Call of Duty, Where Art Thou?

GaemzDood

Well-Known Member
#1
I've been playing Call of Duty since I was in 3rd grade (if you're wondering, no, I wasn't a squeaker) and I've owned and put tons of hours into every Call of Duty installment including the bad ones like Call of Duty 3 and the DS titles. I've even played the Wii versions of some (well, just Modern Warfare Reflex) titles despite all of the problems those versions had (controls, framerate, and input lag). I'm not trying to be an elitist or brag about "CoD cred," this is just something I've noticed from playing these games for years.

The series is declining. There are multiple reasons, but while some will be quick to point out that the same thing happened with Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, this is nowhere near as bad as that and the situation is much different. However, this should still be talked about.

Lets start off with an easy to pick out issue: Presentation and Performance
When Advanced Warfare came out and was subsequently patched, it became the new benchmark for all other Call of Duty games to follow. On PS4, the game ran at a native 1080p presentation along with a nigh-locked 60 FPS framerate in the campaign (I reiterate, if you played the patched version), which past Call of Duty games struggled with. On Xbox One, you got a resolution between 1360x1080p and 1920x1080p during the campaign, along with the same solid framerate during gameplay. While there were nitpicks like the lack of an FOV slider despite other console games at the time featuring them (Shadow Warrior), which really does affect gameplay if you're like me and low FOVs actually make it harder for you to play games, it was still an extremely technically sound game that played great and looked amazing on a 1080p TV, provided you fix the black crush issue on the Xbox One version. Also, I encountered no bugs whatsoever, and I beat the game on both Xbox One and PS4.

Fast forward a year later. Treyarch is implementing a ton of new rendering features. New baked irradiance global illumination system that's extremely flexible and allows for unified lighting, deferred rendering, volumetric lighting, new realistic ambient occlusion that's modeled after the (ray traced) ground truth solution for diffuse and specular occlusion that looks better than Nvidia's HBAO, and the way they completely redid all of their tools, editors, etc. from scratch in a year is noteworthy. Their take on reducing latency is in a league of its own too. However, since Call of Duty is a yearly franchise, it may come as no surprise that in the process of implementing these features and extreme engine changes while trying to meet a November deadline, something was bound to be sacrificed. In terms of nitpicks, certain effects seem pared back compared to Advanced Warfare, most notably the motion blur is of a lower quality and seems to cause dithering and banding and the resolution scaling on Xbox One causes strange bugs like lower quality mipmaps. What they really messed up on was the image quality and performance. The added Filmic SMAA really isn't enough to save it, as in certain spots on Xbox One, it legitimately could pass as a last gen game. The PS4 also suffers from a lower resolution, running as low as Advanced Warfare on Xbox One. However, performance was an utter trainwreck if you weren't playing on PS4 Pro or PC with patches. The game spends a lot of time between 40 and 50 FPS with near constant tearing, and can sometimes dip down to the 30s or even below 30 FPS in rare instances. Real time cutscenes are arbitrarily capped at 30 FPS for some reason too, despite not being the case with literally every other past Call of Duty game. Overall, despite the technical improvements, the game feels so rushed that it's reminiscent of Call of Duty 3.

Fast forward a year later again, Infinite Warfare once again completely rewrote the rendering pipeline and unlike Black Ops III, they're more committed to hitting a solid 60 FPS. Also, it's targeting 1080p on both platforms like Advanced Warfare. Sounds like a return to form, but then the game came out. In some respects, it was. The PS4 Pro version was absolutely stunning in addition to basically having nigh flawless performance and the PS4 version is also an okay performer. Xbox One owners got screwed though, with performance so bad that the entire Xbox Call of Duty community was in an uproar, forcing Infinity Ward to acknowledge the issue and work on a patch. I played the Xbox port myself, and I actually had to stop playing because the bad framerate and screen tearing almost made me nauseous. The promised 1080p was a farce, with the game running as low as 960x1080p, which combined with the anti-aliasing being dynamic in addition to the resolution, results in some scenes looking worse than Black Ops III on Xbox One. Also, the game flat out abuses CGI cutscenes. While they're high quality, the transition from real time 60 FPS gameplay to pre-rendered 30 FPS CGI cutscenes for literally every scene is jarring, and there's no fading transition either. It just immediately switches.

Modern Warfare Remastered was a return to form in the presentation and framerate department, with a full 1080p resolution on both vanilla PlayStation and Xbox consoles backed up by solid performance and beautiful visuals (barring some ugly haloing, Ground Truth or Hemi AO would have done good).

Call of Duty: WWII is perhaps the worst offender, with image quality so bad that it can actually reach sub-720p resolutions on the Xbox One. Bearing in mind that this is an 18 player corridor shooter running on a modified Advanced Warfare engine, I can't help but be appalled. The PS4 version is also running at 960x1080p again, much like Infinite Warfare, so no improvements there. Pro owners don't get the same excellent dynamic 4k support from Infinite Warfare and Black Ops III, with the game now running at a meager 1440x1620p. If multiplayer is this bad, I'm worried about the campaign.

In short, return to what made Advanced Warfare and MWR such well optimized games.

Also, onto the sound design, literally every Call of Duty game has lacked in this area. MWR actually downgraded the sound from the original Modern Warfare. If you want good sound design, look into Brutal Doom, the original FEAR, Syndicate 2012, or Black on the original Xbox. Take note Call of Duty developers. I want guns to sound like guns. When I fire a shotgun, I want to be firing a cannon.

The Campaign
Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare were actually quite good in this aspect, barring the latter's random deus ex machinas, overdone heroics, and laughably forced EVERYBODY DIES THE END tearjerkers. They were legitimately good campaigns. Advanced Warfare comparatively cut back on the superhuman (everything "superhuman" was from the exo suit, not you) heroics, delivered solid performances from the characters, and even touches on moral ambiguous topics like the role of private contractors in the world of the modern military and how much power they should have. It also recaptures the old school Call of Duty feel from 1, United Offensive, 2, and 4: Modern Warfare, such as you being a soldier without any stakes in the war you're fighting; there's no "ultra elite badass commando super squad" nonsense from Call of Duty: Ghosts. The pacing was also excellent too, with tons of gameplay variety not seen in any other CoD game this generation.

Then we get to Black Ops III, a game that was basically a spin-off and had no right to be called Black Ops III. Enough has been said about the story in this game, from the nonexistent pacing, to the abysmal writing and lack of any explanation for what's going on aside from some abysmal exposition. You're once again a member of an ultra badass rogue Black Ops unit with brodudes that sound like they didn't even care about their lines and seem to have a tendency to drop the f-bomb at random intervals. They even had the audacity to throw Nazi zombies into the campaign. Also, just to show how lazy the campaign was, they didn't even give your character a name. Treyarch, if you're listening, bring back the C&C and continue Black Ops II's story minus the bad writing and superhuman invincibility levels.

Hopefully, WWII brings back the feeling that you're just another soldier(s) fighting a war that you have no stakes in as opposed to the jingoism found in say, Ghosts. I also hope they don't overdo the heroics, as believe it or not, heroics weren't a big part of the original Call of Duty titles. That said, it's looking good so far. They dumped the regenerating health for the campaign and one of the characters you play as is a 17 year old Texan. The squad based mechanics sound extremely refreshing too.

Servers, Multiplayer, Monetization, Balancing
This has to be the biggest decline I've ever seen in a first person shooter. How do you go from 32 player matches with fully custom dedicated servers that allow for matches with up to 64 players, along with an actual server browser, perfect connections, and mod support to P2P 18 player matches? Also, in Call of Duty 4 and World at War, the admins set the rules in order to unscrew the balancing. Yes, you got those shitty "realism" servers that were anything but, but otherwise, it assisted with balancing. These were PC games proper.

Also, you'll never see Galactic Warfare in MWR. Speaking of MWR, how about the fact that they made it pay to win, charged $15 for a map pack that was originally FREE, forcibly downgraded the player count on all platforms, and removed everything I listed above about the original Modern Warfare? Wonderful. They seemed like they were going in the right direction with the December update, as well as adding Gun Game and Hardpoint, modes that were absent in the original, but then they completely messed it up from there.

Black Ops III got it mostly right with the weapon balancing, but then they fucking made it pay to win. Advanced Warfare's balancing sucked since everybody used the ASM1 and BAL 27, but they made it even worse with the supply drops.

Also, pretty much every modern Call of Duty is guaranteed to have symmetrical maps with two lanes, three if you're lucky. Black Ops II's maps were pretty good in that regard. However, with WWII, it looks like they made the same mistakes again. What I mean is that the spawns are awful and encourage spawn trapping, the maps are mostly two lane, the servers lag even on good connections, the weapon balancing is completely screwed and geared towards SMGs, there's less customization compared to even Call of Duty 4. War mode sounds like it has a lot of potential, but because nobody actually communicates as a team and everyone wants to pad out their K/D ratio, it's basically dead. Once again, everybody is on TDM.

In terms of raw balancing, vanilla Call of Duty 4 still gets it right. Yes, you can unlock attachments (and skins, but that doesn't mean much) for your guns, but rather than locking the best guns out to players, you get the M16 early on and it only takes 25 kills to get the red dot sight. All the other weapons are viable too, if you want to experiment. This is where MW2 and everything onwards got completely wrong. That said, not even Call of Duty 4 was perfect. Unlocking attachments is still one of the stupidest things ever invented, Martyrdom was so bad that they had to remove it from later games, and grenade spam was annoying. HOWEVER, this was averted by simply not allowing grenades on a map as an admin. The killstreak system was actually well balanced in 4 as well. UAVs? Not a problem, use Cold Blooded. Airstrikes? Be in a building. Helicopters, which sound like a massive disadvantage can be countered by staying in a building, using Cold Blooded, or just shooting it down.

Bring these elements back. Obviously not the grenade spam or attachment unlocks, but everything else. If you want an active playerbase that will stick with your game, give them incentive. Don't monetize the game, make the DLC free so the playerbase isn't split, balance the weapon stats and killstreaks, and bring back that freedom of choice from Call of Duty 4 and World at War; what I mean is the freedom to pick servers, customize them, and mod them.
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GaemzDood

Well-Known Member
#2
Bumping because Black Ops IV.

Tl;dr: All I want is 1080p and 60 FPS on PS4 and Xbox One (well, 1360x1080 would work too if MWR and AW are proof), a good campaign that continues off Black Ops II, no microtransactions, and better multiplayer maps.
 

Shoulder

Your Resident Beardy Bear
#3
Bumping because Black Ops IV.

Tl;dr: All I want is 1080p and 60 FPS on PS4 and Xbox One (well, 1360x1080 would work too if MWR and AW are proof), a good campaign that continues off Black Ops II, no microtransactions, and better multiplayer maps.
Most likely you'll be getting an adaptive 1080p resolution, with Xbox One taking more of a resolution hit, and hitting less than 60fps more frequently. PS4 will likely hold 60fps and 1080p on a more regular basis. Basically, I could see a similar comparison to DOOM on both OG platforms.
 

GaemzDood

Well-Known Member
#5
The CoD games have been surprisingly stable in most iterations. 60 FPS is a standard for them in most cases.
Black Ops III ran terribly on every system besides PS4 Pro. Infinite Warfare ran horribly on Xbox One & X, and I encountered multiple glitches on PS4 Pro including the game freezing, getting stuck in loading screens, and crashing my PS4. I'm not making that up, lol.
 

GaemzDood

Well-Known Member
#6
Most likely you'll be getting an adaptive 1080p resolution, with Xbox One taking more of a resolution hit, and hitting less than 60fps more frequently. PS4 will likely hold 60fps and 1080p on a more regular basis. Basically, I could see a similar comparison to DOOM on both OG platforms.
A while back, we were talking about diminishing returns in sequels' visual quality. Well no other series represents that better than Call of Duty. Literally every post Advanced Warfare title barring MWR runs at a lower resolution and framerate, with visual differences that don't stick out to average consumers.

DOOM actually runs more consistently at 1080p than any latest Call of Duty title. Infinite Warfare & WWII run at 960x1080p while DOOM runs at 1080p 99.9% of the time and only drops 90% (1728) on the horizontal axis in extreme scenarios.
 

Koenig

The Architect
#7
Black Ops III ran terribly on every system besides PS4 Pro. Infinite Warfare ran horribly on Xbox One & X, and I encountered multiple glitches on PS4 Pro including the game freezing, getting stuck in loading screens, and crashing my PS4. I'm not making that up, lol.
I say "most" games in the series :p


Don't get me started on CoD Ghost's. I know that Infinity Ward had just lost all of their core talent, but even outside of game design, the game ran poorly by most accounts. The game completely crashed my system close to 100 times, and I mean that literally.
 

GaemzDood

Well-Known Member
#8
I say "most" games in the series :p


Don't get me started on CoD Ghost's. I know that Infinity Ward had just lost all of their core talent, but even outside of game design, the game ran poorly by most accounts. The game completely crashed my system close to 100 times, and I mean that literally.
Ironically enough, Call of Duty: Ghosts on Xbox One actually runs much better than both Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare, and the PS4 version averages around 58 FPS, so not too far off Infinite Warfare on PS4.

The Wii U and PC versions though holy shit they're bad.
 
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