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Re-boots on the ground: The Advanced, Retro, Infinite Sequel


“Boots-on-the-ground”, the latest marketing buzzword crafted by shooter franchises under the current trend of shoe-horning nostalgia to sell us re-hashed entertainment, has given us two new iterations of our most beloved. These being Battlefield 1 and soon, Call of Duty WWII, which, just from the titles alone, ooze a thick air of innovation and originality not seen in decades that can only be expected from the two biggest money grabbing publishers in the game. Before we dissect these gems further, it’s fair to note that, Battlefield 1 is not a bad game, it did the right thing at the right time and dared to venture outside of the thematic comfort zone demarcated by World War 2 at one end and the never ending sci-fi encroachment on the other. Then we look at Call of Duty WWII, a so-far praised upcoming sequel of a darling shooter franchise, mired by discontent and fan backlash for its continued push towards more and more futuristic warfare.

The main premise for these throwback renditions can easily be concluded as a push to feed the growing discernment for real stories with real historical source material stooped in the romanticisation of warfare from a bygone era. This is all well and good as long as the games are good and as long as that is what the majority wants, but these moves also bring into question what value systems game developers are operating on today. Is it one where developers are still operating as platforms of unbridled creativity, or is it now just a case of half-assed pandering towards the first world sensitivities of over entitled consumers, exchanging boots on the ground for dollars in the bank?

This conundrum brings us back to Call of Duty, a franchise that has found itself in a weird space (also, literally in space), garnering widespread community condemnation for its increasingly sci-fi imbued iterations. CoD has always been about evolving the concept of warfare through time and technology, going from the second World War (which everyone seems to have forgotten they already did), moving into the contemporary era of military combat, then experimenting with what the future may hold. When looked at in this way, we can see a real labour of attention and creative foresight designed specifically to tell a story the developers and publisher want to tell. Unfortunately, this vision, it would seem, is not very popular, or is it?

Despite CoD receiving so much shade in recent time for the thematic direction of the franchise, the series still somehow manages to impress critically and commercially. Black Ops III and Infinite

Warfare are examples of this strange paradox with the latter’s reveal trailer having the dubious honour of most disliked gaming related youtube video, while still selling millions and notching up a few awards in its awkward run. This pattern shows us that the game wasn’t bad at all, some would say it is in fact a good game. This strange paradox would surmise, based on the figures, that there is a major disconnect between what gamer’s say they want and what they actually want. This paradox seems to be the confused cluster bomb of data that drives the direction of future games, turning devs and publishers from being bastions of creativity, to marketing firms that pander and peddle entertainment software.

All this begs the question, what do we want as gamers?  are our insatiable wants driving studios to work against their creative tennets in order to survive and thrive? Do we really want boots-on-the-ground or are we okay with jet-packs? All the conflicting data leaves many unanswered questions, We’ll have to wait until November to see if CoD: WWII gives any closure, but before that time I’d like to share a quote by Hideo Kojima –

“We ought to remember the past, yes — but we shouldn’t allow it to consume us. We live in the present moment, and some people are too tied to the ideals of that period to fully move forward. We’ll never work through the future unless we accept the present. We must fill the twenty-first century with dreams.”

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