A quiet year for Call of Duty
The high-selling series launched a thousand takes. Now what?
[Hi, I’m Chris Plante, and you’re reading Postgame, a weekly newsletter collecting the best games, stories, and videos in the video game community into a fun, digestible package on Sunday mornings. Learn more on the Postgame About page. Postgame is usually edited by Stephie Grob Plante, but she’s on a road trip so I’m all alone this week! Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
Last week, I asked y’all to share some of your favorite, deliverable local delicacies. You didn’t disappoint. I shouldn’t enjoy these treats on my own, so here are a few of the standout recommendations.
If y’all try any of picks, let me know! And send a picture of the spread!
Scheduling note: I’m taking Thanksgiving off from outside-of-work responsibilities, so there will be no newsletter next Sunday. I’ll be back in December!
Three games to play
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Call of Duty’s hawkish, Hollywood-friendly dramatizations of war have fueled video game critics for over a decade. This year’s entry, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War, which features a life-like recreation of Ronald Reagan and some problematic trips through Cold War battlegrounds, appeared primed to continue that trend. And yet, to my surprise, the game’s been met with something of a whimper. There has been some interesting writing on the entry, most notably at Bullet Points Monthly, but I wonder if (beyond the obligatory reviews) the critical community exhausted with a series that, when it comes to fetishizing war, has found financial success by ignoring outside perspectives.
“[A] moment in the game offers the player a kind of mirror, a visual recognition that the people who are your ostensible mortal enemies are really just another version of you. And then you switch back to your operatives, strap on some flak armor, pick up your machine guns and light the whole place up. The same halls that were once full of the peaceful busywork of war now transform into the stage for the bullet-scarred and bloody job the series has always been more comfortable taking part in.” (Yussef Cole, Polygon)
“[E]ven a good Call of Duty in 2020 still feels like a shadow of what it could be if it just thought a little harder, if it committed a bit more to nuance, if it pushed that small step further in wriggling its way out of the series' status quo. But it won't, and maybe it can't. So Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a good Call of Duty. But it's also a showcase in how limited a good Call of Duty can still be.” (Julie Muncy, USGamer)
“At launch, ahead of the release of the game's first season, Black Ops Cold War is a good shooter and a wonderful achievement, but it is far from being the great competitive multiplayer shooter it should be. I'm confident it can get there.” (Wesley Yin-Poole, Eurogamer)
“Demon’s Souls has good bones. It was true in 2009, when developer FromSoftware released the mechanically groundbreaking role-playing game on PlayStation 3, and remains true for Bluepoint Games’ remake, released alongside Sony’s PlayStation 5 this week.” (Michael McWhertor, Polygon)
“Once the exclusive province of amateur modders, refurbishing old video games has become an increasingly popular way for commercial publishers to squeeze more love out of their library titles. And — shocking as this might be to a film critic who’s been conditioned to think of remakes as an occupational hazard — gamers have been consistently rewarded for spending money on microwaved leftovers.” (David Ehrlich, Indiewire)
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
“Breath of the Wild's story fuels Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the latest musou game for the Nintendo Switch from Omega Force and Koei Tecmo. Breath of the Wild is a game about failure and attempting to fix said blunder; Age of Calamity is about the struggle to prevent said disaster before it happens and examining how it all (inevitably) goes wrong. Age of Calamity's journey is fun, fulfilling, and full of neat story twists that sometimes get a little dark.” (Nadia Oxford, USGamer)
“Locations are repurposed for Age of Calamity's sizable maps, delivering on the appetising premise of seeing the world of Hyrule before it was seized by disaster - a world more alive, and more populous, with thousands of invading enemies for you to mow down. You'll tear through minions that line the aquamarine walkways of Zora's Domain, scythe through armies lined up in formation outside the gates of Hyrule Castle, fight a Molduga and whole mobs of Gerudo out in the wastelands.” (Martin Robinson, Eurogamer)
“It’s probably pretty obvious at this point that I adore Age of Calamity, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that there aren’t some rubbish aspects. Age of Calamity is one of the worst offenders I have ever seen in terms of Joy-Con drift spoiling bits of a game. It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth when you’re piloting an immense Divine Beast and are just sort of grating against a cliff like a drunk lad using the inside wall of a takeaway for support as he wobbles over to order his chips.” (Cian Maher, TheGamer)
Four stories to read
The new consoles offer a choice — better frame-rates or prettier graphics — but who wants to choose? Console owners are getting a hint of the frustrations (and benefits) PC gamers have lived with for decades. (Patrick Klepeck, Vice)
“Musuo” is one of my video game blindspots. I found this review of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity particularly helpful at framing the new Zelda game in the context of its underappreciated genre. (Todd Harper, Vice)
Three videos to watch
Is this… real?
“How Zelda's puzzle box dungeons work”
The secret door in Demon’s Souls has been opened
The best of the rest
I’m happy to see more folks enjoying Rivals, the alt-country mystery game. Gita Jackson spoke with its creator and smartly drew a line to Meet Me in the Bathroom, one of the greatest rock books of all time. (Gita Jackson, Vice)
I reviewed Nintendo’s odd 2020 handheld: a recreation of a 1980 toy, except it now plays Super Mario Bros. The trinket is a cute collector’s item, but its diminutive size makes for a painful play experience. (Me, Polygon)
“Demon’s Souls devs considered, and ultimately left out, an easy mode. Here’s why.” (Elise Favis, The Washington Post)
Why you won’t find the Chrysler Building in the Spider-man game. (Blake Hester, GameInformer)
The rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise of GTA V. (Ben Lindbergh, The Ringer)
“Adventure Time challenged cartoons’ Girly Girl and Other Girl stereotypes.” (Petrana Radulovic, Polygon)
How a forgotten B-side became Pavement’s most top song on Spotify. (Nate Rogers, Stereogum)
A 100 notable books from 2020. (The New York Times)
‘Tis the season for the “War on Christmas.” Is 2018, I recorded an episode of History of Fun on the dopey cable news tradition. (Me, History of Fun)
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and pumpkin pie pictures to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!