If Everything's A Call Of Duty Clone, Why Can't Anyone Outdo Call Of Duty?

Whenever a military-themed shooter comes out, the first thing many people say is "oh great, here comes another Call of Duty clone". It's a term used as a slur against a game, saying that it's not just copying another game, it's copying another game that for many has long run out of ideas.

Why, then, is it so hard for people who are copying Call of Duty to actually pull it off and do just as good, if not better, than Call of Duty?

The series has been the world's biggest and most popular shooter for five years now, the release of the original Modern Warfare setting a bar that no other developer, no matter how much money they throw at the idea, can match.

I think I know why. They're not appreciating what actually makes Call of Duty so popular.

I mean, they get the superficial reasons. Manly men shooting guns at stereotypical enemies of the West, high production values, lots of explosions. But I don't think rival developers, particularly Electronic Arts, look any deeper than that.

The thing that drives Call of Duty's multiplayer - and indeed, a lot of its singleplayer appeal - isn't necessarily the acting, or setting, or story, or even level design. I don't think it's even the multiplayer structure of perks and killstreaks. It's the feel of the gun in your hands. That's a hard thing to quantify, like trying to describe Mario's jump, but it's just as important: Call of Duty's "tight" shooting, and the speed with which you can snap in and out of your iron sights, is what makes the action of pulling the trigger so responsive and enjoyable in that game.

Some of the series' developers have acknoweldged as much, with Sledgehammer Games' Glen Scofield (who worked on Modern Warfare 3) telling AusGamers last year that the fact CoD games run at 60 frames-per-second "is our competitive edge".

Shooting in a Call of Duty game is something you're doing constantly and instinctively, so it's not as easy or as noticeable to pin down as more obvious things like characters and the visuals, but again like Mario's jump, it's the source of much of the drip-fed pleasure many gamers get out of the series.

In short, there's no game on Earth that shoots as well as Call of Duty. And for a shooter, that's important.

The other thing I think most rival developers miss, and this one's related only to singleplayer, is that it's not Call of Duty's reliance on scripting that is the key to its success. It's the way it hides that scripting.

You want to know why so many critics, and let's be honest most consumers think so highly of Call of Duty singleplayer campaigns? Because the scripting is done so well you often don't notice it. I mean, yes, instinctively you know it, but the games often do such a good job of propelling you with their level design, sign-posting and pacing that you rarely stop to care.

That's why instances like the hilarious "SHOOT THE HINGES" stand out, I think: because they're exceptions. Rivals like Medal of honour are full of such moments, when the roller-coaster ride of scripting and pacing essentially breaks down, stranding you in a stage and pulling back the curtain on your immersion with a level. It's why those games are rightly criticised for being linear while Call of Duty is often (though not universally) lauded: simply being linear isn't always a fault if it's done well.

(Note: I've found Infinity Ward to be much better with this trick than Treyarch, who with tiring instances like the Vietnam hillside in Black Ops and the opening African level of Black Ops II show they're not quite as savvy).

So, developers, if you're making, or are planning to make a near-future military shooter, don't just copy Call of Duty's trimmings. All that macho bullshit and stereotypical action is the worst part of Activision's series, and should be the last thing you're copying. Instead, dig a little deeper and look at Call of Duty's bones. It's there you'll find the keys to the series' success, and the things you should really be trying to copy.


    I honestly want to see what happens when CoD moves to a new engine and if it can still keeps that magic

      Don't be silly call of duty will never update its engine if it can still sell games like crazy.

      Of course it will. That's kind of like saying if Nando's moved from one suburb to another will the chicken taste different? No, it's still Nando's.

    I honestly think, its a combination of factors. As a COD addict i recognise that it is far from the best game in the world from a techincal point of view. But what it does well, particularly with MP, is the arcade feeling it has vs other shoots.

    The quick match making, the relatively short matches, how quickly you can swtich classes and get back in the action have a lot to do with catering for the ADHD masses, especially in the console world.

    I do sink a LOT of time in to cod. But the fact i can jump in for one game, and get a quick fix has a lot to do with my continued support of it.

    Add to this the already well established community of this game means you never have a shortage of regulars and friends to play with. Even when going solo, there are always gamer tags i recognise in a lobby, and this helps you feel comfortable within the game.

      ^ That

      Although I find CS has the same community feeling, but maybe I just play it too much.

      Totally agree.

      Esp re the GT's in the lobby and friends. Ran across you many times in BLOPS in HC CTF.

      The one thing I really like about COD is they don't waste people's time with intro sequences and company logos (though I haven't bought BO2). They let you skip straight to the main menu. Other companies by comparison love to masturbate over that kind of stuff.

        I do also love the "boot to multiplayer" options they give. Lets face it. 99% of the game is the online stuff.

        They also now have a "boot to zombies" option for those who spend most of their time doing that.

    CoD is mainstream.... It is the cool kid everyone wants to talk and play CoD! Well I don't and many others don't so shut the fuck up about CoD being the best because it isn't!

      Its not about being the best. It is about what sells the best. It is undeniable that COD has the sales figures. This doesn't mean it is technically the "best game" out there. But it does show it is very popular. This article is asking why. Granted it could have been written in a less biased way, but i think the intent was more focused on why it sells better, not saying it is the best.

      What a big hero you are.

      I wouldn't care if other people hated it - to me it's an awesome game! I have been addicted since MW and it's the highlight of the gaming year for me.

    Cause Cod is the original....oh shit, wait a second...

    Bf to me beats it in every way possible (420 hours ps3 an pc) but liking black ops 2 atm but don't see me playing 400 hours tho

      i think its definitely horses for courses. Just as some people can spend thousands of hours on WOW, but struggle with other MMO's. BF has always catered for the more strategic players, who like the slower, more planned game play. Where as cod caters for more people who want just batshit crazy grenade spam game play. Neither are wrong, each is just different.

        That's it in a nutshell. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and people love each for those very specific reasons.

        CoD = tighter gunplay.
        BF = destructive environments and multi-vehicular carnage.

    CoD has been outdone - unless you're defining success as purely sales.

    I think people need to stop seeing CoD as a FPS. CoD has transcended genres and is now a sports game. No one questions buying FIFA every year - a game that has very little in the way of improvements or meaningful changes - but people buy it simply because they know all of their friends will be moving on to the newer offering.

    "The fact CoD games run at 60 frames-per-second “is our competitive edge”."


    Oh wait, he's talking about just console


      i'm struggling to see the joke

        I'm assuming its a double-jab at console gamers, and cod on PC

    Completely disagree with the raving in the article about single player. Personally, CoD sucks for single player. Multi was somewhat fun though. That being said, not as fun as Bad Company 2 was.

      It's a different kind of fun, in my opinion.

      I sunk a ridiculous amount of time into both BC2 & BLOPS around the same time and they both scratched different itches.

      BLOPS for the twitchy, one man army side and BC2 for the more measured, team work side.

      Loved them both for what was different about them.

        I'd have to agree with that. I just preferred the measured game play tbh, I always have though, even in RTS.
        Also, BC2 managed to apply reasonably realistic and balance sniping too, which I loved and yet no game so far have managed to replicate (that I know of).

      Yeah, previous cod single players have felt very much like they are on rails, so this really doesn't go well with the "good scripting" they refer to in the article.

    By the logic you could ask "if everything is a WoW clone why can't anyone outdo WoW?".

    Snowball effect, once you get that many players together it's hard for another community to draw enough away to sufficiently be thought of as a "better" or "more successful" game.

    Similarly, I'm tempted to ask why every second Call of Duty article uses the same banner image.

      i dont think its a case of you could ask, its a case of you can pretty much write this same article about WoW.

      And the reasoning is correct, CoD latched onto this formula first and ran with, everyone else is sadly picking at the same market without doing anything redically different in order to make a large enough point of difference to hold the attention of the established market while drawing in different players.

      That being said I can see games like Natural Selection (even though its an old idea, it was before its time) coming in and being a big player in this area. It has the arcadey feel with enough difference to interest people of other genres.

    Well the groundwork was laid by (the original) Infinite Ward, that's why.

      CoD should have stayed as a WWII shooter, much more fun IMO. Even the story seemed to make more sense.

        I actually wanna see an WW1 shooter - that'd be great! The original Modern Warfare was an breath of fresh air! Yeah, it does suck though that there's not really any WW2 games anymore... they can all exist together, I reckon. But as long as COD sell lots, the Publishers won't even bother :(

    in my opinion many fps and tps out do cod but because every one buys cod they dont care about the others

    I used to be a massive fan of MW2, I'd play it every night until 2AM before my 9-5 grind with friends on Xbox Live. I got up to the 2nd prestige and stayed like that for a few months because I thought to myself; "What's the point? All I get is a few new banners to slap on my name and I have guns that I like,".
    But the game got boring. All I did was run around the map in circles shooting everyone, bashing the left trigger and let auto aim do it's work. It seemed the game had lost all it's fun factor for me. The final nail in the coffin was when a patch kicked in that made pretty much everyone I know who lives in Australia lag with red connections and no rego. That was the point when I took the disc out of the Xbox and never played a CoD again.
    I basically only really played CoD so I could socialize with friends, but now they've all also moved to PC gaming for BF3, L4D, CS and Minecraft.

    I honestly wonder when CoD will be like Unreal; "That old game everyone used to play"

    I totally agree on the shooting mechanics, I reckon its the best in the business and it keeps me coming back for more.

    The reason COD overtook Halo on Xbox Live all those years ago was simple - you could join a match in progress, this meant (back when I had COD4 before it was assailed by hackers and I traded the damn thing) you could turn on the game and 30 seconds later you were in a match - whereas Halo 3 (and damningly Reach) make you wait until a lobby fills up with 8 fresh players, then bafflingly has to load the map, the has another countdown for the hell of it.

    Furthermore after you finished a match on Halo 3 - it kicked you back to the lobby and you had to go through the whole ridiculous process all over again, whereas COD4 kept you with the same group of people so you only had a 30 second wait for your next fix.

    They say COD did this because they were worried they wouldn't have the player base to sustain the Halo method of everyone starting the match at the same time, this small concession to keep population decline at bay, actually helped explode the population as people got hooked on the service.

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