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World War II Can't Save 'Call of Duty'

Watch the first trailer for 'Call of Duty: WWII'

by Emanuel Maiberg
Apr 26 2017, 5:09pm

Image: Activision

It's a great time to make a video game about shooting Nazis, so Activision's official reveal of Call of Duty: WWII today makes a lot of sense.

Few games have a better Nazi-shooting pedigree, but bringing the gigantic and struggling first person shooter franchise back to WWII isn't going to magically fix its problems. Call of Duty has been the same game for more than a decade, and if taking it into the future didn't make it feel new again, I don't see why taking it into the past would be any different.

Yesterday, Ian Bogost riled up the game intelligentsia by writing a story in The Atlantic that argued that video games are better without stories. Call of Duty is far from the best example of the kind of stories video games are capable of telling, but it is a great example of a game series where the story is largely irrelevant, despite Activision making a big deal out of it every year.

Why does Activision think Call of Duty is different and better this year? Because it's set in WWII, which players haven't visited in awhile. But Activision can set Call of Duty in modern times, a future war on Mars, or the bottom of the ocean and it wouldn't make a difference. Players still aim down sights and shoot the bad guys in the face. That's the game. That's been the game for more than a decade, and that's why Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which was set in space, saw a 50 percent decline in physical sales.

The game, which is due for release on November 3, is being developed by Sledgehammer Games, the same team behind the aforementioned Advanced Warfare. A private beta will be available for the PS4 sometime later this year.

I'd take another crack at the beaches of Normandy rendered with 2017 technology, sure. I am definitely more in the mood for shooting Nazis lately. But that left trigger/right trigger thing; the flood of guns and gun skins—it's not working anymore, and putting Call of Duty in a different era isn't going to fix it. It needs to be a different game.

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