This is mostly due to Call of Duty.
Since it's arrival on the gaming scene, the COD series has become to gaming what Die Hard is to action films. The pinnacle... what everyone else is striving to achieve. You could describe a movie as, "Die Hard in space..." and people would get it. That now applies to COD.
But how did COD arrive at this point? What makes it different and makes others try to emulate and consistently fall short?
I'll give you seven things (seven days to MW3, after all):
- Killstreaks -- The simple addition of adding rewards for getting several (in latter games, many) kills in a row added an addicting and game changing dynamic to matches. You never lose the excitement of calling in your chopper... and knowing the other team is in a panic to have to deal with it. As COD has evolved over the years, so have the streaks, and MW3 has a lot of options. Sorry... saving that for another blog.
- Hardcore -- Introduced in COD4, you can see how central to COD it has become in one way... every new shooter has it as a mode, too. That's not say HC is perfect in COD (it's not, #MOARhardcore, please) but when your competition follows suit... you're doing something right.
- Perks -- Allowing you to focus your kits to how you like to play or to be able to counter what the opponent is doing makes it more accessible and fun. Want to stay invisible? There's a perk for that. Having trouble finding enemy explosives? Perk for that, too. With so many options to mix and match, players have to be on their toes.
- Prestige -- What do you do when you've reached the highest level in game? For some, the appeal of the game is lost without the thrill of unlocking weapons or completing challenges. Solution -- prestige. You reset your challenges, lose all your guns and perks, and start from scratch. Genius. MW3 is taking it to a whole new level... but I'm not going there just yet.
- Custom Classes -- By not restricting equipment and weapons to roles or teams, COD opened the game up to players to use what they liked and not feel restrained by the game. By having a variety of kits ready for use during a game, players didn't have to scramble to change their "Assault" class during the heat of combat or have to forgo a key piece of equipment because they want to use a certain weapon. A simple and effective idea that has yet to be fully embraced by other shooters (see Battlefield 3).
- It's About Moments -- The campaigns of COD feel like immersive movies. They have those "it moments" (sometimes whole levels "Ghillies In the Mist", anyone) with cut-scenes so large in scale or actions so touching with emotion they become larger than the game. MW2 was full of them from the nuke in the USA to the final moments of the game; COD campaigns never fail to deliver... even when controversial (not a fan of "No Russian").
- Annual Games -- With a new COD being released every year, the game never gets stale. You know you'll have a new campaign, new weapons, retooled or brand new perks to get your shooter on just around the corner. It has it's negatives, too. The hype never seems to die down and the games can feel like retreads... but it keeps COD in your gaming thoughts for 12 months a year.
Love it or hate it... COD has transcended gaming into a phenomenon all its own.
And it's not changing anytime soon.
Tomorrow... the enigma of 6.