The year was 2003. The World War II shooter Call of Duty first hit shelves and stormed through the gaming scene like soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. It was a simple time. Fast, bare-bones gameplay in an era when first-person shooters were a little less deadly. A time when multiplayer didn't rule the scene, but served as a side dish for the compelling narrative of a single player campaign. Call of Duty introduced the world to a golden formula. Its stories weaved rich World War II history with captivating gameplay and served to not only entertain us, but also teach us about the deadliest global conflict in human history.
But alas, as with every great idea that spreads like wildfire, imitators took notice. Competitors like Brothers in Arms sprang to the scene and franchises like Medal of Honor rushed to deliver annual titles, saturating the market year after year, salting the Earth for the entire genre. For a time, FPS became nearly synonymous with WWII shooters, leaving these now burgeoning franchises scrambling for a new angle at WWII history. Every battle, every historical account was fair game, until fans grew tired of playing the same formula over and over. While Call of Duty emphasized quality, its subject matter was drowned by the sheer quantity of similar games.
After three successful WWII-based installments, the Call of Duty franchise pivoted its tried-and-true formula to give players a breather, shifting its scene to Modern Warfare. Unsurprisingly, Modern Warfare caught fire. Aside from a brief return with Call of Duty: World at War, the franchise never looked back. In fact, the series continued to fast-forward its way through history, blazing past modern warfare, into the endless possibility of the sci-fi genre.
It's been nearly a decade since players last fought in the digital battlefields of Call of Duty's World War II, and I believe we're finally ready for the series to make its return. Unleashing the incredible power of next-gen consoles, Call of Duty has great potential to cannonball back into the genre and remind players why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place.
Revamping Single-Player Campaigns
Starting out, Call of Duty's single-player campaigns were its bread and butter. Simply put, you bought the game for the story. The series skillfully intertwined its single-player campaigns with the biggest real-life battles from the Pacific and European theaters of World War II. Using tasteful artistic freedom, Call of Duty created fictional characters to complement the historical backdrop and develop a genuine feeling of authenticity. You believed in its characters. You cared for them. You related to them. They weren't cybernetic superhumans or professional assassins, but instead based on the ordinary men who accomplished extraordinary things in a time of great need. Should the writers choose not to venture down uncharted territory, the series could revisit its biggest, most iconic battles, this time from different perspectives of the soldiers who fought them.
In one of the series' most beloved missions, Call of Duty 2 recreated the historic amphibious invasion of Normandy with its deadly "Battle of Pointe du Hoc" level. To complement rather than replace, what if the series revisited D-Day, this time from the bloody Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach? (Think Saving Private Ryan). After 11 years of games based purely in fiction, the Call of Duty franchise has surely earned itself a creative break. Rather than continuing to write its own big-budget blockbuster fiction like in Black Ops and Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty should instead revisit and honor the timeless stories of the brave soldiers who fought for their countries during a most turbulent time in history.
The Multiplayer Potential
Imagine the potential of a fast, frenetic WWII game with the power of Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Last we visited Call of Duty, we were pushing the possibilities with 8-12 player matches, limited by the technology of aged consoles. And now, a decade of progress later, we have a wealth of possibility. Imagine all out warfare on vast maps with massive 64 player firefights!
Call of Duty's developers have the potential for gold by simply reinvigorating a tried and true genre. Take the current Call of Duty multiplayer formula, fun and addictive as it is, and strip off all the features and bells and whistles until we're left with the bare-bones essence of what makes a shooter great: gameplay. This means no weapon attachments, no perks, and no killstreak rewards, just you and your weapon, out to battle for every inch of the map and claim a well-deserved victory.
Remember how simple, yet addictive the original Call of Duty's multiplayer was? Who could forget the feeling of firing the iron-sighted M1 Garand with its 8-rounds and hearing the iconic *PING* at the end of the clip? Or watching players scramble around as you quietly picked them off with your 5-round Kar 98 from the safety of a caved-in building? Matches were hard-earned and won by one simple factor: Skill. A new WWII installment for the Call of Duty franchise would give players the opportunity to return to their favorite battlefields and duke it out on a much greater, and far more spectacular scale.
The least demanding compromise to satisfy nostalgic players would be for Call of Duty's developers to remaster the classic and beloved previous installments. This would mean simply giving the visuals a facelift and reopening the multiplayer servers, allowing for (at least) 32 players. Giving fans a chance to relive their favorite single-player missions and compete in familiar multiplayer maps would be an easy way of injecting much needed life into not only the franchise, but the WWII genre itself.
For years, fans have been speaking up about their readiness to return to World War II. Enough time has finally gone by and the genre is in need of new life. Only now are developers starting to listen. In 2016 alone, two crowdfunded WWII shooters have sprung into the scene by indie developers. Not only will Battalion 1944 and Days of War give fans the fierce, competitive WWII action they've been looking for, but it will also create momentum for bigger franchises like Call of Duty to take notice.
I, for one, would love to see Call of Duty return to its roots; the very DNA that launched it to become the golden child of first-person shooters. But for now, I'll continue to play Black Ops 3 and keep my fingers crossed for the day I can dust off my M1 Thompson and rejoin my band of brothers on the historic battlefields of World War II!