Press Start: It's time for shooters to return to real wars
I miss World War II.
Not the real war, of course, but the video games centered on it.
Back in the day, entries in the popular shooter series “Call of Duty” were based on real conflicts such as World War II, but the franchise has since morphed into something ridiculous. The most recent “Call of Duty” game, “Infinite Warfare,” takes place in the distant future where soldiers use guns, gadgets and equipment more at home in a science-fiction shooter such as “Halo.” It's crazy how the series has devolved from taking place in the European trenches of 1942 to literally one of Jupiter's moons in the distant future.
This isn't to say I'm against futuristic settings in games. “Destiny” and “Gears of War” are great sci-fi shooters and have been since their inception. The problem with “Call of Duty” is it began as a historical shooter and changed into something else entirely.
Another popular series, “Battlefield,” isn't immune to the change, either. As with “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield” started as a history-based game but moved into a present-day setting in recent entries. At one point, the series even touched on warfare in the 2100s.
But both series are at their peaks when grounded in real-world history.
Take last year's “Battlefield 1,” for instance. It's the first game in recent memory to take place in World War I, and it's great. Everything from the personal stories with historical context to the multiplayer that makes me feel like I'm actually in the middle of a World War I skirmish rather than playing a video game is far more authentic than any modern-day or futuristic entry in the series.
“Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” was the first game in the series to move into the present day, and many fans regard it as their favorite. The story was fun (especially the All Ghillied Up mission), but the multiplayer fell short. I much preferred the slower, more methodical combat of “Call of Duty 2: Big Red One's” multiplayer than the frantic, fast-paced madness that every subsequent game featured.
Excluding “Battlefield 1,” neither of these series have touched on anything before modern combat since at least 2009. Maybe the games shifted settings after the market showed gamers were losing interest in playing shooters based in the same era year after year.
But if “Battlefield 1” is any indication, it's time for both series to return to their roots.
I, for one, have completely lost interest in “Call of Duty” not only because of its mediocre gameplay but because each game goes farther and farther into the future, getting more and more outrageous with each entry. If I want to pilot mechs and shoot lasers, I'll play “Titanfall” or “Halo,” two series built around such concepts—not one that's trying to be something it's not. I'm growing as tired of the franchise's take on futuristic combat as I'm sure other gamers did of its history-based entries.
Furthermore, shooters based on real wars are more impactful, memorable and educational. I still vividly recall the opening scene of “Medal of Honor: Frontline,” where you charge the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. I remember the Russian commander's inspirational speech before defending Stalingrad from invading Germans at the beginning of “Call of Duty: Finest Hour.”
No such memories exist for more recent games based on fictional conflicts.
I'm just one fan, so maybe only a minority of gamers share my opinion. But it won't be long before the majority of gamers get tired of futuristic shooters and historical shooters once again dominate. I can only hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my time with “Battlefield 1” and thinking about what a Civil War first-person shooter might be like.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.