What do you get when you’re part of the development team that is tasked with pumping out new releases of the best-selling franchise of the generation year-on-year? What do you get when you have three different studios working and collaborating on individual aspects of a game, another team handling a port, and two different publishers taking care of localisation? What do you get when half of the key staff from one of those studios leaves mid-way through a somewhat troubled development? What do you get when, working to a strict, global deadline and under immense pressure, you manage to put out another AAA title in a franchise that’s regarded by many as the pinnacle of its genre? The answer to those admittedly long-winded questions should be “why, a bloody great big pat on the back, Rory”. Unfortunately, what you actually get is some whining sod moaning about a van.
Horribly, and almost comically, underestimating the sheer amount of work that goes into a top-tier, annual release like Call of Duty, Chris Hawke over at Gamer’s Guide to Life recently put out an admittedly very well-written and humorous article, simultaneously slamming Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software, Treyarch and Neversoft (seriously, all those studios worked on MW3) for one of the most paltry, insignificant and frivolous ‘offences’ that’s ever been brought to light.
During a trailer for Modern Warfare 3, Chris happened to notice a parked Marley & Griffin van, which, shock and horror and “oh my god won’t somebody think of the children?!”, also featured in Modern Warfare 2. This, he says, “represents laziness…copy-and-paste design…a lack of ambition and, perhaps most irritatingly, a lack of pride”. Now, let me just start by saying that I don’t particularly have an issue with Chris or his article; it was an amusing read and he did raise a valid point or two. However, to say that re-using a two-year-old asset from a direct prequel to a game in the same series, timeline, setting and canon as itself is, frankly, ridiculous.
I understand some of the points that Chris raises – Activision make hundreds of millions of dollars from the CoD franchise every year, and their competitors at DICE are going balls-to-the-wall to ensure that their latest offering inBattlefield 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor. I understand if he doesn’t agree with the design philosophy inherent in the CoD franchise. I understand if he thinks Bobby Kotick is a bit of a cock. But what I don’t understand is how he can be so vexed about the recycling of an asset that he feels the need to write an article about it, and I know I’m being massively contradictory there.
Despite explaining how he’s lost his faith in Modern Warfare 3 over this pesky vehicle, he goes on to say that he’ll buy the game anyway as it’s ‘unavoidable’ – it’s not, because I’ve managed it. He then goes on to cite Half-Life as a ‘classic’ which, in his view, “went the extra mile to make the best experience humanly possible”, apparently overlooking Valve’s tendency to recycle assets themselves. This is why I can’t take the article seriously.
Enough about poor Chris, though; it wasn’t actually him who particularly cheesed me off, more the discussion that arises around this topic time and time again. At some arbitrary point in time between the releases of Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, it apparently became cool to slate and slanderise the Call of Duty franchise. I’m by no means saying that Infinity Ward are a perfect developer or that their games are the pinnacle of the industry – I’m more of a Battlefield man, if you must know – but if you make the claim that a re-used van in Modern Warfare 3 is going to hinder your enjoyment of the game in some way, you’re completely and utterly nuts.
Ironically enough, Battlefield 3 has an absolute ton of re-used assets from Bad Company 2, and the ones that were developed specifically for it are copied and pasted all around the different multiplayer maps – take the interior of the buildings in Seine Crossing, for example, or the shipping crates in Kharg Island shamefully ripped from its predecessor. It’s almost unmissable, but does it make the game any less enjoyable? In my opinion, no, absolutely not. In any way. At all.
Besides, maybe Marley & Griffin just has a really big infrastructure.