Undeniably, Call of Duty has returned to its roots somewhat with last year’s release of WW2. Returning to the battle-hardened 1940s war-time setting has led developer Sledgehammer Games to do away with the more fantastical styles of play modern gamers have come to be acquainted with, instead replacing it with a much slower-paced and meaningful descent into the dark unknown. For as different and revolutionary this change of tone seemingly is however, certain Call of Duty mainstays are holding the franchise back.
Loading up Call of Duty WW2 you’ll be greeted with the same choice featured for a while now. Do you prep yourself for the ultimate cinematic whirlwind single player experience, buckle down into the trenches with others in multiplayer, or hold back the undead hordes in Nazi Zombies? At least this time around, the flesh-eaters are actually Nazis again. This overfamiliarity with the game’s three distinct modes are typical of an annualised series, but it’s also indicative of complacency.
Call of Duty is no longer just one game anymore, but three. It has been this way for a while. Not solely the result of one creative team’s vision but many, this Frankenstein-like approach serves as the reason why mainstream media outlets feel the need to delay their official Call of Duty reviews. Agreeably done in the interest of consumers, it makes sense to wait for the public servers to go live before issuing a final score, yet this problem has managed to be easily avoided in recent years with games like Overwatch, Fortnite, and heck, even Battleborn.
First-person shooters released in the past 5 years or so have endeavoured to focus their efforts into one neat, and focussed package. Overwatch is a hero shooter and nothing else, the same is true for League of Legends in a MOBA capacity. It’s my belief that if Call of Duty would concentrate on being the master of one trade rather than Jack of just some, the franchise could be given enough freedom to healthily evolve into something exciting again.
Of course, such a prospect isn’t ever likely for obvious financial reasons. For as long as Call of Duty’s annualised released schedule continues to make money year over year, Activision aren’t savvy enough to risk it all for even a handful of true tweak and changes. At the moment, it’s all too easy for the publisher to make developers slap on some “new” skin over the same three-piece skeleton and enjoy the many money piles that will ensue.