Nobody plays the Campaign modes, so why does Call of Duty even have them anymore?
I was there when “Soap” McTavish took down Zakhaev. I was there, at the Battle of Stalingrad, when Dimitri did his best “Enemy at The Gates” impression. I was there when Roach sprung Captain Price from the gulag. I was there when Mason thought he was losing his marbles. I was there for “No Russian“. I was there when Woods had a jam with Avenge Sevenfold. I was even there for Call of Doggy, Ghosts (Riley FTW) and I was there to “Press Square to Feel” with Kevin Spacey. All told, I’ve played through the campaign of 10 Call of Duty games, dating back to 2005 and spanning multiple console generations.
What I won’t be there for though is the Black Ops III campaign.
I normally look forward to my yearly instalment of highly polished shooting-corridor fun. While the multiplayer seems to be the main appeal of the Call of Duty games, I have always taken the time out to mindlessly blast my way through the campaigns designed to make you feel like the most bad ass human killing machine ever created. But this year, Call of Duty Black Ops III has left me feeling empty. I’ve tried to get into it. I’ve really tried – but for some reason it just hasn’t “clicked” with me.
I blame a portion of this on the co-op element of Black Ops III that leave a very poor first impression. Starting the campaign for the first time treats you to the obligatory scene-setting video, like we’ve had in every Call of Duty game since the first Modern Warfare. Once it’s finished you are dumped, unceremoniously, into the Co-op “lobby”. There’s no explanation of what you are doing there or where you are. You are just dropped into an area with terminals with which you can choose your load out with no direction of what to do or where to go. It’s a poor start to the game in series which is renowned for its hand-holding guidance.
Then there is the first mission. What a shambles. I’ve criticised Call of Duty for being a “Watching someone Walk in front of you Simulator” in the past, but that first mission is the epitome of that lazy design. Walk behind a guy. Press a button. Walk behind him some more. Shoot a few dudes. Walk behind him a third time. Swap First guy for a new guy. Walk behind him for a little while. I quit the level at this point. I’ve still not finished it.
I’m not alone. Only 14.6% of people have finished the first level of Black Ops III on Hardered difficulty or higher. Less than 10% of players have actually finished the campaign on PS4 on any difficulty level.
Sure, I would agree with the argument that “Its only been out a few months, give it time” but this isn’t a trend exclusive to Black Ops III. Advanced Warfare’s campaign has been completed by less than 30% of players (according to the trophy rarity on PS4) and that has been on the market for a year and a half. Call of Duty Ghosts? It’s an even smaller percentage – so why don’t Activision and its trio of developers just drop the campaigns all together?
To play devils advocate with myself (the voices in your head talking again? -Ed), there are a few reasons I can think of. Firstly, some people love the campaigns. I’m one of these people. When I’ve had enough of being called an array of profanities by an 11-year-old online, I like to chill out with some cannon fodder that don’t talk back after I’ve killed them. Would I be disappointed if they removed the campaigns from future CoD games? Maybe, but as long as the resources were reassigned to work on cool Single Player experiences elsewhere, I could deal with that.
Secondly, the profit margin. Removing the campaigns has a whole myriad of consequences to how much Activision could charge for a Call of Duty game – Does it make it cheaper? Do they sell the single player content separately? Do we even need to release a game this year or could this years content just be a large DLC patch? How much could we save on development? What kind of backlash can we expect? So many questions, all of which I expect Activision have asked themselves on numerous occasions based on the performance of the China-only Call of Duty Online.
Lastly, the Elephant in the room, is Black Ops III on PS3 and Xbox 360. According to VGChartz (Yeah, I know, but where else am I supposed to get a ball park figure on sales) the last-gen version of BO3 sold a combined total of ~3m copies. That’s approximately 15% of the retail sales for consoles. That percentage drops even further if you include the PC sales too. This was also the first version of a Call of Duty game (that isn’t CoD Online) to launch without a campaign. There are a lot of factors in play here – the push by Sony with the Black Ops III console, the dwindling last-gen active user base, etc, etc – but it can’t be ignored that the 2 versions of Black Ops III that sell the worst are missing the campaign.
With so few people not even bothering to complete the first mission of Black Ops III, never mind the entire campaign, it makes sense for Activision to re-evaluate the story driven aspects of their behemoth shooter series but it would have to be at the right price and for the right reasons for fans to get behind it.
I want to get your take on this – Should Activision drop the Campaign modes for future Call of Duty games? Sound off in the comment section below.