Every year, the two big military shooter franchises get a fresh coat of paint. Both the Call of Duty and Battlefield games are some of the most popular online multiplayer games in console history, and it’s easy to see why. The games are all about smooth, fast, satisfying gameplay that is easy to binge. You can lose yourself for hours in a Call of Duty or Battlefield game.
But as these two series have grown up side-by-side, they’ve shown a tendency to stick to their relatively narrow formulas. Call of Duty games place an emphasis on heavily scripted cinematic campaigns, featuring motion-captured performances from the likes of Hollywood actors like Kevin Spacey, Ron Perlman, Jeff Goldblum, Heather Graham and now Kit Harington. Game of Thrones fans should instantly recognize Harington as the brooding Jon Snow when he shows up in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the latest upcoming entry in the series.
Battlefield campaigns are much less focused on cinematic storytelling. Instead, most of the focus is put into the game’s massive multiplayer modes.
Infinite Warfare won’t see a release until November 4, but after several trailers for the game showed up, it’s becoming evident that there’s a significant number of CoD players who don’t like what they’re seeing. Kotaku is calling it a “fan revolt.” Is this accurate or just YouTube drama?
Infinite Warfare is the first CoD game set in the far future, and its space-set action evokes memories of Halo and Destiny, with a dash of Neill Blomkamp (Elysium) thrown in for flavor. Now I’ve only dabbled in the Call of Duty games, and haven’t played one in six years, so after watching the announcement trailer, I wondered why it had over 2.9 million dislikes. The suggested videos in the YouTube sidebar were even more baffling — they were all either negative reaction videos or reaction videos responding to the negative reaction videos. (YouTube is weird).
After wading through YouTube comments and finding nothing of value, I headed over to the Call of Duty subreddit in search of answers. After some cursory reading, it would appear that the perceived negative bent toward the game could be blown out of proportion. Some COD players are expressing concerns about the lack of a multiplayer reveal at E3. I can see where they’re coming from — multiplayer is a CoD diehard’s bread and butter. But some have expressed that they want “boots on the ground”: simple movement in four directions. But the zero-gravity gameplay shown in the trailers promotes a different kind of movement. The zero gravity gameplay and new axes of movement are coming up a lot when fans talk about Infinite Warfare and how the game doesn’t represent the direction they want for the series.
This far future sci-fi direction is very apparent in the “Ship Assault” gameplay trailer, which has also provoked more than its fair share of negative responses.
But let’s remember — the game won’t be out until November. There’s plenty of time for a full multiplayer reveal when it’s ready. And developer Infinity Ward knows better than to alienate the core CoD fanbase. I just hope fans aren’t “punishing” the game for daring to be different. That troubles me.
What’s also a bit troubling is the overwhelming wave of positivity directed toward Battlefield 1, the upcoming WWI-set installment in that Battlefield series.
Now don’t get me wrong — those trailers for Battlefield 1 look pretty great. The zeppelin and dogfight stuff, in particular, looks astounding. The promise of 64-person multiplayer is a big undertaking, and I’m certain DICE can deliver on it when the game is released on October 21.
But based on the hands-on impressions that came out of this year’s E3, Battlefield 1 doesn’t seem to be doing much to keep the series moving forward. It appears, at least for now, to be a lateral move for Battlefield. This isn’t a fresh take or a World War I trench warfare simulator. Instead, it appears to be familiar gameplay in beautiful and familiar locations, with the twist of WWI weaponry. And that’s not much of a twist, really.
Now, all this can be true and Battlefield 1 can still be a great game. I can’t deny that. But because the CoD and Battlefield franchises are such direct competitors, I think the hype for Battlefield 1 has been inflated by the negativity surrounding Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I think there’s some bandwagoning at play here and I don’t think that’s fair. Neither game gets a fair shot in that scenario. And what I said about Battlefield 1 is also true about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It could still be a great game, and we can’t deny that.
Though Infinite Warfare might not look like the game the CoD fanbase wants, we have to be willing to meet the game on its own terms. We have to be open to embracing change, and we have to commend developers for wanting to deliver new and exciting things in game franchises. Applaud the innovators. They push the industry and the art of games forward.