It’s that time of year again folks. The time of year when, as we’re inched unwillingly toward Christmas, holding onto the sides, digging our fingernails into the concrete and screaming nigh-incomprehensible objections about tinsel and bloody murder, games publishers decide to line up not six metres away and starting furiously hurling the dregs of this industry at our open, helpless mouths. So busy are we trying to escape the inevitability of the downward spiral into the Thresher Maw that is the holiday season, that there’s evidently little some of you can do to stop yourself voraciously gobbling it all up, spilling it down your shirt and then desperately begging for more. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, frankly.
I’m talking of course about the slew of general drudgery we’re forced to stare at listlessly at this time every single year; you could set your watch by FIFA, and I’m sure, as well as slightly disappointed that, many do. The star of the show, unsurprisingly, is Call of Drone Warfare Advanced Fighter Duty, which marries the majestically mundane sentiment of pinpoint precise bowel movements, with no effort whatsoever. The thing is, we’re treated to this display of complete half-arsedness every year. It’s an achievement really. As someone who prides himself on doing as little work as possible between the hours of 9 and 5 every day, Activision by comparison make me look like a Chilean miner. They go the extra mile as well, by making me feel like one, circa 2010. Instead of being trapped in a mine though, I’m trapped in an endless cycle of chin-scraping tedium, that is met with increasingly baffling hysteria every time. Of course, you don’t need me to explain the Call of Duty issue, so what’s the point to all this?
Well, this year of course, Call of Duty got a new subtitle, which they chose by mixing a combination of other beige-titled games, hopefully for familiarity. I say hopefully, because at least worrying that a buyer would be so confused when confronted by a word they didn’t recognise on the box that they’d angrily begin inserting it in their own or other people’s mouths, means some degree of thought has gone into it. Fantastically, ‘Advanced Warfare’ manages to sound like an exceptionally small amount of effort has gone into the name, which given the barometers by which Call of Duty subtitles are measured, is fucking incredible.
While this year they’ve shovelled in some new ‘features’ in the guise of ‘advanced’ technology, like boost jumps and cloaking, you don’t exactly need to be Benedict Cumberbatch to work out where they’ve CTRL-V’d those from. Of course Call of Duty is uninspired though, of course it looks like someone regurgitated the game in a drunken haze after a long night playing any one of AW’s predecessors. This is Call of Duty and we’ve had seven years of it. This year though, is quite special.
Why is it special? Because Advanced Warfare was released at the same time Rockstar, makers of another multi-million dollar game you’ve probably heard of, announced their ‘next-gen’ update for GTA V.
For years Rockstar could have copy-pasted the GTA formula every year and raked in the millions, but in this case, they’d almost even have been justified in doing so. Providing a shiny new-gen sheen to last year’s biggest game would inspire no quarrels from a legion of Xbox One and PS4 owning fans I have no doubt whatsoever. But they didn’t do that, did they.
Instead Rockstar’s next-gen version of the same game is going to include what might be the most game-changing addition to a pre-existing title ever. Amongst a bucket-load of characteristically detail-rich features, there is the First Person Mode. Far from a slight reworking of the camera, this is the full game optimised, textured and animated for first person. From vehicle interiors, of which there are many, including of course motorbikes, jets, helicopters and submarines, to using your phone which now resides in your hand, to the FPS style online deathmatches and FP-only racing modes, to the enhanced audio that subtly changes in accordance to your environment. This is like a new game. It has never been done in Grand Theft Auto before (save for the efforts of some brave souls on the PC modding scene) and is absolutely breaking new ground.
Which is weird isn’t it. Because it isn’t a new game. This is simply a generation-leap for a pre-existing game, which given the wild success and general veneration the original was met with, wouldn’t look out of place with a one-handed lick of paint. Activision faced those exact same paradigms with AW, except they had a blank slate upon which to create something new. Sure, they had a previous generation to pander to, but nevertheless, Advanced Warfare wasn’t a port. Or at least, that’s what the box would have you believe. It was the next-gen stand for the series.
Managing, for the last eight games, over the last seven years, to barely glance outside of the bog-standard formula, given more money, time and hardware upon which to do so than just about any other developer or publisher in the industry, and Rockstar do more in what could be considered a port. Eight games. One port.
Our point is merely that, Call of Duty is good at being unendingly monotonous all by itself, and this year its boorish negligence is exemplified, blazoned and paraded about. The disparity between the two titles, given the parallels of their all-consuming success, should be a sign. Is there an end? After seven years, it doesn’t seem like there is. Shouldn’t publishers who jam out poorly cobbled together, thoughtless, effortless, obvious money-spinning garbage be punished? It’s this that’s ruining the games industry, and even the fatuous ‘gamer’ moniker and ‘identity’. Not women, or the media, but the fact that gamers allow this kind of dribble to be the masthead of the industry.
And that. Is really quite upsetting.