In case you have not been paying attention, Call Of Duty is going back to its roots. In fact, Activision has been doing its best with its marketing juggernaut to ram it into people that Call Of Duty is going back to “boots-on-the-ground”; going back to “what they know best”; going back to “World War 2”. To be quite honest, the aggressive marketing campaign is getting a bit boring, and it’s starting to take the shine off what actually is a significant change for a series that has, in some quarters, been stagnating recently. More bizarre, though, is Activision’s insistence on the series going, you guessed it, back.
The three games that preceded COD: WWII have all seen a near-future setting, increased mobility, both horizontally and vertically, and, with the possible exception of Infinite Warfare, boring, by-the-numbers campaigns. As a result, a considerable minority of players have been getting increasingly irritated by the direction the series has been taking, venting their fury on message boards and the “dislikes” button on YouTube.
Activision tried the placate this growing group of dissatisfied players by giving them a remastered version of COD 4: Modern Warfare. Of course, the publishing giant made a giant mess of its olive branch by burning down the tree in the process.
First, they only offered Modern Warfare as a bundle with Infinite Warfare. Then, if you got that bundle, you couldn’t play it unless the Infinite Warfare disc was in your system. Concurrently, Activision said Modern Warfare would never be a standalone release. And finally, eight months later, they released it as a standalone game, charging for the privilege. If Activision was trying to appease members of the COD community, it was making an abysmal job of it.
Unfortunately, all that chaos took away from what is still a great game. COD 4: Modern Warfare was my first next-gen FPS. It was the first FPS where I played away from split- screen. It was the first FPS where I dipped my toe into the online pool. And it was the first real-world FPS I ever played–World Wars or otherwise.
The campaign was the epitome of excellence in the genre and introducing it at a time of real-world turmoil in the region it was set, was a risk, but one that did just enough to not feel exploitative. And Captain Price was a character that revolutionised the genre and is still the best character the series has ever created. Call Of Duty has never packaged a campaign as good as Modern Warfare.
Then you have the multiplayer. Unlike the campaign, COD’s future multiplayer suites have improved, but Modern Warfare built the foundations for others to improve on. Scorestreaks, prestige, weapon modification–all would become mainstays of the series, even into this year’s instalment.
Why is all this important? It all goes *ahem* back to boots on the ground. Even though, at the time, boots on the ground was the norm. Modern Warfare was the first realistic, modern FPS, and it changed the genre and the series. Activision is trying to ram home the idea that WWII can do the same thing.
They don’t need to ram it home, though. They don’t need to focus on what went before or going back. They need to focus on the road ahead. That is how WWII should be viewed.
COD: WWII, it seems, will be very similar to Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare took the series away from its stable and successful era to date and into a new one. Likewise, WWII is moving away from the fast-paced, movement-based COD’s of today. Modern Warfare also, as the name suggests, took the “hoo-rah” and unique COD spectacle away from the genre norm of Second World War or future settings–like Halo–and moved it to a more realistic, ongoing timeframe. WWII is now taking that same “hoo-rah”, that same unique spectacle away from the current near-future and post-apocalyptic settings, back to a historical theatre. The similarities are striking. And it continues.
MW concentrated on a well-designed and well-told story, centring around interesting and relatable characters. WWII, with its campaign based around the camaraderie of the troops of World War 2, including the main character, “Red” Daniels, is taking its inspiration from the characters created and brought to life by Modern Warfare.
WWII is also looking to introduce new mechanics to multiplayer, as Modern Warfare did 10 years previously, that could be the foundation for the next few years of COD’s mass appeal USP. Headquarters–which is the online social hub of the game–and War–an objective based massive multiplayer battle–are just two of the innovations the new game is bringing.
It all adds up to WWII feeling like the start of a new era for COD games.
So far, there are two-time frames or eras of COD games: there are the games that came before COD: Modern Warfare and the games that came after COD: Modern Warfare. Even though Activision is pushing the advertising slogan for COD: WWII as “going back”, they should be pushing the game as going forward, as being the start of a new era for COD games, built on the experience of the original forward thinker: COD: Modern Warfare. Ok, there are similarities between the last, “game-changer” and the new, possible, “game-changer”, but the new game has to be seen as a reboot, the start of that new era, otherwise nothing will change and COD will remain in its current cyclical pattern of similar gameplay, similar settings, diminishing returns and a dwindling fanbase.