In a crowded FPS market, Call of Duty fights for relevance

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty Infinite Warfare

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Luke Kautzky/ Contributing writer

November is here, and gamers everywhere know what that means: it is time for a new Call of Duty game. This Friday’s release, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, ups the ante on the series’ recent streak of near-future settings by this time throwing players into the distant future, spaceships and all. But the game’s aesthetic is not the only difference this year; in 2016, Call of Duty deploys into a vastly different landscape than previous years.

The FPS (First Person Shooter) genre has undergone something of a rebirth in 2016. With Doom, the old guard returned after a prolonged absence to prove that the old-school single player FPS game is not dead yet. Overwatch injected new life into the competitive FPS scene, with a visual style and distinctive character-based firefights that lend it an identity all its own. Battlefield 1 released as the antithesis to Infinite Warfare, sending players back to World War I with satisfying results. And Titanfall 2, another futuristic FPS with robots and guns galore, has scored well with critics and generated heaps of positive buzz from gamers just weeks before Infinite Warfare’s release. And so the question is posed: can Call of Duty change enough to surprise gamers this year? And should it?

The sales figures are not in question– why would they be? Previous games in the series are often the biggest gaming launch of each year, if not the biggest entertainment launch of the year overall.

But this year, even diehard fans of the Call of Duty franchise seem wary. The reveal trailer for the game is now the second-most disliked trailer on YouTube. Fans have been clamoring for a back-to-basics romp through a war that actually happened, not a sci-fi yarn spun in the far reaches of the universe, and a closed beta riddled with technical issues has done nothing to assuage concerns about the quality of the final product. When 2016 has seen releases that redefine what gamers can expect from single player, multiplayer, and cooperative FPS games, is doing everything adequately as impressive as doing one thing well?

Only time will tell.

The core foundation of the game remains solid. The shooting is frantic, the movement is fluid, and the graphics are attractive enough. Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) portrays the main villain, in a move sure to earn some serious geek cred. Customization options are deeper than ever before, including weapon crafting, class creation, interchangeable combat rigs (suits that provide unique bonuses and special tools), and more.

But gamers are tired; they want innovation, not gimmicks. Whether or not the game lives up to fan expectations and dispels detractor’s doubts will be decided in the weeks to come, but one thing is certain: this year, Call of Duty faces an uphill battle to remain a top contender in the FPS genre.

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