They say humans are always victims of the present. But in the world of video games, we’re often victims of the past.
As nostalgia plays such a hefty role in our determination of the all-time greats, it’s difficult to determine where current games will rank on the list twenty-five years from now. A quarter-century is a very long time; these days, looking back to the late ’80s, we’re quick to say that games like Super Mario Bros. should be at or near the top of any “Greats” list.
So, in another few decades, where will Call of Duty rank? Obviously, sales isn’t the only factor when determining the best video games of all time, but it is a factor. It’s undeniable that CoD has played a significant role in the growth and ultimate explosion of the FPS genre.
But is it a pioneer?
That’s difficult to say. FPS aficionados will point to titles like Wolfenstein, DOOM, Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, Quake, and others; they’d be chosen for their contributions to the first-person mechanic and multiplayer entertainment. But at least in terms of the latter, shouldn’t Call of Duty be considered a pioneer of the genre? Or was it simply in the right place at the right time, when the industry was primed to explode in the realm of multiplayer entertainment?
Don’t forget that it wasn’t until Modern Warfare that CoD became the mammoth franchise that it is. Prior to that pivotal moment, CoD was just another FPS, usually competing against other franchises like Medal of Honor. Then again, perhaps Modern Warfare was enough to put CoD in the running for an all-time great, as it completely rejuvenated – and subsequently launched – a “new” IP. It wasn’t brand new, of course, but it was a very different beast when compared to the previous entry, Call of Duty 3.
Will we be all nostalgic about CoD?
We are when it comes to old-school gems from yesteryear, so why shouldn’t we be many years from now? That’s how it works, right? Those who are in their teenage years now will likely recall CoD with great fondness in twenty or twenty-five years, in very much the same way I recall games like Secret of Mana, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tecmo Bowl, and Chrono Trigger with great fondness.
Thing is, it’s impossible to really compare games now to games then, simply because the technology is drastically different. Some can argue about the purity and innocence of those old games but in the end, they’re so far inferior from a technical standpoint that they actually felt like different experiences. Video games now and video games then? Extremely different in terms of the type of entertainment they offered.
But nostalgia is entirely subjective. I’ll probably always call Final Fantasy Tactics my favorite game of all time, while from a more objective perspective, I know full well that FFT has been surpassed many times over (both technically and artistically). That’s why in the future, even when games have gone far past the CoD’s of today, this technological gap may not matter to current fans.
Too low on the critical reception scale…?
Maybe Call of Duty can’t register as high as some of the classics, just because the critical reception hasn’t been overwhelming. Sure, there are plenty of 9s out there for some of the CoD entries, especially Modern Warfare and Black Ops, but if you check the average Metascore of each CoD, the franchise as a whole doesn’t rank very high. At the same time, considering the gigantic impact it has had on the industry, shouldn’t we count that as a big factor?
Personally, when creating a “best of” list, I put a premium on overall quality (first) and innovation and revolutionary impact (second). That being the case, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put Call of Duty even in my top 50. Others may not see it this way, though…
What say you?