Why We Love (And Hate) Call of Duty's Nuketown

Few maps evoke as much of a reaction as Nuketown does. Some love it, some hate it, and some—like me—can't decide between these extremes.

The Gameological Society's Ryan Smith wrote a fascinating writeup on the divisive Nuketown, which delves into its history and explores the virtues and shortcomings of the map.

As some of you know, Nuketown is a small, compact map that recreates a slice of suburbia in Call of Duty. Overtly, the mannequin-populated map pulls from American history—a time when the Army wanted to test out how a typical town would stand against a nuclear explosion. (Not very well, it turns out.)

Though obviously based on a nuclear test town—it's in the name!—I didn't know that it was based on the infamous refrigerator scene in 2008's Indiana Jones until I read the writeup on Gamelogical. Specifically, it's the scene in the movie where Indy survives a nuclear blast on a test site by taking refuge in a fridge.

There's something eerie about Nuketown and its picture-perfect depiction of the American atomic family... and yet, something very appropriate about its existence as a multiplayer map on a popular shooter. It's like we've simply accepted that that reality, that conception of the American dream, is so unreal that it feels fitting as a campy stage used for our entertainment.

At the same time, we're complicit in something when we idolize the map. It's like we can't let go of this era, like there is still something about this time that haunts us. The fact that Black Ops II presents a technologically updated Nuketown supports this idea: we're dragging that past with us, even to the future. Granted, a more meaningful exploration of that all of this would probably be found on the Fallout games.

Regardless, it's clear that the mere image of Nuketown carries baggage and that alone makes a good case for why it's such a popular map.

...so far, all conceptual mumbo jumbo. This is a place we play in, so surely, there's something to be said about that too, yes?

Gameological poses that Nuketown is both "fairest battlegrounds in series history" and yet it's a place that can "devolve into chaos at times." I'm not sure both of these can be true at once, unless we're postulating that most Call of Duty maps are awful and broken.

If nothing else, the small map size allows the Call of Duty signature twitch style play to shine—it's almost entirely close-combat that requires fast reflexes. But that also means we're constantly experiencing the highs and lows of the Call of Duty experience. Shortly after a match starts, because of the lack of downtime, you'll feel either empowerment or rage depending on how you perform.

But ultimately, as Gameological puts it, most of that is all for naught:

The sadistic joke of Nuketown comes at the end of each match, when a bomb drops and obliterates everything in sight, making all of the desperate head-shooting and flag-capturing seem a bit futile. But that's all forgotten seconds later when the scoreboard pops up and the game asks you to vote once again for a new battlefield. Ninety percent of the time, the crowd votes for yet another skirmish on Treyarch's lark of death.

Damn.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops-"Nuketown" [Gameological]