2007 was a pivotal year in the Call of Duty franchise. Infinity Ward’s colossal success Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare opened up a whole new money-bag-filled world for publisher Activision to make its fortune in – one that abandoned World War II for the technology of the modern era.
It wasn’t long before CoD alterna-developer Treyarch followed suit and made the Cold War thriller, Call of Duty: Black Ops, the successor to its Pacific theater shooter World at War. As of now, all signs point to them sticking their guns this holiday season with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
An unfortunate casualty of this momentous shuffle, however, was the secret project, Call of Duty: Devil’s Brigade.
According to The Verge, the now-closed studio Underground Development (most recently of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Guitar Hero: Van Halen) had an initial green light from Activision to create a World War II Call of Duty spin-off in case Infinity Ward struck out with Modern Warfare. They hit a grand slam and the rest was history, but it’s taken as long as World War II itself to find out what the game actually looked like.
Devil’s Brigade was third person shooter featuring squad-based, tactical combat; exploration; and the “grim” real-life story of a specially trained band of Canadian and American soldiers, whose brutal yet effective tactics would be right at home in Inglorious Basterds – or the 1968 Devil’s Brigade movie that helped inspire the game at the time:
One of the game’s designers, Jason VandenBerghe, says that the goal was to create a 12-15 minute “vertical slice” of a demo that would kickstart the project. The result – what survives of the game today – was a mission to stealthily overtake a Nazi-occupied bridge in Rome:
“[The stage] was a piece of ground coming out of a sewer onto a low beach next to the Tiber River underneath one of the bridges. Using the squad controls and vaulting skills, the player would sneakily secure bridges and set explosive points, ultimately clearing a path for the massive American military.”
Check out some of the production screenshots to see part of the war-torn landscape players would have navigated through:
Lead Designer Kyle Brink also added that the demo incorporated “squad commands and parkour moves.” These aren’t shown off in the brief grainy video below, but the prospect alone is enough to give you a picture how massively different the style would have been from previous Calls of Duty. Also notice how squad commands are mapped to the d-pad and on-screen instructions prompt you to order a stealth kill on an enemy guard.
It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 2007, World War II was a cozy environment for the industry’s most highly billed shooters. Thrusting them into the uncharted waters of the modern age was considered by Activision to be a gamble, and thus, Devil’s Brigade was intended to be the ace in their back pocket.
After Modern Warfare’s success, however, Activision was merging with Vivendi Games and the commotion prompted Infinity Ward to demand full control over its IP, effectively killing off hope for Underground’s project. As VandenBerghe put, “we just got sideswiped.”
He did go on to to cite other issues that you’d expect a small developer to face, such as the lack of a proven track record – but it’s still unfortunate. Devil’s Brigade would have been a interesting twist on a franchise that many fans think has grown to be too formulaic. Then again, with Modern Warfare 3 capping off it’s Markarov-hunting storyline and the future of Call of Duty being speculated on more than ever, a return to World War II can’t be ruled out.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
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Source: The Verge