Call of Duty. It’s a series that probably either sends a shiver down your spine, or elicits an eyeroll. I get it, I’m right there with you. CoD has truly begun to overstay its welcome, and as it barely changes with each annual installment, the player base has begun to dwindle as well. In multiplayer’s early days, the game could easily reach 70,000 players each week, sometimes exceeding 100,000 users. In comparison, Black Ops 3 barely topped 30,000 players just a month after release. So yeah, it’s going down.This year’s installment, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, doesn’t show signs of breaking this downward trend, as many are upset with the new outer-space setting and the continued fight against robots, especially compared to its biggest competition in the AAA space, Battlefield 1, which recently went back to its roots as a historical military shooter. Despite this apparent shift in consumer interest, Activision shows no signs of stopping, and honestly, I say we let them. If they want to waste money coming up with “new” contrived concepts year in and year out, why interfere? Hopefully one of them will be a winner.[/vc_column_text]
You see, I’m still hopeful in a weird way. I remember the days when Call of Duty was, in a sense, absolutely brilliant. Packed with grand set pieces, smart mechanics, and stories that kept my mind reeling for days after they were over, Call of Duty once deserved its spot at the top of the charts. Let’s check out some of these storytelling masterpieces in depth, and you’ll see why I’m scarily intrigued by Infinite Warfare.
The first Call of Duty I ever played was World at War. Granted, I played it on my Wii because I couldn’t yet afford an Xbox 360 and the Wii was a Christmas present, but the game was still the same. The Wii delivered some surprisingly good CoD ports in its day. Anyway, as World at War begins, your character is being tortured by the Japanese on Makin Island. Once you’re freed by your companions, you take part in the Makin Island Raid, and your journey begins.
World at War took place during World War II, and it’s mainly remembered because of its awesome cast of characters. The American marines are led by Sergeant Roebuck, voiced by the incomparable, pre-Big Boss Kiefer Sutherland. He delivers a performance that really gets you attached to your squad, and makes certain deaths a little more heartbreaking. Another character whom needs no introduction to anyone that has played WaW is Viktor Reznov, the Soviet leader who is thirsty for revenge against the Germans. Reznov appears in later games in the series, and his story, as well as his bravery and wit, make fighting alongside him all the more entertaining.
World at War was a fantastic WWII story that still holds up as an excellent representation of the biggest, most infamous war in history. From trench warfare, to banzai soldiers hiding in the grass, to full tank-on-tank action, World at War delivered this brilliant film-quality tale of determination and destruction. I can still remember the final scene in which Reznov goes after a German soldier (who just shot the player character) with a machete, cuts him down right in view, and aids you in planting the Soviet flag to end the war in Europe. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, and one that made me a CoD fan for life.
Going from World at War to Modern Warfare was an interesting transition, as we took a great leap in weaponry and tactics from World War II to current-day Afghanistan. Modern Warfare may only be my second-favorite Call of Duty game, but its story is one that had me on the edge of my seat for hours. I’m not the only one, either, as this installment included some of the most fondly remembered levels in gaming, like “All Ghillied Up”, which had you and Captain MacMillan sneak through the eerie wasteland of Chernobyl to find your mortal enemy, Imran Zakhaev’s hideout. This level has gone down in history as one of gaming’s most memorable sequences, and it’s not hard to see why.
“All Ghillied Up”, as well as many other levels in Modern Warfare, delivered a unique military shooter experience (not to mention stealth-heavy gameplay), all the while delivering a captivating story you could get lost in. I think G.B. Burford of Kotaku said it best when he wrote, “To put it simply, ‘cinematic’ is bad, ‘experiential’ is good.” It’s that ability to be a part of something, and to forget that you’re only moving a thumbstick or cursor around; just pushing buttons.
What you do feels meaningful. Every action has an impact, and your story is affected by the outcomes. You were on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean. You did get killed in a nuclear explosion. Well, maybe that didn’t really happen. But you felt it, thanks to some amazing storytelling. Best of all, this wasn’t communicated through a traditional medium like film, but through Call of Duty! Remember the last time Call of Duty really made you feel something? Well, I do, because it happened just once more before things headed downhill.
Call of Duty: Black Ops was my first foray into CoD on a “proper” console. The night I bought my Xbox 360 was Black Ops launch night, and I waited outside a GameStop for hours with my dad. As I mentioned before, my only experience with Call of Duty at this point was on the Wii, and let me tell you, I never went back to using a Wii Zapper after experiencing Black Ops. I still say to this day that Black Ops is my favorite CoD, my second favorite game ever (can’t beat BioShock Infinite), and Treyarch’s true magnum opus.
I don’t know how they managed to grab a hold of my brain and take it for such a trip, but I still reminisce about the campaign to this day. Black Ops took place during the Cold War, and saw the return of Viktor Reznov as a Russian prisoner who awakens something inside protagonist Alex Mason, and sends the young soldier on a trail of vengeance. But Black Ops wasn’t just about the Cold War. It also took place in the present day, where Mason was tied to a chair, having his brain picked by a mysterious man behind frosted glass. The game’s story was told through flashbacks, which took you from Cuba to Russia- from dense jungles, to icy mountains.
Black Ops was a visual wonder as much as it was a storytelling marvel. It was a crazy mind-numbing experience: a tale of deception and revelations that made the player question the morality of war as a whole. Black Ops really encompassed all that was perfect with the Call of Duty franchise. Even if the campaign wasn’t your cup of tea, Black Ops seemed to get everything right, from multiplayer to zombies. It had it all, but unfortunately with its following two sequels, Black Ops sparked the beginning of Call of Duty’s futuristic agenda, and its subsequent fall from grace.
As you can see, Call of Duty wasn’t always the hack job we make it out to be. It was once a franchise that prided itself on simulation-like war experiences. Even the older installments like Finest Hour and Big Red One were loved by fans for their accuracy to classic military battles and their devotion to the series. No rocket jumps, no robots, and no zombies (even though some people enjoy them).
Call of Duty was once an inventive first-person shooter that led players through some of the most devastating moments in military history, with a front-row seat to all the action. Nowadays it may have grown a bit stale, and it may be way in over its head with this new space setting, but I believe that maybe, just maybe, it can be saved in the long run. Perhaps all we need is for Infinity Ward to return and deliver us a Modern Warfare-esque space opera that will get us out of the rut we’ve been in for far too long.
So I say, give it a chance. See what happens on November 4th, and decide for yourself. In the meantime, you can check out Jordan’s impressions of the beta right here. There’s a lot riding on this year’s CoD to prove its worth against such stiff competition (e.g. Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2). Although it certainly doesn’t help that one of the best games, Modern Warfare, is being remastered and hidden behind a paywall in the form of an $80 Infinite Warfare bundle. So maybe they are hiding something, after all.
What do you think? Are you excited for Infinite Warfare? What can Call of Duty do to earn back your trust? Or, perish the thought, will you defend the franchise to the bitter end, no matter what they do? Let us know in the comments below! And stay tuned to Ground Punch for our full review next month.