Call of Duty: Rebooted
Welcome to the dreamspace - a place to throw ideas into each other and perhaps imagine games that are better, faster, stronger than ever before. Here we deal only in the hypothetical, but thought experiments are fun, so let's try and sketch out a Call of Duty that stays true to the series strengths and jolts it out of the rut it's been entrenched in for the last few years. Introducing Call of Duty: Stalingrad.
You are a soldier in an open battlefield. You begin in command HQ - a reinforced ruin bristling with machine gun emplacements and AT weapons. Beyond, a battle line snakes through the city ruins where Soviet and German forces exchange fire. You're told to grab a gun, get to the line and make yourself useful. How? It's up to you. You can grab a sniper rifle, recruit a small squad and set up a sniper nest in best spot you can stealthily acquire. Grab a machine gun and join the line, assaulting buildings and moving between cover as your comrades advance. Or head into the sewers with a special forces team and harass supply teams behind enemy lines.
The enemy will launch assaults of their own. Occasionally, tanks will attack, bombing runs will come in, enemy snipers will turn town squares into death zones. Radio messages and distant flares alert you to hot spots. You can ignore them, or rush over to help. Your efforts will speed up the rate at which friendly troops push forward in each area until you're finally close enough to launch an all-out assault on the enemy bunker.
And then it all ends with a quick-time knife fight. Only joking.
The Red Army missions in Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 took on Moscow and Stalingrad, of course. They were great. The movement of your comrades as they vaulted over walls and advanced the line created a feeling of growing momentum that would be especially powerful in a dynamic scenario. Broad battlefields offered variety, mixing exposed cover-to-cover sections and trench routes. Depending on your position, you'd juggle between your machine gun and a pleasingly accurate bolt-action rifle. It's also a fine example of one of the central tenants of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games - you are a fragile cog in the war machine . Occasionally an important job will fall in your lap, but you're just another member of the soldiery, fighting for your life in chaotic scenarios.
To enhance that tension, death will be final. Bullets are deadly - one or two well placed sniper shots can take you down. If you die, it's over for that soldier, but you will return to command HQ in control of a fresh recruit. You'll find the name and cause of death of your former soldier on a list of the fallen in HQ's admin room. You'll hear officers reading his name from a list of the fallen in radio calls to Soviet High Command. His name will appear on a final list of all the soldiers you've played throughout the campaign. You'll still encounter lively characters as you move along Soviet lines, but you won't be treated with greater respect than any other trooper until you've earned it. Make it through a couple of battles and you'll get a reputation among COs and ground troops. You might even get a nickname. You'll earn an achievement if you can take one soldier through the entire war.
The idea would be to offer the variety of Call of Duty's best set-pieces in an environment that you can meaningfully influence. Setting up a sniper nest will feel channel Modern Warfare 4's terrific "All Ghillied Up" mission. You'll perform tank takedowns when repelling German assaults. Fighting on the line will be every bit as furious as CoD's most spectacular army assaults. Looking for a shot of one of CoD's maudlin moments? Snatch up some bandages and become a battlefield medic. Drag the wounded out of open streets, treat them, and get them back to the front line. The more men you save, the more guns the enemy has to face and the faster your line advances.
The setting doesn't have to be Stalingrad, but it's a well documented example of close combat in an besieged modern urban environment. The scope of those building-to-basement battles make infantry actions essential for taking territory, which gives a player more power to affect the battle. You can transpose the structure anywhere - into a different modern conflict, or a post-apocalyptic scenario, if you wanted.
A multiplayer version of the same scenario? I would pitch that, but Red Orchestra 2 already exists. There's certainly room for a version of the above with a few free slots for co-op buddies though. Working together, you could launch co-ordinated assaults on enemy strongholds or set up a network of sniper positions that stop all enemy movement in wide areas of the map.
But those are just a few ideas, easier said than done, of course. But if you held the power of a god in the palm of your hand, and for some reason decided to use it to reboot Call of Duty, what would you do? Don't say "fire it into a black hole so hard it never existed," there's already enough hate on the internet, and you'll only become another tick on a Commenter Bingo card. Ideas at the ready. Aim. FIRE!