“FIFTY thousand people used to live here. Now it’s a ghost town.”

Those were the opening words of the intro to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007, kicking off one of the most memorable first-person shooter single player campaigns of all-time.

The game took players from US Marine missions in the Middle East to covert SAS missions in the afore-mentioned ghost town of Pripyat, home of the Chernobyl disaster.

It also included ground-breaking events such as a player-controlled character dying in a nuclear explosion and a level where, as a C-130 pilot you coolly and calmly identifying enemies using thermal heat scope and blowing them away.

“That’s another kill” your co-pilot would deadpan as you took the life of three more soldiers. It was the first time a video game had made me feel uncomfortable with carnage.

It was a powerful level in a powerful game. A game that set the standard for what AAA shooter games should aim for.

But last week came the big news that the next Call of Duty game, Black Ops IIII (out on October 12), will be the first in the series not to feature a single-player campaign.

To some people, that’s not a problem. Either, like me, they play Call of Duty primarily for the fast-paced, addictive multi-player or the separate zombies mode.

In recent years, as the quality of the campaigns has gradually declined, the single-player portions of the game are only something I try if I have the time.

The recent Call of Duty: WWII campaign was fine but hardly memorable, while I gave up on Black Ops 3 after one muddled mission.

But publishers Activision must know there is a sizeable chunk of their audience who buy Call of Duty every year exclusively to play the six or seven hours of crafted story missions.

They know they will lose some sales over this decision to go multi-player only. But they also know they will save a hell of a lot of money on production costs – and they won’t be passing those savings onto the gamer.

Black Ops IIII may be lacking a significant and traditional part of the annual Call of Duty Experience but it will still cost you the same as every other recent edition of the franchise.

Yes, there are three zombie levels in the box as opposed to the usual one, plus the introduction of Blackout – Call of Duty’s answer to the Battle Royale trend popularised by PUBG and Fortnite. But none of those make up for the lack of a story mode.

And what Activision also knows is that a customer who pays a one-off fee, ploughs through the single-player story and then trades the game in at their local gaming store is far less valuable to them than the one who invests thousands of hours into multi-player, spends £35 on the season pass and countless more on in-game loot boxes.

Activision has said that the Black Ops IIII decision doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be single-player campaigns in future releases.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that if Black Ops IIII saves more in productions costs and loot boxes than it loses in sales from disgruntled solo gamers, that will set a precedent for the future.

To paraphrase SAS trooper Gaz: “Millions of people used to play single player Call of Duty. On October 12, it will be a ghost town.”

CALL of Duty’s big first-person shooter rival Battlefield also announced its upcoming release in the past few days.

Battlefield V is set in World War II and will be released on October 19. Or October 11 if you have pay for EA Access on Xbox One.
A brief trailer for the game has clearly divided opinions, currently sitting at 188,000 likes on YouTube and 162,000 dislikes.

Battlelines have clearly been drawn over the use of some untraditional World War II imagery in the game. A female British soldier with blue war paint on her face and a robotic arm features strongly in the footage and has upset those claiming they want the game to be historically accurate.

The other camp have been laughing in their faces, pointing out a game where you respawn when you die and can parachute off an airship and land straight into a tank can hardly be described as realistic.

Some claim the critics of the woman’s presence are showing thinly-disguised misogyny, and have declared all critics of Battlefield V to be alt-right sexists. Judging by some the vitriolic, hate-filled comments on YouTube, they may have a point.

Either way, the reason for Electronic Arts embrace of a slightly alternative view of World War II, with brighter colours and more customizable soldiers is probably a lot to do with their desire to chase the younger Fortnite crowd, for whom the dusty old 1940s is a bit uncool.

And with the decision to scrap the season pass and make all future maps and modes available to all Battlefield V players, EA needs to make its money somewhere.

And it’s a lot easier to flog gamers blue face-paint, robotic arms and Japanese katana swords than it is different variants of army camouflage for your Lee Enfield rifle.

Regardless, Battlefield has never sold itself as a realism-heavy simulator. It’s trying to move with the times and should be applauded for it.
If you won’t play a game because it features a woman, maybe the problem lies with you.

Ultimately, the big question should be, Battlefield V or Black Ops IIII? Or both?


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