How the Call of Duty franchise manages to sustain its yearly release model is a small miracle. Several different studios work on each game, but the quality of each title is impressive. Even the series' B grade material is better than most of its peers in the FPS genre, though opinions vary on what are the weakest links in the franchise.
With Modern Warfare out the door and in players' hands, it got us thinking what parts of the new title next year's Call of Duty should keep, and which parts it should change. Infinity Ward's new game is the best the franchise has been in years, but it still has its flaws.
10 Change: Spec Ops
Spec Ops is easily the weakest facet of the package. It is buggy, unfairly difficult, and the mission structure feels uninspired. The willingness to try something new and stray co-op offerings away from zombies is commendable, but the execution falls flat.
Next year's outing should keep Spec Ops, but also enact radical changes. Maybe they should strive for the original Modern Warfare trilogy's version, where many missions were asymmetrical, giving the two players different objectives and game play mechanics.
9 Borrow: Gunfight
A highlight of the impressive multiplayer suite is the two versus two gunfight mode. The predetermined loadouts and short round times makes every player rely purely on skill. It forces people to think about Call of Duty's game play in a way they never have before.
Future iterations better bring this mode along with them andexpand upon it. They shouldn't veer too far from the core concept, but more variations cannot hurt. Maybe include wackier loadouts like rocket launchers or hand to hand combat.
8 Change: Villains
Modern Warfare includes one of the series' best written single-player campaigns. The protagonists are all likable and change as the story progresses. One aspect where the writing falls flat is in its portrayal of the villain.
Barkov comes off as a cartoonish Russian one expects to see in an '80s action movie and gets a sparse amount of time in the spotlight. Future campaigns have to put more focus on the antagonist. He doesn't have to elicit sympathy from players, but one has to better understand their motivations.
7 Keep: Open-Ended Levels
"Going Dark" is the campaign's high point. Players are sent to Barkov's estate to track him down. Three different objectives pop up and players can tackle them in any order they see fit.
This stealth level feels more at home in Metal Gear Solid than in Call of Duty, but the change makes for a refreshing palette cleanser. Future campaigns should take a hint from this mission and offer more open-ended levels. It's not so open that players feel lost, but it's open enough to feel like a sandbox or playground.
6 Change: Launch
Players expect post-launch adjustments in the modern gaming landscape, but Modern Warfare came out less polished than its older brethren. Some platforms suffer from problems during the campaign, particularly the PC version, but the multiplayer mode is where people have the most issues.
Several guns require nerfs and some modes weren't included at launch. The team is still hard at work updating the game and balancing out the competitive play, but next year's addition will hopefully learn from these and come out a more complete package. Most of these problems perhaps stem from the new graphics engine; a small price to pay for the impressive new visuals.
5 Borrow: Character-Drive Narrative
Rarely does Call of Duty make people feel for its main cast like Modern Warfare does. Everybody always loved Captain Price, but his portrayal in the new game breathes new life into the iconic character. Farah Karim and Garrick are also two lovable protagonists.
If the next game's playable characters are this compelling, they will already have won half the battle in crafting a stellar single-player campaign. World-ending stakes make for a nice blockbuster, but personal drama is always more gripping.
4 Change: Ground War
On the opposite end of the multiplayer spectrum from Gunfight is Ground War. This mode pits massive teams against each other in a battle to control several points on a giant map. These haphazard fights aren't for everyone. Many players end up a sniper's victim while running somewhere right after spawning.
What's worse, some maps have exploitable glitches players use to rack up kills. While they are definitely on the right track, the next game can make this mode more appealing to players currently turned off by it. Maybe they could add different objectives or make a more dynamic battlefield with changing parameters.
3 Borrow: Night Mode
Night Mode is a real treat. In these darkened versions of preexisting maps, players rely on their Night Vision goggles for sight and the hud is completely gone. People play more cautiously and utilize different strategies.
Such a mode was impossible in the franchise before the new graphics engine introduced new lighting. The next game should definitely keep this unique modifier, as it is surely becoming some people's preferred method of playing.
2 Change: Exploitative Moments
This isn't a direct criticism of Modern Warfare's more shocking moments, but it is not a path the series should go down. It will start to feel cheap if each iteration tries to one-up the last with how far they can go to tell a gritty story.
Some already make valid points about commodifying the depiction of violence, torture, and the deaths of civilians as entertainment value, and trying to be more shocking will only make these criticisms clearer and more valid. There are ways to make the audience empathic towards characters without forcing them to watch or participate in gruesome violence.
1 Keep: Graphics Engine
For the first time in many years, the series utilizes a new graphics engine, and it looks stunning. Infinity Ward could have gone on stage and declared Modern Warfare a PS5 and Project Scarlett launch title, and most would have believed them.
Next year's title will likely be a cross-generational entry, and here's hoping they keep the same engine. Given more time and horsepower to tinker with the new tools, the next game could accomplish some magnificent feats.