Call of Duty campaigns are in desperate need of new mechanics that stick

It gets so that you barely hear it, eventually—the constant rattle of machine gun fire that has accompanied Call of Duty campaigns for nearly two decades. First it was the typewriter click of the Thompson, then the factory-line clank of the AK-47—the latter a real test for the eardrums throughout the late 00s, let me tell you. Now, it’s the more refined kick drum of the Kastov 74u. But the action has always remained the same: click to command your weapon to spread lead in a given direction. Perhaps you’ll punctuate the flow with a grenade this time. Probably not, eh. Stick with the classics.

There’s no denying the perpetual appeal of this setup. Even in the tight and linear environs of a COD level, no encounter will ever play out exactly the same way twice. As you and your opponents shift position, like the paddles in a game of Pong, the battlefield throws up implicit, absorbing engineering problems. At what angle can a bullet travel between all these shipping containers and strike only the head of the guard standing on deck? By what degree do you need to lead the target at 300 yards? At 500 yards? And always, a primal question begs to be answered: who is predator, and who is prey? No other game can convey the punch of a direct hit quite like COD.

(Image credit: Activision)

Yet these are the basic building blocks of the FPS genre. By now, they could be the foundations of a tower of interlocked mechanics that set Call of Duty apart from its peers. Instead, if you play this year’s Modern Warfare 2, you’ll find the equation largely unchanged from 2009’s, er, Modern Warfare 2.