The Call of Duty single-player campaigns trade in a currency that should be antithetical to "good" game design. There is little if any room for experimentation and creativity in how you tackle situations. You're merely funneled from one loud, garish shooting gallery to the next.
The cutscenes show us stern-faced men saying grim things, dense with military jargon. They exist in a world where every problem can be solved with bullets and technology. The ultimate power in the world of theseries is a man with guns, one who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty doing "what needs to be done."
And what needs to be done is invariably shooting a bunch of other men with guns. God I love these campaigns.
It's all for you!
The Call of Duty single-player campaigns are the hyper-masculine version of getting pampered. The entire world exists for you, and only you. People die and buildings topple for your benefit. If your id had fingernails Call of Duty would make sure they were nicely manicured.
Every giant, expensive set piece that rattles your home theater and makes you feel powerful happens for your benefit. You are the hero of this story, and the game makes no apologies for it. Might makes right, and you are so very, very right.
I've been spending a good amount of the past few days playing through the single-player campaign of Advanced Warfare, and it's a superhero game in everything but name. It may want to sell itself as gritty military wish-fulfillment, but the "technology" based superpowers make you a cosmically overwhelming force in battle, at least on the normal difficulty setting.
You have grenades that scan an area and allow you to see every threat outlined in red, and your guns punch through many of the game's walls. It becomes a simple thing to throw a grenade out, see your targets, and take them down while they think they're protected. One scene features rocket launcher-equipped enemies standing atop tanker trucks, with the predictable outcome.
A van is getting away? Use your bionic legs and magnetic gloves to jump from moving bus to moving bus before punching through a metal shield and throwing an enemy soldier into a light pole. The player-controlled drone you can use at certain points in the game's story moves quickly, sending a surreal amount of bullets at the enemy soldiers. There is nowhere your enemies can hide, and little they can do to fight back.
The campaign feels like eating a bacon-wrapped donut
Being shot only means you need to wait a few moments to heal. Your magnetic gloves mean you can simply scale any building between you and the people you were sent to kill. The game provides you with everything you need to overcome every bit of adversity, while also telling you exactly when and how to use it. It's the video game equivalent of being handed a hammer and shown a glass wall. Of course it's going to be fun to smash everything to hell.
This is the power of these games, especially in the single-player campaigns. Since the designers always know where the player will be in these corridors of death they can design some epic sights and sounds as you kill your way from point A to point B.
It's not a video game as much as its a thrill ride, designed to show you the most cinematic flavor of death and destruction possible. You're the center of the universe when you play these games, and that's a wonderful thing to pretend to be for a short period of time, even while sitting in our underwear in front of the television or PC.
This is why the series' attempts at showing pathos fall so pathetically flat; you can't create one of the world's best power fantasies and then try to shoehorn in a message about loss. When you give the player the powers and abilities of a god and then ask them to consider the actual cost of war is can come off as tone deaf at best, and monstrous at worse.
But those moments are few and far between in these games. Playing each Call of Duty campaign feels like eating a bacon-wrapped donut; it's an indulgence, something unhealthy but enjoyable.
If this were my entire diet it would become impossible to tolerate, but for a yearly release I'm happy to pick up the latest Call of Duty, knowing the team behind the game set up a beautiful world just for me, and I'll have a great time setting fire to everything I see.