About eight or so years back I found myself oddly mystified by the Call of Duty series.
Up to that point I had never been a huge fan of first person shooters, enjoying the occasional foray into the genre with games like the original Doom and Wolfenstein 3D in my youth, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark in the N64 era and the first two Halo games in early 2000s.
With Call of Duty: World at War I fell in love with the style of gameplay the CoD series brought to the historic shooter genre. I loved the campaign first and foremost and after finishing WaW’s single player game I ran out and picked up a used copy of the original Modern Warfare. Again I loved the campaign but with that game I also got roped into playing the multiplayer as well.
For a few years thereafter the series was my favorite FPS, pouring an obscene amount of my free time into the games spanning Modern Warfare, World at War, Modern Warfare 2 and lastly Black Ops.
With Black Ops I personally feel the series reached its peak. The game had an excellent campaign dealing with Cold War politics, mind control, the horrors of chemical warfare and it played with the protagonist’s perception of events but its multiplayer is where the game really shined. While far from perfect, containing the issues that still plague the series today (namely no dedicated servers and people who turn the fast and frantic action into boring slogs of hide and seek) it was by far my favorite FPS to play competitively until the game and series were unseated a year later by another franchise. In my opinion the Black Ops multiplayer had the best overall balance in the series, the weapons feeling well balanced and the vast majority of the maps being very fun to play on (with the notable exception of Nuketown, fuck Nuketown).
The next year Modern Warfare 3 came out and both the campaign and multiplayer were a step down from Black Ops, starting a trend that has continued until today. I’ve played all the CoD games (with the exception of Advanced Warfare) that have come out since and not a one of them have felt as good to me as the original Black Ops.
A week or so back Call of Duty: Black Ops showed up on the backwards compatibility list on Xbox One and I could not wait to fire it up again for the sake of nostalgia. In the last couple of days I made my return to my favorite shooter from six years ago and jumping into the multiplayer for the first time in about five years felt like coming home. I was surprised to see that after several hours of time in the game that I hadn’t seen any of the hacking issues other CoD games were plagued with in the years after their fall from popularity. According to the on screen information the player base was between 24 and 45 thousand, a far cry from its glory days but still enough players to provide nothing but full rooms to play in. Thanks to the CoD tradition of never really updating their graphics engine the game still looks comparable to its modern brethren and played as smooth as it ever did. I still saw some connectivity issues with players with lesser internet connections skipping around the map in the unsettling laggy way of days past and the advantages of being the host still showed themselves as that one player still could be seen moving faster, killing more effectively and escaping death on the regular. Hit scan weapons still provide the frustrating experience of shooting a foe, getting a bunch of hit-markers and then getting stabbed or shot in the face.
At the end of my time with the game this early morning hour I still found myself enjoying myself more than not. While I still prefer the experience of Battlefield 4 or Overwatch to the dated CoD feel I can not deny the nostalgic joy I felt running around in what was once my favorite game on some of my all time favorite maps shooting and getting shot by total strangers.
I’ll likely play it again sometime soon, maybe even stream the campaign and some of the multiplayer but the two biggest lessons I’ve learned tonight are:
Nuketown is still the worst and killing people with the tomahawk is still the most satisfying way to eliminate an enemy in the game.