about BLOPS 1. I liked it, but never thought it was special in any way. In fact, Black Ops remains the only COD game I ever sold before the next game came out. I got so bored with it near the end that I frequently went back to Modern Warfare 2 to keep myself entertained (and, I suppose, for purely nostalgic reasons). The problem was that at that point, MW2 was so hacked and full of One Man Army noob tubers that the game was virtually unplayable. Normally, I play the most current COD game right up until the day the next one comes out each November, but off the top of my head I’m gonna say I stopped playing Black Ops around September of 2011. It was at this point where my overall excitement for the series began to wane. It didn’t help that I’d gotten back into the Battlefield series, and was more excited for Battlefield 3 than Modern Warfare 3 going into November 2011. In fact, I had really gotten into Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and enjoyed that a LOT more than Black Ops.
Modern Warfare 3 arrived in November 2011, and while it was fun, throughout its lifespan I felt more like I was playing it just to play it as opposed to playing it because I really loved it. I guess I was just going through the motions at that point, in part because I always thought the game was way too similar to MW2 without being nearly as good. MW3 is probably the laziest effort on the part of the game developers and it’s the COD game I’m least passionate about. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy to see Infinity Ward has decided to make some big changes going into Ghosts. If it had just been Modern Warfare 4, I probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway and just skipped a year. I never prestiged on MW3 (I sure as hell wasn’t prestiging 20 fucking times, either), nor did I care much about the challenges or accomplishments, and I can’t really explain why. It was also the first COD game I owned where I didn’t finish the singleplayer campaign. To be fair though, it should be mentioned that some of MW3‘s multiplayer maps are among my favorite maps in the history of the series. On the flip side, it also has several maps I absolutely loathe. And as anyone who played MW3 knows, Infinity Ward had the brilliant idea of designing most of the maps to be an absolute cluster fuck from a spawn standpoint. There were 17 entry points to each room and 14 different lanes through every map, and that’s only a slight exaggeration. This was an attempt to reduce overall camping and power positions on the objectives, but ended up pissing EVERYBODY off, because you died much more often from being shot in the back or side in that game than from a one-on-one engagement with a player in front of you.
Sidebar: That reminds me…I need to finish my post listing my 10 favorite COD maps of all time. Look for that…eventually.
It was during my time on MW3 that I first put serious thought into calling it quits on COD, but even then I said I’d retire after the NEXT game, not after MW3. Some of my XBOX friends laughed it off when I said as much at time, but here we are, guys. I couldn’t help thinking to myself back then, How many years in a row are you gonna spend this much time doing basically the same exact thing? And when I asked this question of my peers (which I did many times), I never heard a good response. They’d often say, “What else are you gonna do?” Realizing just how much time I’d put into this series was a sobering thought, but a necessary one now that I look back at it. So going into “BLOPS deuce”, I had pretty much talked myself into the fact that it would be the last COD game I ever bought.
I find Black Ops 2 to be a fun, but incredibly frustrating game. Overall, it probably has the least fun set of maps in the entire series. The only map I get excited about playing is Studio, which is just a remake of Firing Range from the first Black Ops. What does that say about the original maps in the game? Because a lot of my old XBOX buddies from the earlier games have now moved on, don’t play frequently anymore, play with other people or WHATEVER, most of the time I end up playing by myself, so the social interaction aspect of the game has been almost completely removed, which sucks. Other than finishing the gun mastery challenges, I don’t have much to reason to play it now other than to waste time before or after work. It’s kind of depressing, actually. And the fact that the sniping in this game is completely broken doesn’t help any. I love playing Ground War, but it’s almost unplayable now because of the millions of tac-inserting “snipers” exploiting the mechanics of the game with this quickscoping, “sniper shotgun” bullshit. I LOATHE quickscoping and the children who are obsessed with it. This is the most obvious impact YouTube has had on the actual game. I’m gonna say that in Black Ops 2, at least 15% of players are on there solely for the selfish purpose of trying to get “clips” they can upload to YouTube in the hopes of gaining an audience and making money. It’s annoying as fuck. I don’t know how many random voice messages I’ve gotten from random, squeaky voiced 14-year olds asking me to check out their channel. NOBODY CARES, KID. It’ll probably be a matter of weeks before I stop playing BLOPS 2 altogether, whether I finish the challenges or not. The final map pack comes out this week, and once I’ve played that a little, it may be time to pack it in. I’ve yet to even try the zombies mode on BO2, despite the rave reviews it’s been getting. I played zombies quite a bit on World at War and haven’t really cared to play it again since.
And that brings us to the present. Do I want to play Ghosts? Hell yes, I do. What I’ve decided is that I shouldn’t play it, or at least not as much as I typically play these games. But therein lies the rub; I can’t just buy a Call of Duty game and play it “occasionally”. I go all-in with this shit. Either I buy it and play it to death like usual, or I don’t buy it at all and find other things to do with my spare time.
I think Ghosts looks pretty good, but not great. I like a lot of the changes they’re making to multiplayer. I love that they’ve updated the dreadful mantling mechanic to a more fluid one where you hop over obstacles (even if they did steal the idea from Battlefield) instead of the ugly current process where you stop, climb, move forward and then fall or jump off and obstacle or ledge. I’m a fan of the “contextual leaning” around corners, although I’m weary of the fact that you do it automatically in certain situations as opposed to hitting a specific button combination. That’s just giving these whiners one more thing to blame a death on. Also, the “knee slide” looks like it’ll be effective and fun, too (although I do love me some dolphin dive). It’s great that you can customize the look of your soldier (something a lot of us have been demanding for years) with over 20,000 combinations, and you can now play as a female soldier, which has been a long time coming, even if it is utterly unrealistic. I actually feel like the Black Ops games both took steps backward in player model appearance, so it’ll be cool to see the graphics advance for once with the next-gen hardware.
So, in summation, what are the primary reasons I’m getting out of the COD game? There are many, but I’ll run through the biggies quickly:
*Been there, done that. Even with all the new changes promised for Ghosts, it’s still basically gonna be the same old shit yet again. The destructible environments thing is old news to us Battlefield fans, but Infinity Ward fails to realize (or care, apparently) that most Call of Duty players are not big on “map fatalities”. When you’re on a high kill streak, you don’t want that streak ended by some random exploding car or a hole in the ground or some logs falling on you, which appears to be a thing on one of the Ghosts maps.
*I’m tired of the snail-like speed at which the developers fix glitches or balance weapons. The fact that they don’t allow real players to Beta test a game this huge prior to release is beyond ridiculous. When each new game comes out, there are typically 3 or 4 things majorly wrong with it, and it usually takes the developers 2 weeks after everybody points these issues out to actually fix them. This is especially true with Infinity Ward games, and wouldn’t ya know it…Ghosts is an Infinity Ward game. I have enough stress in my life as is without a goddamn video game making me physically ill.
*I need to not have the free time to spend 10+ days on Call of Duty multiplayer. This is more a personal issue, but perhaps if I don’t have an XBOX One sitting there, I’ll be forced to do something productive for 3-4 hours instead of spending that entire time killing teenagers online. I mean…I could go out and kill a bunch of teenagers in the real world instead and do a great service for my country. (Good idea!) That would be productive and personally satisfying. There are plenty of important things I could alternatively be doing, such as writing more frequently for this blog, building up my photography portfolio, or writing screenplays. You know…things that actually matter in life upon which I can draw tangible satisfaction and pride.
*As I said earlier, I’m too old for this shit. But not in the sense that I’ve lost skill because of age. I could easily hop on Ghosts and be an above average player like I have been the past 5 years. No, it’s the other players that I’m getting sick of. Over the years, I’ve seen the target audience for Call of Duty get progressively and inappropriately younger, and I’m seeing more players being more and more immature while they play. I’ve had my fill of internet tough guys making lame “your mom” jokes or bragging about how much they just “raped” me. I’ve heard enough “your mom’s basement” references to last 10 lifetimes. I’m tired of internet racists. I’ve heard a few too many white teenagers casually use the word “nigger”. And most importantly, by not participating in Call of Duty multiplayer, the amount of times I hear the word “faggot” (the default insult of COD players of all ages) will be reduced by 99.99%, and that pleases me. I’m sick of coming across 9-year olds who can barely grasp the concept of what button on the controller does what. I’m sick of 13-year olds who only play as snipers so they can try to get multikill clips for their YouTube channel that nobody watches. Basically, Call of Duty has become a microcosm of the pisspoor state of parenting in this country right now, and when you get online to play these games, you’re encountering every spoiled, unsupervised, undisciplined kid in America. And many of them enjoy cheating, boosting, hacking, using glitches, and then copying what other cheaters do. I’m just assuming they do this in the real world, too. Fuck these kids and their terrible parents. Miss you, I will not.
*I know I’ve mentioned it a couple times, but let’s not even get into what YouTube and its faux celebrity culture has done to Call of Duty and how much it’s changed the way millions of people play it. That’s a 4,000-word rant in and of itself (which I won’t ever be writing).
*In the broadest, most literal sense, when you think about it, playing video games is a complete waste of time. I’ve known this for years, but the older I get, the more that fact starts to bother me. Unless you work for a developer, have a large audience on YouTube or are so good at a game that you can compete in these “pro” events (I’m sorry, but I still find the term “professional gamer” to be somewhat laughable), there’s no money to be made. You’re simply flushing hours of your life down the toilet, never to return. Video games exist for the sole purpose of butchering people’s time. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m 33, and I bet if you combine every minute I’ve spent sitting on my ass in front of a TV playing video games, it would add up to at least 9 months, maybe even a full year. Shit, I’ve spent a total of 3½ months alone playing 5 Call of Duty games. I’m pretty sure when you add up my time in various arcades as a kid, or my time playing Madden (which I’ve been playing since 1999), the Battlefield games, NBA games, the Total War games on PC, all the fighting games I used to play, or any of a dozen other games I’ve spent a lot of time with, that would make up a full year. THAT is sobering. I’m thankful I never participated in any MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft and I don’t play many games on my phone. So you can see why at my age I might now find it necessary to, how shall we say, move on. That doesn’t mean I’ll never play video games again, but I’d like to reduce the time I do spend playing them by, say, 75% or more, and removing COD will take care of most of that.
That said, I don’t judge other people my age or older who play a lot of video games. Different strokes for different folks. I can totally understand why a guy in his 40’s might spend a couple hours on Call of Duty at night to get away from the stress of dealing with the wife and kids. I get that, and I’ve known a bunch of guys like that. I’m single and have no kids, so there’s nothing in my life that I really need to “get away” from on a daily basis. The same goes for people with full-time careers who work long hours and just need a couple hours of online stress relief after work. Me…I don’t have a “career” right now, so basically, I have no good excuse to be lazy. On the flip side, I also know unemployed or underemployed people who are older than me that spend 6-8 hours a day playing Call of Duty instead of actively trying to find work or contribute to society in any way, and that’s actually pretty sad. Or pathetic, however you wanna view it. Let’s put it this way, when you’re 35 years old, you shouldn’t be playing video games more than you work if you’re physically and mentally ABLE to work.
Does this mean I’ll never play Call of Duty again? Not necessarily. Maybe this is a Michael Jordan kind of retirement for me. What I am saying is that I won’t be buying Call of Duty: Ghosts at all for XBOX 360, and I have no plans on getting an XBOX One at launch or anytime in 2013 or early 2014. The only upcoming video game I’m actually excited to try is Grand Theft Auto V, but I’m not spending $400-500 on an XBOX One just for one game. I can do without Madden 25 (my streak of buying Madden ended last year when they did away with the classic Franchise mode), and Battlefield 4 really just looks like Battlefield 3.5, much like MW3 was just an update of MW2. No thanks. I realize the XBOX One will be very useful outside of gaming (as a Blu-ray player and Netflix streaming device), but as of this writing I don’t see myself needing to buy it for those purposes for quite a while. I’m sure I’ll own an XBOX One eventually, but definitely not this year unless I suddenly come into a lot of extra spending money. As it stands now, I have to use my money for adult things like paying bills, buying food, putting gas in the car, and my savings account. Icky, I know.
I’ll probably still watch a bunch of Ghosts YouTube videos out of pure curiosity just to see what the game looks and feels like, and I look forward to seeing people inevitably bitch about it and call it the worst COD ever, as always happens. I just won’t be spending 15 days of my life in 2013-14 playing it myself. To the millions of people who will buy it and continue the cycle, you enjoy that. People my age have other shit we need to do, and hopefully in my case those things will require my presence in the real world.
Until whenever, I bid Call of Duty adieu, and I thank Activision and its partners for some great games, but what I’m most thankful for are the opportunities those games afforded me to interact with and meet some really great people that I otherwise never would have. I hope I’ll be able to remain friends with many of them for years to come. As far as the games go, it’s been utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things, but it sure as hell has been fun. Hopefully when I die and go to Heaven, one of the things I’ll spend a lot of time doing (I’ve got eternity, after all) is reliving the good old days playing Call of Duty with my pals. That would be nice.
THE FINAL TALLY:
Favorite Games: Modern Warfare 2, World at War
Favorite Game Modes: Ground War Domination (on MW2), 6v6 Domination, Kill Confirmed, War (from WaW– why they never brought this back is beyond me)
Favorite Maps: TBA in a separate post
FINAL MULTIPLAYER STATS:
World at War (2008-09): 633 hours played (or 26 days, 9 hours, 1 minute), max rank: level 55 (no prestige), 66,402 kills, 1.00 K/D, 2.07 W/L, highest kill total in one match: UNKNOWN, but if I remember correctly it’s 60-something
Modern Warfare 2 (2009-10): 1,121.5 hours (46 days, 17 hours, 33 minutes to be precise)*, max rank: 9th prestige level 70, 129,555 kills, 1.23 K/D, 1.96 W/L, highest kill total in one match: 76 (my all-time high – I got 3 AC-130’s in one Ground War Domination game on Crash – and yes, I kept a file listing all the cool things I did during the MW2 days)
Black Ops (2010-11): 334 hours (13.9 days), max rank: 7th prestige level 50, 37,908 kills, 1.57 K/D, 1.95 W/L, highest kill total in one match: 62
Modern Warfare 3 (2011-12): 163 hours (6.8 days), max rank: level 80 (no prestige), 21,676 kills, 1.49 K/D, 1.72 W/L, highest kill total in one match: UNKNOWN, though I know I hit 50+ several times [my playing time on this being so low comparatively is due to the fact that I was splitting my time that year between MW3 and Battlefield 3]
Black Ops II (2012-13) (as of this writing): 379 hours (15.8 days) 52,564 kills, 1.37 K/D (was as high as 1.48 before I started focusing on weapon challenges), 1.01 W/L (since I play alone most of the time, winning isn’t a priority, though I do put the extra effort in if a game is close), highest kill total in one match: 65
Grand Totals: 2,630.5 hours played (109.6 days), 308,105 kills, 1.33 avg K/D, 1.74 average W/L
In summary, I got a lot of kills, I killed people a lot more often than I died, and I won a lot more than I lost. I’d say it was a pretty good career. Maybe not Hall of Fame-worthy, but respectable. I was probably better than 65-70% of players out there, and I can live with that.
It’s funny…when I put the old games back in my XBOX to look up my stats, I had flashbacks just from seeing the menu screens and hearing the music and sound effects. So many great times. Now I’m getting all emo… Pull yourself together, man! What can I say though? I’m a sentimental bitch.
Overall Money Spent (between games and DLC): $500-550. You’re welcome, Activision. All I ever got from you was a cheap plastic Call of Duty Elite Founders card. Gee, thanks. I feel like I deserve a plaque, or some dog tags or insignia I can pin to my chest or a medallion or somethin.
*May God have mercy on my soul.
Because it’s somewhat relevant to this post, I’ll take this opportunity to recommend you check out my older post Funny XBOX Gamertags, which is, you guessed it, a collection of the funniest and coolest gamertags I’ve come across in my 5 years on XBOX. I update it every 3-4 months or so after I’ve collected 20 or more new funny names. For whatever reason, it’s by far my most popular post on this site. I’ve been getting 250-400 hits a day on it for more than a year now after first posting it in July, 2011. If you Google “funny XBOX gamertags”, my post is the second result, and I’m the sixth-highest result if you just search “funny gamertags”. I dunno, I guess that’s pretty cool, and if it helps drive people to check out some of my other writing, then that’s a small victory. But if YOU haven’t yet perused that list, you’re sure to get more than a few laughs at some of the crazy shit people have come up with.
And now, some random funny Call of Duty memes: