Electronic Arts Needs To Get Off of Call of Duty’s Nuts

I’ve always said that trying to be like something else is the one way you guarantee that you’ll be nothing like it. You might copy the way it looks, the way it’s structured, and the way it presents itself — but you’ll lack the heart, the character and — more importantly — the success of whatever you’re trying to imitate.

I wish somebody would tell that to Electronic Arts.

Call of Duty is the most dominant franchise in the world of gaming today. Every release is a major blockbuster event, with hardcore gamers and their casual counterparts alike flocking to each fresh sequel. Activision has a cash cow on its hands that’s likely ripe for many more years of milking, and it would seem that Electronic Arts is jealous. In fact, EA has all but admitted as such, having made regular claims in the past that it is specifically gunning for Call of Duty’s position. EA CEO John Riccitiello has said before that he wants Medal of Honor and Battlefield to reclaim the first-person-shooter crown, and on one level, you can hardly blame a publisher for wanting to be the best in the business.

You can, however, blame a publisher for going about it the wrong way, and looking utterly desperate in the process.

It seems that every new first-person-shooter EA publishes has to be compared to Call of Duty in some way, both by the press and by EA itself. It really kicked off with the latest Medal of Honor, a game that couldn’t have been mirroring Modern Warfare more if it tried. Oh wait … it did try, and the straining, grasping effort was so plainly obvious to everybody who played it that the game looked rather pathetic in the process. Medal of Honor tried to copy Modern Warfare’s contemporary setting, memorable setpieces, and fast-paced multiplayer, but failed on all counts. It instead came across as a rather shallow, vapid, soulless mockery of the Modern Warfare games, and I personally believe that most of it was due entirely to the fact that the developers were trying so hard to be somebody else that they forgot to be themselves. Modern Warfare is a good game because Infinity Ward has a personal love of its series, with a very individual stamp that it puts on its games. Medal of Honor was a creative failure because Danger Close didn’t have that personal touch. It was trying to be something else, which only led Medal of Honor to become a pale reflection of a superior game.

Crysis 2 releases a little later this month, and I fear it’s falling into the same trap. EA and Crytek are making a massive deal of the game’s multiplayer, even releasing a multiplayer demo on Xbox Live, PC and PSN. Even an idiot could tell you that releasing a multiplayer demo on Xbox Live that isn’t Halo or Call of Duty is a bad idea. However, you look at what Crytek is offering and we see the Call of Duty copypasta initiative at work again — a focus on XP, perks and attachments, in a game that, when you play it, feels like a Call of Duty game with invisibility and super-jumps casually tossed into the mix. Now, I’m not against appropriating things from other games that work — but given EA’s stated mission to beat Call of Duty, and the shameless way in which Crytek is promoting its CoD-like multiplayer experience, I can’t help but wonder how much of the design was influenced by EA’s overwhelming desire to beat Call of Duty by producing sub-standard imitations.

I have a lot of hope for Crysis 2, although I really want to play the single-player. That EA’s marketing has sidestepped the campaign in favor of the multiplayer worries me a little. With each new multiplayer trailer that gets released — and a lot of them have — it seems that Crysis 2 is looking more and more like a sci-fi CoD game rather than its own unique thing, and you’re never going to beat Call of Duty if you try to be Call of Duty. Not even your stereotypical CoD fan is that stupid.

It doesn’t look like EA’s modus operandi is going to change anytime soon. Battlefield 3 is currently turning heads, but already the comparisons to Call of Duty are circulating around the Internet. It seems the cycle that we saw with Medal of Honor is happening once again, with EA claiming that this is the year it will become a major force in the first-person-shooter genre, and that Battlefield 3 will lead the charge. I have every hope that Battlefield 3 will be a good title, but if EA insists that DICE do the same thing Danger Close did, and make a concerted, conscious effort to beat Call of Duty at its own game, then I don’t predict we’ll have a great product on our hands. I’d rather see Battlefield 3 stand out on its own merits and not attempt to ape another franchise. I want to see the game strive to be different, and have that unique, personal touch that helped Call of Duty become the major player it is today. You don’t become top dog in this industry by blatantly copying something else — just ask the PlayStation Move how that works out.

EA has some great original titles. The Dead Space series has become a successful example, a game that wasn’t trying to “beat” anything and thus stood on its own without trying to ride on somebody else’s coattails. EA is better than that, and it’s pretty embarrassing to see the publisher gunning for Activision in such a way that it looks almost obsessive. I’m sure the only thing it’s achieved is to give Bobby Kotick an even bigger ego.

I urge EA, for its own good, to drop the grudge against Call of Duty and focus not on victory, but on creativity. Stop trying to be Call of Duty, because you’ll never beat it that way.

Just make some good fucking videogames.

Excited for Crysis 2 despite its nut-getting-on-ness? Feast your eyes on our full game guide.

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28 Comments on Electronic Arts Needs To Get Off of Call of Duty’s Nuts

DeathStrikeVirus

On March 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

If Battlefield 3 stays true to its Battlefield roots as a TRUE sequel to Battlefield 2, then it can beat CoD. Battlefield 3 needs to do a balancing act of staying true to Battlefield veterans, while making it more accessible for new players. Remember, the ranks, perks, unlocks and such were all part of Battlefield 2, CoD only dumbed them down to appeal to the masses.

I agree, I don’t want them to be CoD. Sure Activision has a major cash cow, but if EA has more titles doing their own thing and selling almost as well, wouldn’t EA then be winning?

mrandydixon

On March 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Couldn’t agree more… though I wouldn’t have stopped at EA.

In fact, other than Reach, I can’t think of a single MP game that HASN’T employed some sort of XP/custom loadouts/whatever gimmick in the last few years. Granted, some of them have worked better than others, but it’s certainly the trend this generation.

chumpcore

On March 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Battlefield like Call of Duty? Ha…no. Though the look may be similar, Battlefield isn’t running around the same maps in a circle the whole time. There is at least some sort of strategy, for the most part. Not too mention vehicles. Destructible walls and buildings anyone? I’ve played demos of the COD series after CODMW and there isn’t enough there to get me to want to buy the same game. Just wish EA was more mod friendly when it comes to the Battlefield series.

avrus96

On March 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Good article. I totally agree w/ you, but this isn’t just EA’s problem; Crysis 2 is more similar to Crysis 1 than to COD (no one will take the MP seriously), while MOH was declared ahead of time to be a mix of bc2 (best game ever) and cod (ummm..) so the end result was half-baked. More recently, Homefront, Battle: LA, and Breach have been trying directly to imitate CoD’s success at a lower price point. What gets me is that from MW2 onwards, CoD has not been appealing to me at all, so a game that tries to imitate it feels a lot like Need for Speed Shift 2 is gonna feel for rFactor/LFS fans.

juan

On March 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I remember onetime many people said that COD is an imitation of MOH when it is still the #1 FPS, now its the other way around… geezz… the altest MOH need a good storyline and long one…. i rarely play MP m y effing internet is damn too slow sometimes..

David

On March 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

The footage of Battlefield 3 so far revealed is pretty spectacular, but the giant “Follow” icon makes me worried about its gameplay.

Bill

On March 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Completely disagree with your comparison of MOH and COD.I have played both and I had played COD regularly for years up until Black Ops.I feel COD is much more arcadish and players take much more advantage of glitches and cheating in COD by far!! Makes the gameplay unfair and much less enjoyable than MOH.I also feel MOH has significantly better graphics than COD.Although the single player campaign in MOH was way too short,I still feel it out ranked COD in every aspect.

Heru

On March 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm

All COD did was adopt EA’s own approach to Madden, releasing a slightly changed/updated game every year. Lets be honest here though, the last really awesome CoD was 4. Every one since then has just been a facelift, and really how many times can you play the same damn game before you want something different? MOH was garbage. Last MOH that didnt suck was Allied Assault and that was in what, 2001-2002? I just hope DICE keeps Battlefield like Battlefield, because a regurgitated CoD clone is the last thing the world needs. Thats exactly what Bad Company 2 was, CoD with tanks. And while it was superior to CoD in most was, at its heart is was still more CoD-clone than Battlefield.

Heres to BF3 not sucking!

Babaganoosh

On March 17, 2011 at 12:20 am

MW2′s success is like WoW’s success, it’s not that it’s a great game it’s that ANYONE can play it.

My BFF Jill on Facebook can help me do 2 v 2 snipers only on rust in MW2.

Leo

On March 17, 2011 at 4:54 am

This had to be the dumbest article I’ve ever read. Typical for a 13 year old COD player. brbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrb

Brandon J. Clark

On March 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

“but the giant “Follow” icon makes me worried about its gameplay.”

Don’t be…. that’s most likely just single player help or even demo help. Expect to pull down your pants with BF3, people.

Pedro Silva

On March 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Common! Just because another game has it it doesnt mean you cant put it one yours! The gaming industry see that we like determined features in games and they stick with them!

I stop liking the Call of Duty series after MW2 came out. (MW was awesome by the way)

And i personaly enjoyed Medal of Honnor (Totaly agree with Bill)

Reviews have to be done by someone who doesnt even like the genre of the game in question, if not, we’ll continue see fantastic games getting reviews reviews(MoH,Homefront(havent played it yet but i bet it happened like that, and so on) JUST because they have something the other has!!! COMMON.

kushwow

On March 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Bad Article.

You give few if any concrete examples to explain to someone who hasn’t played these games how they are trying to “ape” CoD. Use examples, it will make you a better journalist.

Cam'ron

On March 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm

@Pedro Silva. Common != come on.

Games shouldn’t be “dumbed down” so the masses can play them. Specialization and distinct gameplay are what makes games great. The Halo series really went away from what they were all about and thus, have a greater following and much worse game because of it.

Here’s my example: http://gizmodo.com/#!5779867/facebook-is-aolifying-the-internetand-that-sucks

People don’t want to be using/playing/apart of something that everyone else is. They like to be unique and different. If someone is going to tell them what to do and how to play, they are going to stop playing it.

To quote Apple of old “Think Different.”

Cam'ron

On March 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Thanks gamefront for making my link in a comment work. #notyourbest

Bonesy

On March 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Poorly researched article at best. It honestly sounds like you have no idea what you’re taking about or you gathered your info from a few poorly written forum posts on gamefaqs.

Vicekage

On March 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I agree that Medal of Honor was a game that was trying to cash in on the bohemoth that is COD. And MOH sucked. However, I dont think that Battlefield has ever tried to be Call of Duty. Yes they are both FPS, but I allways thought that the developers of the Battlefield series sat down and said “We dont want to be Call of Duty”, and I think they accomplished that. Both COD and Battlefield are great games but why would Battlefield now try to emulate COD when they have an awesome thing going for themselves, doesnt make sense to me.

Rich

On March 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm

So how much were you paid by Activision to write this? I have black Ops and the online is horrible,lag, hit detection issues and server disconnects just to name a few issues. All they did was give a previous version a facelift and hyped the hell out of it because they know that people will by it just to say they have it like the madden series not much improvements. I also agree with Bill more players on there take advantage of the glitches and ways to cheat in the series and the patches they release do nothing to resolve the issues they have.

Anon

On March 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

It’s silly to say just make a good game when multiplayer drives the ridiculous sales numbers that make COD a phenomenon. That being said I like medal of honor multiplayer more than COD, and danger close was my first one, I’ve been with COD since COD 3.

Michael

On March 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Yet another COD fanboy…..leave the basement and come back to the REAL world….

Sho

On March 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

COD, from MW to MW2 to BO, increasingly felt more and more like an action movie rather than a realistic shooter. Other than in MW, there’s nothing to COD but multiplayer. The singleplayer in MW was great, hand down. MW2 had a short, nice but hardly noteworthy singleplayer, and Black OPs? Made me felt like I was Rambo, spewing bullets and having things explode without dying or hardly even being shot at. Plus, the multiplayer? Went downhill. Activision has a lot of cash on COD, but taking it away trom Infinity Ward and handing it to TreyArch just messed it up. I mean Reznov becoming a political prisoner? man, he was the kind of guy the Russians would put as an example to the common man in those days. TreyArch was just trying to cash in on Infinity Ward’s characters. Not that I’m against TreyArch but taking the original developers off a franchise in the third game? That’ll cause some snags. Activision has a great cash cow now, but it may not last for long.

esobat

On March 18, 2011 at 11:57 am

How can you right this entire article without mentioning that its not about EA and Activision its all about infinity ward. Back in the days when medal of honor was top dog in the FPS genre they were being made by a studio called 2015 inc. under EA before they were acquired by Activision to create the call of duty series under the name of Infinity Ward. EAs long struggle to bring their fps products back into its former glory has been tough to watch but with the head of Infinity ward gone, and many of there employees with them, from Activision and likely to start working with EA again we might just see them do it. I enjoyed the article and it makes a valid point about the stale feel of the market today but I think you should write another article from a ground up perspective focusing on the talent behind these games instead of a top down look at the management. I mean to mention dice studios and your fear of them copy catting CoD without mentioning that they made the jump from world war II to modern scenarios first or their rich multiplayer history and ingenuity?! In short the publishers can fight all they want but without talented people like those at Infinity Ward to back them up they’ll never win.

Also battlefield FTW!

avrus

On March 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Well stated, esobat!

Ace

On March 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

“I urge EA, for its own good, to drop the grudge against Call of Duty and focus not on victory, but on creativity. Stop trying to be Call of Duty, because you’ll never beat it that way.”

It’s like the MMO industry. Something’s always trying to trump WoW by being WoW. They all failed. I don’t want to start a “WoW is always better than X MMO”, but I’ll just let the number of players both games have speak for themselves, historically.

But it never fails to irk me when the profound success of a title inspires other companies to make a clone. Because it’s just that. A clone. Meaning the original will always be better. Why? Because they’ve built the game according to the standards set by the original.

Screw that.

Companies are just hoping for quick monies and a faster return on investment by following something that worked very well for someone else. This is what leads to a saturation of game clones that never quite live up to the expectation the original had set.

If the gaming industry is to continue to develop further and in a positive direction, creativity is required – no exceptions. We do not more complacency, more “playing it safe” meaning that I’ll-just-skip-the -creativity-process-and-copy-someone-else.

EA doing this only tells me to stay away from them. It’s like wearing a shirt that reads “I HAVE NO CREATIVITY, TAKE PITY ON ME AND BUY MY CLONES”.

maxime

On April 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

they not trying to BE call of duty idiot they just gonna beat the crap out of that boring linear Non destructible game And they WILL SUCCEDE im 100% sure about it

maxime

On April 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

some ppl say EA dosent have creativity but they arent the 1 making the SAME BLOODY BORING GAME 3-4 times in a row

fred

On June 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Finally, a good article. Has no one saw this before. I remember when battlefield two and MW2 came out and everyone said battlefield was going to beat out MW2. I didnt see that happen. Its not going to happen this year either. Ive been playing COD since call of duty 2 and always enjoyed it. Yeah a couple of guys will try and glitch and it just made a better player to look for these guys, but they always patch everything. I just cant wait till these games come out so i can stop seeing Battlefield 3 crap when i type Modern warfare 3. All EA does is talk trash, but they dont bring anything to the table. Oh did you guys here the latest. Battlefield 3 is running at 30 FPS, and they are copying spec ops. LOL

Jack

On October 1, 2011 at 1:57 am

Butthurt field 3 fans all over, thinking they are all strategic and with their “bullet drop” and destructible walls . Kids go get some tan. Call of duty will wipe his ass on your game , yeah same engine , fast paced gameplay for the people that want to play with their friends and have some fun . EA tries desperatly to make fun of COD , so what ? Spend 100 million dollars for advertising … oh man they can’t be more desperate than this . You can have whatever engine you want frostbite still looks like compared to a moded Cryengine 2 .