Normally, Left Gamer Review tries to maintain a certain critical distance from the games we examine. After all, a game can be great without endorsing LGR’s political perspective. And if we only enjoyed playing games that explicitly endorsed the overthrow of capitalism, we probably would have given up on the medium entirely.
But sometimes, a game comes along that not only doesn’t interest us, but in fact looks so deplorable that we have to go ahead and complain about it in advance, without dropping sixty bucks to find out if we hate it as much as we assume we will.
Check out this thoroughly appalling trailer for this fall’s Call of Duty game, Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (h/t Occupy Seattle):
In case you can’t stream the video, the whole stupid thing can be summarized pretty well with this screenshot, courtesy of a similarly-minded post at bnbgaming:
You can totally tell that this is a scary organization, since it has a weird name like “Cordis Die.” It literally has the word “die” right in the name! It doesn’t quite make sense for an organization to be anyone’s messiah, but that’s the least of the problems with this dumb game.
Gameranx describes Raul Menendez as “a Julian Assange-like character.” Perhaps this is because, as the trailer makes clear, Menendez has tons of followers on YouTube. But whatever. This is a game about a super-villain who’s duped leftists into thinking he’s super-neat, so that he can conquer the world. Watch out, duped leftists! Too bad that, unlike the right, you’re so famously easy to dupe!
The comments at the bottom of the Gameranx post are worth reading, in addition to the post itself. Like every comments section on the entire Internets, as the independent variable (time) increases, so does the dependent variable (stupidity), but I was pleased to note that basically everyone who decided to comment was gloriously hostile to the trailer.
Call of Duty is a behemoth of a franchise, and angry comments aside, this thing will doubtless sell a bazillion copies. The series has its ups and downs, but as a rule, these games feature tight, responsive control and reasonably good level design, though most people buy them in order to slug it out against other players online. I’ve frequently seen players declare, sometimes proudly, that they never even touch the campaign, but instead head straight into multiplayer and never look back.
And they aren’t missing much! The single-player campaigns for Call of Duty games tend to be short, even for shooters, which are already bite-sized in comparison to RPGs. I played through Modern Warfare 3 in about six hours, and my impression is that this puts me decidedly on the slower end of the spectrum. But that’s become de rigueur for the genre: campaign mode on first-person shooters is often a glorified teaser, with studios and fans alike thinking of online matches as the “real” game.
And if your game’s campaign is as stupid as the Black Ops series, why not label it an afterthought and hope people don’t play it too much? Call of Duty isn’t a unified franchise like Halo–at a certain point it branched into various sub-franchises, developed by different studios. I don’t think that the different sub-series are even in the same continuity at this point. I’ll admit to having enjoyed some of the early games, set in World War II. I would particularly recommend Call of Duty 2, at least for anyone who enjoys FPS games and spots it in the cheapest bin at a games store. But, like a comments section, the series seems to be getting increasingly stupid and reactionary as time passes. One might argue that Call of Duty has played a particularly significant role in liberating gaming from being stuck in a sort of nerd niche, since these titles seem tailored explicitly for meatheads. (Sorry, meatheads. But you know I’m right!)
Black Ops is probably the worst of the lot. The first game leads players through various “black ops” CIA missions, meaning you get to be a part of screwing up the Bay of Pigs invasion and then later go murder Viet Cong. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this series is so reactionary. After all, considering how criminal and embarrassing the US military is willing to be publicly, it can’t be surprising that a game series basing itself on “secret” military stuff would have to be even more criminal and embarrassing.
Still, making the villain of Black Ops 2 the “messiah for the 99%” seems a particular slap in the face. For reasons I don’t really understand, it is acceptable and even profitable for games to be quite a bit more reactionary than movies. A mission in a video game in which the player is supposed to assassinate Castro (in the original Black Ops) is not much of an outlier, but I can’t imagine a movie that tried to spin the Bay of Pigs as some kind of heroic tale of American valor. I expect that Black Ops 2 will be a huge hit, but I would love to be wrong. It would be great if gamers slapped back and skipped this one. I certainly plan to. If the folks at Activision want a review from LGR, they’ll have to send us a preview copy, because we aren’t going to send them any money.