Call of Duty: The Next Generation
It's hard to imagine a time when "Call of Duty" wasn't arguably the biggest title in video games, so popular that COD merchandise lines the shelves of stores across the world, everything from toys and shirts to pajama pants and special flavors of Mt. Dew soda. The release of a new game in the "Call of Duty" franchise is as highly anticipated, if not more so, than some of the summer blockbusters that Hollywood cranks out. The fans always turn out, usually in record numbers, each November to see what studios like Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Activision have done to outdo the last.
In 2003, Infinity Ward was a young studio that released their first game, "Call of Duty" on PC and for download from the PSN or Xbox Live Marketplace. The game earned near perfect ratings across the board as well as over 90 Game of the Year awards.
While it's hard to call critical praise humble beginnings, but it's safe to say no one anticipated the sales to eventually reach what they have.
For "Call of Duty 2″ in 2005, Infinity Ward moved to consoles, releasing it for PC and as a launch title for the Xbox 360 as well as a version for the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. The game was similarly well received and critics hailed the improvements in graphics and sold 250,000 copies in the first week it was available.
Since then, a new "Call of Duty" game has been released every November, with each being bigger than the last. "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" is widely regarded as a benchmark not just for the franchise but in what a video game is capable of. "Modern Warfare" signaled the start of the focusing on online multiplayer game modes and maps, something that it's safe to say has revolutionized the way we play video games.
After the release of "Modern Warfare" and "World at War," the releases became events with dedicated fans lining up days in advance to purchase their copy right at midnight.
Critics argue that the studios have become so focused on online multiplayer that the overall story mode has suffered because of it as the stories all seem like retreads but after all this success it's a bit of a moot point.
Treyarch seemed to hear the criticism that the gameplay had gotten repetitive as "Black Ops 2," released in 2012 took the franchise somewhere it had never gone; the future. Set in 2025 and featuring futuristic weapons and maps, quite a deviation from the normally hyper-realistic franchise. The response was overwhelming; the game sold 7.5 million copies on its' first day, a gross of over $500 million in a span of 24 hours. Clearly "Call of Duty" has gone to a level very few franchises can rival.
The "Call of Duty" franchise has shaped the controls for all first person shooters released, each new shooter follows the same controller layout, which gives all FPS a pick-up and play ability that feels comfortable to gamers of any level.
It's also elevated online trash talking to a level all its' own. From personal experience I can't count how many times I've heard things of pure hate and racism in a "Call of Duty" lobby. Grown men yelling at kids until they cry, kids using the types of profanity that would guarantee eating a whole box of soap if they were ever caught, it's an experience that overall adds to the experience of playing a "Call of Duty" game and there's no other game that evokes such emotions from users.
That's the other thing that's helped "Call of Duty" stand head and shoulders above the competition; the accessibility. "COD" has taken up the mantle once held by 'Mario Party,' 'Mario Kart' and 'Guitar Hero'/'Rock Band' as the go-to party game. Getting a group of friends together to talk trash and own n00bz probably describes at least 5 parties going on as I type this.
So now, after billions and billions of revenue, Microsoft is set to entice us all once more with a first-look at the gameplay and story behind "Call of Duty: Ghosts" the first for the Next-Gen consoles as well as the Current-Gen ones. Little is known about the game at this point; the first teaser trailer has absolutely no story or gameplay details and even stars live-action actors, but it still has almost 10 million views in just 2 weeks and since half the fun is wondering with your friends what kind of improvements or changes they'll make, let's take a minute and make a few predictions as to what we'll be treated to on May 21:
• The title "Ghosts" suggests a more "Tom Clancy" mercenary type of story, with emphasis on hiding and avoiding large fire fights.
• A "Metal Gear"-esque sneaking system that allows players to peak out behind corners or hide behind environmental objects.
• Tons of silenced weapons.
• A killstreak reward of brass knuckles that allows players to punch opposing team members to death in place of a melee attack.
• More gameplay in decomposing environments (collapsing buildings, falling airplane, etc…)
• Character model customization.
• 3D TV capabilities
• DLC featuring more "classic COD" maps from previous games.
• A crazy pre-order package comparable to the "night vision goggles" package offered with 'Black Ops 2.'
These are all just guesses for now of course, but in less than a week, Microsoft will grab headlines not only with their new console, but with the biggest franchise in the world right behind it. The buzz for May 21 is undoubtedly sky high and deservedly so, what remains to be seen is what height "Call of Duty" and Microsoft will raise the bar to next.
Dustin Brewer is co-creator of HefferBrew. He's a PS3 owner personally as well as a "Call of Duty" enthusiast (to say the least.) That said, he can't wait to see what Microsoft has up their sleeves as he's sure it'll outdo the PS4 introduction in nearly every aspect, not to mention the first look at "Ghosts."