Where does Call of Duty go from here to make it fresh and interesting, and is that even possible?
I want to start with the 2003 Xbox game Secret Weapons over Normandy. Wait, what? How is this related to Call of Duty in the slightest? It’s a plane simulator game.
No, I swear I'm not crazy
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I’m not suggesting in the slightest that the next Call of Duty include a fully involved flying section: the Blackbird section from Black Ops was pathetic, and I’m not sure they could pull off a flying section and make it easy enough. That being said, Battlefield isn’t too bad…
But I digress. What I’m trying to say is… Call of Duty needs to go back to World War II.
Because where we’re going with Black Ops and Modern Warfare is unsustainable. We’re almost about to go completely sci-fi here. In just one or two more games’ time, CoD will be Crysis or Halo. Invisibility cloaks? Wave scanning sights? How long is it before CoD says that we've created regenerative shields or powered exoskeleton armor as well?
Haven’t we seen this before? CLOAK ENGAGED.
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Here’s the plan. Modern Warfare can keep following its own story of Price and his antics. It would be slightly difficult for a game so titled to switch timeframes. Instead, I want to focus on what happens with the Black Ops series. Black Ops is descending too quickly, and I felt the full force of that when I had to deal with the unbelievably ridiculous farce known as the strike force missions. Even the best shot Halo Wars couldn’t make RTS work on a console, and I sincerely doubt CoD with no RTS chops whatsoever was ever going to make that any better. The way to beat them is to have every single unit but one defend or take one objective, and simply command a soldier
95% of the time and do the rest. And while I appreciate the attempt to inject some variety in the usual campaign mode with the various endings, where does that go? Are we now making an RPG, where if you go down one street in one mission you’ll get one ending, but if you go down the street on the next block, something else?
Was Treyarch trying to tell us something in the last game?
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Why World War II?
Firstly, because we haven’t visited it for some time, with the possible lone exception of Sniper Elite V2, but that was more of an Enemy at the Gates type of game than the Saving Private Ryan we’re more used to. The last good glance we took at it was in World at War, which really was the endgame of the conflict anyways. What I want, which I mentioned on one of the first podcasts, is that I’m still waiting for a total World War II game. Every major battle in the entire war, all in one total HD package with the latest CoD gameplay mechanics.
Secondly, World War II was all about the black ops. Some of the most fascinating stories I’ve ever read were about crazy experiments or weird ideas that were floated and tried during World War II. And this is where Secret Weapons over Normandy comes in. That game was all about secret Nazi programs and weapons, such as V2 rockets and the Me-262 jet fighter, and trying to take them down. Moreover, it’s not like CoD has no experience with Nazi occultism or secret experiments. Just look at the Zombies mode, whose story, accessible through unbelievably complex easter eggs, mentions Nazi experiments with anti-gravity and invisibility, among other things. That Fly Trap in the Der Riese Zombies map is real, not to mention the entire Der Riese facility as
well. These are the black ops missions that are just waiting to happen.
Look up Nazi occultism on Wikipedia and tell me you can’t make a game named Black Ops out of it.
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Thirdly, we have still yet to see World War II in HD glory. Presumably this game, if it were ever to exist, would be on the next-gen consoles. Remember storming the beaches of Normandy in Call of Duty 2? It was 10 guys with terrible graphics and poor running animations climbing a cliff. In the last good example of WW2, World at War, you can see the potential just waiting to happen. I want to see modern water and particles, amazing draw distances, HD textures, and thousands of guys in a sweeping arc storming the Normandy beach or running through the North African desert.
The difference is only slightly apparent.
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Fourthly, the World War II time scheme fits in perfectly with the latest multiplayer trends happening today. We have season passes for DLC, weekly episodic content, and weekly challenges, to name a few. All of which works with the fact that the war was several years long. Have a new major battle to fight each week, from the angle of some special forces involved. The DLC season pass which each month adds new maps from battles fought in that particular month. Weekly challenges like Mass Effect’s, each codenamed Operation: Something or Other, which allows the multiplayer community to work together towards some common goal, each of them a different take on the actual operation in the war, perhaps.
Fifth, and this is a spoiler paragraph, so don’t read it if you haven’t finished the latest game. I know there will be a Black Ops 3 where Menendez comes back, as he said to Section in the last cutscene of the game. But then this arc is done. For good. The end. Why? Well, organized and charismatic leaders of mass movements don’t just grow on trees, now do they? It’ll take 15 years at the very least before anything else happens. Also, assuming that Treyarch pulls video game convention and assumes the best ending is the normal one, since I’m pretty sure it doesn't carry over like Mass Effect (but that would be fantastic), and in that ending China and the US are allied. Cripes. I don’t think Russia or terrorists, the usual culprits, are going to try. So that means we have to plow even farther into the future, and that’s where my second point is validated.
Finally, this is the shift that I think CoD needs. John was right about this being the easiest CoD to date. That might be because he’s done so many, but I seem to agree with him. I remember the original Modern Warfare so well because of three levels that were impossibly hard, but felt so rewarded for finally completing: One Shot, One Kill, No Fighting in the War Room, and of course, Mile High Club. I couldn't tell you a single memorable mission from the next five games, save for the airport shooting in MW2. The challenge needs to be restored. That being said, this is still only a one trick pony sort of idea, two or even three if they divide it like the Hobbit, but if done right, will give them six more years of material to work with (don’t forget MW). Time enough, I think, to come up with more ideas in the meantime.