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Call of Duty: Don't hate the players, or the game.

Opinion: Modern Warfare deserves more credit, reckons John Dean

Back in 2007, Activision published one of the most ground-breaking games the world had ever seen. Despite struggling to convince its publisher that moving away from World War II shooters would be a good idea, the eventual results spoke for themselves.

Don't let your current emotions cloud your judgement: Call of Duty 4 was an incredible game.

You can moan about Call of Duty as much as you want, but if you're unable to accept that Modern Warfare was great then you'll have to excuse me for questioning your judgement.

Call of Duty 4 was an unexpected phenomenon - appearing in November and immediately making Microsoft's mega-hyped Halo 3 look like a bit of a non-event. Most of us played and loved it to death, but its mainstream success has somehow tainted our memories - quietly convincing us that the formula was dull.

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But of course, it wasn't. Call of Duty 4 was revolutionary, combining an incredible single player campaign with the world's most entertaining online experience. On this core level alone, the series has had a remarkable influence on the development of modern online gaming.

With millions of players now getting involved, it's hard not to be impressed by the barriers that Call of Duty have helped casual players to overcome: After years of being vaguely freaked out by them, millions of people now happily put on gaming headsets every day of the week.

You might not always enjoy talking to some of these people, but don't be ignorant of the positive effect they've had on your day to day life. The rest of the world has started to realise that gaming isn't an hobby solely enjoyed by pale-skinned freaks and weirdos. Populist gaming might not be perfect, but we certainly owe it something.

Haters will argue that Call of Duty is stuck in a rut, but it's worth having a look at the history books. As with the original Gears of War, many of the ideas and mechanisms introduced by Modern Warfare quickly became industry-standards. Plenty of games have botched-up the implementation of these borrowed ideas, but you don't see people slagging off Radiohead because Coldplay turned out to be a load of old bollocks.

I'm 100% behind the idea of driving innovation forwards, but it shouldn't have to be Call of Duty that does it - They've already redefined the genre once this generation, so I reckon they've earned themselves a bit of a break.

Battlefield 3 is certainly awesome, but let's be clear on one point at least: It's just as guilty as Call of Duty when it comes to choosing improvements over innovation. Look outside of the genre, and the same thing is true across the board: Very few sequels re-write the rules between iterations, and yet most get away with it without being derided.

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With half of the world's game reviewers being openly attacked for their ability to successfully separate their opinion on Modern Warfare 3 from their opinion on Activision, things have clearly escalated to a point in which most won't have even read this far into the article without jumping straight to the bottom of the page to leave a scathing comment.

Whilst I'll happily defend anyone's right to have their own opinion, it's important to remember that hatred isn't helpful - especially when the group of gamers you'd decided to dislike make up the overwhelming majority.

The fact of the matter is that Call of Duty is a problem, but the way we've been treating it is only making things worse. The people who go out and buy Modern Warfare 3 this week might not buy another game all year - and that doesn't do a lot of good for the industry.

At a point in which we should be openly reaching out to these gamers and encouraging them to try something new, too many of us are happy to simply slag Call of Duty fans off; telling them that their opinions are wrong, and that the game they enjoy is utterly rubbish. As persuasion techniques go, you shouldn't need me to point out that this is likely to be fairly bloody useless.

Games like Bulletstorm provide the perfect example of why things need to change. Whilst everyone was busy moaning about the lack of innovation in modern first person shooters, we all sat back and watched as something genuinely new and exciting quite simply failed to sell.

Hating takes up a lot of energy, and it's time we started thinking about how we might use it better elsewhere.

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