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‘Call of Duty’ wish list: Five things that might save the franchise

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The following is an opinion piece reflecting the views of the author; it does not reflect the views of Examiner.com or its affiliates.

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So Activision unveils yet another Call of Duty, this time developed by newcomers Sledgehammer Games. Now it is entirely possible that Sledgehammer may surprise cynics and produce a good Call of Duty, just like it is entirely possible that the human race may be wiped out by a rogue planetoid within the next two years. Obvious sarcasm aside, unless you belong to the demographic that buys up anything with the CoD label on it, you likely regard the latest announcement with guarded “optimism” at best and jaded derision at worst. Here are five things that Activision could do to “save” the franchise. But let’s be honest; they probably won’t because the least common denominator that became their core audience wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Abandon the “America against the world” storylines. Not only are these starting to get old for even the people that have the major works of Tom Clancy all but memorized, but with Jonathan Irons/Kevin Spacey’s Big Villain Speech, we are starting to see a trend emerge. Villains are starting to make a more compelling argument to side with them then the characters representing “Murica.” If this is entirely unintentional then it is becoming an unfortunate case of the “Strawman has a point” trope as both Menendez from Black Ops 2 and Irons are onto something regarding the rarely considered costs of American Exceptionalism and the modern interpretations of the country’s manifest destiny. Perhaps a game focusing on a “Second Civil War” scenario where a faction or factions have to keep a group of American ultra-nationalists hyped-up on playing CoD from trying to overthrow the government and starting another world war? Or would that be too highbrow and self-parodying for the usual CoD gamer?

Make Zombies or Extinction their own game. Over the course of several games, Call of Duty’s legendary Zombies mode developed a storyline that at times actually read better then the campaign of the game it played second fiddle to. By all appearances Extinction is shaping up to be heading in the same direction. Give the over-simplified geopolitical thrillers a break and make one of these two their own game, complete with single-player campaign, competitive multiplayer, and co-operative objective/horde mode. Switch things up by abandoning the elite soldiers for an everyman hero that suddenly has to deal with a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion. Forget about being a bad enough dude to save the president; are you even a bad enough dude to save yourself and the people dearest to you?

Ditch the Three-Year Plan. Besides making Activision sound curiously communistic, having three developers working on a staggered three-year development cycle means that consumer fatigue will be inevitable, especially if there is no dialog between the three developers to help ensure that future installments are sufficiently different from each other.

Allow for more emergent gameplay. This is not to be read as a request for a completely open world, as amazing as that might be if done successfully, but making the single-player experience less of a liner corridor would be nice. Create levels where the player can tackle them in different ways and reward them for favoring and mastering a particular play style with the Perks system much like Farcry 3 did with its tattoo RPG system.

Give us a memorable game, not a collection of memorable experiences. Some fans want a return to the franchise’s early days in the World War II era, others want the series to keep looking forward into the future of warfare. Past, future, either way it means little if we repeat of CoD Ghost’s method of giving us a handful of completely random amazing things only to toss them aside at the end of the level and never use them again. Since the exoskeletons seem to be the core gadget gameplay is built around, hopefully we will see all the levels designed to incorporate all the features built into them instead of one or two.

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