Why Call of Duty Has Run Its Course (And the Best Alternatives)
Every gamer knows that a new Call of Duty game releases every year in November. While other long-running franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield took breaks to come back with better games, Call of Duty (CoD) keeps chugging along.
We’ve seen some updates to the formula along the way, like the Pick Ten loadout system and the futuristic warfare of the past three titles. But Call of Duty hasn’t changed that much since the groundbreaking Modern Warfare in 2007. In fact, it’s gotten worse in a lot of ways.
Played a Call of Duty game for the first time in years… How's it possible that they've gotten worse than before?
— Jordan Palmer (@jccpalmer) December 30, 2016
Let’s look at several reasons why Call of Duty has run its course. Then, we’ll talk about the best first-person shooter (FPS) games that can replace CoD for you.
Why Call of Duty Has Lost Its Charm
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a trendsetting game. It brought role-playing game (RPG) progression elements to online multiplayer, providing challenges that unlocked new items upon completion. While newer versions offer slight iterations on this formula, the magic that drew so many players to CoD 4 is gone. And it’s because…
They Still Haven’t Fixed the Lag Issues
By far, the biggest problem with Call of Duty is that the network latency (lag) problems persist through each new game. If you’re not familiar, online multiplayer games can use two systems to connect players to each other: dedicated servers and peer-to-peer.
With servers, all players connect to the same server to join the match, and if one person has a poor connection, only their performance suffers. A peer-to-peer connection, as the name implies, occurs when all players in a match connect to each other with one acting as the “host.” In this type of connection, your latency is only as good as the player with the worst connection. Thus, if you have high-speed internet service and someone else is connected via smartphone tethering , you’re going to experience lag.
When it’s anything more than minuscule, lag ruins your experience. If you’ve ever shot a magazine into an enemy only to see them turn around and kill you instantly, you’ve experienced lag. Player characters skipping around the screen, getting kills around corners, and similar hijinx are all thanks to Call of Duty‘s inherent connection issues.
Other games don’t have this problem, or they don’t suffer it as severely. In my experience, I would bet that close to 50 percent of deaths that occur in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare are unfair and due to lag. This number is closer to 10 percent in Rainbow Six Siege and 1 percent or less in Overwatch. With dedicated servers, your deaths in these games come from tactical mistakes, not network discrepancies.
The DLC Is Expensive
These days, nearly every game gets some downloadable content (DLC) after its release. In most titles, DLC includes new characters, maps, items, and more. For years, Call of Duty games have sold four additional map packs for $15 apiece, or $50 for a Season Pass that includes all of them.
If you buy the game at launch, you’ve already spent $60. Paying another $50 for additional maps is a pretty big charge considering that the DLC doesn’t include any extra content like single-player missions. For years the Season Pass model was popular in most online games, but recent titles have taken a more player-friendly route — where all DLC is free.
In Titanfall 2, everyone gets new maps and modes for free. The only paid downloads are cosmetic items that don’t affect gameplay. Overwatch has added three new heroes, a few maps, and even new game modes since release without charging players a dime. And in Rainbow Six Siege, you can choose to pay $30 for a pass to unlock new characters right away if you don’t want to spend in-game credits to do so.
All three of these games offer so much more to players post-release than Call of Duty, and do so without forcing you to pay. Without the DLC maps, it takes longer to find a lobby of players who also don’t have it. If you want to keep enjoying the full experience six months after release, you have to pay extra cash for the map packs. Plus, the PlayStation 4 gets all the DLC a month before Xbox One and PC, making the latter platforms wait for no reason.
But at least that cash gets you actual content. Unlike…
The Complicated Loot System Fueling Microtransactions
Call of Duty has had DLC in every title since 2007’s Modern Warfare. But microtransactions — paying a small amount of money for bits of in-game content — are a recent addition. You probably know about these from their mobile counterparts: in-app purchases . In those free-to-play games, you can pay money to skip waiting limits or build up your armies without actually playing the game. But they’ve made their way into full-price retail releases, and it’s a mess.
Every gun in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has multiple versions that are slightly improved. The “Rare” and “Epic” variants of a weapon grant extra bonuses, like more damage or infinite range. But to get them, you’ll have to grind for hours to earn enough Keys to purchase a Supply Drop, which grants random new items. And after all that playing, the new items might not even be weapons. The game regularly adds new cosmetics, like weapon camos, that are far less exciting to earn.
We haven’t even mentioned the Scrap you generate over time that lets you purchase any variant you want, as long as you buy them in order of rarity. But if you don’t want to play for an eternity to earn the keys for a chance at that weapon you want? Well, just buy some Call of Duty Points with real money to get Supply Drops right now!
A player just getting into Infinite Warfare (which we don’t recommend ) will have a disadvantage because they don’t have the best guns. And if they want to skip the dozens of hours required to get a few objectively better weapons, they’ll have to pay for Supply Drops, which don’t even guarantee a good item. The whole deal makes the game feel like a freemium mobile title and hands out rewards randomly instead of rewarding you for completing tasks.
It is absolutely ridiculous what @InfinityWard has done with keys and supply drops in infinite warfare. Your greed sucks for us. Thanks!
— Pablocito80 (@PaulMor18051530) February 17, 2017
Other games still feature microtransactions, but do it in much more tasteful ways. Overwatch, for instance, gives you a Loot Box with four random items every time you level up. These include new skins, voice lines, emotes, and sprays for each hero. You can purchase additional loot boxes, but there’s no reason to because the items are all cosmetic. A player just starting Overwatch won’t feel overwhelmed like a new Infinite Warfare player will.
The Core Game Hasn’t Evolved
This is a more subjective point, but it’s worth bringing up. In years of Call of Duty, the formula hasn’t really changed. Every year’s new game brings a six-hour campaign, a zombies mode, and the same multiplayer you’ve been playing for a decade. And while you might still enjoy Call of Duty occasionally, once you play other games you realize how hollow Call of Duty is.
You’re not communicating with your “teammates” in Team Deathmatch. You’re chasing red dots around the map hoping that when you see them, you’ll shoot first and not get ripped off by lag. Repeat twenty times and that’s your average CoD match. If someone on the other team is performing well, throw in a brigade of helicopters and other overpowered killstreak rewards that kill you constantly.
Actually people are sick of Call of Duty in general. It's a yearly series. It's ludicrously stale at this point.
— DWTerminator (@DWTerminator) April 26, 2017
Combine this with the toxic community, where many members are happy to “camp,” “quick scope” with sniper rifles at close range, and abuse other cheesy tactics to maximize their score and it becomes unfun.
The Best First-Person Shooters You Should Play
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer from these annoyances anymore. There are several awesome first-person shooters you can buy right now that will rid you of Call of Duty‘s problems.
If you’re looking for a game that’s like Call of Duty but better, Titanfall 2 is for you. It improves on the original game in nearly every way and feels familiar to CoD veterans. After all, people behind Modern Warfare created the studio behind Titanfall 2.
Titanfall 2‘s futuristic combat has you play both as an infantry Pilot on the ground and inside Titan robots. The controls are snappy, the create-a-class system is like CoD‘s, there’s plenty to unlock, and the moment-to-moment combat is satisfying. Best of all, there are no microtransactions, DLC, nor a season pass. The only in-game content that costs money are paint jobs for your Titans, which have zero effect on gameplay.
Despite positive reception, this game didn’t sell well, which is a massive shame. While we’re not focusing on single-player here, Titanfall 2 has a short but excellent campaign mode that contributes to its high quality. It’s definitely worth playing through if you get the game.
Good for: Those looking to the closest experience to Call of Duty without any of the fluff.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s (known for World of Warcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone, and others) first foray into the FPS genre, and what a debut it’s made. It’s one of the most popular shooters on the market, and for good reason. This team-based shooter with 24 unique heroes and beautiful levels of polish is simply a must-play.
You’ll only find a few games modes in Overwatch, but every match is different and you’ll never want to stop playing. While the heroes are broken into four classes, each one has a completely different weapon, playstyle, and team purpose. For instance, Reinhardt is a Tank that uses a shield to block incoming damage from his team. Roadhog, another Tank, uses a hook to grab vulnerable enemies and then take them out with his shotgun.
It’s easy to pick up and understand the basics, but Overwatch scales beautifully as you learn new techniques and play against better opponents. Competitive mode lets you climb the ranks as you play others at your skill level, the Arcade features some sillier game modes for blowing off steam, and Blizzard regularly runs special events with new modes and items.
Finally, Overwatch is totally free of DLC. All new heroes and maps release to everyone for free. The only purchase you can make with real money is extra Loot Boxes, which add new cosmetics for the heroes. They’re totally optional.
If the lack of team communication in CoD frustrates you, you’ll love Overwatch because the entire game is built around creating a strong team and working together. It’s also kid-friendly , as the graphics resemble a Pixar movie and it’s not overly violent.
Good for: Anyone who wants to play one of the best shooters in years, loves experimenting with different play styles, and likes working with a team. Check our tips for starting out to get an upper hand.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege has had a rocky road. After launch in December 2015, it suffered from a ton of network problems and glitches. But Ubisoft has since updated it. Siege is now one of the most tactically exhilarating shooters you can play . The five-on-five matches in small, close-quarters maps mean that it doesn’t take long to get into the action. Attackers must scout out the defense using drones to secure an objective, while defenders have several means of keeping the attackers out.
Siege features a roster of characters that all have a unique special ability to help on offense or defense. For instance, Sledge carries a sledgehammer that can destroy weak walls, opening paths for the attackers. On defense, Mute can place signal jammers that interrupt enemy drones and equipment. Picking the right operators and knowing the maps is key to success.
This is a game of intelligence; even if you’re dead, watching cameras can give you a key piece of information about the enemies’ movements. There’s always another angle to watch, a wall that the enemy could destroy, or a drone that could give away your position and change the whole game. Every match is different, and it’s a joy when playing with friends.
Like Overwatch, it’s still supported after its first year. The DLC situation is a bit different: all post-launch operators can be purchased with in-game credits, or you can buy a $30 season pass to unlock them all instantly. Players can also purchase cosmetic content with in-game currency or pay real money if they choose. It’s not as player-friendly as the other games, but it’s far better than CoD.
Good for: People who like the close-quarters maps of CoD but want a more tactical experience. If you’re getting started with the game, check out our essential Rainbow Six Siege beginner tips !
Battlefield has been the competitor to CoD for many years. While CoD features small, close-quarters combat, Battlefield is all-out war. Massive 64-vs-64 player matches take place on maps that dwarf even the biggest Call of Duty has to offer. Along with infantry combat, Battlefield lets you pilot planes, boats, and tanks. Several classes like Medic, Scout, and Support let you work as a team without becoming too specialized.
The latest iteration takes place in World War I, a welcome change from the futuristic focus of CoD. Its progression has been simplified from previous games, making this a great first Battlefield game for beginners. The Operations mode is the highlight of ways to play — its battles take place across multiple maps and are based on real engagements of the War.
Its DLC practice is the closest on this list to CoD: a $50 Premium Pass unlocks all the new expansion packs plus a few extra goodies. Aside from that, the vastly different gameplay, huge battlefields, and destructive environments makes this worth a try if you feel cramped by CoD.
Good for: Those who are sick of futuristic shooters, longing for bigger maps, or wanting a more realistic shooter experience. Check our essential tips to help you get started .
I Want You to Play a Better Game
As you can probably tell, I once played a lot of Call of Duty. The lag frustrated me, but I figured it was the shooter everyone else played, so I should just deal with it. Once I started playing Siege and Overwatch, I never wanted to play CoD again. These three games are worlds better because they don’t have rampant network issues, ridiculous DLC and loot box practices, and stale gameplay.
It’s my hope that in discussing these issues, you recognize that you don’t have to put up with Call of Duty‘s crap anymore. I’ll close with a quote from YouTube reviewer Matthewmatosis, who said this in his look at The Last of Us‘s multiplayer:
“Game designers have realized that tacking an EXP bar onto any multiplayer mode makes it instantly more compulsive. For me, it’s always comes across as a lazy crutch in place of crafting a multiplayer experience that keeps people coming back for the gameplay itself.”
I watched this review around the time I started playing Overwatch and realized how true it is. Overwatch compels you to play because the core game is so enjoyable and polished, with infinite possibility for getting better and learning more. Call of Duty wants you to play so you can chase that next upgrade — or when you get discouraged about how long it’s taking, just pay up to skip the grind.
I’d rather play a well-crafted game that respects my time. Wouldn’t you?
I want to hear your thoughts in the comments. Are you a frustrated Call of Duty player who’s looking for a new game? Or are you sticking with CoD despite these issues? Tell me what game replaced Call of Duty for you!