The Call of Duty franchise is heading back to the grit and grime of World War 2 this year, returning to the period after a nine year hiatus. The Black Ops and Modern Warfare trilogies as well as a handful of near-future games was enough content for fans to want something different – in this case, something they once had.
The World War settings are featuring in big projects a lot in recent times with Battlefield 1 and Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dunkirk movie taking audiences back to the 20th century. While Call of Duty is no stranger to the time period, developer Sledgehammer Games will have to justify the decision by implementing a lot of new changes and additions that could see an all-new trilogy come about.
But where does the future lie for the first-person shooter giant? We’ve seen Cold War era games and present-day warfare alongside some armor heavy future eras, but where can Call of Duty go from here and where should it strictly avoid? As games like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry jump around to different times and places, Call of Duty seems like the franchise that would fit that model perfectly and has been doing so to an extent over the last decade. Here are the eight time periods we think the franchise should take a crack at and seven it should avoid like the plague!
15 Go To: American Revolution
The American Revolution is like a undiscovered diamond mine in the gaming industry. An incredibly rich period with so much potential that has barely been excavated except by the likes of Assassin’s Creed 3 and a few strategy games. The amount of important characters and events is mind-boggling, and its sandbox of weaponry can comfortably carry the customization options that Call of Duty demands from its games. They wouldn’t even need to focus on the greater conflict, as just telling a side-story in that period would be incredibly satisfying. They could even have the player complete side-missions, which Infinite Warfare introduced, for the various Founders and create an interesting meta-game. It’s too historic to be ignored the way it has, and Call of Duty could be the franchise to put the colonial timeline on the map and attract imitators.
14 Avoid: Industrial Revolution
Assassin’s Creed is going to come up a lot and, if it’s taught me one thing, it’s that the Industrial Revolution is a horrible setting for a video game. I sort of enjoyed waltzing around Victorian era London in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, but I might rip my eyes out playing an action shooter in that setting. Unless the developers decide to throw in an alternative genre like steampunk into the mix, which The Order: 1886 pulled off to some extent, I can’t see it being all that interesting. It all just looks too familiar and I feel the stories would all come back to powerful elites in a big city controlling the energy resources. This time period is just too stale for a franchise that likes to take it up a notch.
13 Go To: Renaissance
Like the American Revolution period, there’s enough firepower in the Renaissance – or at least I was lead to believe there was from Assassin’s Creed – to fuel Call of Duty’s high octane action. But what’s great about the period is the sheer number of historical figures roaming about. Enough with fake Russian enemies or feisty Middle-Eastern insurgents, I want to see Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo cross paths with our main protagonist. Giving Call of Duty more touchstones to the past will only further immerse the player in the reality of the worlds that are created and there’s no better time period to do that than in the Italian Renaissance. Forza Roma!
12 Avoid: Pre-1400s
Could there be interesting stories of warriors and brotherhood before 1,400 CE? Sure. Could there be some downright gorgeous visuals and environments players can trudge through? Absolutely. But none of that matters if the most action-packed moment in the game comes by way of a horse chase. Call of Duty simply can’t operate without a theater of explosions and set-pieces throughout the entire ride, and you just can’t get that after a certain point in the past. Feudal Japan, medieval Europe, and ancient Egypt just can’t maintain the roller-coaster ride that is a Call of Duty campaign. On top of that, the limited amount of weapons won’t do much to please multiplayer fanatics. You can’t exactly add a red dot scope to a sword, can you?
11 Go To: Far Future
By far future, I’m talking about a game set in another millennium. While the recent Call of Duty games took us a little closer to home, I’d like to see how the franchise can evolve and adapt in a period where a thruster pack is seen as primitive tech. There could be the same style of political intrigue and drama, albeit with a few more species to deal with. While many might point to the franchise trying to copy Halo if it introduces aliens, it would drastically change the way the game is played and also make for some interesting multiplayer maps. Maybe even a creation storyline similar to where the recent Alien movies are headed. As long as it comes with the series’ tight controls and smooth movement, a far future game could work better than we expect.
10 Avoid: Allied WWI
I can’t be the only one who is sick of tired of movies and games and novels that take place from the perspective of the allied forces in World War I. At this point, I’m not even convinced a unique story can be told anymore. Playing the good guys isn’t always the most interesting or fun thing for an audience and a Call of Duty game in this period with this focus would make for a drab campaign and an even worse multiplayer experience. We’ve seen it all here and there’s no reason to ever even try. It’s just be like the plethora of World War 2 games with a less interesting story and more boring weapons. That’s not exactly what I’m looking for in a shooter.
9 Go To: Axis WWI
Plot twist! I never said any World War I game would be boring. See, it’s all about perspective. Battlefield 1 brilliantly illustrated this point in its single-player War Stories that took the player all across the war from the trenches of France to the sands of the Ottoman Empire. A story set in the region we now know as Turkey provided an interesting backdrop for Battlefield 1 and can do the same for the Call of Duty franchise. Instead of focusing on the gameplay this time around, the developers can focus on telling an incredibly compelling and not well-known story about a huge part of the war that is rarely mentioned. Whereas Battlefield 1 jumped around, a Call of Duty WWI game about the Central Powers would do well to keep the story focused one a single set of characters.
8 Avoid: War On Terrorism
A lot of what I’d like the franchise to avoid are time periods and events that have a ‘been there, done that’ kind of vibe. We don’t ever really need to see another story set in the early and mid-2000s in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The latest Medal of Honor release didn’t do much to give other shooters hope and kind of killed off any interest that was left in exploring the time period. What’s most interesting is that this year’s Call of Duty title might share the same fate, if it isn’t careful, by telling another generic war story. Any time period that has been regularly used has to justify its decision and I don’t think there are many compelling reasons left to tell another ‘War on Terrorism’ narrative.
7 Go To: Civil War
This period might well be the most mature and dark story on the list, but the developers of Call of Duty could take inspiration from the impeccable narrative of 2016’s Mafia III. Dark moments and a racist undertone could be the recipe for a great story while also implementing gameplay changes. Mafia III cleverly used its police feature to suit the context of its story by sending cops to white areas a little more quickly than to the African-American populated areas in the game. A more linear and cut-scene heavy approach that comes with a Call of Duty campaign could be used to its advantage and really flesh out the cast of characters while also providing some more methodical weaponry.
6 Avoid: Near Future
I’d be lying if I said I’d rather play an Allied-focused World War I game more than another Call of Duty title set in the near future, but I did have to think about it. Activision just needs to let go of the setting and realize it’s not what their fans want. If they’re going to try something in the future again, the aforementioned far future time period is their best bet as most fans are sick and tired of the singular spin-offs like Ghosts and Advanced Warfare they have been getting in this console generation. I mean, a time period that doesn’t even have one of the franchises three developers committed to it tells us how much faith Activision have in it. At this point, I’d take another Modern Warfare game.
5 Go To: Prohibition Era
Now, this might be the weirdest time period on the list, but stick with me because it’s also the most unique. While I haven’t thought through what the exact story could entail, it’s the potential of the missions that could take place in this time period that have me excited. Due to the low-key and ‘hush hush’ tone of the era, a Call of Duty game set in these years could focus on a lot of stealth missions with silencers and the like as the player busts dealers on behalf of the federal government. It’s these types of missions that have been missing from the franchise, opting to stay focused on big set-pieces and large waves of enemies to keep the player engaged. Sometimes, taking things down a notch is a lot more immersive.
4 Avoid: Syrian War
The Call of Duty franchise is no stranger to controversy. Playing through ‘No Russia’ in Modern Warfare 2, where the player quite literally mows down innocent civilians at an airport, was one of the most harrowing moments I’ve had playing a game. However, this conflict might be one step too controversial, especially seeing as though there are about a million opposition factions vying for power and fighting the Syrian government. To make matters more convincing, there won’t be much for the level designers to do seeing as though half the country is under rubble which doesn’t make for a fun gameplay experience. And for a war that’s constantly changing and could even be over before the game ever releases, it doesn’t make sense from any perspective. Maybe sit this one out, Activision.
3 Go To: Ukraine-Russia Conflict
I know. This conflict is also actively taking place, but it seems like more of a black and white issue. The Russians are used to being the bad guys in Call of Duty games, but this conflict could employ some creative storytelling. Instead of saving the day as the good ol’ USA, how about a Call of Duty game where you play as the rebels and aren’t backed by a gigantic government apparatus? It could work like Halo 3: ODST did, where the ODSTs didn’t have as much health as their Spartan counterparts from the mainline games. Rebels with lighter armor and less access to tech could make for some old-fashioned firefights as players move towards the Russian border and capture land as they go. The story practically writes itself!
2 Avoid: Dystopian Future
While it sounds cool in theory, a Call of Duty campaign that takes place in a dystopia simply doesn’t make sense. Call of Duty games have always had you playing the role of government officials taking down bad guys, but it is the government themselves, usually totalitarian and authoritative in nature, that are seen as the bad guys in dystopian settings. And because things are usually run down and not in the best of state, where would the big set-pieces and cool gear fit in? It’s no wonder that films and games that are set in the time period are a bit more slow-paced than your average Call of Duty campaign. It just doesn’t make sense for Call of Duty, and it needs to be avoided at all costs.
1 Go To: Alt. History Korean War
I may be cheating, but my mind immediately started crafting the entire beginning, middle, and end of a plot taking place in 1950s Korea. What if there had been an all-out total war between South Korea and their allies against North Korea? This could merge stealth missions with huge action moments, a plethora of different weapons and characters, and an entire suite of multiplayer maps from a nation that little is known about. The possibilities are endless and the time period – even though it technically doesn’t exist – is tailor-made for a Call of Duty game. It’s got everything from an obvious final boss fight to the clear distinction between good and evil. I don’t think any celebrity would agree to be cast as the North Korean dictator, but why not have some fun getting Will Smith to play a part on the player’s fireteam!