Halo Infinite has been a breath of fresh air in the competitive FPS scene. The iconic series made a triumphant return in November with incredible gameplay, support for both casual and competitive players, and a budding esports scene featuring new young talent alongside older veterans.
The same can’t be said about Call of Duty’s latest installment, which has so far been a massive disappointment for competitive fans. Vanguard and the Call of Duty League have failed to replicate the early success of Infinite and the Halo Championship Series due to the game being shipped without a dedicated ranked playlist and the almost three-month lull before the first CDL event. Infinite’s success should be a wake-up call to the CDL and developers since almost all CoD fans are rightfully comparing the game’s poor atmosphere with Halo’s stellar environment.
Infinite’s multiplayer was released early to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Xbox, giving fans access to the highly anticipated multiplayer experience. The game launched with several core modes, including a robust ranked playlist perfect for competitive players.
A Halo Waypoint blog post was released a month before the beta went live, showing a clear focus on the competitive portion of Infinite. The ranked modes and competitive playlist weren’t an afterthought or add-on but were essential to the team’s vision.
Right now, Infinite features three ranked playlists to accommodate each platform and playstyle. Players can grind the open playlist with their friends on any platform since it supports crossplay and up to four players in a party. Fans who want to queue by themselves or just one friend can hop into the solo/duo playlists, separated into controller or keyboard and mouse players.
In Infinite’s ranked playlist, players compete in one of four competitive game modes: Slayer, Capture the Flag, Strongholds, and Oddball. Players can climb through 31 ranks to hit Onyx and prove themselves as the best of the best. They can see their progress after each match and how close they are to ranking up or dropping back down at a glance.
One day after Infinite’s multiplayer beta was released, 343 Industries revealed details about the 2021-2022 Halo Championship Series season. This announcement gave fans an in-depth look at the upcoming competitive season when they were still hyped about the game being released early. They could immediately support their favorite teams by purchasing in-game cosmetics.
The HCS Kickoff Major concluded earlier this month and was an incredible experience for both fans watching and those lucky enough to see it in person. The event went relatively smoothly despite a few technical issues but was still a positive experience.
So far, Halo Infinite is absolutely killing it. Casual players can enjoy quick matches and Big Team Battles with their friends while competitive players grind to improve their rank. The professional scene has gotten off to an incredible start and fans didn’t have to wait long for an official event to happen.
Almost none of these highlights apply to Call of Duty, despite fans asking for the same treatment every year.
Vanguard was released on Nov. 5 with the traditional modes and features fans expect every year. Casual players can grind the regular game modes to their heart’s desire, unlocking weapons and attachments along the way. A new campaign mode scratches the itch for fans of a single-player experience and the popular Zombies mode also returned. But just like Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard launched without a dedicated ranked playlist.
Sledgehammer Games and Treyarch confirmed they’re working together to bring Ranked Play in 2022, but that means competitive fans are still waiting for the mode to appear. The earliest they’ll see the ranked playlist is in January, a full two months after the game was released. Regular matches provide the fast-paced, arcade-style Call of Duty gameplay, but it’s not the same as a dedicated ranked mode.
Fans of the Call of Duty League are also stuck waiting for the season to start in February, four months after Vanguard was released. Los Angeles Thieves player Envoy revealed on The CouRage and Nadeshot Show that full CDL teams can’t play together in online tournaments before the season officially starts and the only preseason event is the Kickoff Classic in January. Thus, CDL fans are still waiting for their first chance to see their favorite rosters compete in meaningful Vanguard action.
Three-time world champion Karma also explained there’s nothing to care about right now in competitive Call of Duty. He gave his point of view as he watched the HCS Kickoff Major, further indicating how the CDL is “fumbling the bag.”
OpTic Texas co-owner Hector “H3CZ” Rodgriguez recently spoke about the Call of Duty developers treating competitive CoD as an afterthought on The OpTic Podcast. He explained how Krampus, the notorious enemy that appeared in Vanguard this month with the Festive Fervor event, ruined private lobbies for professional players trying to practice, indicating the competitive side of CoD is not a primary focus.
In addition, H3CZ talked about Vanguard launching in November without League Play despite players asking for it every year. He said he was told two years ago when the CDL launched that League Play would be regularly available at launch, but this still isn’t the case. He also explained how he thinks it’s a deliberate choice to delay the launch of a ranked playlist to keep players interested in the game and bring them back when the mode is finally released. H3CZ even mentioned the detrimental downtime between the game’s launch and OpTic’s first official CDL match several months later, further highlighting some of the current frustrations in the competitive CoD community.
Since Infinite’s multiplayer launched on Nov. 15, there’s already been a major event and the qualifiers leading into that event. The professional scene hit the ground running, capitalizing on the hype of the new release. This design negated the lull Call of Duty is experiencing and likely contributed to the success of the Kickoff Major.
Infinite also has a much better in-game connection with the professional HCS teams. Fans can purchase the previously mentioned themed cosmetics to support their favorite teams with unique armor colors. Each skin is vibrant and exciting, allowing players to stand out on their team. Call of Duty players, on the other hand, only have lackluster black and white CDL skins in Vanguard right now. Players may see team-specific skins in 2022, but again, this is a significant wait period for fans craving new content.
Each Call of Duty title has a one-year life cycle before the next game replaces it. After a few months, fans start losing interest and are more focused on leaks and details about the next game. Fans have already started hearing rumors about CoD 2022 potentially being a follow-up to 2019’s Modern Warfare and attention will continue to shift away from Vanguard as we enter 2022.
This small window of opportunity is why the Call of Duty League needs to align with each game’s release and stop waiting to add crucial content months into the game’s lifecycle. Ranked play should be included on day one to give competitive fans a mode to enjoy. The CDL should mimic the HCS and immediately build hype around the league while the game is still fresh and enjoyable. Staggering this content is a massive missed opportunity and a detriment to the growth and success of the Call of Duty League.
The success of the HCS and Infinite should serve as a wake-up call and a blueprint for how to improve Call of Duty’s professional and competitive scene. The CoD community has almost unanimously expressed how the Infinite release was exactly what they wanted and what they ask for every year.
Infinite isn’t a perfect game, but 343 Industries has seemingly done a lot more to support the competitive aspects of the game than their Call of Duty competitors. There’s still hope for Call of Duty to return to glory, but the developers and people behind the scenes need to work quickly before all fans jump ship to Halo.