Are yearly updates really worth it?


Call of Duty

CoD is probably the biggest series in modern gaming. It's now well into a cycle of yearly updates, thanks to its two separate development teams, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, working on staggered iterations of the brand.

As a result, the gestation period is twice as long as most yearly updates, as each team effectively gets two years to work on their next offering. The quality level should be sky high, and in both of Modern Warfare's cases, it is.

So should you buy the next one, coming from Treyarch? We obviously can't comment on a game's quality when we don't even know its name, let alone have first-hand experience of playing it. But take a look at the Metacritic scores up there. Treyarch's CoD3 and World at War scored, on average, noticeably lower in review than Infinity Ward's entries. There's nothing wrong with the quality of the games, but perhaps it's the World War II setting that's getting old. 

Even if the next game does finally ditch the World War II setting, there's surely only so many Call of Duty games we can take before we start to tire of the same thing over and over again - you only have to look at Halo and its multitude of pseudo-sequels to see that. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all.

Above: Oh wait, we just got it - that's why they added zombies mode!

Biggest changes over last year: Modern Warfare 2 vs World at War

- Spec Ops missions with co-op play
- Better scenario and scripting

Perhaps the biggest problem here is that CoD4 was a masterpiece. So great, in fact, it's hard to tinker with the formula without changing it for the worse. And that's why every subsequent game is going to struggle. Modern Warfare 2 is still ace and wholly deserving of our coveted 10/10 score, but its impact will not be as strongly felt as CoD4.

Which begs the question: Where do we go from here? Call of Duty 8: Futuristic Warfare? To us, it seems most logical that the single-player game should be given the most attention. The multiplayer was already awesome in CoD4, so changing it now will just be for change's sake.

What we want to see is a deeper single-player with even more emphasis on the characters within it. World at War was criticised quite heavily for its forgettable cast, whereas Modern Warfare had players poring over footage, even editing cameras to see whether Captain Price survived at the end of the first game. That kind of emotional connection is where this sort of game can still be improved.  

Worth the upgrade? From World at War? Yes. From CoD4... well, let's look at this with genuine progress in mind. If you want to continue the story with your favourite characters, then yes, it's an absolute blast and an essential purchase. As for the online mode... CoD4's is still arguably the strongest in the series. So anything past this point has to be revolutionary to truly improve the formula.


Need For Speed

This one's another that's been going for donkey's years, originally appearing in 1994. But, like Madonna, it's kept itself relevant by frequently changing its style to match whatever fad is in at the time. Sadly, again like Madonna, it's not been doing that quite as convincingly of late. Check out the scores in the Metacritic averages there on the right and you'll see what we mean.

Except! The most recent iteration, Need for Speed SHIFT was actually pretty decent. Probably because it lifted the finer points of Codemaster's awesome Race Driver GRID wheel for wheel (not that we're complaining).

EA's jack-of-all-trades approach to racing means the series can't really be judged in terms of progression like Madden or FIFA. But we can look at the series' direction and judge its potential quality using something no-one can argue with - a line graph. Yes, we're bringing out the big guns now.

The release dates are in order, so you can clearly see that older games on the left were better-received than the newer games on the right, with the striking exception of SHIFT which seems to have righted several wrongs in one fell swoop.

So there are two ways to look at it. Firstly, we're on a quality spike, so the next game is likely to be well worth a look. But conversely, the series may well change tack again completely and give us Need for Speed: Mopeds. But only if mopeds come into fashion in the next five minutes. You can never tell.

Is it worth the upgrade? This year? Most certainly. But usually, no. We've got high hopes for the next main edition, though. It's being made by Criterion, who make Burnout.

Can. Not. Wait.


  • Spybreak8 - January 15, 2010 5:59 a.m.

    Oh I forgot to mention, release the new game franchise in between your other succesful franchises in order to keep things fresh. We see this with Valve, Blizzard (bad example?), and Rockstar.
  • Spybreak8 - January 15, 2010 5:57 a.m.

    @nik41507 "The devs should take time on their games think about it our favorite developing studios are the ones who take time, and want to make a good game over profit And for anyone who played the original C&C games, I'm talking about Westwood" Amen brother, man I just have a sour taste in my mouth with EA's C&C games. On one hand I love C&C but on the other hand EA programmers and game design decision makers are sooo lazy! That's probably why I buy most of the C&C products for my PC, let the modding community fix it like they always do! Felt I should read this article because I just got done playing COD: WaW and NFS: Shift today and find both games enjoyable (helped I got em fairly good price as well). With the fact that all the other good games keep coming out I still haven't picked up FIFA10. I do have an old PES 360 game though.
  • GR_JustinTowell - January 14, 2010 9:31 a.m.

    @michaelmcc827: OK, just for you, replace it with: But alas, we still feel the pang of a most vexing yearning, causing us to perambulate with haste to the nearest vendor in order to procure the proceeding annual installment in a vicious, confounding and spiralling circle of monetary expenditure. Ad infinitum! Better?
  • kor2disturbed - January 14, 2010 5:39 a.m.

    I was done with the madden series by 07! 10 is my second favorite but nothing has topped 07. Also need for speed does not need updates. Hot pursuit 2 is and always will be my favorite. Shift was an interesting change but will never be as good as the classic. SHIFT can go fuck itself!
  • michaelmcc827 - January 14, 2010 4:16 a.m.

    Kind of irritating to have the vocabulary dumbed down for "us gamers", ie saying "to the point of nausea"...good article though. Where was Tony Hawk btw?
  • xenon - January 13, 2010 9:09 p.m.

    You should distinguish between actual yearly updates (Madden) and more of the same (COD). The second has much more of a right to exist, IMO. No one says there should be one football game, one basketball game etc for each console generation... Just go the Fight Night route and release a game when it's ready and when it's interesting, not when it's November.
  • garnsr - January 13, 2010 4:24 p.m.

    At what point do you decide that it's time to revamp a game, rather than just update rosters with DLC? Several people said every other year, but is that long enough? Could they get by for three or four years just updating the roster, then release a new game? That seems like a long time, only one or two games per generation (which would bring them in line with most other franchises, though.)
  • rxb - January 13, 2010 1:39 p.m.

    I love NFS Carbon, I thought it was a great NFS game.
  • Seabread - January 13, 2010 9:45 a.m.

    I've taken a stand in recent years and stopped buying annual iterations based (mostly) on the same 'facts' you've laid out here - FIFA being the main culprit. ok, EA have added some nice new things this year but i'd much rather have just had a live season update to keep my squads up to date. and even if this is available i couldn't use it properly 'cos they've shut down servers and i can't seem to play any of my friends online anymore. i'd even go as far as to update the squads myself (which i have done on more than one occasion) but it messes up the game eg. a suspended player in be-a-pro mode won't be available for selection again until the NEXT season. what gives?
  • Cwf2008 - January 13, 2010 5:02 a.m.

    @crumbdunky: No. And are yearly updates worth it? Well in the case of every game on this list, no. Not even MW2. Why? BECAUSE SPEC OPS SUCKED. If it had Nazi Zombies it would be a definite buy. As of now all those damn glitches are making it unbearable to play. But i do love running around with an RPG and noobtube so i play it...and its fun still
  • mentalityljs - January 13, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    Oh, and to answer the question in my opinion, no, yearly updates are DEFINATELY not worth it!
  • mentalityljs - January 13, 2010 4:28 a.m.

    With the constant and rapid advances in technology, i could understand how devs would want to push out games and sequels annually just to be on top of everything, graphically. Cuz let's face it, part of the reason we buy certain games is based off the way they look, and they know that. And unless there's a demo, or an unbiased website or mag that can cut past all the bullshit and give an honest review of the game, we'll never know how shitty it is until we buy it. With that said, i feel that if a particular game sells well (ie CoD4, MW2, L4D, HL2) and makes a hefty profit, then it should be the developers AND publishers duty to work together and agree that, instead of spending millions of dollars on new projects that could potentially flop, to work on more DLC, therfor keeping their customer base happy, THERfor ensuring future profits. But they MUST listen to the readers, they MUST listen to the reviews, or they'll end up like 3D Reals!
  • GrotesqueBurlesque - January 13, 2010 3:39 a.m.

    While the constant stream of new yearly updates being pushed out, we as a consumer have to remember that products such as those listed amongst many other will CONTINUE to be pushed out as long as we keep buying into them. So, the simple resolution, quit buying subpar sequels and developers will catch on.
  • Silvermech - January 13, 2010 2:07 a.m.

    Not enought people are hetting their ideas through. We need developers to have an open script week. Anybody with ideas, i recommend copywriting, can come and try to get them published.
  • Defguru7777 - January 13, 2010 1:15 a.m.

    What do you mean Halo's sequels are "pseudo-ish." It's only had two outside the main series, with one in development. And ODST was (despite your opinions on the price) an expansion pack. You have to wonder how much of the problem is the developers and how much responsibility lies on the publishers. I'm looking at you Activision (Call of Duty and Guitar Hero).
  • Lurkero - January 13, 2010 12:48 a.m.

    The least amount of time between sequels should be 2 years. At that point I have confidence that there will be significant quality and features put into the newer game. Anything more and I experience franchise fatigue.
  • nik41507 - January 13, 2010 12:22 a.m.

    The devs should take time on their games think about it our favorite developing studios are the ones who take time, and want to make a good game over profit And for anyone who played the original C&C games, I'm talking about Westwood
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - January 12, 2010 11:13 p.m.

    If anyone played Ratchet & Clank this year they'll know that the game did nothing more than move the story forward. You'd think that Insomniac might improve the gameplay a bit, invest in an original idea, make the game a bit longer and realise that no one wants to play the game without Clank (additionaly no one really likes to play as Clank, although it did work in the first game.)
  • CARLINNIT - January 12, 2010 10:47 p.m.

    The good thing about FIFA recently is it's actually improved in terms of gameplay. It's not just team updates and new kits etc... it's a brand new game!
  • NinjaJamez - January 12, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    one every 2 years would be acceptable.... with some dlc obviously

Showing 1-20 of 28 comments

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