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.