The single player campaigns in the Call of Duty franchise have taken criticism in the past for making the player feel like the game is on rails. Protagonists often move from one location to the next, simply following their NPC partners around as the story plays out without much contribution needed from the player, other than supplying a steady storm of bullets, of course.
But with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the series has officially hit a new low (or high?) when it comes to meaningless exposition. One of the game's first scenes features a military funeral of the protagonist's best friend. Now, a Call of Duty funeral sounds like something that could be poignant, given the franchise's history of well-made cutscenes.
But developer Sledgehammer Games decided to go with something a bit different: a Quicktime Event. Yes, that's right. The same mechanism used in games over the last couple of generations is now being used for... mourning?
The scene starts out typically enough for the series, with the player standing near the casket while watching a NPC talk about the fallen soldier. Others, including Kevin Spacey (who plays the dead soldier's father), pass by the casket. And then...
"Hold X to Pay Respects."
If the player follows the instructions, gamers will see a first person view of the character putting his hand on the casket for a few moments, before moving on to a conversation with Spacey. But what really makes this game design choice curious is the fact that the player can choose to ignore the "Pay Respects" prompt and just stand there. All gamers will hear if they decide to be callous and not say goodbye to their best friend is silence occasionally broken up by someone's weeping. The QTE then times out and the player turns around and walks towards Spacey just the same.
This Quicktime Event, and its ability to make the player "fail" at properly mourning, has a lot of players bringing out the snark on YouTube and gaming forums across the Web.
"Hold X to cry bitterly and grotesquely, grieving yourself into a hopeless sorrowful wreck of a man in front of Will's family," wrote YouTube user Jesse Armstrong-Hayes in one such comment.
'Wonder what happens when you don't press it," another YouTube user inquired. Yet another joking answered his query with "People start calling you an a**hole."
Others have come to Sledgehammer's defense, saying *mild spoiler* that getting the player emotionally invested with the Quicktime Event early on makes sense once you start to figure out that there's something a little "off" about Spacey's character later on in the game.
While a cutscene of the protagonist walking up to the casket might have been more appropriate, there's no question that this scene is at the very least generating some publicity for one of Activision's biggest titles of the holiday season. The title will likely need all of the press it can get, if it doesn't want to undersell previous CoD titles by millions. Add in the fact that Advanced Warfare is getting some of the best reviews a Call of Duty title has seen in a while, and it becomes clear that perhaps Sledgehammer knows exactly what it's doing after all.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare released today, November 3, for those with Day Zero early access and will be out tomorrow, November 4 for everyone else on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Sorry, Wii U. The game is also available in an Xbox One bundle deal.
Follow Jason Gallagher on Twitter at MuckrakerJG