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Sacred Cow of Duty 4: Opinionated Warfare

armed-sacred-cowNobody bats an eyelid if you say you don’t like Dragon Quest, or FIFA, or Gran Turismo, or Civilization, or World of Warcraft, or The Sims, or any number of other games or series’ that sit on or near the top of the heaps of their respective genres. Even if you like the genre overall, but there’s still this one marquee franchise you don’t care for, your peers probably don’t give you too much flak about it. They put it down to individual taste, and go on with their days. Sometimes, though, there is the sacred cow – the enshrined game that must not be treated with anything less than reverence.

No, not even Halo can claim such a position. Hop on any video game message board in existence and say “What do you guys think about Halo?” and you’ll be met with three very distinct barrages of opinions – love, hate, and a middling indifference. This is as sure-fire a bet as the Internet can offer outside of Rule 34. In fact, very, very few games are those sacred cows. One of them is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

I’m not going to slam the game. Put simply, I think it’s a fine game; but I don’t like it much at all. The reasons why this is the case are utterly irrelevant. I’d be willing to bet that every single person reading this article has a game, especially a highly-rated one from the last couple of years, that they could say this about. Not a game to be hated, to be claimed was overrated, or any other implication that anyone else’s opinion is flat-out wrong; just something they didn’t like for whatever reason that other people do. And I’d also be willing to bet that it’s a game you could say this about in front of your nerdiest peers, and they wouldn’t care that you thought that way.

A couple of days ago I opined on Twitter that I didn’t care a jot about the forthcoming Modern Warfare 2, because I hadn’t liked CoD4, its predecessor, either as a single-player or multiplayer game. (That I’m also somewhat sick of the forthcoming game’s infernal hype train is another irrelevance.) This led to several people on Twitter – including folks I consider friends, not just followers and followees – seeming shocked, surprised, and even a little saddened that I could possibly say such a thing. How could I dislike this game? This sacred cow that is held in such high esteem? How was that even possible? I had to be wrong. Broken, even. The very opinion itself was greeted with waves of disbelief and incredulity.

This is not to belittle any of those commenters in any way. They were – are – all people whose opinions I value, as it happens. I’m not calling them out or looking to pick a fight. I’m more perplexed at what the tone of the responses represent.

pripyat-ferris-wheel

CoD4’s not even my favorite game to feature the fascinating abandoned city of Pripyat.

Let me reiterate: I don’t think CoD4 is a bad game. Far from it. It just doesn’t float my boat, and it’s not because I have any dislike for the first-person shooter genre. There are many aspects to the game which ultimately combine to form what is, to me, a dealbreaker. That’s my purely subjective opinion and that’s all it is; and we all know what the ephemeral “they” say about opinions. The thing is, though, with practically any other game, I wouldn’t have to qualify it like that. It would be accepted, and moved past. Not CoD4. I don’t know if the game could be deified more if it had a Nintendo logo on it.

I listen to a lot of gaming podcasts. My day job allows me a lot of listening time and that’s one way I fill it. Most of these podcasts are helmed by hosts who know their co-hosts well; who in many cases also work together at websites or publications covering the same subject. Many don’t; some even do their shows with literal oceans or continents between hosts, conversing through Skype or some other means. But one thing they almost all seem to have in common is respect for their co-hosts’ tastes. If one of them doesn’t like The Hot Game of the Moment, it’s not a big deal. Is it familiarity with each other that breeds this respect? Is it implicit on its own merits? Or is it simply that, well in excess of 99% of the time, the subject under discussion isn’t a sacred cow?

Why is it that it can be so well-accepted that someone, be they a little minnow like me or a big fish in the pond of the gaming press, may not give a damn about Final Fantasy XIII, or Forza Motorsport 3, or Halo 3 ODST, or Uncharted 2, or even Brütal Legend – the latter the perfect example of a game that should be a sacred cow – but the moment I say I don’t care about a hugely-hyped FPS because I didn’t care for its prequel (a game that to date has sold more copies than World of Warcraft has subscribers), the immediate reaction – and one I’d more than likely get from practically any corner of the internet with any interest in video games whatsoever – is spluttering denial and disbelief from the faithful while anyone who shared my opinion kept their heads down? (Therein lies the great disparity by comparison to the earlier example of Halo.) It’s not because CoD4 is objectively better than every other game I’ve namechecked so far. It’s barely even comparable to most of those by virtue of its genre; those old apples and oranges, and all that. It’s almost like a cult of personality, only – if you’ll excuse more fruit references – this isn’t some banana republic’s dictator; it’s a video game. Nothing more, nothing less.

Modern Warfare 2 is developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, and is scheduled for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on November 10th 2009. The author will not be purchasing it but wishes many hours of entertainment to the plethora of readers who will.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released in November 2007 and has sold over 13 million copies to date across all platforms. It remains one of the most-played online console games in the world.

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