Lock and load grunts…we’ve got a war to win here.
I don’t care if you’re a gamer or not; if I shouted the words “CALL OF DUTY” into a crowded room most people are going to know exactly what I’m talking about. What started out on the battlefields of World War 2 (and progressively migrated to more current Middle Eastern conflicts), has now grown synonymous with the FPS genre. From record breaking sales (or should I say record setting) to countless hours of content, it’s hard to argue that Call of Duty hasn’t already claimed its crown as king of shooters over the last several years.
And speaking of crowns, there are some at Sledgehammer Games who’d like nothing more than to see their series elevated to the same place in people’s psyche as HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones.
In a recent interview, studio head Michael Condrey touted their upcoming Call of Duty entitled Advanced Warfare. Based on the trailer, all signs point to a different direction for the franchise. Although the star of the show is certainly the futuristic tech gamers will have access to (like a new set of magnetic gloves which will allow you to scurry up walls instead of bunny hoping around the map) Condrey was also quick to highlight their renewed focus on a story-driven narrative outside of just headshots. Framing his comments around Game of Thrones, Condrey says “Our goal as entertainers is to deliver a Red Wedding scene through interactive entertainment, and have people talk about Call of Duty on that sort of level one day.”
Glen Schofield (also a studio head) was on hand during the interview to give his perspective on how to elevate Call of Duty to a plateau beyond the gaming world. "I want people to go 'crap, it's over.’ Wow…There was a great story in a video game. It can be done.’ And that's a big deal... I just feel that video games is the next medium to be talking about a story. We need to be telling a story.” He said.
While translating success from video games to mainstream popularity is no easy task, Call of Duty certainly has the legs to do it (more so than anyone else). But what would it really take to achieve that kind of notoriety?
It’s obvious that Activision has put many of their eggs in the Advanced Warfare basket moving forward. Unfortunately, Call of Duty has become a yearly franchise, where the sequels systematically get churned out with short-lived fan fair at this point (almost becoming old hat). Take Black Ops II and Ghosts for example. While they can no doubt be considered a success, they didn’t enjoy the same level of hype that a Modern Warfare 3 did. Their next release needs to hit on all eight cylinders and hold strong right out of the gate. What we know so far is that this title will take an out-of-the-box approach to the tried and true ‘Duty formula. In addition to upping the ante in the visuals department (likely bringing us the best looking C.o.D. ever), the tech is what will set this game apart from its predecessors. We’ll be in store for a wide variety of innovative gear never before seen in the series, as much of the new gameplay mechanics seem to revolve around upgrading your EXO suit (affording you a myriad of new special abilities in a very Master Chief-esque fashion). In addition, you’ll find your weaponry has taken a whole new turn as well. From energy based weapons to mechs and hover bikes, this will literally be a Call of Duty experience unlike any you’ve ever played before. Guaranteed.
And while I’m very excited about this new direction that the series is attempting, I’m still struck by Condrey’s Game of Throne’s comparison. There’s no denying that in the gaming world, Call of Duty is at the top of the heap. However, success in our medium and success in the non-gaming world are two different things. Via its epic story telling (and utter shock value at times), Game of Thrones is so strong that even people who haven’t seen it can still enjoy the talk around the water cooler on Monday morning. That’s the kind of brand awareness Activision needs for Call of Duty. It’s that same echelon of storytelling that will be necessary in-order to deliver the cross-over success that Condrey is looking for. In that regard, Advanced Warfare’s supposed 9/11 style happening looks to provide an intriguing plot point.
With Kevin Spacey at the helm (giving the series a much needed injection of star power), does this game have the potential to be the first break-out star this November?