Call of Duty is more than just a gaming franchise, it is an institution. It's one of the biggest-selling game series of all time, has a player base of millions and, alongside Mario, FIFA and Grand Theft Auto is one of a few games that is a household name. Despite all this, the latest addition to the franchise was met with unfavourable reviews and lackluster sales. The Call of Duty series simply feels tired, lacking in imagination and in desperate need of a dramatic overhaul.
While the Call of Duty designers covered new ground in the form of Advanced and Infinite Warfare, it's not a move that has gone down too well with much of the fan base. Modern Warfare helped to shape modern first-person-shooters, but Sledgehammer Games are going to have to really show their skills if they want to contend with the likes of Battlefield and Titanfall in an overcrowded FPS market. Call of Duty has helped to define the genre and the team shouldn't be afraid to break some of the rules and hit the audience with some fresh ideas.
For the uninitiated, Call of Duty shall henceforth be referred to as CoD (for those of you who thought I'd gone off on some bizarre culinary tangent). So with this in mind, let's take a look at some things that could help get the franchise back on track and help spice things up a bit.
15 Make Some Interesting Enemies
I'm a gamer and therefore I’m also a mass murderer. At this point, I've killed hordes of zombies, alien invaders, gelatinous blobs, androids, wildlife, Koopas (and their brothers) and more recently I've even stooped to slaughtering robot dinosaurs. But the one thing I’ve killed more than all the rest... generic, anodyne army minions. How many more must be sacrificed before Treyarch and Infinity Ward switch it up?
Recently CoD has introduced robots (who also look like generic, anodyne minions) but surely the time has come for us to face off against something more than just another suicidal, gun toting maniac dressed in army gear? ‘But its a war based FPS’ I hear you cry. And yes, this inherently comes with limitations (so probably no gelatinous alien robot dinosaurs), but at this point I’d even settle for a suicidal, gun-toting maniac dressed in spandex.
14 Create Some Unique Weapons
Ratchet and Clank has the Groovitron, a gun that throws out disco balls which force enemy minions to 'get down' to a funky rhythm. Half Life 2 has the infamous Gravity Gun (or 'Zero Point Field Manipulator' to those in the know). Perfect Dark even had loads of great weapons - not least of all the N-bomb, a grenade that sucks in light and disarms enemies.
And though it was tragically removed from the final game, Saints Row 3 had a poop gun (cue violin solo and poop gun sound effect). Call of Duty has automatics. Lots and lots of automatics. There's only so many times we can get excited about acquiring a shotgun, rifle, semi automatic or a sniper rifle. Frankly, if you play games as regularly as I do, you've probably reached your quota and we think CoD needs a little more variety. If you think the guns we described are too cartoony, then you've forgotten how you felt the first time you picked up the Raygun.
13 More Stylish Outfits
What's wrong with a little flair? Gun-metal grey and FPS brown have been in fashion for waaaaaay too long. What's this? Another burly man dressed like a US Marine? How exciting. I appreciate the need for campaign characters to fit neatly into the world around them. It would not make a lot of sense for our burly covert marines to be dressed as clowns hiding in the bushes, waiting to take point (though admittedly it would be pretty terrifying). But let us at least have some cool clothing and weapon skins for our avatars, particularly in multiplayer.
My character of choice in Perfect Dark was always an alien with a lab coat on. I wanted to strike fear into the hearts of my enemies. To have them remember the last thing they saw before their inevitable demise. And what better to achieve this than by dressing our characters in unique and stylish attire?
12 Take A Look At History
Many unique and bloody wars have been fought throughout history. The American Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Chinese Civil war, even the Dutch war on the isles of Scilly is more interesting than this. The success of Battlefield 1 has proven that audiences are keen to explore these interesting periods of conflict. World at War is definitely one of the best Call of Duty games and much of that is down to the aesthetic.
The sci-fi shooter is a tired genre by all accounts and, to be frank, Titanfall is doing it better. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare's reveal trailer managed to accrue just under 3.5 million dislikes on YouTube! Compare that to Battlefield 1's 2 million 'likes' and it's easy to see that fans are looking to the past, not the future, for their FPS fix.
11 Bring Back Cheats
Games are supposed to be fun. But some games (like CoD) can feel more like a second job these days, so someone needs to bring back the joy. What better way to reward us for completing an epic game than by giving us a few tasty extras? Some cheats were given for game completion, others for exploration and some from elaborate button combinations. But whatever the method, cheats are always a welcome addition to any game. I miss the days of GoldenEye's ‘big head mode’ or Mario 3 and its now legendary ‘warp whistles’, which allowed players to transport themselves to other worlds.
How about low gravity or unlimited ammo with double weapons? Turbo mode and explosive deaths anyone? There are all sorts of things they could add to bring a little more amusement to the table. I'm not sure why cheats went out of fashion, but it's time for a mighty revival.
10 Four Player Campaign
I don't know about you, but I would be much more happy dispatching generic minion number 6785 and listening to the questionable script if I had some friends along for the ride. Adding different classes, each with different roles and load-outs, could add a really different feel to the game.
One player hacks in to the computer system and relays information from the cameras to the other players, while another opens fire from a helicopter. Meanwhile the two remaining players sneak in the back and silently dispatch enemies. Everything coming together to give us that sweet feeling we can only get from cunningly plotted teamwork. Delicious. CoD has supported two player co-operative play for a while now, but it's time to up the game.
9 Upgrade Systems
Nothing hooks me into a game like a good upgrade system. The knowledge that my efforts will be rewarded by new abilities and possibilities has been enough to propel me through the most boring of games. Choosing what skills you want to empower your character with is always going to be cool. Do you want your game to be rich with traversal-based mechanics or are turrets and tech more your thing? Or maybe you want to stick to good old fashioned running and gunning, placing the focus on your firepower and explosive capabilities? They don't need to go crazy… but a little choice goes a long way to helping us feel ownership over our characters, plus it gives us something more to work towards.
8 Bring Back One Shot Kills
I know this was originally a game mode from GoldenEye, but my point still stands. There's nothing quite like the intense feeling of knowing you are one false move away from certain doom. Countless hours of my childhood were squirrelled away on GoldenEye's “Licence to Kill” mode and it would be a highly welcome addition to CoD's roster of options. I would even settle for a Golden Gun style match, with a single one-shot-kill pistol hidden somewhere in the map.
One shot mode was an option in “Infinite Warfare," but it limited the players to only using Sniper Rifles. Not much fun if (like me) you are useless with a scope. Imagine one shot kills with throwing knives or pistols! The danger, the excitement, the drama! It's too much.
7 Cut Down On The Cinematics
Game developers are often talking about the importance of immersion and yet too often control is wrestled away from the player as they're plunged into another cut-scene. Nothing pulls us out of the game more than stopping the gameplay and forcing us to watch a video. CoD has not yet reached the epic proportions of Metal Gear Solid's cut-scenes, but Infinite Warfare is particularly guilty of this crime within the series. It's far more immersive to keep us in control while the action and narrative takes place around us.
The BioShock series in particular did an excellent job of delivering a fascinating story without ever pulling you out of play. This technique left me woefully involved in the characters by the end of Bioshock Infinite and it's something that should be considered for a lot more first person shooters.
6 Increased Verticality
While wall running and double jumping have been a standard since Advanced Warfare, the sad fact is that there is usually little room to manoeuvre in most of the multiplayer maps in modern CoD games. Many times have I fallen down a hole or thrown myself to an irritating death, just when I thought I was jumping at a traversable wall.
This is something that Titanfall does so well and I can't help but feel that Advanced Warfare's attempt to follow suit fell short of the mark. That is not to say that CoD's jumping and wall running are bad, just that there's definitely room to grow this aspect of the game and make it more central to the game play. Proper jetpacks, clinging to walls, increased wall-running distance and speed could all help the next instalment to shine.
5 Put In Some Sassy Banter
What made films like Commando and Robocop classics great was the perfect blend of overblown action hero antics being counter balanced with lines like “Dead or alive, you're coming with me.” CoD should be aware of how utterly ridiculous it is to blow up a mech warrior while diving out of an aircraft or flying through space spraying bullets. A little self awareness goes along way in games (and life), and I can't help but feel the protagonists would be a lot more endearing if they had something funny to say now and again.
Duke Nukem was a classic gaming hero. Really, all we knew about good ol' Duke was that his love for murdering demons was only matched by his passion for sassy one liners. I won't repeat any here due to their explicit content, but if you're not familiar with his now infamous lines, I suggest you do some speedy research. You won’t regret it.
4 Bring Back Health
This has been a gripe of mine for a long time with first person shooters in general. It really breaks the tension of a battle if all you have to do to recover is cower behind a wall for 10 seconds to get your health back. The latest instalment of Doom has bought back health packs and is all the better for it. Whilst the harder modes in CoD are still undoubtedly tricky, this infinite health regeneration diminishes the sought-after feeling of victory when you finally overcome insurmountable odds and take out a room full of foes with a dangerously low health bar. I know we're not playing a survival horror here, but regenerating health has to go. As the saying goes... if at first you don't succeed, try hiding behind a wall until you feel better. Oh wait.
3 Cut Down On The Clichés
“My hands are tied!” “That’s an order Private!” “Today is a good day to die!” This kind of thing is fine if it's meant to be funny, but CoD is literally never trying to be funny. It takes itself far too seriously and comes off as silly when it's trying to be edgy. Awkward. The intro video to Advanced Warfare is so rife with clichés and large jocks patting themselves on the back for being heroic that it's practically a parody of itself. War films and games tend to be inherently cheesy and that's fine, but the developers need to know where to draw the line and when to drop another clichéd line in favour of something unexpected. Like humour.
2 Give The Characters Some Personality
Out of all the Call of Duty campaigns I’ve played, I can only really remember one character properly. Soap MacTavish. And that's only really because his name is Soap. Despite the sometimes-convoluted plot lines, we never learn anything about our character's motivations. We're never informed of their back-stories, their likes and dislikes or the psychological effects they suffer from being constantly at war.
They're always too busy responding dutifully to the call (get it?), throwing around cliché one-liners and questioning how the villains could be so darn evil (moments before they burst in to a room and massacre everything that moves…). These heroes are too perfect. Where's the self doubt? The moral ambiguity? The bad hair days? Saving the world is a pretty hefty responsibility and it would make sense to reflect that in the character writing. Here's to hoping the next CoD delivers some characters we can care about (before they're inevitably murdered off).
1 Flesh Out The Zombies Mode
Zombies is a fantastic part of the franchise and, in my house, it generally gets played a lot more than campaigns do. Even though the last instalment took a turn for the worse (by making the aesthetic silly instead of creepy), it still provided hours of entertainment. Four player split screen would be a great start. Player controlled zombies, maybe even a b-movie style story to go along with it (but an actual story, not just an intro video).
Having missions and levels alongside the wave survival mode would also be a highly welcome addition. How about characters that level up and gain new weapons and cards to take into the next mission. A few tweaks here and there could really make this stand up as a Left 4 Dead contender.
So I leave it with you folks, Call of Duty has to change. What do you think needs work?