Why the Black Ops 2 demo left me cold

Andy Kelly wonders if the Call of Duty series has outstayed its welcome

It says a lot about Call of Duty that its opening gambit was a turret section. The Black Ops 2 demo that ended Microsoft's E3 conference was a thundering symphony of explosions and gunfire, but was also tragically boring.


The series has become a parody of itself. The way the hero's car crashes, the screen fades to black, and he wakes up in a daze. Buildings collapsing for no good reason. The endless shouting. An inevitable section involving a fixed gun emplacement.

They're sticking to an established formula because they know the game will sell ten million copies no matter what they do, but this has created a depressing vacuum of creativity. The futuristic setting shows some ambition, but all of its gimmicks - shooting through walls, branching levels, flying drones - have all been done before, and with more style. It has no identity of its own.

But does it need it one? Maybe not. Call of Duty is the gaming equivalent of a summer blockbuster: throwaway entertainment designed to distract you for a few hours. But with such a colossal budget, and so many talented developers on hand, I just wish they'd try something new. They have the means to create a groundbreaking FPS - but they won't.

It's the obsession with scale that's ruining the series. I wouldn't be surprised if the design document for the last few games was a single sheet of A4 paper with the words 'THE SAME BUT BIGGER' printed on it in bold type. With every sequel the explosions get louder, the set-pieces get bigger, and I care less and less about what's happening in front of me.


When the Eiffel Tower collapsed in Modern Warfare 3, I barely even noticed. I'd been so numbed by the preceding five hours of constant explosions that it had about as much emotional impact as watching a kettle slowly boil. The game is so heavily scripted that you don't feel connected to it. It's like a big cut-scene you advance by occasionally shooting people.

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