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Forbes: Black Ops 2 is one of the best told stories in video games


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Initial post: Nov 16, 2012 11:34:19 AM PST
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/11/16/haters-aside-call-of-duty-black-ops-2-is-one-of-the-best-told-stories-in-videogames/

Call of Duty is bad because it takes place in a corridor. Call of Duty is bad because there is little player choice. Call of Duty is bad because people buy it and they should know better. Black Ops 2 is a tired rehash of everything that came before and Activision should be ashamed.

These arguments float around the Internet every year, at about this time, because Call of Duty is an annualized franchise and this is also bad. Like with social games, Call of Duty became very popular and so it became accepted knowledge that this was because it is terrible. I see where those arguments come from, but I just can't get behind them - nearly every year, Call of Duty proves that it's one of the only franchises that knows how to tell a tight, effective story on the level of more established media.

Call of Duty has been called an interactive action movie time and time again, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. To me, this isn't a good or a bad thing, it's just the way it works, and Call of Duty's brilliance is in execution, not in concept. It's one of the few games where I don't see the cracks in design at every turn, mostly because it's straightforward enough that I don't need to go looking for them. Almost no games on the market actually do what they set out to do -Call of Duty is an incredible case study in a game that doesn't screw it up.

I don't know when somebody decided that "linear" would be a bad word and "open" would be good -I'm wary of anyone that says there's a right way and a wrong way of doing things. What's wrong with "scripting?" Many of my favorite things in the world are "scripted." The same writers that might spit on "corridor shooters" would likely heap praise on an indie darling like "Passage," which literally took place in a corridor. Another one of my choices for best told story in gaming is Bastion - again, almost perfectly linear.

Call of Duty is linear gameplay done to perfection. It gives enough control to make us feel like we're in control, takes enough away that it can dictate the narrative. At no point during the game did I feel bored or stuck - key elements of more open games, but generally bad for storytelling. Unlike its facile sibling, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty hides its scripting well, and paces its cutscenes with the story. It breathes, sometimes fast, rarely slow, but it stays alive for every second it's on screen. It does not use gameplay to tell the story, but it does use gameplay to serve the story by keeping the player engaged. And keeping me engaged is really the only thing I ask out of art.

Games with more player choice can be wonderful, deep, and beguiling as well, but it's not the only way to do things. I don't want a world where all games look like Call of Duty any more than I want a world where all games look like Skyrim. The formula doesn't always work -Modern Warfare 3 was terrible - but that doesn't mean the entire concept is broken.

I sense snobbery creeping over the horizon in the derision of games like Call of Duty. It's built for someone who may not have the time to explore every possibility in a level of Dishonored - i.e., regular people. It cheerfully casts aside things that "core" gamers have decided are good in favor of things that the larger audience enjoys. It's ridiculous, popcorn fun rather than cerebral meditation. These things are not objectively bad. These things can even be good.

There are two ways to approach pop culture. You can either look at the thing everyone likes and decide what to hate about it, or you can look at the thing everybody likes and try to figure out what particular vein in the collective unconsciousness it's tapped into, and why that's important. I tend to feel that one of these things is an exercise in irrelevance.

The content of the story is another matter, and the subject of another post.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 11:43:23 AM PST
R. Typo says:
Blops 2 has pleasantly, and surprisingly, been one of the most fun games I've played this year, along with Sleeping Dogs, and Borderlands 2.

Uncreative, petty types will bash COD until their malnourished hands bleed, thinking it gives them 'gamer cred,' where it instead makes them look negative, and sour toward smiling.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 11:45:33 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012 11:46:58 AM PST
"It's one of the few games where I don't see the cracks in design at every turn"

What about the people who DO see these cracks?

"Almost no games on the market actually do what they set out to do"

Define "almost".

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 11:57:15 AM PST
Ham Salad says:
Yes Laser, let's pick a couple of the most irrelevant points in regards to the overall point of the article and try to nitpick them.

Also, he didn't say there were no cracks in the design, just not at every turn. Meaning that it is overall a solid design.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:00:05 PM PST
Duster says:
Sure, after they've had 10 years of design experience (read: rehashing) it should be a solid design...

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 12:09:14 PM PST
DVvM says:
I don't like Black Ops 2, but that's because I don't like first person shooters and I find the notion of the modern military shooter game to be somewhat offensive.

I hope those people who end up owning it enjoy it thoroughly however.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 12:11:05 PM PST
I actually liked the story it was fun, interesting... this "villain" trying to destroy the foundations of the world order, pretty neat, by far better story than the MW trilogy

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 12:11:08 PM PST
Soulshine says:
Teve Torbes knows a good story when he sees it!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:24:23 PM PST
"It's built for someone who may not have the time to explore every possibility in a level of Dishonored - i.e., regular people."

I think this line is quite telling about how much time this guy spends actually playing games and appreciating the work that goes into them. When you look at exploring the levels of Dishonored as a chore and something you don't have time for then I'm not surprised in the least when a five to six hour campaign gets your rocks off.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:28:01 PM PST
DVvM says:
I think it's weird that the author thinks of games as something ordinary people don't have time to finish.

I don't think of it that way at all. Like, suppose I only can find 10 hours a week in which to play video games. If the campaign of Call of Duty takes me 10 hours, then in a week I will have finished that game and be done with it. One the other hand, a game like Skyrim could last me for several months at my 10 hours/week pace. That's 2 months I don't have to find another video game to play!

I mean, modern video games shouldn't be something you just race through in order to get to the end, right?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:30:33 PM PST
" I mean, modern video games shouldn't be something you just race through in order to get to the end, right?"

Maybe a racing game.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:30:47 PM PST
R. Typo says:
Why try to discredit the person?

It's just his well worded opinion, and it's not trying to hit anyone below the belt. I play plenty of games, and i see exploring every nook and cranny of Dishonored as a chore as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:33:44 PM PST
DVvM says:
I just don't understand the "I don't have time for long books, long games, etc." If you have some regularly occurring block of free time, you can eventually finish any game or book or whatever no matter how long it is.

Shouldn't the operative consideration be "am I having fun the whole time" not "do I have enough time to finish this"? I totally get why someone might become bored with a long game after a while, but people who have the time to play 10 7 hour games have the time to play one 70 hour game.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:39:37 PM PST
What FPS games have you played? If I may ask.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:40:10 PM PST
Well, I did with Dragon Age 2.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:42:46 PM PST
Took the words right out of my mouth. That line really struck me as odd and the time I've spent with Dishonored has been pretty awesome and it is a game that is going to last me a long time as well.

I've never understood the whole notion of not having time for longer games, books, and TV shows. Then again I've never understood why people writing a letter or an email will go "Well I've gotta go take care of ___________ so I've got to go now."

@ Broadly

I'm not really trying to discredit him I just fine it odd that "regular" folks don't have time to play through bigger games but they can take the time to play through Call of Duty.

So while he looks at Black Ops 2 campaign as being this great thing because it can be beaten within a certain time frame I feel like he is glossing over other titles and discrediting them because they weren't built for "regular people" like him.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:44:32 PM PST
R. Typo says:
I think he clearly mentioned he was looking at why COD is such a giant, transcendent success.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:45:35 PM PST
DVvM says:
I was peer pressured into playing a lot of goldeneye at parties in my youth and I hated every second of it. I played the free copy of Reach that Microsoft sent to me and hated it. I played Bioshock and I liked it (but not the combat parts.)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:46:46 PM PST
StriderNeo15 says:
Not to mention that Dishonored really isn't a very long game at all, especially if you're an ordinary person and don't explore the levels.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 12:48:19 PM PST
K Archer says:
Here's the thing. There is just no way a 6-10 hour game will have the same depth of story as one that takes 20-40 hours (or more, but usually past that time there's a lot of side-quests and exploring and all) to tell. Its like comparing a short story to a novel or epic. You just can't get the same amount of "care" for the characters, as much set-up for the setting and story and details get left out.

Can there be really great or amazing short stories? Yes, there can be and are. But...they won't have the same depth as a longer piece of writing. Maybe you're not looking for that "depth" of story, maybe you want to just tell the basic story; that's fine, but expanding on it can make it a lot better. And yes, there are stories that are too long; happens too.

And yeah, the whole "I don't have time for a longer game/book/movie/TV series/whatever" is a bunch of BS. All it means is that it'll take you longer to finish. The longer game being a chore can be an issue...but at the same time, I've had many shorter games/books/whatever be terribly boring and I have to force myself through them (if I even want to finish them). That's not a question of length, its a matter of pacing, gameplay, and interesting story.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:49:32 PM PST
MrFoxhound says:
That's a completely subjective opinion. Just because a novel can tell me what color shoes the mc is wearing or what he was eating when he had a conversation with the protagonist doesn't mean that the story is more in depth.

Posted on Nov 16, 2012 12:51:05 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012 12:51:43 PM PST
G. says:
Why do people make such a fuss about COD? If you don't like it, then don't play it.

Its a game centered around multiplayer. The campaign is just an added bonus. Why does the campaign need to be a 70 hour long game if most of the people who buy it are going to just spend hundreds of hours playing the mulitplayer?

I have bought every COD since MWF and I haven't played the single player campaign for any of them...

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:51:38 PM PST
StriderNeo15 says:
I'd say the 8-10 hour Enslaved: Odyssey To The West had a better story/character development than 90% of games this generation.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:52:56 PM PST
MrFoxhound says:
I'm pretty sure that no one is saying they want a 70 hour shooter, but nice troll. I'm sure they are only saying an average 10-15 hours isn't too much to ask. After CoD 2's campaign that was pretty meaty, Modern Warfare came out and that had a pretty long campaign too, then MW2 came out with a 4 hour long MP training session disguised as a SP campaign. Now people know what to expect from CoD. Short SP, and a push to MP to start getting the kids to buy those map packs.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 12:55:57 PM PST
Okay but he makes a bunch of points which really don't make any sense. No one ever decided linear is bad, just look at the massive success the Uncharted series has seen and that is a fairly linear experience. Not only that but it delivers a much stronger story and does it far better than Call of Duty could ever hope.

People harp on Call of Duty not because it is a linear experience but because the franchise never gets a chance to grow. Every year we know the focus is going to be multiplayer and the game will deliver a five hour campaign designed to be a visual treat and pull you into the multiplayer. It's fine and dandy that they've got the campaign smoothed out to the point of "perfection" but when each iteration of the game looks similar to the last this is when people start getting annoyed.

Yes fans enjoy it and will happily pay each year but to discredit those who don't care for the franchise based on the fact that Call of Duty is for "regular people" and then jump on points no one is making just comes off as weird to me.

And like Strider said Dishonored isn't that long of a game, especially if you're not exploring every possible corner of the game. The game gives the player the choice to go off the beaten path and find all the hidden stuff or they can just go right for their target (in whatever manner they want I might add). Yet for some reason Dishonored failed what it set out to do? Come again?
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Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  22
Total posts:  43
Initial post:  Nov 16, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 16, 2012

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