Over the weekend two much-loved video game franchises dropped trailers for their Autumn offerings: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1. Battlefield was warmly received, and Call of Duty was trashed.
“Trashed” is a strong word, and I don’t mean that as an understatement: the trailer has quickly become one of the most disliked videos on Youtube; and at the time of this post’s publication it has notched over 2 million dislikes. Watch the trailer below and see if you can figure out what so many fans hate about it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it looks fine (at best). It’s just another shooter set in a futuristic backdrop of space warfare and novel weaponry. It’s exactly what some people imagine when they think of the average, 2010s FPS. And that’s the problem— it’s just another shooter.
Call of Duty has been making war time FPS games for over a decade, starting with the 2003 game that bears the franchise name. Up until 2007 or so, with the release of Modern Warfare, COD (and shooters in general) had been synonymous with WWII shooters. The first three games were set during that conflict, as well as several of the console exclusives that followed. After Modern Warfare, the series followed up with a return to the Pacific with 2008’s World at War. And then… it focused on the present day and later, the future.
A shift towards futuristic settings wasn’t a bad thing. Those WWII games were solid! Remember Medal of Honor Frontline? But as with any industry, trends and new technologies encourage developers to explore outside-the-box offerings. Why not change it up with something fresher than the early 1940s? Call of Duty led the way with their critically acclaimed games, and EA/Dice’s Battlefield franchise took advantage of next-gen console technology with their Bad Company series. By 2010, even Medal of Honor was dabbling in modern warfare settings. But six years later, the gaming landscape is back at square one: there are too many modern/futuristic shooters out there, and consumers are clamoring for a change of pace. The two biggest studios reacted totally differently.
EA responded literally, slowing the pace way down, all the way to the trenches of World War I— and that’s not a typo. It’s going way back, beyond the WWII trappings that most seasoned FPS players are acquainted with. Paul Tassi of Forbes finds this a brilliant, if daring move. EA is clearly offering younger gamers something completely new (a historically-based shooter), and giving older gamers a glimpse into what they knew before the modern FPS landscape. The question is whether or not gamers will actually want to play a game featuring clunky old weapons, but EA is betting that nostalgia and novelty for the older and younger generations, respectively, make up for it.
And there’s where Activision slipped up. They kept plodding along with the same aesthetic, hoping gamers would take it in stride. To be fair, a negative comments section before the game even comes out probably isn’t the most reliable indicator of sales, but I’m sure the Activision team isn’t rejoicing in the streets either. Both games are coming out at around the same time, and an inadvertent sales battle will be underway. Will the winner will determine the outcome of the (foreseeable) future of the FPS? Maybe. Either gamers stay content with “modern” offerings, or we all take a step back to into the past.