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Call of Duty: Ghosts recycles old cutscenes. And it really doesn't matter

This morning, my Twitter feed opened in a manner akin to the Ark of the Covenant in the hands of a rat-faced Nazi; all blinding light, face-melting horror, and the rage of an affronted god. You see this morning, someone noticed that Call of Duty: Ghosts reuses some cutscene animation from the end of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Obviously this is yet another scrabbling step along Activision’s slippery slope to Hell (a road paved as it is with poor creative decisions), and yet another slap in the face for the sensitive, artistically-minded souls that all CoD players no doubt are.

That’s according to a large proportion of my Twitter feed, anyway. In truth, it’s a matter of little consequence. I completely understand why a series as mass market as Call of Duty has become a cultural punching bag. That’s just the way of the internet, and it’s been that way in every medium since the year dot. But looking at this within the wider context of what Call of Duty is, complaints at 15 seconds of recycled animation is a ship-sinking maelstrom in the tiniest of espresso cups.

The thing is, CoD is not a delicate little indie title striving for artistic worth and deep existential meaning. And it’s not supposed to be. It’s a bold, brash, ultra-mainstream entertainment product, courting--very successfully, I might add--the most mainstream of audiences. And Infinity Ward is not Team Ico. Again, it’s not supposed to be. It’s a slick, efficient thrill-factory working alongside Treyarch to produce yearly updates to the above-mentioned successful formula. And whether you like its product or not, it does that job well.

Within that context, reusing assets is just sound business sense, and a smart solution to the tight turnarounds demanded by these games’ release schedules. At this point in its run, Call of Duty has a gigantic backlog of pre-made assets on file. Why not capitalise on existing work in the name of efficiency, particularly with the extra technical challenges of a next-gen launch title to take into account?

Infinity Ward is far from the only creative team to use this method. Capcom has reused sprites for its multiple fighting game series for several console generations. Michael Bay has reworked footage from both Pearl Harbour and The Island in a couple of Transformers films. Even Disney, for a long time the world’s most artistically respected crafter of animated features, has reused animation cycles for decades. Have a look at the video below if you don’t believe me. Beyond Disney, the process of TV animation reusing looped backgrounds has become such a well-known cliché as to nowadays be an affectionately acknowledged non-issue.

The reason Disney got away with repurposed animation is the same reason that the practice is irrelevant in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Simply, reusing old building blocks does not matter as much as what you make out of them. No-one but the most ultra-rich and psychotic of parents has ever criticised a child’s Lego creation for comprising the same bricks as the last one. Because it doesn’t matter. When considering the stern logistic, budget and time constraints involved in making a massive entertainment product, it matters even less.

So Call of Duty: Ghosts reuses a bit of old animation. I’m willing to bet it reuses a few gun models and environmental textures too. Just like any triple-A sequel, from Gears of War to Bioshock, has always done. It’s not laziness. It’s just sensible production practice. And everyone does it. If you don’t like it, fine. But let’s not single out Call of Duty just because it’s an easy target. 

29 comments

  • Element3120 - August 15, 2014 12:31 a.m.

    not suprised i refuse to buy the recycled IW crap, they can suck on some other game makers dick just like they did with dice. Treyarch will only make the good call of duty games, ever. period.
  • bang1221 - November 7, 2013 8:21 p.m.

    Yeah i guess it's just more knit-picking for the avid "dooty" haters. Honestly its really not that big of a deal and im sure no one who played both versions screamed and shouted about (or even remembered) that scene form MW2. Also most of those Disney movies were from the 60's and 70's and (as someone already stated) animation was not as easy then as it is now and they were (probably) not making CoD amounts of money.
  • Manguy17 - November 7, 2013 11:02 a.m.

    I think it's just because its a cutscene (and from what I understand a fairly important one?) that it bothers people. When it comes to the re-use of animations for soldiers shooting, sprinting, jumping etc no one cares.
  • jon-ferdinand-estherarson - November 7, 2013 4:54 a.m.

    Pretty bad argument. Because a franchise is big and popular and mainstream, therefore it's ok if they ARE lazy, because it saves them money, time and effort. Also, the comparison to Capcom and Michael Bay does not help your case, given that Capcom is infamous for it's greed (DLC bullshit) and Michael Bay is infamous for terrible and mindless film-making. As for Disney, for them it made perfect sense, since they weren't exactly using modern computers and digital technology to make those animations and making new ones took forever. As I said, a pretty bad argument.
  • Sliet - November 6, 2013 5:05 p.m.

    Houghton pls.
  • richard-cadman - November 6, 2013 1:09 p.m.

    You know this article would feel less like an excuse if my screen didn't have more Ghosts ads than actual writing.
  • death4us - November 6, 2013 11:59 a.m.

    So what if most the game is the same as the last one. All that matters is people are willing to dish out the money for the game. They need to do this in order to keep releasing games at a fast pace. So it is up to you if you want another Cod game release sooner or if you want to wait longer just to get something new from them.
  • jon-ferdinand-estherarson - November 7, 2013 5:01 a.m.

    It isn't exactly the fans demanding a new release every year. It's the franchise owners who make a new release every year (in order to make a quick cash-grab). I think most gamers would agree, that it would be vastly preferable if they took a longer time making each game, if it meant more innovations and new features. MW3 or BlackOps2 are perfectly good games to play online for several more years. It's not like they are only good for about a year or so. Just look at MW1, it's still being played online.
  • ParagonT - November 6, 2013 11:35 a.m.

    I'll say this, just because someone else throws a paper wad in class doesn't give everyone else the okay to do the same. Thats like first grade 101. So I find it ridiculous that people use that as excuses for pretty much everything. Thats the likeness of going "Well, my brother once flipped off a guy, so that means I have the okay to do it as well". Well lets see if the reaction is the same, and thats what it amounts to. People react differently to different things. You can't control that, I can't control that. If you could, then we wouldn't be different from one another, unless whoever uses these excuses thinks this is a good thing. I don't find it a big deal since it amounts to 15 seconds of my life, but maybe if it was 10 minutes of reused material, I would be a bit more agitated if I had bought it. So please, lets keep this in perspective and quit trying to take the moral high ground when there isn't one.
  • ObliqueZombie - November 6, 2013 10:26 a.m.

    Wow... I had no idea so many companies recycled so much stuff--to this extent, at least. Yeah, I think I'd be annoyed to see the same animation again, but given the spectrum, I'm sure I've seen shit reused in so many other things that it never phased me.
  • Talvari - November 6, 2013 9:16 a.m.

    Reusing assets like textures and models for games i can understand for the most part. But even a short cutscene that's almost identical to a previous game isn't acceptable to me. Doesn't matter if another company has done it, that doesn't make it okay. This bothers me more than it should because it's only a 15 second cutscene, but when your main campaign is just a few hours long...I dunno.
  • Hendar - November 6, 2013 8:30 a.m.

    I don't mind it, it's very small really and as long as they don't re-use everything and do it for every game. I don't see it as a problem. A lot of MMO's re-use graphics, animations and locations for new content. No one seems to care about that. It's common practice there really, it's fine though as long as it is used in moderation really. Though you could argue that at least changing the head movement of the character to make it look different could work but I totally understand why they do this. That said however, I stopped playing Call of Duty around Modern Warfare 2. Nothing against CoD, I'm just not that into the multi-player right now (though that can be a lot of fun) and can't justify the price for the single-player campaign alone. Especially not on the budget I'm living on currently, they are however good games.
  • semitope - November 6, 2013 7:44 a.m.

    A game is slightly different from cartoons though. This will make people see Call of duty as being out of ideas. The events in a cutscene are supposed to be significant and somewhat interesting. Doing the same thing again so similarly.... $60 for what... people could think they are just playing the same sp as another cod game
  • Modroneman - November 6, 2013 8:20 a.m.

    Don't be one of those guys. We are talking about 18 seconds.
  • semitope - November 6, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    I highly doubt it's only 18 seconds. A lot of the game is likely reused.
  • Modroneman - November 6, 2013 9:53 a.m.

    Yep! You're being one of 'those' guys. Nothing else to be said here. Moving on...
  • semitope - November 6, 2013 9:55 a.m.

    and you are one of "those" other guys. Sad really
  • Child Of Death - November 6, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    It is just 18 secs nothing else. In the long run who gives a shit people will forget about this in like a week.
  • jon-ferdinand-estherarson - November 7, 2013 6:24 a.m.

    If there's no backlash to these 18 secs, then what next? Will the next release have and hour if reused animations? Why not? Nobody cared the last time around...
  • bronco-bomma - November 6, 2013 6:55 a.m.

    I'll bet my brand new PS4 that I'm receiving in 9 days that Battlefield 4 doesn't rehash the same cut-scenes as its predecessor did.

Showing 1-20 of 29 comments

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