Earlier this week, a rumor started circulating that the next Call of Duty would be a sci-fi game set in the “far future.” While it’s great that the Call of Duty series is branching out and doing something different, setting the franchise in space is a move that will make the series feel like way too many games on the market. For all we know, a Call of Duty set in space could become a classic since Infinity Ward is a wonderful developer, but with each game that is released under the Call of Duty name, the series continues to move further and further away from what made these games so memorable in the first place.
There was a time when World War II titles were the “it” games on the market. Looking back at gaming’s past, it was impossible to not see a World War II game on store shelves. With the exception of 2001, from 1999 all the way up until 2009, the three big war franchises (Medal of Honor, Battlefield, and Call of Duty) had more than 20 games released as well as multiple expansions. Granted, not all of these were amazing games, but they were popular. When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, Call Of Duty 2 released alongside the console. It was a success both critically and financially
Although World War II games were big sellers, Infinity Ward and Activision did something that was almost unprecedented at the time… they made a sequel that drastically changed the formula of the series. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a different take on the popular franchise that not only brought faster paced combat, but also a gripping storyline, and an addictive online mode with a dedicated community. The online modes featured a leveling system, various weapons to unlock, use and upgrade as well as a wide range of challenges to test even the best players. While the other games in the series featured a multiplayer component, Modern Warfare was at one point the game to play on Xbox Live.
After that, Treyarch returned to the WWII timeframe with Call Of Duty: World At War, but that was the last time we’ve been in that setting since 2008. With the exception of 2010’s Call Of Duty: Black Ops, we’ve only seen modernized/futuristic versions of the franchise since Modern Warfare 2. The Call of Duty games are fun and fast-paced, but often times feel repetitive. This is evident in the fact that Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2, Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3, (the games from Treyarch and Sledgehammer games respectively) featured futuristic elements that diverged from the usual fare.
At first glance, I was excited that the series was shifting gears, but after playing through the recent titles, the more I felt as if the series forgot what made it so memorable. Intense firefights and historical context used to be front and center for the Call of Duty franchise and now in an ironic turn of events, all of the “new” things that the developers are trying to do leaves me feeling bored. The once generic formula that the series was trying to escape from, it is now falling into. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare released at a time when Titanfall was already out. The movement in those two games shared a similarity and had I not played Titanfall, Sledgehammer Games’ installment may have won me over.
Treyarch’s latest, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 featured gameplay that further distanced itself from the formula. On the plus side, the game featured 4-player combat and a pretty cool progression system, but it fell into the “been there, done that” category. The story was convoluted and easily the worst part of the experience despite having star power behind the narrative. When the series tries to do so many different things and branch out, that’s when I think it suffers the most.
If there is in fact a Call Of Duty game taking place in the future, I’m concerned. There are way too many futuristic shooters out there. We have a sequel to Titanfall coming out, and with various space aged shooters such as the Halo franchise, Destiny, and the upcoming DOOM on the market, it all just feels cluttered. Although 2013’s, Call of Duty: Ghosts featured a standout space section, the recent rumor doesn’t sound like the game will feel like those portions. The term “far future” seems more suited for alien enemies than humans and if that is the case, the Call of Duty has officially jumped the shark. It’s funny, there was always an influx of World War 2 shooters that made the genre stale. It’s surprising to think that now modernized shooters are starting to feel the same way. Sure, a futuristic version of the franchise would change up the formula, but in the end, that’s not what Call of Duty is about. Those games were about the human element, the intensity of war and the affects it has on those around you. A game set in the future could feature all of that, but the older games were shrouded in realism.
The Call of Duty series SHOULDN’T distance itself from a believable setting. While reverting back to World War II would mean a slower game, it would be a welcome return to form. Regardless of where the Call of Duty franchise takes place, history is set to repeat itself and the game will sell. It’s something that happens every year. If a futuristic game in the franchise is released and succeeds, the series that we know will cease to exist. It will have the Call of Duty name, but will be moving further away from what made the series great in the first place.