Spoilers for Far Cry and Call of Duty franchises ahead!
Two gaming franchises that have always been very close to my heart are Call of Duty and Far Cry. I grew up with these games and have always had somewhat of an affectionate disdain towards them. I know they’re bad — well, at least they have been nowadays — but I’d always picked up every annual release, like clockwork. The first time Gaz praised my “fruit killing skills” was one of my proudest moments in gaming.
Whenever my teachers would make me write a story, I’d always blow their socks off by re-imagining Far Cry‘s Vaas and giving him some generic name to avoid being accused of plagiarism. However, their recent titles have brought me to my wits’ end. I don’t enjoy these games anymore and believe that they should stop being developed. It’s hard because I have such a strong affection for these titles. To me, and to many others, seeing these franchises discontinued would be like putting down the old family pet. We only have their best interests at heart, but we could never bring ourselves to do it.
SPECIALIST IN FAILURE
In the case of Call of Duty, I believe that it is fair to say that it has strayed further and further from its roots as the franchise progressed. The first three installments brought us to WW2. Black Ops 4 takes us to the 2040s. The game doesn’t feature the laughable concept of exo-suits that were present in Black Ops 3, but ‘specialists’ still play an integral role.
These characters provide the player with special tools, like a scanner that shows nearby enemies’ locations. Specialists also have ‘power weapons’ that can be insanely powerful, one-shotting tools of destruction. Even the least skilled of players can get a ludicrous number of kills with these power weapons.
FALL FROM GRACE
Call of Duty used to be able to tell narratives that can emotionally resonate with its audience, but now it seems like it’s trying to be as bonkers as possible, losing all ability to tell a compelling story. And in the case of Black Ops 4, a game without a campaign, we’re left without any story at all. I used to adore the Call of Duty games, the Modern Warfare series and the first two Black Ops games were interesting and unique. They told stories that the developers clearly cared about. The games were made with passion and these early examples would set the precedent for the future of almost all first-person shooters.
However, the developers over at Infinity Ward and Treyarch have entered a cycle in which the games they produce are poor and uninspired. It’s either time to move on to a new development team in order to reinvigorate the franchise or to just finally admit that Call of Duty’s run is over.
REMEMBER ‘NO RUSSIAN’?
Despite being heavily critical of the franchise, I do admit that the upcoming game looks extremely promising, and recent rumours and leaks have generated a great deal of controversy. The new game contains a level in which the player controls a child soldier. I’m sure that Activision understands how controversial this will be, as they have been with other similar levels like ‘Death From Above’, where the player takes control of a drone and mercilessly blasts little dots on the screen.
There’s also the infamous ‘No Russian’, where the player is encouraged to mow down innocent, terrified civilians in an airport. In the words of an Activision spokesperson, the mission was “designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism”. I don’t know whether it’s my morbid curiosity or if I’m just an awful person, but I want more levels like these. These levels acted as fantastic social commentary about a hostile political climate.
YOU KNOW NOTHING, ACTIVISION
I don’t want Call of Duty’s main selling-point to be that Jon Snow is the bad guy, I want my games tackle mature topics with, well, maturity. We are so desensitised to the notion of violence in our video games. If the people making these games don’t understand that and fail to adapt to give us something more than just mindless slaughter, then they might as well stop altogether.
A FAR CRY FROM FUN
Following the immense success of Far Cry 3, which was carried in its entirety by the superb antagonist, Vaas, Ubisoft thought it would be a great idea to copy all of Far Cry 3, and move it to the Himalayas. Kyrat was a stunning location, and the surrounding mountains and vast landscape made the player feel free as a bird, soaring like an eagle over Kyrat. However, I can’t help but feel that Far Cry 4 was wildly uninspiring and disappointing. The gameplay was mostly unchanged, with mediocre characters — with one exception of course, but we’ll come on to that in a second — boring protagonist, basic challenges, recycled animations, generic weapons, and story beats that no one actually cares about just lead to a 25-hour long borefest.
I must say, I do enjoy Far Cry games, especially 3 and Blood Dragon. That beautiful, cliché, 80s-inspired neon world will always have a special place in my heart. But the main franchise games, i.e. not Blood Dragon, Primal etc, are just bland and failed to capitalize on the success of Far Cry 3 in a meaningful way.
If anything, the gameplay has regressed since the early days of Far Cry. Far Cry 2 saw the player having to worry about environmental obstacles and dangers. Malaria can lead to the player becoming temporarily incapacitated if not treated quickly. Guns jamming made for interesting gameplay, but the devs removed it to make the game more accessible. That isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it also didn’t improve the game.
A MENAGERIE OF VILLAINS
Over the years, the Far Cry developers and writers have been able to create some of the medium’s most compelling villains. Joseph Seed was a crazed zealot. He believed himself to be a prophet, chosen by God. He is charismatic, which seems to be requisite of all Far Cry villains, he is calm and collected, creating a sense of dread within the player. He’s the best character in every scene and Far Cry 5 was lucky to have had such an effective and well-written villain.
Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min is a polite and charming dictator. Min’s witticisms always manage to put a smile on my face whenever I would load up Far Cry 4. His pink suit almost acts as a metonym for his personality, the quirky irreverence that starkly contrasts Kyrat’s landscape. There’s a reason why Troy Baker received such critical acclaim and numerous ‘Best Voice Actor’ nominations and awards, yet the game itself was never even in contention for ‘Game of the Year’.
What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said about Vaas, perhaps the greatest video game villain of all-time? His ruthlessness, his charm, his monologues, what isn’t there to love? As much as I adore all of these characters, Far Cry cannot continue to be carried by its villains. The gameplay is lacklustre and outdated, and much like Call of Duty, the series in need of serious improvements before I even consider buying the next game they throw at us. I’m afraid that Ubisoft will just continue milking this franchise, refusing to change and evolve the formula. They should just leave Far Cry behind, like most of their competitors already have.
I don’t think that these game franchises are bad, but they have been uninspired in recent years. I would love to see the developers spend time developing new franchises and games. Say what you want about Watch Dogs, but at least it was an interesting concept. The only alternative to this would be for these developers to care about their games once again, to build worlds with passion rather than just rehashing old stuff every year to keep the dollars rolling it.