Call of Duty is unlikely to get WWII “right”

“Those who do not learn from from history, are doomed to make another World War II videogame.” A famous saying, and one we all know well. So when Activision hosted a live presentation for the reveal trailer of their latest shooter, Call of Duty: WWII [official site], I watched and felt nothing but a tired wave of low-burning resentment for everyone involved. During this presentation the word “visceral” was said a total of eight times and our own news editor Alice silently got up from her desk, walked solemnly out of her house, and never returned. If anyone has seen Alice, please call us.

It was a monstrously cringe-worthy event, sadly typical of our industry. Among the performers, the words “boots on the ground” and “back to our roots” were hammered out multiple times, everyone on stage seeking to remain desperately, forlornly on-message. But the real message, which we received loud and clear, was much simpler than the mish-mash of platitudes and marketing. Simply: we are going back to World War II and we are trying, with all the desperation of a wet cat, to convince you that this is a good thing. Thus the images of the beaches of Normandy we are all accustomed to, thus the US soldiers arguing over duty and lives, thus the shadowy Nazi, harbinger of the manshoot and eterno-foe of the videogamer. The developers even had the brazenness to suggest that the reason for revisiting the second world war was to “ensure this sort of conflict doesn’t happen again”, as if making a balls-to-the-wall action-soaked FPS was the best way to do that.

But it isn’t. For some, including our own John, the series returning to WWII presents a hopeful opportunity. For me, it’s the worst thing they could have done. “Getting World War 2 right is incredibly important to us,” said Glen Schofield of Sledgehammer Games at the event, failing to acknowledge that they could not even decide upon a single tone for the reveal event, never mind the game, flopping between reverence for fallen soldiers and wide-eyed celebration of all the “authentic” firearms with which you’ll be killing people and the “immersive” bullet sounds you’ll be hearing as you come under fire. This is a principle failure of many Call of Duty games: a thunderous clashing of tones. Now, I don’t think that games about this war should not exist – any war is up for grabs as far as I’m concerned. But I am not convinced, based on both the rhetoric of this event and the series’ past outings that CoD is the franchise to do it “right”.

In looking to world history for its inspiration, Activision and Sledgehammer are neglecting to inspect the history of their own industry. Games have grown up slightly since the glut of WWII shooters in the 2000s. Back then, you could put an M1 Garand in the player’s hand, tell them they are a member of the O.S.S and kick them out the door. We would shoot absolutely anything, so long as we heard that hot, hot “ping”. Now, if a WWII shooter is made, it either goes for over-the-top nonsense, like in Wolfenstein: The New Order, or it neglects to add any singleplayer mode at all, a la Day of Infamy. Wolfenstein often gets its free pass unfairly, I think (but that’s a whole other article) but it at least presents a mostly-consistent attitude – ie. “let’s shoot some fascists on the moon with a gun in each hand, yeeeehawwww!” And Day of Infamy ignores story altogether, turning their players into not much more than a gung-ho reenactment society.

These recent games have aimed for such a consistency of tone because their developers have garnered the sense to realise that history is complicated, and it is hard to tell a serious tale about the cost of war with a game that is, at its core, about shooting hundreds of people in the head with a machine gun. Call of Duty, as a series, has never learned this, even when it went to Mars. Likewise, Battlefield 1, for me, made the same mistake with its War Stories – a campaign so clashing in competing tones that it was like hearing two pianos having an argument.

The truth that Activision (and Dice, to a lesser extent) fails to see – or chooses not to see – is that their high-powered blockbuster shooters rarely approach the subject of war with any sophistication or grace. Nor do they approach them with a purposeful silliness or stupidity that would absolve them of their choice of setting. Instead, they usually try to have everything – the horror and the gung-ho – resulting in a disjointed mess that attempts to flip-flop between conflicting emotions as often as you swap grenade types. And worse than simply being inconsistent of vision, they often exude a pungent aura of jingoism, duty, machismo and heroism that would not be out of place in any boy’s war comic of the 1950s. Nowhere do videogames more clumsily reveal their immaturity, comparative to other mediums, than in tackling wars via big budget multiplayer-focused shooters, in which the closest the player comes to achieving a deeper understanding of conflict is in pressing ‘F’ to pay your respects.

On top of that, nowhere do games spout more US-centric ideas about the necessity of conflict either, exploring loose themes about foreign invaders, surprise attacks, terrorism (and “narcoterrorism”) in such a narrow and limited way that, in any other era, it could easily be labelled propaganda. All these messages and more are served up between explosive set pieces and “visceral” gun fights. Then, with the last explosion ringing in your ear, your friend is shot dead. Isn’t war hell?

Some readers might grimace at those complaints, seeing only a vague anti-Americanism in my argument. That’s not what I’m getting at. I only want to say that it is hard to believe Sledgehammer Games when they say they want to tell a “diverse” and “global” story (and this is what they really said). Because they have once again put you into the combat boots of a United States private. Nothing invites tunnel vision like exploring a complicated, vicious and worldwide conflict via the iron sights of a US infantry man. We’re told that there will be a playable moment with a woman in the French Resistance, along with others, but how brief, long, or significant those moments are, we do not know. It wasn’t mentioned in the trailer, and the three actors brought on stage during Activision’s presentation were all men playing the main roles of the US soldier boys. They then spoke about how the bonds made in the recording studio were reflective of the bonds between soldiers fighting in a deadly and chaotic environment. OK.

My point is that a clashing of tone is just one problem Call of Duty will face going back to the war we all know. It is also a common failing of big budget first-person-shooters that they rarely visit unknown territory or alternative viewpoints. The gesture to the women of the French resistance feels like a token one and the safest possible option. As far as we know, there are no soldiers or spies from the Phillipines, India, Russia or Hong Kong. It is even more unlikely that we’ll be playing any levels from the perspective of a relateable Axis soldier or citizen. After all, a blockbuster must have its “bad guy”, even if that bad guy must encompass entire nations.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to focus on one set of participants in a war, of course. But Sledgehammer Games are asking you to trust that this story is “diverse”, that it accurately represents this global conflict, that they are “getting it right”. I can’t speak for fans, but I can’t take what they say at face value when I watch the CoD: WWII trailer only to be greeted with the same old chiseled faces of US servicemen out to prove another point about how heroic they are in the most discordant manner possible. “Aren’t we brave?” roars the lieutenant on the beach. “Isn’t this hellish,” laughs the sergeant. A private lays in the sand and points to the bullet wound in his throat. “Look how visceral this is,” he gurgles.

Like I’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with returning to the second world war as a setting for a shooter, or any other story. If any other medium can travel from Normandy to the Rhine, games should be able to as well. But they have to step up when it comes to depicting that war with deftness, if that is what they are aiming for. And judging by the words of the developers at Sledgehammer, that is what they want to do. Unfortunately, the track record of Call of Duty does not fill me with hope. The writing in the most recent shooter, Infinite Warfare, somehow managed to feel like a loud song celebrating United States exceptionalism, despite being about shooting lasers in outer space. You might be relieved that Sledgehammer are taking the lead with this one, but remember that they made Call of Duty: Kevin Spacey. That history, combined with the recent cringing, babbling reveal event only reinforces my scepticism. Call of Duty is not good at depicting war – its reasons, its atrocities or its cost. It will, in all likelihood, not get World War II right.

There is room for any type of shooter the world can imagine, including traditional beach stormers, and it might seem silly for me to criticise a company who, despite selling lower numbers from their recent futureshoots, still manage to bring hundreds of thousands of players into fearsome multiplayer arenas of speed and death (the real reason most people play CoD, let’s not forget). However, if this does turn out to be another GI Joe comic book tale with thousands of headshots, while simultaneously mouthing “isn’t war hell?” to you between mortar blasts, I hope that every other developer will take note and seek to make something more nuanced and intelligent should they seek to exploit the same era. Because those who do not learn from history… well, you know.

202 Comments

  1. ColonelFlanders says:

    World War 2 is a tough one to represent really, since the whole ‘every German soldier is a red-eyed demon soldier’ trope is a bit shit. The vast majority of German soldiers were just normal drafted guys fighting for their country like everyone else, it was mainly the SS that were the shady paramilitary group that had the red eyes etc.

    • ohminus says:

      Actually, the Wehrmacht did commit its “fair” share of atrocities, but the whole issue is, of course, incredibly complex. All the more when it comes to late war periods, where membership in the SS was not just voluntary anymore, and I guess we’ll wait forever for a game that will actually adequately portray the Volkssturm, since shooting 16 year olds who barely know which end of the gun is the muzzle but are largely ardent Nazis, having been fully socialized under the Nazi regime would likely raise some eyebrows.

      But then, games always played fast and loose with such things. I never touched Red Orchestra, since regardless of its merits as a game, it had no chance to actually do “justice” to the annihilation war of the Eastern Front were atrocities were a basic staple of the strategy on both sides.

      • brucethemoose says:

        I wouldn’t want to play a “realistic” game about the Eastern Front… Not an FPS anyway. It would either be mind-numbingly boring, horrifically gruesome, or both.

        Hearts of Iron IV or World of Tanks, now that’s a different story.

        Not that I don’t appreciate media that makes your stomach turn (as that was reality), I just don’t think the mechanics of wading through civilian corpses, starving/freezing to death or the visuals of blowing someone’s head off as one of those Red Army snipers sounds fun.

        • ohminus says:

          Why, could offer a host of new achievements “Firestarter” – torched ten buildings with civilians inside. “Ghost in the machine” – You’ve successfull fed ten train engineers to the fire of their engines. “Stud” – You’ve raped 50 female civilians. “Extreme bullseye” – You achieved a headshot with 10 toddlers. “Kindergarten” – filled a mass grave pit exclusively with minors.

          • brucethemoose says:

            “Marksman” – Execute 50 civilians without ricochets hitting friendlies.

            “Medical Pioneer”- …Yeah, I’m not even going to describe that one :(

            Of course, that still doesn’t capture the gravity of ~1/6 of the Soviet Union’s population dying largely horrific deaths. And the Soviet Union was not a small country.

          • unacom says:

            I´m pretty sure your comments are to be taken as sarcasm.
            Nonetheless they come across as tasteless and immature.
            I would like to ask you both to tone it down.

          • syndrome says:

            @unacom
            Why do you think you have such a right? Right now, at this moment, several hundred of incredibly visceral car crashes unfold in the world, involving people, children, and animals. Do you also consider asking God to tone it down?

            Right now there are numerous wars fought, with massive destruction, inhumane injustice, uncountable refugees, political turmoils, many guts spilled for no apparent reason, with QUITE REAL EFFECTS, while you’re typing on your keyboard, hidden in that cozy gratuitous feeling that’s oh-my-gosh disturbed by someone’s silent text, someone’s courage to actually speak up what’s been done. In the name of what?

            I find you cynical and to some extent wicked. You’re everything that enables such atrocities in the first place. Your fears of it is what feeds it, your turning away from it is what makes you a silent accomplice, an enabler in a massive wrongdoing.

            And yes, I find your appeal to others’ self-censorhip senseless and your call to ignorance very immature.

            Being aware of such a harsh and primitive reality is all we have, even if coming up with dark humour is all we can do, and if you can’t stomach it, you picked a wrong planet to live on.

            And if you can stomach it, but you want to act civilized just to appease to your own self-made identity, just to appear shy and sensitive to the horrendous ideas that, as we all know, aren’t just ideas, but a common industry throughout the history, I don’t like you.

            I don’t believe that you have sincere thoughts. I think you like it to be easily discernible, something urges you that every violent concept has its place and time. Instead of treating this murky reality fairly, this is the double standard you cater to: right and wrong.

            I expect you’d be a monster in such circumstances.

          • ohminus says:

            @unacom

            So pointing out the atrocities that did happen is immature, whereas pretending the Eastern Front was no different from, say, Operation Market Garden, just with Soviets, is totally mature.

          • brucethemoose says:

            @unacom The achievement part is sarcasm. The atrocities are not.

            If you think none of what we said happened, you should look it up…

        • Derpkovsky says:

          That’s the whole point though, no one wants to play a realistic WWII shooter and yet the developers are talking about doing it justice and getting it right. And because CoD will ALWAYS take the approach which sells the most games, these promises are blatantly false.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        You’re right enough there my friend. Thank you and thanks all for your intelligent and friendly comments.! I’m not normally one to actually spark a discussion, but seeing this reminds me why I love RPS – most of the readership are pretty awesome peeps.

        You’re right in that the Wermacht were responsible for a lot of war crimes, but realistically I don’t think any one nation deserved absolvement in the 2nd world war – let us not forget that the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed well over 150,000 civilians pretty much instantly, with thousands more dying slowly of radiation sickness over the years.

        I still struggle with that little fact every day that I think about it. Can the Good Guys ™ really be capable of such acts?

        • unacom says:

          silent leges inter arma
          and
          homo homini lupus est
          probably say it all.
          In times of war, man is not checked by laws and we are beasts unto ourselves. So no good guys to be found in war.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            Beautiful and poignant, but I always thought the one about was was ‘Inter arma enim silent legis’

          • unacom says:

            And right you are.
            Your latin teacher was better than mine :)

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            To be brutally honest I don’t know any Latin, but I’ve been a colossal trekky for about 25 years and there’s an episode of Deep Space Nine that was so called :)

          • unacom says:

            I think I remember that one. So it´s the pupil after all.
            ;)

        • brucethemoose says:

          The atom bomb were small in the grand scheme of the war. Allied firebombing in Japan AND Germany killed alot more civilians that that… And that was no accident.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Both sides were not equally evil.

          One side was a genocidal regime and the other was willing to accept collateral damage in fighting them.

          Tragic as the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is, have you any idea how many Chinese were killed by Japan each month and how many was spared by ending a war as quickly as possible. Or the projected loses of an invasion? Or the deaths if they’d just decided to starve Japan into submission? As it is, the firebombings of Tokyo killed more people anyway. I have no moral issues justifying the nukes.

          Don’t bloody compare collateral damage in the course of a total war with planned genocide. Have you seen the list of the thousands of Belarussian villages burnt by the Wehrmacht? General Plan Ost? All the other shit the Axis powers did.

          10 Dresdens would be a drop in the bucket compared to that.

          Contrarian Nazi apologia pisses me off.

          The villages can be found here, incidentally: link to db.narb.by

          All 9093 of them.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            I’m not being a contrarian, nor am I doing any sympathizing, please fuck off. My OP merely expressed a little regret that millions of everyday conscripts get to be evil demon soldiers, which is a bit of a shame for their memory. The rest of what we were talking about was merely discussion, not some bizarre Nazi apologism like you say it is. Nazi Germany under Hitler commuted a planned genocide, yes. We killed a lot of civilians, yes. Us killing a lot of civilians was definitely not worse than what the Nazis did. I spent 4 years learning about the second world war and I really don’t need some goon patronising me like I’m ignorant of how truly evil Hitler Was, and it frankly offends me that you’re launching accusations at me for trying to have a conversation.

            But don’t forget that only a hundred years previous the USA finalised the biggest genocide in history, of some 90 million native Americans, so stop acting like you’re so fucking cool and everyone else is so ignorant and stupid. Every culture has done awful things, you don’t need to be a fucking Nazi apologist to acknowledge that.

          • Aparter says:

            It is just pure madness to justify mass-murder of civilians by any means. I’d like you to look at the eyes of the innocents who survived there and say them, that all the horror inflicted on them, were necessary and justified. Every war is a tragedy and people in power, who failed to prevent the war or even encouraged it, should be judged and executed, not people who had no choice, but to obey the villains.

        • Poor People says:

          @ColonelFlanders

          There are a few of problems to your argument about Japan.

          1) The Americans knew what the initial explosion could do but had a very poor understanding of the aftereffects of radiation on the human body. At the time they basically regarded the Bombs as little more than concentrated firebombing munitions.

          2) The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were championed as an alternative to Operation Downfall, a ground invasion of the Japanese islands, which given the rough geography and entrenched civil defense would inevitably lead to a drawn out Eastern Front-like bloodbath that wouldn’t go down well with troop morale and an American public that is tiring from years of meat grinder fighting in the Pacific.

          The cost of the atomic bombing was great (and tragic) but more lives on all sides could be lost from an invasion into Japan if they didn’t drop the bombs. It also compelled the Japanese to surrender immediately after as the government continued to dither upon being warned to surrender as the military command was pressuring them to continue fighting.

          3) Japan, like most participants of the WW2, were in total war, which meant key war facilities and command centers are always going to be built into urban centers. Since precision bombing had yet to be perfected, firebombings and atomic bombing were the next best thing.

          4) Japan was not innocent. After Western colonial empires embargoed them following decades of aggressive expansionism in Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and the rest of China, and with further intentions to extend their reach over existing colonies under Western empires (including parts of Australia), the Japanese empire chose to open up the Pacific front as a means to “liberate” Western colonies in Southeast Asia when their real goal is simply to acquire puppet states that would channel raw materials for their empire instead (effectively doing the same as what Western empires had been doing for many years).

          And that’s not even getting into the slaughter of “subversive” Chinese civilians across the territories they control and the use of combat and non-combat POWs in building the Death Railway.

          • ohminus says:

            “2) The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were championed as an alternative to Operation Downfall, a ground invasion of the Japanese islands, which given the rough geography and entrenched civil defense would inevitably lead to a drawn out Eastern Front-like bloodbath that wouldn’t go down well with troop morale and an American public that is tiring from years of meat grinder fighting in the Pacific.”

            Which was pure propaganda from the get-go. The slaughter on the Eastern Front happened as it happened for two reasons:
            a)Annihilation warfare: Both sides strove not just for the defeat of the opponent, but for the physical annihilation. The Germans because they considered the Soviets subhuman scum, and the Soviets not the least because they wanted revenge (but they had plenty of unmotivated atrocities under their belt themselves)
            b)The wide, open terrain lent itself to encirlement and annihilation battles where entire armies and entire cities were completely surrounded and annihilated. The terrain in Japan is pretty much the antithesis of that.

            “The cost of the atomic bombing was great (and tragic) but more lives on all sides could be lost from an invasion into Japan if they didn’t drop the bombs. It also compelled the Japanese to surrender immediately after as the government continued to dither upon being warned to surrender as the military command was pressuring them to continue fighting.”

            The opposite is true – civilian parts in the government were working directly on convincing the Emperor to command a surrender already before the first bomb. The two bombs were spaced much too shortly after each other to allow for any effect of the first one to take place anyway. Even AFTER the second bomb, major parts of the military wanted to continue fighting. The only thing that compelled them not to was the direct order by the Emperor to stand down. Even that did not deter junior officers from trying an insurrection, but it collapsed due to the senior command staff bowing to the will of the Emperor.

            In any case, the projections of supposed dead of an invasion are ridiculous when you compare them with the invasion in Europe. They are built on comparisons that are prime examples of apples and oranges.

            Aside from that, the notion that the long-term insidious effects of radiation weren’t known is false. While there were evidently no cases of mass irradiation on this scale before, Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia due to her exposure during her experiments in 1934. And the case of the Radium Girls made it likewise pretty clear already long before the bombs were dropped that the effects of radioactive substances on the body was underestimated. It led to the National Bureau of Standards establishing a tolerance level for Radium in 1941.

            Of course the relevance of that for the nuclear bomb was not made a high profile issue, because you’d likely have had trouble finding more military volunteers to waltz around the test sites or observe explosions from “up close”.

          • Poor People says:

            @ohminus

            “The slaughter on the Eastern Front happened as it happened for two reasons:

            A) Annihilation warfare: Both sides strove not just for the defeat of the opponent, but for the physical annihilation. The Germans because they considered the Soviets subhuman scum, and the Soviets not the least because they wanted revenge (but they had plenty of unmotivated atrocities under their belt themselves)

            B) The wide, open terrain lent itself to encirlement and annihilation battles where entire armies and entire cities were completely surrounded and annihilated. The terrain in Japan is pretty much the antithesis of that.”

            Annihilation warfare still applies between the Americans and the Japanese. Both sides were so culturally alien and isolated from each other that at this point combatants from either side treated each other like monstrous enemies. This is evident in many cases with the treatment of POWs by both sides when the Americans were inching closer to Japan, island by island.

            Japan’s mountainous and rocky is treacherous in its own way; it gives defenders opportunities to dig extensive entrenchments and tunnel networks impervious to aerial bombing. Think Iwo Jima or Okinawa but with a higher concentration of military and civil defenders in every possible hiding spot in the mountains and towns, ready to harass invaders in guerrilla warfare. The Americans will have to resort to completely leveling and thoroughly flushing out entire areas to clear the area of hostiles, inevitably leading to massive causalities from all sides anyway.

            “Aside from that, the notion that the long-term insidious effects of radiation weren’t known is false.”

            It’s pointless when the effects of the bomb itself was not extensively studied. While the hazards of the research, production and testing phases do exhibit radiation hazards, the Manhattan Project was rushed into deployment in secrecy. Its primary aim was to build a bomb of immense power to shock the enemy, not study long-term effects on the human body.

            “The opposite is true – civilian parts in the government were working directly on convincing the Emperor to command a surrender already before the first bomb. The two bombs were spaced much too shortly after each other to allow for any effect of the first one to take place anyway. Even AFTER the second bomb, major parts of the military wanted to continue fighting. The only thing that compelled them not to was the direct order by the Emperor to stand down. Even that did not deter junior officers from trying an insurrection, but it collapsed due to the senior command staff bowing to the will of the Emperor.”

            That’s not true. When the government (which consisted of components of the civil and military government) received the Potsdam Declaration’s conditions for surrender, they initially agreed to simply “kill it with silence” (mokusatsu), basically shrugging off the ultimatum, thinking that the war will continue conventionally.

            And if the bombs didn’t stop the military from rallying to fight on, they certainly would be far more confident if the bombs weren’t drop. The hubris that Japanese population had at the time shouldn’t be underestimated. There were still a sizable chunk of people who thought the empire was unbeatable because it seemed unstoppable for generations since the First Sino-Japanese War (largely for having weak neighbors and attracting little to no care from the West up until the 1930s).

          • ohminus says:

            “Annihilation warfare still applies between the Americans and the Japanese. Both sides were so culturally alien and isolated from each other that at this point combatants from either side treated each other like monstrous enemies. This is evident in many cases with the treatment of POWs by both sides when the Americans were inching closer to Japan, island by island.”

            Sorry, but it is quite evident you do not even remotely have any idea as to what happened on the Eastern Front. Not even the slightest. If there had been an annihilation war, there would have either been no POWs or their imprisonment would only have been a temporary effect from actually and deliberately working them to death. And the effects would have gone way beyond military prisoners.

            “Japan’s mountainous and rocky is treacherous in its own way; it gives defenders opportunities to dig extensive entrenchments and tunnel networks impervious to aerial bombing. Think Iwo Jima or Okinawa but with a higher concentration of military and civil defenders in every possible hiding spot in the mountains and towns, ready to harass invaders in guerrilla warfare.”

            And for precisely that reason unlikely to lead to the complete annihilation of entire armies, let alone civilian populations, on the defensive side. It’s virtually impossible to completely prevent escape in such terrain.

            “It’s pointless when the effects of the bomb itself was not extensively studied.”

            That’s not how science works, you know?

            “While the hazards of the research, production and testing phases do exhibit radiation hazards, the Manhattan Project was rushed into deployment in secrecy. Its primary aim was to build a bomb of immense power to shock the enemy, not study long-term effects on the human body.”

            I think you miss the point.

            “That’s not true. When the government (which consisted of components of the civil and military government) received the Potsdam Declaration’s conditions for surrender, they initially agreed to simply “kill it with silence” (mokusatsu), basically shrugging off the ultimatum, thinking that the war will continue conventionally.”

            Sorry, but the Earth doesn’t become flat simply because you declare it to be. The resignation of the entire Tojo cabinet is testimony of the efforts to bring about peace. As for your comment as to mokusatsu, you fail to grasp that reciting a specific interpretation by the US does not mean that that’s how the term was meant. In fact, the Truman administration was very much aware that other interpretations were possible. Which is what makes blaming this term so disingenuous – the Potsdam declaration allowed only one response to begin with, so declaring mokusatsu particularly offensive is neither here nor there.

            “And if the bombs didn’t stop the military from rallying to fight on, they certainly would be far more confident if the bombs weren’t drop.”

            Quite the contrary, the specific reason why they decided to stand down illustrates that the bombs were unnecessary – the word of the Emperor was all that was necessary.

          • Poor People says:

            “Sorry, but it is quite evident you do not even remotely have any idea as to what happened on the Eastern Front. Not even the slightest. If there had been an annihilation war, there would have either been no POWs or their imprisonment would only have been a temporary effect from actually and deliberately working them to death. And the effects would have gone way beyond military prisoners.”

            I’ll concede to that point.

            “And for precisely that reason unlikely to lead to the complete annihilation of entire armies, let alone civilian populations, on the defensive side. It’s virtually impossible to completely prevent escape in such terrain.”

            But the point still stands that casualties will be high based on the way Ketsugo defenses would be set up, and that the more suicidal nature of the Japanese fighting force would make it harder to ensure their survival as POWs, while POWs under the Japanese are just as uncertain.

            “That’s not how science works, you know?”
            “I think you miss the point.”

            But the ethics of the sciences can easily be foregone in war.

            “Sorry, but the Earth doesn’t become flat simply because you declare it to be. The resignation of the entire Tojo cabinet is testimony of the efforts to bring about peace.”

            I’m under no delusion that Tojo’s resignation was not an attempt to move to a peace settlement, but the failure of the succeeding Koiso and Suzuki governments to issue a ceasefire or surrender until the bombs dropped meant it was for nothing. As I mentioned, they continued to dither on the conditions to surrender and paid for their indecisiveness. They had an entire year to do this, and over the course of that period more lives were lost, in the frontlines as the Americans chipped into Japan’s possessions and wrecked their Navy, and in remaining occupied territories where the civilian population and POWs continued to suffer from mounting Japanese loses.

            “As for your comment as to mokusatsu, you fail to grasp that reciting a specific interpretation by the US does not mean that that’s how the term was meant. In fact, the Truman administration was very much aware that other interpretations were possible. Which is what makes blaming this term so disingenuous – the Potsdam declaration allowed only one response to begin with, so declaring mokusatsu particularly offensive is neither here nor there.”

            It’s the lack of decisiveness that was the problem. After all this time, the Japanese still didn’t take the warning from the Agreement seriously and immediately reach out to the Allies. Instead they conducted closed talks with the Russians and stayed mum to the international community otherwise.

            “Quite the contrary, the specific reason why they decided to stand down illustrates that the bombs were unnecessary – the word of the Emperor was all that was necessary.”

            But the bombs were a factor in accelerating the push by the Emperor to call for a surrender. Perhaps an impending land invasion and the risk of a dissolution of the Chrysanthemum Throne would convince the Emperor and government to call for peace anyway, but we don’t know for sure if the military cadre would be as cooperative when they have no knowledge that their forces could be devastated much easily by atomic weapons dropped from high up in the air.

      • J.C. says:

        Eh, every Nation in WW2 had some sort of atrocity on their list. The Allies (or particular Leaders) got away with something, because they ‘won.’ The U.S. committed a grave war crime by nuking Japan and the aftermath of that, or consequence (equal and opposite reaction) was a race to build Nukes – the dumbest fucking weapon ever made. Also, the Nazi Party totally fooled the German people, no question and hardcore Nazi’s simply had a special brand of stupid in their thought processes. But now we have a new Empire, the U.S. spreading it’s special brand of Imperialism and Destruction like every Empire in Human history that fooled themselves in thinking they were “the best.” And then there was shit like in Norway, after the war, where the Norwegian government treated innocent kids born from occupying German soldiers like shit.

        All around, all the government’s were spewing out racist crap. And war is just organized murder. WW2 happened, can’t change any of it. At least we recognize it was all around shit and miserable for everyone.

    • turth says:

      I don’t know what were in the hearts of every individual German soldier who fought in World War II but I do know this: the Wehrmacht still fought for Nazi Germany, Germans by and large supported Nazism and the German military committed many war crimes.

      Frankly, I could care less about how “human” or sympathetic the depiction of German soldiers are in this game. As long as they’re just enemies for the player(s) to shoot a la CoD1 through 3 then I’ll be fine.

      • ohminus says:

        “Germans by and large supported Nazism”

        That is just as much a rather silly generalization that not only ignores the NSDAP never had a majority in any free election, but also that Germans themselves were persecuted and murdered if they had the wrong(TM) opinion. Worst of all, however, it buys itself into the Nazi propaganda that Jews by their being Jewish were removed and exiled from the German populace. Unless, of course, you want to suggest that the German Jews murdered by the Nazis were themselves actually ardent supporters of Hitler.

        • turth says:

          I’m obviously not suggesting that German Jews derserved what happened to them holy shit *rollseyes*.

          And I said that they by and large (which obviously means not all of them) supported Nazism either through their actual support, silence over Hitler’s crimes or through their complicity in maintaining the Nazi power structure by going along with it all. That’s why the postwar de-Nazification process and the subsequent mass shame felt by Germans was a thing. Even if the Nazis never got a majority of votes in free elections, one doesnt need to vote for a party in order to express support for its goals or views.

          • ohminus says:

            Does the name “Willy Brandt” ring any bell for you? The man was not born under that name. He was born as Herbert Frahm. He took the name Willy Brandt while fleeing the Nazis, having been persecuted by them due to his being a socialist. He returned as a Norwegian journalist after the war and eventually picked up his German citizenship under his new name, and eventually became Federal Chancellor for the Social Democratic Party.

            Speaking of the Social Democratic Party, does the name Otto Wels ring a bell? He was the leader of the Social Democrats in 1933. When the enablement law was being debated in parliament, he was the one who stood up against it. With the Communists already banned, the Social Democrats were the only ones left to speak out against it. “You may take away our freedom and our lives” he said “But you shall not take our honor”. He, too, had to flee, and died in 1939 in exile.

          • shde2e says:

            I would disagree with the notion that just because someone does not actively resist, they would be an ardent supporter of the current regime.

            I mean, by that reasoning, the majority of the populations from France, Austria, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and parts of the Soviet Union would be ardent Nazi supporters.

            Of course they did have a large base supporting them, either because they agreed with the ideology, because they were a vehicle for their outrage and pent-up frustrations, or because they basically put Germany back on the map and avenged the Great War’s injustices (before it got wiped off said map again within a few years).

      • brucethemoose says:

        Everyone committed war crimes in WWII.

        That doesn’t it make it alright, but the Allies have little moral high ground to stand on, if that’s what you’re implying.

        • shde2e says:

          Ho yes, every people in that war commited horrible warcrimes.

          And of course every side had all kinds of people in them, so pointing at any side and declaring them unilaterally “good” or “evil” is rather ludicrous to begin with.

          • JarinArenos says:

            At best, you can attribute good or evil motives to a country’s leaders. And even then, there’s usually plenty of selfish motivation behind even the most “righteous” war.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          Everyone committed war crimes, but one side did it a Shit Load more and started the war specifically to accomplish a program of mass genocide, whose mere partial completion has them rightly condemned as history’s worst monsters.

          And no, not all German troops committed war crimes, and not all of them were fervent nazis. But plenty did, and plenty were, and they existed in a structure that encouraged war crimes and promoted loyalty to the principles of the regime. A narrative has to decide what to show and the essential truth of the nazi army cannot be airbrushed away.

          • Premium User Badge

            Phasma Felis says:

            Yes, but you’re still blaming every Fritz on the front line for the death camps.

      • FFabian says:

        Yes, and that’s why every Brit is a Brexiteer and every USian is at fault for Trump. Vote or no vote they’re nevertheless responsible because they didn’t try hard enough to prevent it from happening.

        • brucethemoose says:

          Maybe, but I think comparing Trump or Brexit to WWII is kinda ridiculous.

      • Ham Solo says:

        And the country that nuked 2 civilian cities just to “see what would happen” has the moral high ground, of course… Just stop it, the world isn’t black and white.

      • J.C. says:

        Every American soldier fights for the now current American Imperial Empire or NATO and many support rampant Imperialism and occupying Nations (mirroring Nazi Germany’s grand vision of conquest). Some don’t and just do it for a paycheck, others quit when they see the so called “Nation-Building” America is really up to (hint – not nation-building, but occupying)- the one positive in this case would be people don’t get hung for calling out shitty leaders (they may get scorned by their peers however for developing anti-war views). The good guys fucked up the end game and slipped into the dangerous slope of Hegemony. Hint – It won’t end well.

    • Queen Joey says:

      Found a wehraboo. Did you remember to pray to saint Rommel today?

      • colw00t says:

        Rommel did nothing wrong, except go to work for a genocidal maniac and forget that supply lines are important.

        (this is sarcasm, clean-wehrmacht is a lie)

        • DarkFenix says:

          Frankly the notion that any side was “clean” back then is absurd. It wasn’t a nice war, not that any war can be ‘nice’, but that one was especially nasty.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Ironically, that’s the realistic part. Because that’s exactly what allied soldiers on the ground saw them as.

      Not because they were, but because you REALLY have to hate someone to kill them, so that was drilled into their heads with propaganda. Just look up studies on how a large fraction of soldiers intentionally miss shots.

      Nazis saw Americans as red eyed demons too. And they should’ve: we bombed the heck out of their civilian cities, alot more than they bombed the British. Among many other things.

  2. Jeremy says:

    “You’re a long way from Texas, farm boy.” I don’t want to be overly critical here, but I feel like that tells me everything I need to know about this game.

    • napoleonic says:

      … that it’s going to be crammed with subtle Wizard of Oz references?

    • FreshHands says:

      That press “F” to pay respects, though.

      Simply hilarious. Straight out of Saints Row or something.

      Finally I understand how you are supposed to enjoy these games.

      • Bull0 says:

        Yeah, you guys are really getting some mileage out of that one. Every time you need to hit F in a CoD game there’s a tooltip; in this case, pressing F triggers an animation where the player character puts their hands on the coffin in a mournful way. Would you rather it said “Press F to trigger cutscene”? You probably would, because that would make an even spicier meme? Yawn.

        • FreshHands says:

          No offence, bro.

          Probably not your kind of humour. Still can’t get that sarcastic grin off my face.

          • Bull0 says:

            Genuinely asking though; what would you replace it with? Press F to feel dem feels, man

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Or you could, y’know…

            Rewrite the scene itself…

        • Jeremy says:

          I always appreciate the “yawn” comment. The edgier cousin of “meh”.

  3. Darth Gangrel says:

    Oh no, the movie “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974) link to imdb.com has become true!

    • Premium User Badge

      Neurotic says:

      Now available from the BFI as a DVD, along with another early Scorsese, ‘Who’s that Knocking at My Door?’.

  4. rodan32 says:

    I’m an American, a Republican (forgive me – just providing context.), with grandfathers who fought in WWII (one on the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor, one in the Air Corps in Africa and Italy). And I agree completely. The CoD franchise needs to get a whole reset before they go back to the well. They’ve had some really good moments; crossing the river at Stalingrad, storming the Reichstag, etc. But come on.

    WWII was gigantic! Why tell the same old stories? Why with the same dull, safe point of view? Why not have a campaign as a Chinese soldier during the Japanese invasion? Or as a Gurkha in the Sicily or Burma campaigns? What about a Finnish soldier in the horrible Winter War? Why not a member of the Polish Resistance?

    I’m an American. I love my country, and I’m proud of the guts my grandparents showed (my grandpa was in the shower when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; he manned his gun station buck naked for the whole first wave). But video games can rise to be art and tell a great story. And the CoD franchise is a safe enough bet for the publisher to take a couple of risks telling some interesting stories. Hell, I’d even take an Italian campaign; I know, I know, Fascisti, but you could still make a story out of it. Italian and German and Japanese soldiers were still humans, and you can tell that story without making any apology for Nazism. You could probably even condemn totalitarianism better from that side, if you’re deft.

    I’d love to see the Vietnam War done well. There are some awful tropes and cliches that should be avoided, but there’s a chance to tell some great, hard, engaging stories. Start with James Webb’s “Fields of Fire” or Karl Marlantes’ “Matterhorn” for some good inspiration.

    If you have to stick with American wars, why not Korea? That’s topical lately (good grief, Trump.) But you could have part of it be Korean soldiers fighting with the UN, and the grief that must have happened fighting your own countrymen in that awful war. I dunno. Or do a Thailand campaign; Thailand sent more soldiers to fight in Korea than Canada did. I’m just spitballing here, and I’ve got more story arcs that would interest me than CoD has come up with in 10 years, seems to me.

    So that’s a long spiel saying I agree, RPS, and I thank you for your good thoughts.

    • Shiloh says:

      Start with James Webb’s “Fields of Fire”

      Damn straight. “Hey Braverman – pow”.

    • Sound says:

      “You could probably even condemn totalitarianism better from that side, if you’re deft.”

      All very well said. But especially that. ^

      • syndrome says:

        ^ completely true

        @Rodan32
        Live long and prosper my friend

    • DarkFenix says:

      Y’know what I’d like to see? A game where you play a German soldier. You watch the SS stringing up civilians on makeshift gallows, or dragging Jews off and stuffing them into cattle wagons. You play through the whole miserable retreat out of Russia watching the guys next to you freeze to death, then you fight desperate last stands and counterattacks as your homeland burns around you, the soldiers alongside you now being kids and retirees.

      Now there’s a game that has a chance of carrying a message, but I don’t think there’s a single company out there with the balls (and probably the capability) to pull it off.

      • Snowskeeper says:

        Doing that while ignoring the fact that bog-standard German soldiers committed mass murder just as frequently as the SS, and were just as willing to brag about it, would be dishonest at best and apologist at worst.

        Read Soldaten, by Sonke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, if you don’t believe me. Contains tapes of German POWs discussing these things, as well as a series of attempts at sociological analysis.

        We’ve already got enough Ally-centric games that ignore the atrocities they committed (a shockingly large number of people don’t seem to know that Britain was bombing Berlin at the same time as Germany was bombing London, and that the bombings only intensified as the war went on); jumping the fence before we’ve become a little more honest about that is not necessary.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          So don’t ignore it.

          Give the player the relevant experience of having complicit commanders ordering him to commit atrocities. Punish the player for refusing to obey them (by transferal to active fronts or giving the player shite equipment, “You don’t get the good gun since you are not one of us”). Hell, if the player refuses to conform, execution for “cowardice”.

          Start the game with the Norway or France campaigns, sunny holiday in Greece, then Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Germany.

          Some will say “Ah, but people will play the bad way to get the achievements on that mission path.” And I say “True, and I want those people to have big damned flags on their Steam accounts or whatever so I know not to MP with those scumbags.”

          • Snowskeeper says:

            I think it might be better to do things in a fictional setting if you want to run that way–not so much because people can’t handle that kind of thing when applied to the real world as because getting killed or crippled for refusing to obey an order would be a pain in the ass in a relatively linear structure. A fictional setting would allow them to branch a little more.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Even that portrayal pushes the idea that it’s just high command ordering these things and people had no choice, when genocide was structural to the army. You have accounts of the SS asking for volunteers from the army to help out with massacres and people did.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            When I said commanders, I meant everybody above the rank the player has, not just the High Command.

            My idea is that the player is a private and corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, SS members, everybody demands of the player to conform to the new standard.

            By starting the game in France or Norway (as a live-fire tutorial), the player could be tutored in the “normal” rules of war. Then Greece, where the fighting can be ramped up in intensity, then Russia.

            At that point, the rules of war start changing. Maybe the player’s unit witnesses an atrocity and is told that his Captain complained about it up the chain of command. Then the Captain is replaced by a hardliner. As casualties increase, younger, more indoctrinated replacements join the squad. The pressure to conform increases mission by mission, specially when new kit is doled out to hard-liners and not to the player. The tools the player feels he needs to succeed in the game involve him buckling under. Couple that to the fact that the people he is fighting are equally indoctrinated…

            I think it would be an interesting FPS experience, giving the player more to think about than dodging bullets. Of course, it would never be made :)

        • DarkFenix says:

          You can’t seriously think portrayal of the western powers as war criminals is more palatable to an audience than the “baby’s first history lesson” version of German war crimes, can you? That strikes me as perhaps a little naive.

          A game acknowledging these things happened and portraying them in a serious light would be a damn good first step. The details, inaccuracies and semantics are a luxury for later.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            My issue isn’t with how the consumer base would take it; my issue is with the fact that we’ve already got enough fiction out there that makes the Allies look like saints. At present, the takeaway from such a game would inevitably be “wow, the Germans sure were shitty assholes; it’s a good thing the beautiful, beatific Allies kicked the crap out of them in that one honourable war.” Which is already how many people see things.

          • shde2e says:

            Why not do both at the same time?

            You can have sections where you witness (or are complicit in) war crimes, and you can have sections where you are actively trying to resist them from the opposite side.

            Have a mission where you need to fight off an Allied fire-bombing of a city like that one mission in World at War, or attempt a counterattack against the Russians in a village/town and get to see the results of their brutality.

          • DarkFenix says:

            Snowskeeper: Well that’s kinda my point with the neutered, popular version of history. While it oversimplifies everything, it at least does make clear that there are both kinds of people on the German side. The Germans is the faction in which the public can most easily accept that there exist both genocidal monsters and average joes.

            Thinking about it now, it probably wouldn’t be too great a leap to show the bad apples on the allied side too, but I really want to see a game set on the opposing side simply because it’d be more interesting than playing the usual “‘murica, fuck yeah!” war hero, romping across Europe draped in the stars and stripes with the sun shining out of his arsehole.

        • Cederic says:

          Britain bombing Berlin is typically mentioned in history lessons as a trigger for the German switch from bombing British military assets (airfields, radio masts, etc) to bombing cities.

          Stupid as it sounds, the Battle of Britain was won by taunting the Germans into bombing civilian populations. If they’d continued to attack the RAF then they may well have won and Sealion would probably have gone ahead at a time the British army were ill-prepared.

          Dresden is rarely mentioned in the UK without the word ‘firestorm’ so I’m rather surprised if people don’t think Britain bombed German cities.

          • Snowskeeper says:

            I’m sorry for overgeneralizing, but most people I’ve spoken to here (which is Canada for the record) have never heard of Dresden.

      • Spakkenkhrist says:

        I don’t think it’s a subject matter that an FPS is suited to handle.

        • natebud says:

          I think it could be done. Not easily, but it could be done. Maybe an RPG FPS form would benefit the genre. Combat separated by moments where you get to talk to other soldier, civilians, maybe a few side quests thrown in. Give the main character a story outside of being just another soldier. (I don’t think I’ve ever played a ww2 video game where a soldier mentions what they did before the war.) WW2 FPS’s was forget about all the time spent where soldiers aren’t fighting. Just anything to distract from the focus on combat alone.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Another book worth reading is D Day through German eyes. It’s a collection of accounts from ordinary soldiers, and gives a bit of insight into why they fought, and what they thought about their leadership.

    • c-Row says:

      Why not have a campaign as a Chinese soldier during the Japanese invasion? Or as a Gurkha in the Sicily or Burma campaigns? What about a Finnish soldier in the horrible Winter War? Why not a member of the Polish Resistance?

      Even Germany had its resistance groups but no developer seems to care.

      • Slazer says:

        Actually in Return to Castle Wolfenstein you worked with the “Kreisauer Kreis” (Kreisau Circle)

    • TonyB says:

      “Hell, I’d even take an Italian campaign; I know, I know, Fascisti, but you could still make a story out of it.”

      There’s been one of those this year. OK, the quality of its story is somewhat questionable, but it exists at least.

      • Heimdall2061 says:

        I think he meant one where you play as an Italian on the Axis side. That campaign is one where you play a non-Italian fighting against the Axis.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I don’t think WW2 – or any war – is going to be ‘done right’ by a first person shooter of any kind. It just can’t strike the right tone while it’s expecting you to enjoy the experience of pumping bullets into the opposition and casually respawns you when you catch one yourself. The first person survival genre has much more chance of striking the right tone because you actually care more about staying alive and less about racking up a kill counter through skillful side-strafing headshots.

    • Heimdall2061 says:

      Hear, hear. I’d love to see a much broader look at the war through these games. Along with all these other great suggestions, why not a Chinese campaign? I can think of few more overlooked theaters.

    • brucethemoose says:

      My grandfather fought in the Korean War.

      Yeah, that’s a war that needs some more exposure, given today’s political climate.

    • ItAintNecessarilySo says:

      Very well put by rodan32, and very nice ideas actually!

      But if you really want to experience the common (and often forgotten) soldiers, not only Italian, but also Hungarian & Romanian perspectives would do.
      Imagine (for example) being a Romanian soldier being dragged to fight for one totalitarian regime against another, just to switch half-way during the war to serve the second and fight the first.
      All the while having to truly scramble for arms and munitions.

  5. turth says:

    I’m kind of disappointed that we’re getting yet another White-American viewpoint of the Western Front especially since the perspective is that of a famous unit that’s already gotten a Call of Duty game. I was hoping for a campaign focusing on the Japanese-Americans fighting in the Western Front, post D-Day or African-Americans fighting in Italy (an Italian or Greek campaign would’ve been welcome as well!)

    Honestly, I think the some of the other chars won’t really get their due. This is all speculation on my part:

    -The British officer might get a level focused on Dunkirk
    -French resistance fighter might be the most prominent non-American char in the game
    -The German family might not figure much into the game at all
    -The African-American char might be part of a famous segregated tank unit that saw heavy action in the Western Front (some of that unit’s action coincide with the protag’s unit) and they might be involved in liberating a concentration camp later in the game since the devs said that the Holocaust wouldn’t be ignored: link to forward.com

    • Jeremy says:

      Agreed.. and hell, if they can’t fathom not showing D-Day, there are PLENTY of non-American D-Day points of view too, or even non-beach / non-assault points of view.

    • Sound says:

      Even if you look at this debacle from a maximally cynical profit motive, I have complete certainty that the entirety of the American consumer base would eat up those sorts of perspective shifts.

      Jingoism might seem like it’s part of our required daily diet, but it’s really, really not. We collectively just want thrills, challenge, distraction, and most of all, Novelty. Not even the most stridently obnoxious Americans care that much about this repetitive American GI Hero perspective. All this self-sabotaging jingoistic window dressing is so irrelevant to what we want in this kind of product.

    • Victor A Yorke says:

      –British campaigns (Western Front) could go from the Battle of France to Dunkirk, in Greece and down the Med, through North Africa, up into Italy, do Gold beach at D-Day (featuring ‘Funnies’ tank variants and the 150mm orbital laser cannon known as HMS Ajax), and we’ve probably seen enough of northern France by now. The Eastern Front could do the initial Japanese assaults, the fall of Malaya/Singapore/Hong Kong, the battles in Burma and India, any one of the Chindit raids, and the operations to retake Burma alongside the US and Chinese troops. Any of the above could be with any Commonwealth or UK-influenced allied nation, not just a parade of Jason Stathams.
      –French campaigns, we have more here than you’d think, but I really want to see the campaign against Vichy forces in West/Central Africa, holding the line at Bir Hakeim, the liberation of Paris, and maybe the French SAS paratroops who joined in with D-Day behind Utah beach. Free French units had a large number of African volunteers from the colonies, which I dont think I’ve ever seen represented in a game.
      –Actually, we could maybe do a German mission or two. Starting as an opener for the game, as an operation as they hit the Polish border in 1939 that serves as the game’s ‘crew expendable’ style introduction to live-fire combat. Then to end the game, a fictional operation from the same unit in 1945, as a desperate and disillusioned Heer detachment assaults the SS division that’s blocking them (and maybe refugees) from surrendering to Allied troops…

      • Snowskeeper says:

        That’s all true, but what he was doing in his post was predicting what Call of Duty We Ran Out of Ideas For Sci-Fi And Sales Are Starting To Drop A Bit So We’re Going Back To World War II Because Going To World War One Worked For Battlefield Right will do, not listing what they could do.

  6. colw00t says:

    While I’m actually all for Nazis as the default villains in cardboard manshoots, I do wish that we weren’t expected to manshoot our way through the same section of Northern France over and over again in a series of setpieces that are STILL cribbed from a Tom Hanks movie that’s coming up on 20 years old.

    Good lord, in a lot of ways, WW2 is the largest thing that has ever happened to humans. Why do we need to go through Caen again? Let’s go fight in the Greek mountains in early 1941! Let’s go fight in Burma, or take our place in the doomed defense of Singapore! Let’s be a Russian and actually do the war-winning. What about China? Let’s fight the Japanese in China. Why not drive a Matilda into Benghazi, or any number of things instead of fighting up the same goddamn section of France, again. How about invading Sicily? That was a good one, why can’t we do that?

    • pepperfez says:

      It’s pretty amazing that a conflict whose very name says it happened everywhere keeps getting portrayed as primarily European — and western European at that.

  7. Sound says:

    Man, that was some good writing.

    I’m imagining that on release, we’ll be seeing all our tired suspicions confirmed, every trope re-re-re-iterated, every Duty Honored, every platitude worshipped. Slow-mo as this year’s affable buddy dies, such a ~powerful~ moment.

    And I imagine this publication, and a few others will collectively groan and rant about it. And with exceptionally good reason. I mean, they couldn’t even stand to get away from the American mythos. Isn’t that he LEAST they could’ve done? And so we’ll set the politics and the un-originality aside, and talk about… Gunplay, or whatever. Which I’m sure will be fine. It better be, by now.

    And then we’ll see the backlash: “ITS JUST A GAME GAWD. Why are you taking this so serious? OMG why are you making this all political? Why do you hate freedom? #MAGA lol”

    It’s tedious. But the fact is, with all the re-treading that this is doing – from books to movies to games to political pageantry – it would be madness not to reflexively expect better. Drastically better. “Do it right this time,” in what way exactly? They’d better know that no one’s measuring this title by the detailing of the tanks or blood spurts or how much worship can be heaped upon “The Greatest Generation,” or how solemn they can make the voice-acting between killfrenzies.

    We’re far beyond the scope of this style of product being “just a game.” We’re 10 years and thousands of cultural touchstones past that. The world changes, and so should our expectations. But based on what I’m seeing here, I have total doubt that these dev’s are appreciating HOW our expectations are changing.

    • haldolium says:

      Nice comment on the indeed good read.

      Though I have little faith that many peoples expectations are the same as addressed in the article.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Did you go see the last Die Hard and wonder why it wasn’t more sophisticated in its depiction of terrorism?

      I mean wanting better standards is great, but do you really think the gaming equivalent of the summer action movie is specifically where you’re ever going to find what you’re expecting here?

      • Sound says:

        Point taken. But I don’t imagine that this game fills that analogy very well. I think something like Quake does, or something more purely focused on the game aspect. Something unconstrained, and able to take you on a wild ride. From this product’s advertising, it’s clear that they’re striving for something more than simply a shoot-em-up. They’re interested in the narrative, and the message, and the emotional impact… But as the article lays out, it’s likely going to be very confused in the execution.

        My take is that the confused perception comes in part from audience expectations, both political and narrative. And that given what’s on the menu, CoD is not keeping up with the times.

        But we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d look forward to being proven wrong.

      • pepperfez says:

        Diehard never bullshitted about its intentions. CoD wants to convince us it’s prestige cinema and Michael Bay garbage. That level of disrespect is the offensive part, not the actual contents of the game.

  8. Menthalion says:

    Seeing people nowadays are making the same mistakes as the ones in the thirties, I hardly think they have any idea about WW II, and any story that might raise some interest is welcome.

    Cod 1, 2 and WaW were pretty good at showing the horrors of war, including how easy it is to resort to the same practices as the enemy you loathe in the face of horror.

    At that time there were people at Saving Private Ryan talking about it like an action flick. Some people are just too dense to get any message.

    Not that CoD has shown any signs of a good storyline since, so returning to WW II wouldn’t automatically make everything right.

    But saying there are no points to be made just by taking well known events or the views of a majority is doing a disservice to all the sacrifices that were made there.

  9. Shiloh says:

    I’d be amazed if this did get WW2 “right” to be honest. It’s a triple A franchise game, not a history lesson for 17 year olds.

    All the bullshit about “doing it right” is just a cover for a certain type of 21st century queasiness over the fact that war is basically about killing other people because you’re told to.

    Patton understood this – as did Sherman a generation or so before him.

    • ohminus says:

      And you evidently are that 17 year old in urgent need of a history lesson. Though your reverence for Patton underscores the real problem – you are completely and utterly clueless as to what actually happened in Nazi Germany or on the Eastern Front and believe it was “basically about killing other people because you’re told to”. It wasn’t. Not even by a long shot. And no matter how much you or Patton love nothing more than trivializing Nazism, it will make nothing more out of either of you than ignorant revisionist hacks.

    • Wednesday says:

      And the only sound was “poo tee-tweet”.

      Hollow nihilism like yours is hard to agrue against, as there’s basically nothing to it.

      • Shiloh says:

        Relax, it’s this strange 21st century queasiness we exhibit when it comes to the realities of war that’s bugging me, not the atrocities committed by the Sonderkommandos and Einsatztruppen or the murder of Flintenweibchen and innocent civilians.

        But yeah, ultimately, “war is hell”, right?

        • Andrensath says:

          “Flintenweibchen”

          the who now? I’ve never heard of them, and neither Wikipedia or Google is turning up anything useful.

          • Shiloh says:

            Google “Flintenweiber” – literally “gun women”, it was German Army slang for Red Army female soldiers, or occasionally female partisans (see this image of partisan Martha Puntz before her execution for being “involved in 8 murders and more raids” link to s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com for an example)

      • Kolbex says:

        Word salad.

    • Cederic says:

      Hmm. Patton was a complete cock but even he didn’t think war was about killing people because you were told to.

      War is about multiple complex things. Killing people is a means to an end, but seldom the end itself. Soldiers don’t generally get ordered to kill people, they get asked to achieve outcomes. Yes, sometimes people die to achieve those outcomes.

      Most soldiers would happily avoid killing anybody. Shit, even US soldiers.

      • Bull0 says:

        War as depicted by videogames is very much about killing people because you’re told to, I have a suspicion that’s where this is coming from. IRL, war is all politics.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Very good point. My grandfathers’ recollections of Korea and Vietnam usually just consist of them listing all their favorite kill streaks and head shots.

    • pepperfez says:

      Sherman, at least, was beyond queasy with war, precisely because he understood its pointlessness. He had a lot to say, both before and after the war, about the folly of military glory, the cornerstone of the triple-A-HOO-RAH manshoot.

  10. Maxheadroom says:

    its just all so corporate and soulless. The only reason they’re even doing the WWII setting is because of Battlefield 1. I guarantee if Titanfall 2 had outsold it, this years CoD would be all about big stompy robots because in the AAA industry is capable of a single original thought anymore

    • Jekadu says:

      I find that unlikely since each game in the series has a three year dev cycle—at least. Last I checked Activision uses a rotating studio setup for COD to ensure a game is released each year. Forcing a studio to switch setting halfway through development risks seriously disrupting that rhythm. Activision is still the largest publisher of multiplayer shooters in the Western industry—they set the trends, not their competitors.

  11. aircool says:

    My friend died in a war… it was fucking weird.

  12. brucethemoose says:

    You’re overthinking this.

    Activision-Blizzard are just trying to have their cake and eat it. They want the familiar, generic, safe WWII shooter that sells well, and they also want the brownie points and good PR (by good PR I mean mainstream PR, stuff that is reported by people who have probably never touched a console or PC) from an “honest” depiction. They also want something that will glorify the US military (as, correct me if I’m wrong, they have a partnership), and they want “innovative” floating around investor circles to boost their stock price.

    That presentation about trying to make it real? It’s corporate smoke. They’re lying through their teeth because they’re getting paid to do it.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      How is he overthinking it if he’s saying exactly the same thing as you are, in more words?

      • brucethemoose says:

        I’m struggling to find the right words… But I’m saying that expecting them to even try and get it “right” is absurd. It’s not a problem to solve, it’s the reality of the series and the AAA FPS genre.

  13. Zenicetus says:

    It’s not that hard to understand; they’re aiming for a new generation of gamers who never played the first ones in the series. They can repeat all the old well-trodden settings and themes, and most of the audience won’t care because they haven’t seen it before.

    Sucks to be an old gamer, I guess. I wish there were more good WW2 games in the Pacific, where my Dad served on an escort carrier (yeah, I’m a REALLY old gamer).

  14. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    The director Francois Truffaut once said that it’s impossible to make an anti-war film because they make fighting look like fun. (I’ve seen a lot of war movies and not a single one, with the possible exception of All Quiet on the Western Front, disproves his theory.) I think that’s doubly true of video games, which are even more purely commercial than movies. I say just relax and appreciate the fact that CoD accomplishes its narrow goal of enabling vaguely historical-themed FPS deathmatches so skillfully and so consistently. Maybe there’s a place in gaming (especially with VR maturing) for an interactive experience that captures the tedium, misery and horror of war, but the most successful multiplayer shooting game in the world probably isn’t it.

    • ohminus says:

      Well, I’m not sure if “Das Boot” truly shows fighting as “fun”, but if you want to see a real anti-war film and can look beyond plywood covers over tractors posing as tanks in one little scene near the end, see if you can get a hold of this one:
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        Well, Das Boot kinda inspired a wave of submarine sims, so…

    • Eight Rooks says:

      That Truffaut quote is posturing nonsense and shouldn’t be given a single moment of consideration. There were real live soldiers on both sides in multiple wars who, when interviewed, admitted they felt ‘pleasure’ at having successfully killed their enemies and, well, not been killed themselves. Not relief, not survivor’s guilt; pleasure, as in “I’m glad he’s dead and I’m not and I think that’s the way it should have gone”. They were torn up about it, they weren’t psychopaths or any such thing, but they knew what they’d experienced. (No, I can’t link the studies, but it was actual research I was doing for an article years ago talking about how stupid that quote is.)

      People treat war as if it’s this magical thing where “Of course any sane human being feels like this about it (i.e. appropriately negatively in any respect) once they’ve been through it and anything which could lead ordinary folk to believe differently is inherently flawed”, and I’m sorry, despite never having served and never being likely to I don’t believe for a moment that this is the case.

      I’m sure someone could watch Come and See and think it was hilarious; that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most soul-shatteringly terrifying films I’ve ever seen and a flat denouncement of the madness of armed conflict from beginning to end. Brendan makes some perfectly good points here and I cringed when I saw that trailer like I’ve cringed at few other things recently, but even Call of Duty at its best still has some merit beyond being a very polished take on playground Cowboys & Indians. For all I saw the trailer and thought “Jesus, Omaha Beach again?” I can still remember playing CoD 2 for the first time and being left more shaken by it than any film I’d ever seen or history lesson I’d sat through. (If anything its videogame qualities made it all the more effective, thinking “People actually did this for real, and if they went down, they didn’t get back up”.)

      • Banyan says:

        There may be a connection between the assertion that depicting war glorifies it and the fact that at least some participants enjoy war, but you sure didn’t make one so I have no idea what you’re arguing against here.

      • natebud says:

        Come and See is probably the best example of depicting war in all it’s grim nonsense. It was made by people who were very personally connected to WW2. The director was a child when he was evacuated from Stalingrad in boats as the city went up in flames and the writer came from a family of Belarusian partisans and spent years collecting stories from other partisans and their families to compile together into a book. All of the shootouts (if you can even call them that) use live ammunition because the people making it we’re so dedicated to getting this time period right.

        This movie is probably the best war movie because it isn’t filmed like a war movie, but like a horror movie.

    • WdMeaun says:

      I wish they would just stop glorifying wars, soldiers and arms completely.
      You do need to remember history, but I’m also convinced that it doesn’t change the future at all.
      Just as example: Isreal murdered quite a lot of innocent people themselves in wars (the bloodlust might actually helped the victory, but offtopic). Almost right after WW2.
      People do not learn, especially when they come from a bad place.

      We either need an external threat, which we all can shoot (before the aliens integrate), or we need another kind of entertainment.
      This said, things as kickboxing / extreme fighting are also winning in popularity. ( I tend to compare those things intellectually with gladiator / bull fights )

      This rant comes from my experience with a 4 years old nephew. He was already constructing his own guns. (yea sure, in a childish matter with magnetic bricks, but it bothers me that it’s already his focus).
      I’d rather see something as “Call of Duty, Medic Inboud”, but this COD seems to be rather simplistic marketing related.

    • jonahcutter says:

      The Thin Red Line puts lie to this in my opinion. It came out around the same time as Saving Private Ryan, but is a much superior film. It also has a few extended battle sequences amongst its philosophical musings on humanity and nature. But I never thought of them as fun. They’re intense and frightening and harrowing and sad even. They don’t come across as cool or heroic action sequences.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        Sure, Thin Red Line’s battle scenes are harrowing and intense. But isn’t that part of what makes them (or comparable scenes in another war movie) fun to watch? Maybe the emotional resonance of the entire film, taken as a whole, tilts away from “war as escapist, patriotic entertainment” in a way that Saving Private Ryan or even Platoon doesn’t, and I do give Terrence Malick some credit for that. But the fact remains that, after the credits roll (or before if you’re so inclined), you can get up and walk away and return to your normal life. I think that’s what Truffaut was trying to get at with his quote. It would be impossible to make any war movie that doesn’t offer a highly curated interpretation of the reality of war, and that interpretation is meant to keep the viewer’s attention and interest for the duration of the film. You can depict deadly battles as expertly photographed action sequences. You can even depict long stretches of tedious downtime (which is what many returning soldiers from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have cited as the worst part of the whole thing) in a montage. But for the audience, there’s no practical difference between watching a recreation of the storming of Normandy and watching a space dogfight in Star Wars. I cited in my original post the possible exception of All Quiet on the Western Front as an exception to Truffaut’s argument, but I think a better one would be something like Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. But wouldn’t even that contain high-quality color footage of Pickett’s Charge if movie cameras had existed and been present during the Civil War? And wouldn’t it be just as titillating to watch as the sniper battle in Full Metal Jacket?

  15. Turkey says:

    I’m not sure if they’ll be able to spin it as a “back-to-form” move this time.

    I’m sure they started production before Battlefield 1 was even announced, but from an outside view it just looks like Dice threw them for a loop and now they’re struggling to play catch-up.

  16. Taintslapper says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to convey all the different non-cliche faces of war in a game based off shooting as many people as you can until you safely respawn.

    Additionally I think EVERYONE is tired of the same World War 2 game. Why not have a game that spans historis most legendary battles instead? Imagine being a British soldier being forced to march in line towards an opposing army that’s firing at you. Or the frantic fighting during the Zulu wars? Imagine playing out the siege of Vienna and being rewarded for surviving long enough by seeing the winged Hussars break the Ottoman army in their famous charge down the mountain. How about a stealth mission about the Soviet women who planted bombs in the German army camps during the night? If you want to do cliche American GI, then why not have it play out as Audy Murphy holding off an entire German division from the machine gun of a burning tank.

    Let’s be honest, a shooter is supposed to be exciting. I don’t understand why we can’t make an exciting shooter while also tilting our hats to famous battles of the past.

  17. DePingus says:

    Someone needs to play Spec Ops: The Line.

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      Believe me, I did. Right up to its *awful* finale. There is one clever sequence in the game, with the white phosphorous, and it should be congratulated for some fresh things (I liked the way your men slowly lose their professionalism as their botched mission goes on, their once-well-trained barks becoming frantic swearing). But it missed the mark in so many ways, and thanks to its constant references to Conrad, you’re only reminded how poorly the story is being told. It’s all right, more interesting than your average shooter, but it is right up there in the list of “games loved by critics because our bar for this genre is so low”.

      • keefybabe says:

        Absolutely agree. I played it and felt like the “amazing story” was pretty much syfy channel movie standard. I liked the ending because I enjoy “things wot with the mad peoples in”, but other than that… I didn’t see it as this amazing anti war thing everyone else did, I was too busy playing a generic cover shooter to think that.

        Even the white phosphorus I saw coming but I guess I was kind of waiting for it.

  18. chuckman006 says:

    I distinctly remember CoD1 having a British and Soviet campaign.

    So how is this game a return to their “roots” if they only have a redo of the American campaign?

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      That was United Offensive with the Brits and Russians wasn’t it?

    • brucethemoose says:

      Call of Duty 5 (5, right?) had a brief Red Army sequence too, complete with very patriotic music.

  19. Mitthrawn says:

    I think the game that you want already has been made. It’s Wolfenstein: New Order. The basic problem with “serious” FPS games is that the basic action- shooting men- is a pleasurable challenge/feedback loop. This makes any attempt at gravitas seem, well, dissonant, as you feel like the developer is boffing you on the nose with their newspaper for playing their game as all FPS are meant to be played.

    New Order gets away with this by a) being balls out crazy a lot of the time, with double sniper rifles, mayhem, etc, etc. But also b) by telling a surprisingly deft story where you actually feel for B. J. Blaskowicz and his deep, soulful eyes. By the end of the game you feel like he is a broken man, like he can’t stand the violence anymore, like he just wants to lay down and for it all to end, but he can’t because he is the only hope for the resistance. It’s a clever way to have their cake and eat it too, and the most skillful combination of cartoonish violence and pathos I have actually seen executed.

    What you are describing (vaguely anti-american?(and I’m sure the giant US video game market would love that), showing the horrors of war, showing the cost of human life) doesn’t really sound like a game, and certainly not an FPS. Who would want to play that? Who would pay 60 dollars for it? It sounds like you want apocalypse now, the game, which has been already made (Spec Ops, as someone mentioned above).

  20. nimbulan says:

    I can absolutely 100% guarantee they won’t get it right. It’s Call of Duty. There’s only one thing they know how to do: Michael Bay.

  21. Avus says:

    People are playing games like Battlefield or Call of Duty for historic accuracy are just crazy….

    • Sound says:

      Accuracy might be a strong word. But certainly a massive portion of the buying crowd do seek historical resonance and similarity from any WWII product. Have you not noticed how many of these kinds of titles make incredible attempts to recreate battlefields, weapons, set-piece circumstances, and so on?

      I have low expectations, but for reasons other than historical similarity. That’s actually something I want, and that I suspect it will do reasonably well on that front. But this year, the issue is that we not only want ‘accuracy’ but also novelty. And a variety of perspective, for goodness sake.

  22. Sandor Clegane says:

    Never mind the TL;DR thesis of disappointment, what kind of person actually wants this? I mean, most of us here demonstrably *don’t want*, so who’s doing all the “likes” on Youtube? How are those numbers not fake? It’s sickening to watch the marketing machine in action isn’t it? All too cringeworthy, all too fake & contrived to non-existent “excitement on twitter” to a non-existent audience of corporate media zombies on a consultancy junket from reputation.com. All I know is, Activision are now on my *boycott indefinitely blacklist* (along with EA), well done! *sarcastic applause*

    And as if that wasn’t enough… wow, just wow. I didn’t think an even more cringeworthy “BBC presenter” than Chris Evans actually existed… until I saw O.J. Borg on the Worldwide Reveal. So again, the question remains; who in their right minds would actually *want* to listen to that slimy SHOUTY sack of cringe-on-cocaine-khunt for more than 60 seconds?

  23. allthingslive says:

    Lol someone said “man, that was some good writing”…. dude off yourself now.

    I really don’t know why I come here anymore… I guess just to keep up to date with release date… but ffs the writing isn’t good. It’s all in the tone of a stay at home computer nerd, that’s why you think it’s good writing because it’s so familiar to you.

    And the positions these guys take… it seems completely arbitrary. One day it’s attacking developers for not putting female options in game (fuckin seriously? that’s an issue?) and the next is supporting creative decision in game development… maybe it’s all the writers, but holy shit does this blog come across with an annoying voice, even on the articles praising games. Like whoever wrote that miserable article about Battlegrounds…

    For example, here, a major issue with the game is that it’s covering WW2 again? Like what are you really expecting from Call of Duty? Was it ever even great beyond the aim and shoot aspect of it? Why is there suddenly all this pressure on them to be historically accurate or relevant in how this game is made, when Black Ops and Modern Warfare were huge offshoots into alternate reality? It sounds a lot more like you want to read a book and actually get shot than play a video game.

    Leaving behind the debate for why or why not certain wars are good or boring for video games to be repeatedly made about them, really I just want to attack the writers as people… what goobers you folks are…. reread this quote from this article :

    The writing in the most recent shooter, Infinite Warfare, somehow managed to feel like a loud song celebrating United States exceptionalism, despite being about shooting lasers in outer space. You might be relieved that Sledgehammer are taking the lead with this one, but remember that they made Call of Duty: Kevin Spacey. That history, combined with the recent cringing, babbling reveal event only reinforces my scepticism. Call of Duty is not good at depicting war – its reasons, its atrocities or its cost. It will, in all likelihood, not get World War II right.

    ….ignoring the typo, how can you be so boring and simpleminded to make this the basis of your article? Who even gives a fuck besides history majors? I think I’m realizing what’s really irritating about these, it’s the arrogance. It truly is amazing to write with such confidence and conviction about nothing to do with the video game in title. And the other writers are not much better, there is one guy I like, who isn’t looking to insert awkward quips and memes at every corner. The guys are socially inept to the point of possible aspergers and the girl writes exactly how you’d expect

    • Snowskeeper says:

      I’m not sure why you’re still here, either. You clearly don’t enjoy the content. There are other places for you to keep up on release dates, y’know.

      Unless, of course, you enjoy writing a full page of whining on every post you disagree with, but that would make you a hypocrite.

    • -Spooky- says:

      This is some “Wall of Text” for not being interested at all. Enjoy IGN or where ever you are going to read now.

      11 / 10 would flame again?

    • Shinard says:

      You don’t know why you come here. We don’t want you here. So go away.

      Unless you come here to troll, in which case: congratulations, you little scamp, for doing something so clever and worthwhile.

    • Lacessit says:

      Please go away.

    • keefybabe says:

      “One day it’s attacking developers for not putting female options in game (fuckin seriously? that’s an issue?)”

      Yes.. That’s an issue. A fucking huge one.

    • pauleyc says:

      “dude off yourself now”

      Really? Your whole post was drivel but you still managed for this particularly vile line to stand out.

  24. sagredo1632 says:

    Quoting: “…revisiting the second world war was to “ensure this sort of conflict doesn’t happen again”. So the idea is to make a game where it’s supposed to be fun to shoot people, in order induce us to not want to shoot people?

    • Asokn says:

      I think that this is actually the most troubling part of the entire thing; the developers think that making an action movie game about WW2 will somehow serve as serious education on the horrors of war. It’s unbelievably crass and insulting.

      • keefybabe says:

        They can’t even seem to educate that there were more Europeans than Americans in it.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      Same problem applies to Saving Private Ryan, actually. It’s the film that kickstarted this whole fawning over the “Greatest Generation” – conveniently at a time when they were too old/crazy/dead to actually get the payout society owed them.

      The Baby Boomers, on the other hand, got to loudly check their privilege while feeling justified in stripping their “entitled” children and grandchildren of the same.

      In fact, 20 years later, it feels like they’re nearly ready to have a pointless war just to toughen us up.

      • Sound says:

        Well, that was Iraq. Heaven forbid we should do it again, for the reason to look “tough, tremendously tough, let me tell you.”

        Funny thing is that you still see a lot of generational hate for Millennials. Yet by a vast stretch, they’re the ones who had to endure the longest war in US history.

  25. UncleLou says:

    “Who even gives a fuck besides history majors?”

    You sure wrote a long post for someone who evidently completely, spectacularly missed the point of the article you’re commenting on.

  26. ansionnach says:

    Vague anti-Americanism? Even if your predictions are accurate, it’s a little early to be this harsh. Maybe save it for the review. Nobody will ever get WWII “right”, anyway, so it’s very easy to criticise. If it is a meat head shooter you may still be able to laugh at claims of depth or authenticity and play on, like I did with Spec Ops: The Line and Wolfenstein: The New Order. At least the latter had fun core gameplay in spite of the fact that its good build-up was simply constructing a finger-wagging opportunity about a topic that’s difficult to grapple with, especially when you don’t even try. Spec Ops: The Line was mostly a waste of time.

    All that said, if it’s a meat head shooter I probably won’t be playing it. I’ll leave it to those who like this sort of thing and not write much about it…

  27. golem09 says:

    Demanding historical accuracy from a COD game is like demanding realisticly engineered Transformers in a Michael Bay movie. It’s not a priority for the target audience, and the developer has no duty to push the art that can be video games. They just wanna make money, and this is how they can. It’s a good idea from their side, because the whole setting had never been approached with the modern cinematic dumbness that seems to sell so well.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      The thing is, if they came out and said: “We’re making a game set in WW2. It’ll be fun.” Then no one would get on their case about historical accuracy. But that’s not what they’re saying is it? They’re saying they’re going to “get WW2 right” and all this other nonsense. They are the ones saying “We’re going to accurately reflect this conflict”, so it’s appropriate to call them out on it.

  28. sp0q says:

    The campaign will probably be engaging and interesting enough to play through (obviously not worth $60 though). But I don’t know why would anyone expect the MP to be anything else than Infinite Warfare reskin.

  29. Nova says:

    Great piece. Thanks Brendan.

    • unacom says:

      Yes. I totally second that.

    • Philopoemen says:

      Yep, its one of the most thought-provoking articles I’ve read for a while, and a reminder of why I come here. I may not agree with some of the sentiment, but I respect the way it’s written.

    • heretic says:

      Yup, thanks Brendy!

  30. Chitzkoi says:

    COD games seem a bit cartoonish to me, but usually worth a quick blast. I quite enjoyed World at War (surprised there isn’t much talk about that here).

    What I really want is Hidden & Dangerous 3, still following the SAS in WW2… without the hilarious bugs of 2.

  31. Themadcow says:

    Shame you play a US soldier again. The first half of the game must be horribly boring.

  32. Jaeja says:

    Suggestion:

    When RPS droids go to press events for games like this, ask them how many professional, full-time writers (not designers moonlighting and not outsides brought in to consult – actual employees who regard their profession as writing) they have on staff, and who has executive control over story-related decisions.

    This should give you a much more useful measure of how seriously they are taking their narrative aspects: if they have no proper writers, or if writers are being overruled by anyone short of the creative director or equivalent, then the writing is not actually a priority and you can safely assume that it will be shite.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      While I think “droids” is more than a little harsh, I second your general idea.

      Brendan, you’re clearly a smart lad. Activision is not going to do very well out of blacklisting a site that tried to speak up for the hallowed memory of WW2. Why didn’t you bring a much more critical list of questions to this event? If there was no opportunity to speak, why didn’t you actually stand up and tell them that they’re full of shit?

      Would have generated a hell of a lot of traffic for the site, at worst….

  33. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    I agree completely. A good WWII FPS can probably be made but this isn’t it.

    If the devs really believed that the reason for revisiting the second world war was to “ensure this sort of conflict doesn’t happen again”, you should finish the campaign with the overwhelming feeling that you don’t want to play CoD (especially a WWII CoD) for another fucking second. Not jump right into multiplayer for more fun with WWII guns.

  34. Der Zeitgeist says:

    Great article!

    The thing that I find most scary is that these games, like it or not, really /are/ history lessons. There’s a whole generation of young gamers growing up with this stuff, and their opinions on history, politics and the military will be shaped to a certain extent by these games, especially if they claim to be “authentic”.

  35. GardenOfSun says:

    I totally agree.

    If we want to concede that games should be morally forgiven for using recent wars as subject material (something which in my opinion could be debatable), then the very bare minimum of decency should be that they strive to present the biggest array of viewpoints possible. Any portrayal of these events as “good guys” vs “evil monsters” is, for any medium that wants to believe itself minimally developed, completely unacceptable. In fact, I also really liked the jab at Wolfenstein: New Order, in my opinion a really tasteless and… ugly game. Not because of its going for an unrealistic action-y tone; of course you can tackle these subjects with a lighter, over-the-top or humorous tone. But there’s an unwarranted nastiness and cynicism to Wolfenstein that for some reason no one seemed to notice.

    TLDR: I’ll have nothing but contempt for these operations until we’ll see a WW2 game, with Spec Ops: the Line sensibilities, presenting us truly interesting and opposing viewpoints (off the top of my head: an Italian soldier in Russia, a Russian soldier in Poland, a German soldier defending his land, a French soldier during the occupation, an African-American soldier in Africa, a Japanese soldier after the nuclear bombing or a Chinese soldier during the Japanese invasion – and DLC could for once have a meaning to explore all of these possibilities!).
    I definitely hope this one will be a failure.

    • Premium User Badge

      johannsebastianbach says:

      I like how your TLDR is almost as long as your main comment.

  36. Jane Doe says:

    No Call of Duty-game deserves an article this long.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      Page impressions. Clicks. Ad exposure. Money.

      Maybe ‘demand’ is the word, rather than ‘deserve’.

  37. Admiral Aitchbar says:

    Ooh history and videogames? I do believe Holly Nielsen, of this parish, should be referenced in these comments then.

    link to theguardian.com

  38. Laurentius says:

    Yup, it’s going to be be horrible, just like a Battlefield1. Still since WWII has been already made mass culture commodity in USA, this is nothing new, I am to a degree happy it won’t contain other perspective, it would not help as it didn’t help with Battlefield game. I hate this game already, a little less then DICE monstrosity but I still hate it.

  39. syndrome says:

    Thank you Brendan.

  40. bfar says:

    Well, COD 1&2 struck a good balance between an action game and the source material. Let’s be fair, there are plenty of good war movies, even patriotic American ones that don’t do justice to the ‘horror of war’, but were still pretty decent entertainment all the same.

    First and foremost, this is a game, let’s not forget that. The real issue here is whether sledgehammer can weave a half decent story into this. And here I agree with the author – it’s not looking good.

  41. Philopoemen says:

    I for one am fond of esoteric conflicts set in non-WW2 settings, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t sell as well.

    Look at wargames, which is where these esoteric conflicts should be more accessible – take John Tiller’s Squad Battles series for example (which I’m slightly qualified to talk about as I contributed to a number of the games.)

    The non-WW2 games were not as popular, or maybe as accessible, as the WW2 settings. Vietnam, Tour of Duty, Korea…all perfect settings for the engine, covering eras of conflict that were lacking in coverage, and yet weren’t as accessible to gamers (wargamers even) as the WW2 settings. The same carries across to the Panzer/Modern Campaigns engine games.

    And while I don’t like the way Sledgehammer are approaching the game, I understand the fiscal reasoning behind it.

  42. unacom says:

    My answer gets eaten up when I post it as a reply, so I´ll repost it here.
    @ohminus
    If I read your statement correctly, you made a sarcastic jest about making achievements based on atrocious things that did happen in WWII and other wars.
    While I do like a good laugh, at my own or any other living persons´ expense, I do draw a line at laughing about victims.

    My remark did not encompass brucethemoose´s fact about the Soviet population. I do not deny that. I should have clarified that. Thank you, for calling me out on it.
    I generally agree on most of your other comments on this topic.

    @syndrome
    Why do I have such a right? Democracy. Freedom of speech. That is exactly why.
    Many people have died, in many wars -and still do so- so that others (I among them) could exercise it.
    That is why I took offence in parts of the comments above, and called that out. I asked them to tone their comments down, because I do believe in free speech and will defend anybody´s right to do so, even if I do not agree with what they say or how they say it. But I do also believe in respect. That means to reflect if exercising my rights will diminish the rights of others. In this light I have challenged these comments. It´s called opposition.

    As to you accusing me of wickedness and cynicism:
    I do sincerely believe that I know -to some extent- and have seen, first hand, the wickedness of this world. I certainly do not shy away from it. I don´t really know how you deduce that from my comment.
    I will however challenge negligent application of “dark humour”, as you call it, because usually very little good comes of it. And yeah, I do like a mischievous laugh, now and then. So I´m at least as guilty as ohminus and brucethemoose.

    On the awareness of historical reality -I partially agree. I do think, though, that there is more than you care assume.

    On my inner self: My inner self. Not yours. Not something to be guessed on. It´s this respect-thing, again.

    On grey areas: If you see only grey, then your resolution might not be right.
    (I believe) I do see and accept grey areas. After carefully wasting my lunch break on your post, I will however postulate that you do not.

    One last thing:
    We do not know how courageous, ignominious, cowardly or monstrous we will behave in any given extreme situation until we have been there. That is one great tragedy of mankind, that poeple who have been trained to be model leaders (for example) break under pressure. It´s also one of our greatest strengths, that unlikely heroes arise under extraordinary circumstances.

    Please do read Victor Klemperer and Romeo Dallaire. There is enlightenment to be found on heroism.

    • ohminus says:

      “If I read your statement correctly, you made a sarcastic jest about making achievements based on atrocious things that did happen in WWII and other wars.
      While I do like a good laugh, at my own or any other living persons´ expense, I do draw a line at laughing about victims.”

      Except I’m not laughing about victims. Quite the contrary. If anyone is laughing about victims, it’s the people who are having a jolly good fun at whitewashed games, pretending those victims don’t exist. And if I’m poking fun at anyone, it’s people who love nothing more than hoarding achievements in games like that.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Yeah, freedom of speech means someone can say things without being prosecuted by law (aside from slander and other cases).
      It does not mean getting away with anything unchallenged and without personal consequence.
      It does not mean everything is constructive or harmless in any given environment to say.
      Some didn’t know yet.

  43. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The notion that these games teach history lessons or warns about the horrors of war…
    I think only in the broadest sense if you never heard of Hitler and WW2 before maybe.
    Would work as an adventure game but an FPS is about shooting people as entertainment in the end not for discouragement.
    Even educational adventure games don’t sell that well. Imagine playing the last year of the Weimar republic as “Von Papen”, would be a borefest but you’d learn about history.

    • unacom says:

      On games as history lessons: Maybe an analogy can help to advance the discussion.
      The design-process of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe by Peter Eisenman, was dogged by controversies. One of these centered around the question if graffiti-protection should be applied to the concrete blocks. Eisenman clearly thought not, because in that way the Memorial would become a mirror of the way modern German society reflects and treats the Holocaust.
      So when WWII-shooters get published, do mirror how we treat WWII and what it stands for.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        I don’t know, sounds like an art-sy explanation to me. A “memorial” should not reflect what people think at a certain time but should preserve the memory about a fixed event. It should also be accessible by commoners without an academic art degree.
        Else call it “interactive holocaust art installation” instead.
        Young people play, jest and eat, telling me something about the folks not the past event.
        Shooters are equally abstract about their subject in this regard like I enjoy killing dozens in a FPS yet know actual war is completely different and unrelated.

        • unacom says:

          Well, video-games are considered to be an art form, so I decided to use an arts analogy. I cannot claim to know what a memorial should or shouldn´t do. I can only tell that it´s here to show us how we treat a very special part of history.
          We´re free to jump on it, put a coffee cup on it or to heed its´ lessons. We can besmirch it, try to ignore it, wander around and then leave it without second thought. Or, having moved deeper into the field -leave it with a shudder.

          Treating a shooter as a mere whack-a-matic is all right, if you want it that way. I think, though, more could be gained of it, by making it multi-faceted. It could then be an exciting bullet-rush as well as a genuine reflection of things past (or things present/future -who knows).

          But there is another layer to my argument. It hinges on something a guy by the name of Watzlawick, once said: “One cannot not communicate”.
          In communicating a blatant disinterest in, or misappropriation of historical facts (for example by using achievements that border on callousness*), a video game set in history will relate a specific content.
          That content will be recieved and reflected -albeit unconsciously.
          I think it wouldn´t be good for either, video games as well as players, if the messages given by games were shallow, distorting or cynic for the sake of cynicism.

          Video game creators are artists. Their job (and fulfillment) is finding new ways for the player to access content. Sometimes in a direct way, sometimes in a more elaborate way. So playing as von Papen might not turn out to be so boring at all.

          *taken from my argument with ohminus, brucethemoose and syndrome somewhere up the line

  44. Kamikaze-X says:

    and here’s me just wishing there would be another Brothers in Arms game (potentially from the view point of different allied forces, not just yanks).

  45. klink-mit-panzerslip says:

    What a long article. Should Day of Infamy have single player while being inspired by a multiplayer-game only. Are WWII FPS pointless? Is this article pointless?

  46. toshiro says:

    I really liked the article, thank you! Feelings I’ve had myself numerous times. Well done.

  47. Dogshevik says:

    Frankly I don´t think a first person shooter is the right medium to get WWII “right”. Mainly because a shooter naturally revolves around shooting. (forgive the pun) The scenes start when the shooting does and fade to black when the shooting stops. Yet the majority of war, for civilians and soldiers alike, took place between those short snippets.

    A really ballsy and cleverly done RPG with a lot of survival elements, an eye for human behaviour, a light touch on the sensational stuff and a metric crapton of historic research covering only a very limited area and timeline of WWII might have a chance. Might.
    It just might convey the idea properly that both, the heroes and the villains of all sides involved were just ordinary people. The same type you might have met on your way to work today. No more moral or vile than those standing next to you in the subway. Just in very, very different circumstances.

    And yes it could have shooting in it. But the right amount.
    ————–

    This doesn´t make the awkwardly oscillating tone between social awareness and jingoistic propaganda that dominates the gaming industry any more palatable, mind you. Nor is it an excuse for the lowest common denominator approach “Omaha Beach, yes, once again” that the industry milks for all it is worth.

    Those both factors are here to stay, because they work. They are safe. And investors like safe.

  48. J.C. says:

    Nah, from an American company that produces Michael Bay-esque games, they’ll never do WW2 any justice. They’ll keep making games for people who don’t know jack squat about WW2, instead of opening a damn book, and believe America is the sole winner after storming a beach (several) in ’44.

  49. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    US propaganda war porn dressed up as mass-murder simulators? No thanks. If a shooter doesn’t involve space lasers, space aliens and really fecking huge spaceships in space, I don’t really want to know.

  50. bill says:

    Why don’t they just admit it’s an action movie of a game and stop pretending they’re doing something more?

    There have been plenty of action movies set in WW2 (Kelly’s Heroes, Where Eagles Dare, etc…) and they never made claims to be depicting the true horrors of war and nobody expected them to.

    Personally, I think the idea listed above of forcing you to play as a german private who is slowly forced into worse and worse actions is a good one – but it’s a totally different genre of fiction.
    It might have some hope of portraying the horrors of war right, but it wouldn’t be fun.

    You can do one or the other, why do they keep trying (and failing) to do both?