Black Ops

This time last year, the Talking About Games community was flourishing in Call of Duty awesomeness. It seemed like every night there were a handful of us joining up for a multiplayer session. Seconds after a tweet requesting back-up, a lobby would be filled with like-minded gamers ready to have fun. While we didn’t always win those matches, no one can deny how much fun it was to sit down and play a video game we all enjoyed with people we respected. It’s those types of connections and moments that make video game community flourish. Our newfound obsession for Modern Warfare came at the perfect time as just a few months later the highly anticipated sequel, Modern Warfare 2 would be released for the masses. To understate my emotions at the time, I was excited. And then the game came out.

Typically, gamers like to migrate from one shiny new toy to the next. It’s the nature of the beast. However there are a select few games that can become a default go-to during a slow week or month. Modern Warfare 2 was one such title. Our community thrived on the gamenights and savored the discussion. We talked about Modern Warfare 2 so much before the game came out, we had to start calling it something else so listeners of the Post Game Report would stop sending us hatemail. I edited a 4.5 hour podcast devoted exclusively to Modern Warfare 2. (Technically it was in two parts). On any given night, I could count on the same core group of people to sign into Xbox LIVE and join me for an hour of mayhem.

As is the case with most games, enthusiasm eventually started to wane. Between the glitches, bugs, matchmaking issues, general Call of Duty fatigue, and new games being released, Modern Warfare 2 took a back seat. There was plenty of uproar when the DLC was announced and its pricing was discussed ad nauseum. And of course there is the whole ongoing legal issues between Respawn Entertainment and Infinity Ward. Clearly, it’s been an up and down year for Modern Warfare 2, but every now and then I can throw up a signal flare and enjoy a night of fun with the friends from the Talking About Games.

There is one other piece to this backstory: UncleGamer Radio. Prior to the game’s launch, and in the middle of our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare marathon sessions, Talking About Games Godfather, Parris Lilly was invited to check out the multiplayer component of Modern Warfare 2. Soon after, he recorded an episode of his gaming podcast, UncleGamer Radio featuring myself and Talking About Gamers podcast host, Robert Clarke. What ensued was nearly two hours of borderline irrational fanboy-ism. I really hate to use the ‘f’ word, but looking back, there is no other way to describe our enthusiasm for the game and our behavior on the podcast. I don’t think we were unprofessional and considering we hadn’t played the game, we only had speculation to go on. I think we could have been a little more reserved in our demeanor, but I suppose the counter to that is that you could tell we were genuine in our enthusiasm.

That was then, and this is now. Given the uncertainty and the turmoil, Treyarch has positioned itself to be the premiere developer of the Call of Duty franchise with their upcoming title, Call of Duty: Black Ops. But this game is being released in the same season as the final Halo game from stand-out developer Bungie Studios and to a market that becomes a little more fatigued at seeing things that look a little too similar to the past. (Note: “We” are notorious for asking for something new but flocking back to the same old stuff, so that might be working in Treyarch’s favor. Why else would they include zombies in this game?) Do I think Treyarch is a “bad developer” of course not. I think they are fully aware of the stakes and they have also been blessed with the prior generation of Call of Duty technology to serve as a baseline for their own product. Whatever you think about the online experience of Modern Warfare 2, in theory it can only get better. Other components like audio and visual fidelity start with Modern Warfare 2 quality and will likely be refined and improved (at least I hope so). I have high hopes for this game not because I want to get the taste of Modern Warfare 2 out of my mouth, but because Treyarch both deserves and needs this to be a success. They have been (wrongly) labeled as the hand-me-down Call of Duty developer and a studio prone to sub par quality. Granted, the people making those statements probably aren’t aware of the millions of map packs sold for World at War, but I can’t educate everyone. If Black Ops is a success, everyone wins. Gamers will win because they will have a quality product, Treyarch will win as they shed the Monkey named Infinity Ward off their back, Activision will win because they will make millions upon millions of dollars and will be one step closer to whatever master plan they have for the Call of Duty franchise. (CoD Online? CoD extra fee for multiplayer? CoD Third-Person? CoD…innnnn spaaaaaace?).

The point of all of this rambling to let you know that Parris, Robert and I will be joining forces again tonight (Friday, September 3, 2010) to talk about Parris’ recent trip to see the multiplayer component of Call of Duty: Black Ops. From what I’ve read on the Internet, people are enthusiastic for the changes being brought to the table by Treyarch, and this game has a real chance of turning Modern Warfare 2 into Modern Warfare Who. I’m not sure if that’s entirely necessary, but in this game, there can only be one Highlander. So be on the lookout for that episode. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s out.

Have a safe holiday weekend.

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