Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is set to be released October 25 this year, a date that marks a ground-breaking moment for the long-running series as its sixteenth instalment becomes the first to support cross-platform multiplayer. In an interesting juxtaposition, 2019’s Modern Warfare will be steeped in the past at the same time as it introduces this novel feature. This year’s release will be a so-called soft reboot of the series’ first Modern Warfare game, originally launched in 2007.
Cross-platform functionality will satisfy many long-term fans of the franchise, finally bringing together PlayStation, Xbox and PC players in one world. Activision, publisher of the Call of Duty franchise, reassured gamers that multiplayer matchmaking will be dictated by peripherals, which will prevent PC players from gaining an advantage by using a mouse against an Xbox player lumbered with a controller. While this promises to be an exciting addition that enhances the game’s social side, the reboot aspect of Modern Warfare hints at a scarcity of original ideas in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre.
Activision have promised that Modern Warfare will bring storylines with greater emotional heft and social commentary, but this may not be enough to differentiate the game from other Call of Duty releases. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier pointed out the amusing quirk that the first Modern Warfare was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and that this fourth Modern Warfare will be called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Frankly, that sentence has more Modern Warfares than it needs, something that may ring true for fans of FPS games. While the Call of Duty series has been genre-defining, there is a need for something new to help the genre evolve.
Some may have envisaged that FPS would merge with traits of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games to create a super genre: MMOFPS. Destiny 2 and PlanetSide 2 are regarded as the leading games in the MMOFPS genre, with both managing to achieve the tricky task of integrating elements of MMO and FPS. However, it may take the involvement of a big name to truly propel MMOFPS to mainstream success. While there are challenges in bringing together MMO and FPS, from devising a suitable game structure to establishing an attractive payment model, the Call of Duty brand would have enough goodwill to ride out any teething problems.
For now, Activision are sticking to tried-and-tested methods. The company reiterated intentions to release a new Call of Duty game annually, rather than acquiescing to pressures to join a Fortnite-esque live-service structure. It is commendable that the company is retaining elements of classic gaming at a time when there is so much change. However, a little bit of change may be what the FPS genre and the Call of Duty franchise need to stay fresh. Rumors that the 2020 Call of Duty release is going to be a reboot of the Black Ops sub-series aren’t exactly setting the pulses racing of gamers looking for something new.
Activision’s sustained success means that there is little doubt that 2019’s Modern Warfare and 2020’s Black Ops will be good-to-great games in their own right. Sometimes, a little bit of doubt is no bad thing. If the FPS genre is to be at the cutting-edge of the gaming industry, players need to be given something new. The cross-platform mode of Modern Warfare is a start, but a Call of Duty MMOFPS release could be the breath of fresh air that attracts a new generation of gamers.