I’ve not been the biggest fan of the adjustment succession of the Modern Warfare games of late.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the hipster MW hater much of the internet has come to be, hating the franchise simply for the sake of hating the franchise.  I loved the first game, not least because it had a nicely executed OHSHI- moment that really made the player confront mortality, a rarity in shooters.  The second game changed the main character into something of a superhero, gunning down enemies in a James Bond-style chase down a snow-laden mountainside and surviving a knife wound to the chest and still managing to use the same knife to kill an enemy.

Modern Warfare 3 does a better job of using multiple viewpoints to tell the story, including one segment in which all the player does is literally walk a few feet before that character dies in a sudden terrorist attack.  But I have other fish to fry.

I would say that Activision is worrying me with the way this series is going, but that would be something of an understatement.  So far little progress has been made with it, other than innovative storytelling.  The games use virtually the same engine, with only minor tweaks (though Infinity Ward claims they are major advancements on par with the invention of the third axis).  Modern Warfare 2 and 3 are little more than glorified map packs–indeed, several of the maps are virtual copies taken from previous games, and many map structures appear to have been copypasted into “new” maps.  About the only part of the engine that shows improvement is the lighting, and even that is debatable, as shadows are blocky and pixellated, and roughly the level of quality I would expect on a low-end Wii game.

Find the differences. I dare you.

Then there’s Elite.  This aspect of the game worries me the most.  The idea is this: you pay a subscription fee, and you get access to all new content–map packs, weapons, whatever–released during the subscription period.  Considering Activision has held a pretty strong record of releasing maps for a rough price of $5 apiece, this sounds like a great way to save some money.


I’m skeptical that this will actually be to the players’ advantage, even ignoring the fact that this is Activision.  For Black Ops, the publisher managed to push out four map packs in a year’s time, which at $15 a pop would actually have justified a subscription service such as Elite.  But this is not a pace they’ve kept with other games.  Even were this not the case, Elite creates an incentive for the publisher to go slow: the slower they push out content, the more they milk the subscribers for.  And again, being Activision, I can absolutely see them pumping the teats dry.

Already cracks are showing in Elite’s armor.  The service has not been active since the game’s launch a full week ago, with Activision blaming the outage on heavy use overloading the servers.  Even more, they have moved the PC release of Elite into the “indefinite” category, and it’s unlikely the service will ever be available to the master race.  This will force the PC consumers to buy map packs as they are released, and with a minor price increase, or by breaking packs up into fewer maps or less content each, this opens up another hose through which they can suction cash like so much crude at the bottom of the Gulf.