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.