Call of Duty: Consumer Warfare

Opinion by Kelly Packard,
“50,000 people used to live here. Now it’s a ghost town.”

That’s the opening line to the iconic Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare trailer that blew everyone’s mind at E3 2007. “Our so called leaders prostituted us to the West, destroyed our culture, our economy, our honor…” The same audio greeted players each time they played the game, even as we all eventually skipped it time after time, it remains hard to forget. It’s ingrained into my brain after playing Modern Warfare what must have been thousands of times.

“50,000 people used to play this game,” my friends and I would joke when we returned to it years later. “Now it’s a ghost town."

“They should remake this so everyone will play it again,” we would continue, years before we knew that's precisely how so many games would one day be handled anyway.

And now… that’s happening here. Activision is remastering Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

But before we talk about that, let’s back it up a little. I’m an aging CoD player, and everyone might not be as intimately familiar with Call of Duty 4 as people in their mid-twenties like myself are. It’s the first Call of Duty game that was not centered during World War II. Before Call of Duty 4 in 2007, the original Call of Duty took us to World War II in 2003. Then, they took us to World War II again in 2005 with Call of Duty 2. And then, in 2006, with Call of Duty 3, they took us to (wait for it) World War II. I’m sure you can see how this got a little stale. I mean, there are only so many times you can cross the Rhine. Really, there’s just a finite amount.

2005's <i>Call of Duty 2</i>.2005's Call of Duty 2.

In CoD4, they took us to this mystical place we'd never been before… the present day. Fast forward past the momentous E3 reveal to a few months later when the game came out, and it was outstanding. It was the only game on Xbox LIVE that could compete with Microsoft exclusives Halo 3, the other big game of 2007, and 2006's Gears of War. It’s hard to imagine there was a time when Halo and Gears of War overshadowed Call of Duty, and not the other way around.

Everything about Call of Duty 4 delivered. The campaign had characters you actually remembered. There was the cheeky British SAS officer, Captain Price. There was Captain MacMillan, the Scottish bloke who yelled, “Oi, Suzy!” to get an enemy’s attention before beating him unconscious with the butt of his gun. There was the breath-holding stealth mission, All Ghillied Up, where you played as Price in a two-man operation with MacMillan, rhythmically timing your sniper shots to take guards out at the same moment. At the end, you inch terrifyingly through the grass in your ghillie suits while an entire army walks around you. In years to come this token stealth mission trope would be seen in numerous other shooters like Medal of Honor and even other Call of Duty games.

Welcome to <i>Modern Warfare</i>.Welcome to Modern Warfare.

Then there was the multiplayer. I understand many players enjoy the newer CoDs and they sell millions of copies, but for me, I haven’t enjoyed one anywhere near as much as Call of Duty 4. Great customization without there being too much, great maps, evidenced by how half of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 DLC ended up being CoD4 maps, and a “vote to skip” system (similar to the “veto” system in Halo 3), but no one really ever bothered because all the maps were revered.

In short, Call of Duty 4 owns. It's a landmark in the FPS world. If you did not play the game, let me try and describe its popularity using an example. You know how when the new Call of Duty game comes out, everyone stops playing the one from the year prior? This did not happen the year after CoD4. When Call of Duty: World at War came out in 2008, Call of Duty 4 was still the more played game. Not only was CoD4 more played in 2008 than World at War, it was, for a while, more played in 2009 than both the newest title Modern Warfare 2 and World at War. This game would not be stopped, not even by its own sequel (see the three charts below.)

Fast forward to today, and here we are with Modern Warfare Remastered being released as part of the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare special editions. One of my favorite multiplayer games of all time is getting remastered. I should be excited. Instead, my stomach is filled with dread.

Why? Well, to start off with, the promo material for the game comes with unfortunate fine print that says, “Campaign + 10 MP maps.” Ten multiplayer maps. A little more than half of the 16 with which the game was originally released. No sooner was I thrilled to have my favorite game back that I suddenly became discouraged. If the campaign is 50 percent of the experience and the multiplayer is the other 50 percent, each map is about 3 percent of the overall experience, so they’re only selling you 82 percent of Modern Warfare, but still have the stones to call it Modern Warfare Remastered. I guess 82 Percent of Modern Warfare Remastered didn’t sound as good. Some fans might argue the multiplayer is 100 percent of the experience, or 75 percent, so you do the math here at what you’re really getting.

Which brings us to the next logical question: where are my other six maps? Am I going to have to pay for the other six maps as DLC, or worse, a season pass? Or -- and this is the worst of all -- are they going to be part of the Infinite Warfare season pass?

We appear to be missing a half dozen of something here...We appear to be missing a half dozen of something here...

Then Activision confirmed Modern Warfare Remastered would not be available as a separate download. They said, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is only available through the Legacy, Legacy Pro, and Digital Deluxe editions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.” Which was then followed up with a definitive, “You must own Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in order to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered.” Activision is using CoD4 to sell you Infinite Warfare. And they aren't even being shy about it. Remember the trailer? They are quite literally “prostituting it to the West.”

Which brings up the question: are we, as consumers, okay with that?

Personally, I’m a little torn about what I'm going to do. I can’t say for certain, of course, but if Infinite Warfare follows the trend of Call of Duty games in recent years, 82 percent of CoD4 will still be a better game than 100 percent of Infinite Warfare. 82 percent of CoD4 would beat Infinite Warfare to a pulp in a bar fight and laugh all the way to jail. If you take into account the fact I played the game for thousands of hours while only maintaining interest in the newer versions for dozens, $80 might be a price I and a lot of players in a similar situation are willing to pay.

I'm not sure if I want to stay frosty this November.I'm not sure if I want to "stay frosty" this November.

But I don’t like the trend I’d be approving of, handing a publisher 80 bucks and giving them a sale of their new game, just so I can play a ten year old remaster where they didn’t even bother to include almost half of the most important part of the game. I’d probably sell my copy of Infinite Warfare, but still, I'll have given them a sale, I’ll have given them a stamp of approval for a questionable business practice.

And perhaps Activision will sell Modern Warfare Remastered separately at a later date, but isn't that even worse? Thousands of copies of Infinite Warfare will have been sold, advertised with the exclusivity of Modern Warfare Remastered. If MWR is no longer exclusive, those consumers will have been betrayed and essentially lied to.

Maybe Call of Duty 4 is too old for anyone to care, but tomorrow it could be Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops or your personal favorite game of all time. And when it is, are you going to be okay with that?
Kelly Packard
Written by Kelly Packard
In a few descriptors: college student, longtime gamer, writer and junk food enthusiast. I contribute to TrueAchievements as a news writer and reviewer. Usually, you can find me knee-deep in a multiplayer game while ignoring my growing backlog or on one forum or another discussing all things gaming.