Curb your Call of Duty hatred: the series, even at its lowest points, is head and shoulders above most FPS on the market. With the critical success of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Treyarch made up for some of their past disappointments and proved that CoD would live on past the Infinity Ward debacle. With Activision planning on trudging ahead with a yearly schedule, rumors are once again pointing towards the next game, developed by Sledgehammer Games, being set many years (and miles) beyond previous installments: space. But what makes this worth paying attention to, and what would it do differently than other FPS set in space? Be honest, being Call of Duty in space is all it needs to do.
With few exceptions, the FPS market is grounded squarely on earth. The only noteworthy exception is Halo, and despite being in the same genre, it takes a dramatically different approach to the idea of a shooter. The singleplayer campaign never takes itself too seriously, with Grunts screaming about the “demon” and running around in circles before blowing themselves up. Players are also controlling super soldiers, capable of jumping over jeeps and punching ten-foot tall Brutes to death. Call of Duty has always been darker—more realistic—with the most bleak installments coming from non-Infinity Ward games. It’s also a series more focused on delivering an extremely fast-paced experience, both in the single and multiplayer. While Halo is a long, winding epic, Call of Duty is a kick-you-in-the-ass action movie. Halo is James Cameron, Call of Duty is unabashed Michael Bay directing and Jerry Bruckheimer producing while holding down the fast-forward button. Sure, they’re both schlocky, but they’re stupidly entertaining and popular for a reason.
This means CoD in space would be an experience gamers aren’t used to. It would be faster than anything out there, with polish that would put almost all other space shooters to shame. Remember Aliens vs. Predators from 2010? Yeah, me either. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena? Thought so. By just being Call of Duty it’s going to be better than almost anything out there when it comes to the campaign, filled with epic “set piece” battles, with the player fighting aliens or other space marines in weird locations. The basic mechanics the series has become known for wouldn’t have to change for the game to feel “different” than just about anything else. Driving a vibraknife into the chest of a rebel would be different enough.
In multiplayer, Sledgehammer essentially has a free pass if they go to space. It would essentially be like creating a mod for Call of Duty: Black Ops, except it would sell eight million copies in the first month. Here’s what they would have to do to make it feel dramatically different from other space shooters: swap out all of the guns for futuristic rifles and lasers, turn the incendiary grenade into plasma, make the flashbang an “antimatter bomb” and start switching things around. Turn Kill Streak Rewards like “artillery” for things like “Orbital Barrage”, and set everything on moons, inside of desolate space stations, and in alien jungles. Heck, they can even just take some of the tech Infinity Ward used for Modern Warfare 2 and throw it in there – remember the heartbeat sensor? That thing was ripped straight from Aliens and no one complained or pointed fingers. Now, in space, they actually have an excuse for that sort of thing to exist. Because of the engine, which is extremely strong, the game would feel utterly unique in the new setting.
If this sounds like more of the same then you’re not really paying attention. The inclusion of spaceships, aliens, and future tech would take the engine to the next level, creating something that would make Modern Warfare look archaic in comparison. The only thing keeping it from being a sure bet is Sledgehammer’s inexperience, but, then again, it would be hard to imagine Activision letting someone screw up Call of Duty that much, right?