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Top 10 Call of Duty Cliches

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Kurt Hvorup
Let's do this Marines! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our list for the top 10 Call of Duty Cliches. To have your ideas turned into a WatchMojo or MojoPlays video, head over to http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and get to it!

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Top 10 Call of Duty Cliches

Ah, the familiar sounds of 360 no-scope kills, triumphant survival of near-fatal injury and deadly helicopter rides – what would we do without you? Welcome to and today we’re counting down our list for the top 10 Call of Duty Cliches.

For this list we’re charging into Activision’s highly-successful FPS franchise in search of those recurrent themes, design elements and concepts that it uses most often. We won’t be discussing the connections between “Call of Duty” and other formative first-person shooter series, such as “Medal of Honor”, as that falls outside of the realm of cliches. Also, please be warned that there will be spoilers.

#10: Slo-mo Door Breach

Featured in the more recent entries in this series, this habit of using slow-motion to accentuate room breaching sequences has found itself turned into a mainstay of the games. “Modern Warfare 2” was most enamored with the concept, with the oil rig mission showcasing several instances of Task Force 141 blasting into rooms in slowed fashion. Since then, though, it’s cropped up more sparingly as a way to highlight the uniqueness and tension of particular action sequences, distinguishing them from the more typical fast-paced fare. When used correctly, the slow-motion door breach can bring an anticipatory energy and stylistic flourish to this or that given scene.

#9: Holding The Line

Action franchises love their epic final stands against overwhelming odds, and “Call of Duty” definitely doesn’t differ in that regard. Damn near once a game, players are dropped into situations in which they must claim a location for a given army, before holding off oncoming attackers until a specific time limit is met. Beginning with the fight to hold Pegasus Bridge in the original “Call of Duty”, this defend-the-location design mentality has cropped up time and again throughout the sequels. At its best, it’s a way to challenge players while also serving as a dramatic setpiece that sticks in the public consciousness long after play ends.

#8: The Stealth Level

Tread carefully, don’t make a sound, and shoot only when told to. Cropping up as a means of ratcheting up tension without needing much in the way of extensive context, the stealth mission is a reliable concept for “Call of Duty” to return to repeatedly. 2007’s “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” provided audiences with a remarkably nerve-racking sneaking level set outside of Chernobyl, demanding precise sniper shots and measured maneuvering from the player. It became the foundational template on which subsequent instalments would build, the most substantial distinction being that later games avoided making entire levels dedicated to stealthy progression.

#7: Turret Sections

Lock and load, as they say. Heavy weaponry and “Call of Duty” go together like peanut butter and jelly, that much is pretty much a given considering what series we’re discussing. Yet it appears as though on-rails turret-based gameplay segments are of particular interest to Activision and company. Be it a brief shootout aboard a fleeing plane or an extended sequence aboard a WWII-era bomber, the series often finds a way to work in turret sections into proceedings. Not that that’s necessarily a complaint – there’s a surprising amount of mileage to be wrung from this particular cliché.

#6: Resistance to Major Injuries

Apparently military operations require you to be made of iron. That’s the impression we get whenever a “Call of Duty” protagonist walks off what would be a potentially fatal injury for any normal person. In “Modern Warfare 2”, Captain MacTavish not only manages to walk away from a drop off a waterfall but also survives a knife being stabbed into his chest. Gunshot wounds only slow the heroes down, falling from great heights is often only a minor inconvenience, and explosions are just another obstacle to be avoided. It’s astounding how hard these soldiers are to kill.

#5: Rookies with No Family

Throughout the series, there’s this recurring element of newcomers being brought into the fold right as the action gets going. At the start of the original “Call of Duty”, players are put in the shoes of Private Martin, a new recruit of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Later games would build on this archetype with the exclusion of identifiable backstory for said rookies, particular when it comes to familial relationships. We know more about these soldiers’ place in their respective divisions than about their personalities, their connections to family and friends, or even basic social and political views.

#4: That Shocking Moment

You can get away with throwing the audience for a loop exactly one time before it starts to become routine. One of the more startling moments in “Call of Duty 4” was the infamous Shock and Awe mission, in which a combined 30,000 American soldiers die in a nuclear detonation. It was brutal, unexpected and illustrated exactly how serious the game was about its subject matter… and then the sequels tried to top it. From the controversy-stoking No Russian mission in “Modern Warfare 2” to the grim and grotesque nature of Menendez’s vengeance in “Black Ops II”, it’s readily apparent that the “shocking” turn of events is now a series staple.

#3: Press X to…

We’re not surprised to see quick time events show up here, that’s for sure. A more recent addition to the “Call of Duty” cliché catalogue, pressing buttons during what are ostensibly cutscenes has become commonplace for the games. However, it’s not just used for avoiding death by attacking dogs or murderous soldier – on-screen button prompts also show up during non-combat scenes. For instance, the infamous “Pay respects” moment from “Advanced Warfare” made use of such an indicator, as did the lead-up to John MacTavish’s demise in “Modern Warfare 3”. It can be debated whether quick time events are warranted in regular gameplay, but their presence in dramatic moments is unintentionally silly to say the least.

#2: Unavoidable End-of-Mission Death

Loss of life is to be expected in combat… but this goes a step further. Characters dying in this series is nothing new, the prospect being made apparent right from the beginning. It’s become common, though, for the narrative to contrive ways in which the current player character dies at mission’s end. Maybe it’s due to a betrayal by a respected ally, or perhaps it’s the result of a noble sacrifice. Whatever the context, “Call of Duty” loves to kill off characters in the name of drama and raising the stakes, with the results sometimes managing to impress.

#1: Player Must Do Everything

Per the power fantasy roots of this entire franchise, this feels almost like a given. From the very first game to the present, the player character is always asked to complete important mission objectives… as well as most other actions. Shooting all enemies in sight, planting charges on a highlighted target, it’s all in the hands of the audience POV character. Seemingly in part a means of always making players feel significant to the narrative, it also comes across a bit like the series expects you to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.

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