A recent rumour started by a renowned source has disturbed the annual Call of Duty (CoD) hornets nest of speculation and derision. According to Shinobi602 the next CoD will be set in the “far future”, and will go “full sci-fi” – and whilst this move isn’t necessarily an unpredictable one from Infinity Ward, it has upset a number of fans! This blog post will investigate the implications of such a rumour being true; what it means for CoD as a franchise, how well it will do, and what direction it will go in.
Data source: ‘www.statisticbrain.com’
Sorry for the minimal Excel effort, it’s been a while. This graph shows patterns which most CoD players will probably already know. Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare (2007) revolutionised the franchise and since then Treyarch’s World at War and Black Ops games have been nipping at the heels of their dominant rival. That is until Ghosts (2013) hit the shelves. Sales dipped along with fan satisfaction as a lack of innovation coupled with some heavy competition, (GTA V, Battlefield 4, Killzone: Shadowfall) saw the first signs of trouble for CoD. Elsewhere in the media I found multiple articles stating that Advanced Warfare (2014) had sold even less copies, but intriguingly last year Black Ops 3 (2015) rejuvenated the franchise once again, with current units sold at 22.5M and rising! The success of Black Ops 3 seemed unprecedented considering the 2015 release schedule of: Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront AND Halo 5 Guardians just to name a few! Is CoD ‘back in fashion’? Has Black Ops 3 given the franchise enough momentum? Or will Infinity Ward’s more recent flop (Ghosts) come back to bite them?
Competition Autumn (Fall) 2016
- Battlefield 5
- Gears 4
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
- Homefront: The Revolution
- Titanfall 2?
- Destiny 2?
Daunting right?! Overwatch, Doom, Battleborn and Titanfall 2 share many gameplay similarities to Black Ops 3 being incredibly fast twitch based shooters. Battlefield has gained a huge rival following, and most of the other entries here are sci-fi shooters. Will CoD be innovating an upcoming genre? Or will it be following the crowd helping to over-saturate the market in space based FPS titles? Infinity Ward does have it’s credentials however. One need only look at the graph above to see the majesty in the height of their reign. Treyarch showed us that CoD is still strong, fending off some big titles. But last year was the ‘RPG year’, judging by the E3 games line up, this year is shaping up the be the ‘shooter year’; Infinity Ward cannot put a step out of line this time around.
Should it be space?
What better way to innovate than to leave the shackles of the world behind? The rules of physics have already been stretched to breaking point with exo-suits and cybernetic implants, so how can they be bettered? Space has a LOT of possibility, as we have seen from the likes of Halo, Mass Effect, and from countless Star Wars games just to mention a few. Will we be seeing new planets? Alien races? Awesome weapons? Intergalactic politics? Who knows, but the more I think past the criticisms, the more potential I see in this idea. This could finally hold Infinity Ward’s answer to Treyarch’s fantastic zombies mode! A valid concern though; who actually enjoyed the space station fight in CoD ghosts? It lacked substance for me. I want more grit, like Dead Space… (Another Dead Space game announced at E3 would be lovely Visceral, thanks.)
CoD has changed so much since I started playing. Whilst this is good, look at Fifa if you don’t agree, it forces me to question: should it still be called ‘Call of Duty’? In order to properly refresh the franchise, would it be better to drop the name, and use the expertise to make something (still an FPS) different?
In another vein, having been a massive fan of CoD: World at War (2008) I kinda secretly wanted a return to historical warfare. Far Cry Primal’s success showed that a franchise can be wildly dragged back through time and still be a hit. Maybe Call of Duty should return to its roots, go back 10 years and make a true, next gen WW2 shooter.
Fans were hoping for another Modern Warfare game, but I think this is for nostalgia reasons, would it really be as good they remembered?
What about Sledgehammer and Treyarch?
As far as I’m concerned, Treyarch can do no wrong. Creatively they have what it takes to change the franchise for the better. On the other hand we have seen only one game from Sledgehammer Games (Advanced Warfare), and it will be interesting to see how they move on from Infinity Ward’s sci-fi spin. CoD: Ghosts influenced their sales last time, so could another bad Infinity Ward game spell doom for them?
In 2012 an article (http://goo.gl/bUwdIk) stated that the separate companies were beginning to collaborate for mutual benefit. With Infinity Ward moving into space, maybe Sledgehammer is doubling down on this idea too. We’ve been gradually getting more and more futuristic, so this could well be a permanent direction of the franchise. If this is true, then the pressure will mount on Sledgehammer Games more than ever to keep the franchise afloat.
Gameplay and Story
CoD gameplay has been getting faster and faster to match similar games like Titanfall and Halo 5: Guardians, giving players more mobility and abilities. Whilst this is all fine, I found that Advanced Warfare especially was TOO fast and too random, making it frustrating and bruising my opinion of it. With more in-game technology available, and a huge influx of fast arena shooters on the horizon, CoD’s gameplay could get EVEN faster.
I found the stories of the Modern Warfare games and Black Ops games (at the least the first 2) engaging, however the further into the future the franchise pulls us, the less we can relate to. Call of Duty inherently is a shooter based upon war, and with the implementation of all this new tech making each soldier a ‘superhero’, there is less meaning to lives. Even if the story is incredible (like Advanced Warfare’s was) it still cannot effect me emotionally like the London scene in MW3 did (for example), and it lacks the subtlety of the SAS missions in CoD4. The most powerful scenes are grounded in reality. They may be controversial, but they stay with you, they have powerful messages.
I think space is a logical progression to take. It isn’t a safe move, but CoD: Ghosts WAS safe, too safe, and in order to stay at the top the franchise needs to be constantly changing. I’d have loved a WW2 game, but the after the last two entries in the franchise it would seem sluggish. I say wait for Treyarch to make World at War 2, maybe in 2 years it will be the right time for it.
In terms of campaign I love the time jump stuff in Black Ops, it provides story without too many cutscenes and gives the game variety in weapons and locale. Infinity Ward should definitely find influence from this.
Lastly I think that Infinity Ward needs to be careful not to lose us. There is so much scope here for a truely fantastic game, but they really just need to keep the campaign simple! (And let me make this clear, simple is different to empty, ehem Destiny). I can’t say I’m excited yet, because I don’t even know if the rumours are true, but I suggest that skeptics have second thoughts about discounting the whole space/far future genre.