By AJ Humphreys.
Over the years, the Call of Duty franchise has transitioned, mostly successfully, from its origins as a World War II shooter into firstly a contemporary setting, and then into the near-future/alternate-timeline backdrop it currently occupies. In fact, with the recent launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, the series is now onto its fourth such release in a row, following Black Ops II, Ghosts, and last year's Advanced Warfare.
This has led many to speculate where the series will go next. With the wildly successful Black Ops III apparently demonstrating that gamers are far from tired of the current setting, could it be some time before we see a change? Will the series -- and by extension, the whole first-person shooter genre -- ever go back to its World War II roots?
The answer is yes. The World War II shooter will return. Here are just a few reasons why.
After the vast number of present-day and near-future shooters released in recent years, it's logical to expect the zeitgeist to flip back in the other direction as gamers hanker for fresh take on simulated war, much as they have in the past, prompting the genre's many sporadic reinventions. And with, the current mantra in shooters, especially within the Call of Duty franchise, being most definitely 'more-is-more' (customizable weapons, near-limitless combinations of additional skills and perks, movement tweaks such as jetpacks, and wall running) it's not hard to imagine a reaction to this: a pared down, stripped back game with back-to-basics movement and weapons, with an emphasis on slick mechanics and approachable gameplay. The perfect backdrop for this new emphasis on uncomplicated combat? World War II of course.
The perfect setting
But why is World War II the right setting for this theoretical bare-essentials release?
The varied, familiar theatres of war. The deeply human feel despite the large-scale conflict. The rush of empathy that can only come from a genuine historical setting. The broad range of weaponry, ideal not only in its variety, but in the sweet-spot it occupies between the boringly ancient and the nondescriptly hi-tech.
There are many, many reasons why countless developers have chosen to set their games against the backdrop of this period of history, and it's for these same reasons that they will again. It's as near to perfect as settings get.
That's quite long enough
It's time for World War II to be relevant again. Enough time has passed for those older gamers who were perhaps a little fatigued by the sheer volume of WW2 shooters during their heyday to now remember the strong sense-of-place and blissful simplicity with fondness.
And it's easy to forget that there's whole generation of gamers who have yet to experience a big-budget World War II shooter at launch (the last major WW2 shooter release was arguably Call of Duty: World at War, more than seven years ago). For these gamers, the setting will be fresh and new, and a welcome change from the modern-day-with-a-whiff-of- sci-fi trappings that are literally all they know.
With the inevitable advancement of technology in both modern PCs and the current generation of consoles, new gamers will be able to experience those World War II moments like never before. Developers will surely revel in recreating such classic events as the Battle of the Bulge or the Siege of Stalingrad using modern, powerful hardware (not to mention new-wave virtual reality), injecting a new level of atmosphere and achieving fresh heights of realism that will shape them into stunning, unprecedented experiences. Imagine the D-Day landings recreated in modern VR. The prospect is mind-blowing.
Perhaps not next year, but soon, the big-budget, triple-A World War II shooter will return. And when that happens a new wave of gamers will be once again swept up in that most incomparable global conflict. And the World War II shooter will once again rule the world.
At least for a while.