Mindshare: CoD's Next Steps

What is this? This is the newest idea that we’ve hatched at Gameinsight, in response to listener and reader demand for a more traditional editorial type of content. Why? Because they don’t quite fit into a podcast topic, which predominantly consider larger trends in the industry as a whole, and they aren’t part of the Weekend Short-Takes, since it isn’t news either. Rather, once a month we will take a question and try to come up with new and different ideas and responses to it. We’re calling it: Mindshare.


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.

Photo Credit: tipete.com

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.

Why?

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.

Photo Credit: vgezone.com

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?

Photo Credit: sidequesting.com

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.

Photo Credit: imageshack.us

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.

Caption: The difference is only slightly apparent.

Photo Credit: wordpress.com, onlysp.com

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.

Solifluktion's picture

While I really love the WW2 setting I don't want another WW2 CoD because the Publishers are too afraid to release a WW2 game here in Germany without censoring the shit out of it.

I'd much rather see a Korea CoD. A war no one seems to care about with the kind of weapons used during WW2. 

And while I'm a huge fan of near future / sci fi shooters I think the market is oversaturated with those for the moment.

Apart from the setting I think new CoDs should become more realistic again. Less over the top action and more down to earth Warfare.

CoD1 showed that "realistic combat" can be cinematic as hell, as seen in the soviet landing in Stalingrad.

getrdun21's picture

I agree I think they have beat the current and future wars stick enough that they should find something in the older ones without making it another CoD 3. But BlOps2 was really easy because I never found a spot that I couldn't beat in two tries.

jbrad6's picture

this kinda makes cod sound like it's "too big to fail"

disgruntledavians's picture

@solifluktion

The Korea one sounds great, it's the forgotten war b/w WWII and Vietnam generally. And the thing about realism is, where does that go? Does that mean on the level of a tactical shooter? Or limited ammo and scrounging because BLII seemed to have nice convenient ammo crates EVERYWHERE.

@jbrad6

Isn't it, though? I can't possibly see Activision winding this down and calling it quits, unlike Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, which were very limited in scope and audience.

TheoneyMrE's picture

I dunno, I kinda think that they should really make the multiplayer even more integrated than what you're saying, kinda like spartan ops except less easy, and maybe with a fail state that is possible if enough people fail it, kinda like when you fail strike force missions, which they could then use to tell an ever evolving story with the war, maybe even a alternate fiction to it, like if the players fail enough missions, the nazis maybe take some ground back, which they could even spin into the sequels. This would also make DLC easy (i.e. experimental nazi tech actually working), and mandatory (which would really appeal to Activision) to experience the whole campaign of all the games. This is a rough idea, but what im basically trying to say is that they should use the actions of the players to actually influence the narrative in a real way, unlike Mass Effect or The Walking Dead, which gives a very well crafted illusion of choice.

TL;DR: They should use player actions to influence the ongoing narrative.

Whiplash's picture

I absolutely agree with this topic (which I must say is a great addition to the roster of projects). The problem with CoD as it stands is that there's nothing interesting to add to the setting. You'd have as much fun and excitement playing any CoD game today as you would eating a bowl of heated, rusty nails, and your spoon is covered in spikes. Sure, you're getting a good nutrition of Iron (HAR HAR HAR), but it hurts so badly you're turned off by it. It also doesn't help that all your friends are watching you do it, your mouth bleeding and cursing so many profanaties, your mother would retroactively take the bowl away from your hands in a heartbeat.

Solifluktion's picture

@Avians

The newer CoDs always feel like a Michael Bay Movie while the older CoDs felt more "down to earth". Yeah stuff got blown up but at least you'r not surviving 10 Choppercrashes per Game. Also the whole "one bad guy plounges the world into chaos and gets killed in the end" is just unrealistic. Being just one small part of a bigger conflict always felt more immersive, at least for me.

Jevrio's picture

Give the series to another developer/publisher. Someone that cares more about making a new/better game, than getting as much money as possible.

And they must stop making a game, designed for kids to like.

Also, I'd say Call of Duty 2 still looks good this day.

Mr Hat's picture

Another WWII game would be awesome, it's been too long since I was able to tear it up with a good old fashioned bolt-action rifle. There's also many aspects of WWII that have never (to my knowledge) been explored in a game, such as the North-African campaign (please please please let me finally be able to play as an ANZAC soldier!) and the push through Italy and over the Alps, not to mention the invasion of Poland that started it all.

darthskeletor's picture

@jevrio,

Agree totally. The outrageously juvenile scenes now are taken directly from some cheap action flick. We need to somber emotion and gravity of an actual conflict that caused actual losses and damage, because that is a known quantity they can replicate well.

The game is getting far too sci-fi for my tastes, I want to charge through the fields of France again in HD glory. Crap. I'm going to go load up CoD 2 again....

Solifluktion's picture

@Darth 

France has been done to many times imo. Same goes for Russia although Russia has always had the winter setting so maybe there would be some potential left.

I always loved the missions with the dutch resistance during the CoD 1 Addon. 

 

Maybe they should finally reach for the last frontier.....play as Axis for a mission or two. Or maybe they could have you play a polish soldier who has to fight both Soviets and Nazis.

But then again as long as Nazis are involved I'm only gonna be able to play a heavily censored version so that would be lame.

darthskeletor's picture

@Solifluktion

No, I know. I was just overcome by a wave of nostalgia and good memories. Some more asymmetric and unique missions would be welcome. Literally, all the level designers and devs would need to do is read this book:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/books/review/the-second-world-war-by-antony-beevor.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

This is probably the greatest compendium of WWII material I've ever read, and a lot of it new and very compelling to me. Great source material.

Solifluktion's picture

@darth

I'd be interested in a game about WW1. Or since it's mentioned in the article you posted the sino-japanese War. Something that hasn't been done a million times. For example here we never really talked about the Pacific War so when WaW finally showed the Pacific Campaign that was interesting for me (although the Soviet Campaign hat Reznov and was therefore better).

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