Activision announced the newest entry to their flagship series, Call of Duty, with Infinite Warfare this week. It also comes bundled with the classic, and fan favourite, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Following this announcement, fans have set the internet ablaze to voice their displeasure at another Call of Duty set in the future. With the exposition out of the way, let me get into the discussion.
So the criticism Activision is facing is that their new game, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, strays too far from traditional Call of Duty games, and that it should be a modern-based game. People are asking Call of Duty to revert back to modern shooters however, with modern warfare scenarios, little can change from what has already been done. The room for innovation is limited. The formula is set and the biggest change that can occur is the setting. Giving each game a new story and setting is not innovation. Innovation comes from allowing the designers the freedom to go crazy and implement new mechanics. Another modern warfare game does not give them that freedom. It merely gives them a set of instructions to follow, which is boring. No game designer wants to do that; they want to be able to express their creativity or risk de-motivation. A bunch of demotivated game designers isn’t what you want bringing you games.
The newer titles have brought mech suits which, in turn, add new gameplay elements. Agree or disagree with them, to go back to modern warfare would be a regression. You’d be saying goodbye to any innovation you’ve had over the last few years for a cash-cow. The new gameplay elements, such as Black Ops 3’s wallrunning, introduce new creative challenges which the designers must tackle. Notably, this impacts map design, which has gotten far smarter. You hear the arguments that the new maps are terrible, but I’d argue the opposite. They’re smarter and more complex than ever. The new games have an increased emphasis on vertical combat, meaning the maps are designed, not only horizontally, but also vertically. The designers have to take the axis into account and this leads to far more complex maps to complement the gameplay.
The biggest argument I’ve seen is “this isn’t Call of Duty.” People seemingly want the franchise to become stagnant. They want it to stagnate to the point where nothing changes and they’re paying for a reskin every year. The problem is, this has already happened. Since the collective internet has perhaps the shortest memory of any group of people ever, it should be reminded that people were screaming at developers to break the mould of World War 2 games, because they were all the same. The very same thing happened for modern warfare games; the market became over-saturated and people cried out for something different. To go back to modern warfare games now, you’d not be creating a new problem, you’d be revisiting an old one. People claim to want more modern warfare titles but how quickly would they tire of them?
If Activision made a new modern warfare game, they wouldn’t be able to do anything new. It would employ all of the same gameplay elements of the previous games and people would complain about the lack of innovation. The genre has no room left for innovation, which is why those games were shelved to begin with. Although all good games, the difference between Call of Duty 4 and its sequel, Modern Warfare 2, was apparent but clear they were the part of the same series, and the difference between that and Modern Warfare 3 was barely non-existent. So, despite them being good games, the genre hit its ceiling, being unable to change any further, providing only minor tweaks with each new entry. There’s nothing new left to be done so they moved on to futuristic games and they’re continuing that with Infinite Warfare, which seeks to go even further and into space, opening up room for even more innovation.
People can complain the games are “not Call of Duty” however what they’re really saying is they want the franchise to regress and come to a halt. If this became the case, how long until people complained they were paying for the same game over and over again? This has already happened numerous times before and would be certain to happen again. Perhaps people are tiring of the futuristic games, however to give up any hope of innovation in favour of regression is illogical.