Modern Warfare 3 is the next addition to the Call of Duty franchise and its plethora of games, joining the likes of Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone on the Call of Duty HQ. However, while HQ does bring everything together into one place, it makes it more challenging to break into the series than in previous formats.
There are many reasons why the CoD HQ just doesn’t do it for me, the first of which is that nearly every time you open it, there will be an update. I’m not saying I have a problem with updates, but the game loads up fully, then tells you there was an update, only to restart the app and make you load it all up again. It would be much less of a hassle if it could silently update while the game was closed. That way, you could just load directly into the game and get playing.
I know that’s just a minor frustration, but for the size of the app and the amount of updates you have to download, I feel like things like that should be ironed out by now. I was playing a multiplayer match after the app restarted itself for an update, only to come out of the match and be told that the app had to restart again for another update. It just breaks the flow of the experience and makes it feel unfinished.
Generally, if you purchase a game and load it up, you’ll be met with a menu of things that are in the game like the multiplayer or zombies modes, and maybe you’ll have ads for the other games in the series. CoD HQ employs a different format, in that it shows you all of the modes that you can play in both MW2 and MW3, regardless of what you actually own. Even if you only play Warzone—which is free to play—you’ll still be shown all of the content for games you don’t have.
It’s not quite clear as to what you do and don’t have access to. Sure, it tells you that you don’t have access to the “game mode” if you haven’t bought a given game, but even calling it a game mode makes it feel like it’s part of something you have. I managed to install the campaign pack for MW3 before getting the game, only for it to tell me that I had to purchase the game to play. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I shouldn’t be able to fully install the file without having access to it in the first place. Especially if you’re only interested in the multiplayer or Warzone modes, it makes it look like you’re able to play more than you can.
As you scroll through the games by navigating up or down on the page, you can see the content for Modern Warfare 3, then Warzone, followed by Modern Warfare 2, and the legacy games below it. Say you’ve only got MW3. As you scroll through the legacy games, it’ll still say “Play” instead of “Purchase,” as though you can just load them up. Once you press play, it just takes you to the store page, which feels disjointed coming from a hub that seems to have everything all connected.
From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense why Activision would want to do this. Warzone being free-to-play means that the publisher wants to make it clear and straightforward as to how to spend money in other ways, such as through the battle pass or the full games. The problem is, it makes it feel very cluttered from the user end to just be bombarded by ads for things you already know exist and probably have a good reason for not having them at the moment.
Since the launch of MW3, I’ve had countless updates and a few (sometimes amusing) graphical bugs on just the launcher alone, making it feel like there’s not all that much love behind the project. Every time I load the game up, I’m hit with the same splash page thanking me for playing, which was nice the first time but feels a bit sloppy when it happens every single time I reopen the game.
The way that the HQ is set up makes it feel like each game is just an add-on of something larger, compounded by the fact that the store and Battle Pass are constantly bombarding you. If you select any option to buy MW3, it’ll show you the Vault Edition and not show you any other ways to buy it. You can navigate to and find the option for the cheaper cross-gen bundle, but the fact that you have to look so hard to find it feels like toxic marketing.
Even the fact that you get so few CP from spending $100 on the Vault Edition feels like you’re being tricked into spending more money. There are only two packs that you can buy in the store with that few CP, and anything else will cost at least twice that—costing an extra $10. Rather than feeling rewarded for buying the upgraded version, it feels more like you’re being hit with an obligation.
All in all, the Call of Duty HQ feels like the bare minimum when it comes down to having a hub for the franchise. While players who already have the other games will benefit from being able to access them in one place, it’s less straightforward for the people who are trying to play the game for the first time. It makes it feel almost intimidating just to get into a game or that you will be missing out desperately by not having the Battle Pass. I can’t help but feel that Call of Duty would be better off back as individual games in your library.