I recently read an article by one of my favorite games journalists. Someone whose writing I have been following for around a decade. Tom Francis, who writes for PC Gamer, has always struck me as the kind of person that seems to eloquently (and often hilariously) verbalize exactly how I feel about games and the games industry in general. This last piece however, had me feeling extremely defensive. You see, Mr Francis hates CoD Black Ops.
And as much as I hate Activision’s way of doing business, I thoroughly enjoyed it. No, that’s not true. I freakin loved it.

Over the last few years, it’s become fashionable to hate the CoD franchise. I have frequently been critical of it myself. But, it seems to me that this hate is now beginning to take an almost fanatical bent. What bothers me the most is how many self-proclaimed “real” gamers use it as a badge of honor. As if hating everything Activision does automatically grants them entry into the “Intelligent Gamers Club”. And though I’ll be the first to admit that the CoD franchise hasn’t done anything to revolutionize the FPS genre in a while, I shouldn’t have to defend my enjoyment of the franchise in any way.
Was Black Ops a corridor shooter? Yes. Just like all corridor shooters. Did it have a lot of scripted events? Yes. Just like 90 percent of all shooters in the market today. Did it frequently try to make it seem like you were in an interactive movie rather than a pure “game”. Yes, yes, yes. Did I enjoy it in spite of all this? Absolutely.  And here’s why:

I knew EXACTLY what to expect when I pre-ordered it.

I wasn’t looking for the FPS genre’s second coming. I wasn’t expecting a Pulitzer winning plot (though I would argue it’s the best plot in the franchise) and I sure as hell wasn’t expecting a campaign that would last more than 10 hours. For some strange reason, the second I mention how much I enjoyed the game, it immediately makes these PC elitist wannabe assholes bracket me as a “console noob”, a 12 year old prepubescent brat or my personal fave “the reason why games have been ruined”. So let’s set the record straight shall we? The only thing I hate more than Activision, is consoles. I will be turning 30 in a couple of months. My favorite games include Deus Ex, Baldur’s Gate, Jagged Alliance and Planescape Torment. All of which I frequently go back to. Does that make me a gaming connoisseur? No more than liking Black Ops or any other corridor shooter makes me a pre-pubescent console lover.

The fact of the matter is this: the market isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Today, it costs millions of dollars to get a game out in the hands of a gamer. It just makes plain economic sense to bet on a winning horse. The CoD franchise is worth more than all of its competitors put together. Black Ops alone generated a BILLION dollars in revenue. And the reason it did is simple. People enjoyed it. If I was to invest in a game tomorrow, I would be smart to invest it in Cod 49 than I would in Jagged Alliance 3. One could argue about which is a better game (no contest JA hands down) till the cows come home. But the fact remains. The FPS genre hasn’t seen anything innovative since Half Life 2. Everything out there is a variation of a pissed off man with a gun. Everything. To single out one series in the midst of all that is just plain stupid.

Why is it, I wonder, that the gaming community went so easy on Mafia 2? To my mind, it was nothing like the first. The prequel was a true PC title, in spite of all its flaws it was a gem. The only good thing about Mafia 2 was its story (which btw, is excellent). The graphics were unremarkable, the driving was annoying and it had more quick time events than any CoD game I can think of. Yet it hardly comes up in any conversation that bemoans how games have been “dumbed down” (and yes, I agree they have). There a lot of other games I could add to that list but what’s the point? Haters gonna hate right?

I’m not against playing something a little more cerebral. Hell, I’m just sick and tired of waiting for it to happen. All the games I have enjoyed the most over the last couple of years have been sequels. Mass Effect 2, Bad Company 2, L4D2, Civ 5. It’s no different from the crap Hollywood shoves my way (cough, cough Transformers 2 cough, cough)

There are developers that will inadvertently try and break the mold. But more often than not, their efforts will culminate in either outright failure, or at best, lukewarm success. If you don’t believe that, wait till the sales figures of Witcher 2 and Red Orchestra 2 come out. I don’t need to be psychic to tell you right now that both those titles combined won’t have anywhere near the numbers Modern Warfare 2 had.

If great games like Deus Ex and Planescape are the gaming world’s equivalent of a six course gourmet meal, then the CoD series is a cheeseburger. Guess which one is going to see more consumers? Indulging in one culinary experience over the other is a matter of preference (and budget). In a perfect world, I’d go for the gourmet option every time.

But dammit Tom, sometimes that ol cheeseburger sure can hit the spot.