Call of Duty has been through many ups and downs throughout its 20-year lifespan. The franchise has hopped between different settings, experimented with various styles of gameplay, and introduced several iconic characters through its story mode.
However, the series appears to be stuck in the past today, shackled by the burden of its former brilliance. Where Treyarch and Infinity War were continuously improving on their formula during the IP’s prime, modern Call of Duty is often happy to offer old content with a fresh coat of paint.
As someone who fell in love with the IP after 2007’s Call of Duty 4, I can see a glaring lack of innovation in the series today. Therefore, I find this approach of relying on nostalgia and classic games detrimental to the franchise.
Why it matters: Activision continues to set new records, with Modern Warfare 2 becoming the biggest Call of Duty launch in 2022. With such appeal and prestige, the IP deserves more than just a nostalgia-fueled trip each year.
An Innovative First-Person Shooter
Believe it or not, Call of Duty was once among the most innovative franchises. For starters, the original Modern Warfare pioneered a new style of cinematic campaigns for first-person shooters, inspiring several juggernauts to follow. This very formula has persisted for over 15 years.
Earlier entries were also quick to leave behind old ideas for new ones. In 2007, I was already impressed with new introductions like a class system for loadouts, killstreaks, and progression challenges.
However, only two years later, I was shocked to see Modern Warfare 2 introducing customizable killstreaks, a tactical nuke, Pro perks, new attachments, a third-person mode, and a more explosive campaign.
Treyach had similar ideas for the Black Ops IP. Black Ops 1 delivered a new cast of characters that rivaled the likes of Captain Price and Soap while expanding on the multiplayer through additions like COD Points, Party Games, and Wager Matches.
Following the success of Black Ops 2, the series moved to a sci-fi setting, changing its core movement and gameplay with each entry. I always enjoyed going back and forth between these games since each release had its distinct identity.
However, I believe the success of 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot has led to an identity crisis for the franchise.
The Modern Warfare 2019 Engine
Needless to say, Modern Warfare 2019 was a breath of fresh air, one that Call of Duty desperately needed at the time.
To me, Black Ops 4 proved that Treyarch was running out of steam in 2018, and Sledgehammer’s return to World War 2 in 2017 left a lot to be desired. Infinity Ward then rose to the occasion, introducing a Modern Warfare reboot.
This game fundamentally revamped the series, implementing a new movement system, varied weapon handling, and Gunsmith for customization. As great as these systems were, I hold the opinion that these changes may have done more harm than good.
Apart from Treyarch’s Black Ops Cold War in 2020, each subsequent entry has used the Modern Warfare 2019 engine. What this means for the games is that they feel extremely similar to each other.
Admittedly, this was always a complaint about older Call of Duty entries, but it has never been more true than in the last few years. With each game relying on the same tech, many elements are clearly shared across recent releases.
Activision’s studios are also working more closely than before. All of these factors come together to produce games that feel reluctant to break away from the Modern Warfare 2019 formula.
Nostalgia Is A Powerful Tool
This franchise has never been as reliant on nostalgia as it is today. I have noticed that older multiplayer maps are more prevalent in newer games than before, while the new additions have failed to measure up to these maps.
Modern Warfare 3 is taking this practice to a new level by adding every map from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 without a single new 6v6 map at launch. This practice is also evident in the narrative side of the IP.
Characters like Captain Price, Ghost, and Soap are still leading the charge for this rebooted series, albeit with reimagined renditions. Modern Warfare 2’s entire marketing beat was centered on Ghost, with the character also appearing on the cover art.
Gone are the days of Call of Duty introducing incredibly memorable characters like Makarov, Frank Woods, and Raul Menendez, with the developers seemingly satisfied with revisiting established characters time and again.
With rumors pointing to the next game using remastered maps from Black Ops 2, this practice appears to be here for good. However, all hope is not lost.
Microsoft has acquired Activision Blizzard, and I hope this change will finally bring an end to the tedious yearly releases of Call of Duty, allowing these incredibly talented developers some time to breathe and come up with exciting ideas.
Thank you! Please share your positive feedback. 🔋
How could we improve this post? Please Help us. 😔
Avinash is currently pursuing a Business degree in Australia. For more than three years, he has been working as a gaming journalist, utilizing his writing skills and love for gaming to report on the latest updates in the industry. Avinash loves to play action games like Devil May Cry and has also been mentioned on highly regarded websites, such as IGN, GamesRadar, GameRant, Dualshockers, CBR, and Gamespot.