Okay, we often give Call of Duty (CoD) games a bit of stick. But they are good fun first-person shooters in a, kind of, mindless sort of way. Here’s why.
Black Ops II
Call of Duty is the Michael Bay of the video game world. Crammed full of juvenile and ludicrous violence, the series is primarily there for teenage boys.
That’s fine, but at the same time CoD has a reputation for dominating the market and churning out insipid titles each year.
Well, when we got our Wii U back in 2013 we decided to give Black Ops II a whirl.
Released in November 2012 by publisher Activision, its developer was American team Treyarch.
The plot is an absurd mishmash of ’80s Cold War paranoia meets gung-ho, bombastic mayhem.
Raul Menendez is a Nicaraguan cartel leader in the late ’80s. Black Ops pursue them, with Alex Mason and Frank Woods trying to wipe him out.
The game shifts alternately to the ’80s and 2025, where Alex Mason’s son David is also pursuing Menendez to avenge his father’s death.
There are some big reveals along the way, such as (spoiler alert) it turning out Frank Woods was tricked into shooting David’s father dead.
That leads to dodgy visual acting, with David staggering about a bit like a drunk.
CoD is such a massive deal it’s one of the biggest games franchises in the world.
Kevin Spacey was particularly famous for his contributions to the series, although that’s unlikely to continue since the 2017 allegations.
Meanwhile, and perhaps most surprisingly given his heft, Gary Oldman stars as Captain Viktor Reznov.
As he reveals, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland is also in the mix. And shouting is pretty much the main acting style for Call of Duty.
In Black Ops II, your colleague is Mike Harper. That’s voiced by Michael Rooker, of The Walking Dead and Cliffhanger fame.
Harper is good fun throughout and you do form a decent bond and like for the guy as you play.
But most of the time missions play out as below, just varying across different scenery—total bloody mayhem. The violence levels are remarkable.
Okay then, is this a good game? Yes, Black Ops II delivers pretty solid mindless entertainment.
It’s about as realistic as a Rambo movie, though. You pretty much storm into situations with all guns blazing and wipe out all before you.
The ultraviolence, for sure, makes CoD a highly controversial series.
Teenage boys playing games like this (as some CoD titles replicate WWI and WWII) are potentially left with the impression of what fun the World Wars were.
We have made this point before, we know. We don’t think playing video games makes people violent.
99.9% of gamers can understand it’s escapism, but the psychological impacts of long-term appreciation of CoD isn’t often considered.
The gaming community is notoriously toxic. Is it a byproduct of playing insanely violent games—or are a lot of people just like that anyway?
Gaming violence does tend to desensitize those around it. And video game violence is an ongoing topic of debate. Many parents ignore the age ratings to give their kids the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, just to shut them up for a bit.
What we’re getting at is this level of psycho violence makes us feel a bit uneasy. Partially as the media sees this and thinks that what equates with gaming.
For its part, Black Ops II isn’t set in reality and merely hints at certain happenings in the 1980s.
But it certainly goes all out with excessive violence. It is unremittingly crazy. It’s wild, ludicrous, and utterly puerile.
Yet as a piece of entertainment it’s engaging in its absurd nature. Like an ’80s action flick fuelled on ’80s cocaine and ’80s espresso.
We feel we should highlight not all video game developers handle war in such bombastic fashion as CoD.
Ubisoft Montpellier’s effort Valiant Hearts proves that. It’s thoughtfully delivered, poignant, and educational.
That branch of French developer Ubisoft is set in Castelnau-le-Lez. It was also responsible for Rayman Origins, one of our all-time favourite games.
And it’s wonderful to see it took the time to deliver Valiant Hearts in such mindful fashion.