One of the biggest criticisms of the Call of Duty franchise is that the games are all the same – and, with the right perspective, there’s some truth to that. Since the release of the first game in the series way back in 2003, there’s been at least one new Call of Duty game every year. As such, the game has evolved slowly; while each iteration does things differently, it’s not like new Call of Duty games radically change the formula (with Modern Warfare potentially acting as the exception that proves the rule).

And, honestly, why should they? Call of Duty may not bring in quite as many sales as it used to, but it’s still one of the best-selling games on the market. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

But, by any measure, twelve years is a long time; in the world of video games, it’s practically forever. The first Call of Duty game came out as a PC exclusive; the second, Call of Duty: Finest Hour launched on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and original Xbox. That was two console generations ago. Not only has technology gotten more powerful since then, but gaming culture has changed, too. The first Xbox edition of Call of Duty didn’t use Xbox Live, even though the series is now practically synonymous with online console gaming. Over the years, Call of Duty has moved from World War II, through modern times, and into the near future. Change is inevitable.

That’s the perspective taken by critic Noah Caldwell-Gervais, who recently released a two-hour YouTube video tracing the entire history of the Call of Duty franchise. The documentary, called The Complete Call of Duty Single Player Campaign Critique, might be long, but it’s absolutely worth the time spent watching it.

Complete Call of Duty Single Player Campaign Critique

Caldwell-Gervais starts by exploring the first Call of Duty, which refused to glamorize World War II while still honoring the soldiers who fought in it. From there, he moves on until he reaches Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, showing how Infinity Ward fused the game’s antipathy towards war with America’s increasing dissatisfaction with military operations in Iraq. According to Caldwell-Gervais, after Modern WarfareCall of Duty games begin to fetishize combat, losing the series’ ambivalence and dulling its thematic edge; in this respect, Caldwell-Gervais finds Advanced Warfare a welcome return to form.

If this sounds like heavy stuff, well, it is. Caldwell-Gervais’ delivery is fairly academic, and the video’s production values leave something to be desired. Players who can’t stomach Caldwell-Gervais’ style or simply aren’t interested in thinking about the larger cultural forces informing their games (which is fine, by the way) should probably skip The Call of Duty Critique. For everyone else, however, there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais