Call of Duty: World War II Will Probably Be Just Another Call of Duty Game

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Generally, I don’t really think Call of Duty going back to World War II is a good or bad thing. I don’t think the setting by itself is going to affect the game much at all in terms of its sales performance or really how the game itself plays. Activision has stuck to a formula for the series through many different settings.

That said, I’m still a bit disappointed at what seems to be an extremely safe path for Activision and Sledgehammer games to take. Obviously not much can be said at this point because as of this writing we’ve only seen the game’s advertising, but I just think some potential for new stories and settings is being left on the table here.

The images Activision has released so far suggest a bulk of Call of Duty: World War II is going to center on the American 1st Infantry Division — also known as the “Big Red One,” which Treyarch actually covered in the 2005 Call of Duty: Big Red One. Sledgehammer has revealed we’ll see things from other viewpoints too like a female French resistance fighter (I think the Medal of Honor series covered that way back in the day) and at least one African American platoon. That sounds interesting, but there’s still so much else in WWII for video games to cover outside of uniformed soldiers fighting in Europe. I don’t think we should be doing D-Day again.

The reason this is happening though should be the real disappointment: Activision has pushed out 14 COD games in 14 years. You can’t keep up fresh concepts at that pace.

There is one good thing I think will come out of the move back to WWII though, and that’s the story’s focus on soldiers as people. I think someone from Sledgehammer specifically said something like “These aren’t super soldiers here” in an interview about COD:WWII, and I’m glad they’re going back in that direction. One thing I missed in the transition to increasingly futuristic COD games was the increasing focus on extraordinary spec-ops heroes. The WWII games were about ordinary soldiers trying to survive a war bigger than themselves. The modern and futuristic games were mostly about super heroes almost single-handedly winning the war. I think the older way was when COD’s storytelling was at its best.

Other than that though, I think WWII is just going to be another COD game. This is also why I don’t think Sledgehammer will be able to make a truly effective docudrama out of this game. I don’t think you can do that at all with a multi-million dollar video game that has to sell like 20 million copies.

COD is stuck on a formula it needs to maintain its massive sales. COD: WWII is going to have zombies in it, it’s gonna have microtransactions in it, it’s gonna have a multiplayer mode with kill streaks. Generally, it’s going to prioritize being a fun game in a way not befitting a docudrama. This isn’t going to be Dunkirk. In today’s video game industry you can’t really get documentary or docudrama-style productions that eschew bombastic fun in favor of drama and education unless you go to PC simulators or maybe adventure games. Look at what happened to the 2010 Medal of Honor game — it tried to be the modern Afghanistan docudrama video game but still had to include multiplayer, which sunk its legitimacy as such in the eyes of many. It’s part of how many still view video games as toys.

I’m not saying COD:WWII isn’t going to be a well-made and enjoyable game though. I’m confident in Sledgehammer’s ability to make a campaign with good set pieces. I thought Sledgehammer did a good job designing the campaign of its previous COD — Advanced Warfare. It had varied and intense action sequences which is what COD campaigns are really about.

We’ve still only seen the PR so far, so maybe as more is revealed throughout the year it could turn out that COD:WWII is taking more risks than normal. Sledgehammer already stated it’s getting rid of regenerating health which isn’t really insignificant.

All I’m saying is, don’t expect Dunkirk or Saving Private Ryan here. Expect Michael Bay. Perhaps Michael Bay at his best, but still Michael Bay.

BULLETS:

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