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Call of Duty: Heroes is about rote strategy, not shooting

Andrew Hayward | Dec. 3, 2014
At any given moment in the immensely popular Call of Duty first-person shooter games on consoles and computers, you might blast your way through a crumbling near-future city, dominate worldwide competition in frantic online shootouts, or survive a horrific zombie uprising with a small group of allies.

At any given moment in the immensely popular Call of Duty first-person shooter games on consoles and computers, you might blast your way through a crumbling near-future city, dominate worldwide competition in frantic online shootouts, or survive a horrific zombie uprising with a small group of allies.

By contrast, Call of Duty: Heroes (free) for iPhone and iPad finds you tapping your way through menus, watching your automated soldiers fire assault rifles at large buildings until they blow up, and waiting for timers to tick down. Quite a difference, no? Veterans of a certain lightweight freemium strategy approach will recognize this as a modern-military themed take on Clash of Clans, and no doubt, Activision hopes that audience will move from one big brand to another.

But what of the core Call of Duty fans? Heroes' title refers to the fact that you can pull in familiar characters from the shooter franchise's greatest hits, but that alone isn't likely to convince players to invest the ample time--and, let's face it, real-life money--needed to generate much success or excitement within this rote design.

Clash of Duty 

Remember all those hours spent in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops mining gold and drilling for oil? No? Me neither. It's fair to say that Call of Duty: Heroes doesn't make that strong of an effort to disguise its heritage as a Clash of Clans-alike, albeit one now slathered with the name and likeness of Activision's $10 billion franchise. 

The core mechanics are identical: you'll slowly amass resources and begin expanding and enhancing your base, which means waiting anywhere from half a minute to a full day for buildings to rise and upgrades to complete. Or you can spend precious Celerium, the premium currency found in Heroes. You'll start off with a seemingly generous amount, but if you're hoping to play for more than a few minutes every couple of hours--or get anywhere fast--you'll be tempted to shell out for packs that cost between $5 and $100 in real-world money.

Of course, you can play without blowing through Celerium--which very slowly accrues through daily bonuses and other promotions--but making progress is a real grind. And that's the point, isn't it? Even the missions reinforce that notion: "Create this building and get a reward! Now upgrade that one and get a reward!" Except that each further rendition takes more resources and more time to execute, which applies to every structure, unit, and upgrade in the game. And so you wait. 

That's not unique to Call of Duty: Heroes, but the series' first freemium spinoff makes little effort to disrupt the genre. Instead, the core experience simply mimics Clash of Clans and its ilk with the constant allure of a larger base or more powerful soldiers on the horizon. And yet millions of people fire up Clash of Clans daily, so clearly that gameplay approach has its willing devotees.

 

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