Call of Duty 5: A Step Back?

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So, the next Call of Duty (subtitled World at War) will not be handled by original developers Infinity Ward but Treyarch, they of Call of Duty 3.

Call of Duty 4 was a bit of an unexpected revelation for me. I went into reviewing it with precisely zero expectations and was shocked numb by what I was presented with. To use the vernacular, it rocked. Hard. Taking the series out of the World War II setting it was born in was the best possible thing Infinity Ward could have done – the only things carried over were the dev’s trademark style when it comes to combat and Captain Price with his walrus moustache. Essentially, the best bits. And it paid massive dividends.

The problem with Treyarch is that they’ve never produced anything labelled Call of Duty that has met the standard set by the chaps at IW. Take Call of Duty 3 – sure it was functional, competent, but really it was only vaguely notable for its complete, unmitigated ordinariness. It had no pop, no flair and it was by no means cool. And this may have been due in a significant part to the fact that even with number three we were still answering the call in WWII. The first Call of Duty made WWII shooters fun and feel fresh again, thumbing its nose to Medal of Honor’s more traditional lone super-soldier protagonist and instead emphasising that one rifleman really is just a tiny cog in a gigantic grinder. If nothing else it was a concerted attempt to evolve the genre and raise the bar.

After being mired in Normandy, the Ardennes and Monte Casino for so long number four in the series went and pulled a similar trick – it’s raised the bar on the kind of production values we expect for an FPS of this type and given us, if not new, then less-explored theatres to fight in. And it’s also made the Call of Duty mould itself feel fun and fresh again too. It’s a true step up, a stunning rescue of a brand close to being trapped in the jaws of mediocrity.

And the plan for the successor? To throw that away it seems. Give the job to a different, demonstratively less-talented crew and stick it right back into the tired old setting the last game did so well to escape. That may sound a tad uncharitable, and without any bit of playable game yet any firm judgement is obviously premature, but given Treyarch’s record and the fact that it’s still WWII, it can’t bode well.

EDIT: Videogamer.com have an interview up with senior producer Noah Heller and creative lead Rich Farrelly of Treyarch. One of the interesting things that crops up is that Call of Duty 3 had only an eight month development cycle, which seems remarkably compact. It’s worth a look for some insight into the development of that title and they talk for a bit about World at War too – which they’ll have had two years to work on by the time it hits shelves apparently. Things are looking up.

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2 Responses to “Call of Duty 5: A Step Back?”

  1. Paul Says:

    Really just what I thought while viewing the trailer (OMG, IT HAS TEH SWIMMING-SEQUENCES!1 I really hate games which only have one new “killer feature”)

  2. Mr X Says:

    The online multi player is pretty good except for the terrible spawning system in it you spawn on team mates instead of set points or random places on the map this means that you can spend minutes sneaking up on your enemies only to have all your hard work and good movement wasted by a team mate spawning and taking all your kills.
    Before some one goes that’s kills for your team in an “E-peen” game like Call of Duty where you go up ranks and get points no one cares about winning as long as you kick ass and get lots of points and keep a good Kill:Death.

    Also the collectors edition was a load of shit, went in early to get it after reading the list of what you got they promised;

    Coloured Name Tag
    Not coloured but highlighted gold as if your cursor was over it…

    Start with the level 60 Machine gun
    No you start with a pre defined class with terrible perks so the gun is useless.

    Double Xp
    They never give warning of when this will pop up and one person can drag a whole party in or you can join from the X box live friends list.
    So useless as long as someone you know on your friends list was stupid enough to get the collectors edition.

    This game slapped collectors in the face.

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