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Photos of Evil Geniuses Call of Duty team at CWL NOLA

A Shift in Direction for Call of Duty

Feb 192018

Recent iterations of Call of Duty have had their ups and downs. Literally. Frenetic double jumping and wall running became Activision’s flavor for the franchise and even though fans begged and pleaded for boots-on-the-ground to make a return, they were stubborn about change. Stubborn about change for 3 years.

Now finally, as a huge sigh of relief to CoD fans across the globe, Activision not only kept the futuristic double jumping out of the picture, but also fell back on fan-favorite time period: World War II.  


Call of Duty: World War II made its global, and esports, debut in November of 2017, and with the revamped MLG Call of Duty World League kicking off January 2018, it is time to see if World War II can walk the talk. For the Evil Geniuses Call of Duty Roster, the game isn’t quite perfect yet, but it’s a massive improvement from recent iterations.


“It feels so good to be back to boots-on-the-ground,” Patrick “Aches” Price exclaims. “Honestly, it’s just better as a first impression because the game really feels like an actual Call of Duty game. Something we haven’t seen for several years now.”


The others — Anthony “NAMELESS” Wheeler, Ian “Enable” Wyatt, and Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov — all whole-heartedly agree. “Yeah, agreed,” Nameless adds. “It’s been too long, too long that we kept getting that futuristic style, and while it was cool to try and bring something new to Call of Duty, it’s not a good thing to change the core idea of what makes something good. You don’t see games like Counterstrike changing too much and people still love it.”


The last time these players, all seasoned veterans in the scene, saw a more classic Call of Duty was Call of Duty: Ghosts back in 2013. From Advanced Warfare up until last year’s Infinite Warfare, we got future-style warfare and the players couldn’t stand it.


“To be honest, that double jumping thing just hurt my hands,” Enable says. “Thank goodness gamers have scuf and other controllers that make things easier, because honestly, if you play claw or try to sit through it with a normal controller, having that sort of verticality to the game and having to jump all the time, it makes playing for the long hours pros do so difficult.”


Apathy chimes in and says, “You’d figure that having that vertical stuff, and wall running, and double-jumping would make the game more interesting. It doesn’t. It’s just random.”


That was the initial idea behind adding those dynamic: increasing the skill ceiling of the individual. And while we’ve been treated to some neat feats of mechanical skill from the pros in the double-jump game, Aches doesn’t find it all that entertaining.


“Even from a spectator standpoint, there’s way too much going on in Infinite and Black Ops 3,” Aches says. “Way too much. You can’t keep up and it’s not even fun to watch sometimes. With World War, everything is horizontal. You know how the players are going to move and react, and the positioning knowledge needed is a much higher skill cap. It’s way more exciting. Things are just there, and the decision making is more calculated. Do you push or nah; rather than, I’m just going to jump and boost shift to the right. That’s random.”


With World War, the players’ woes for added verticality are gone. And with Activision putting a prime focus on esports, all the amateur gamers looking to get into the big leagues will find World War the friendliest Call of Duty yet.

Another big improvement is MLG’s tournament and competitive matchmaking system, Gamebattles, which is built right into the game’s menus. It’s incredibly important because competitive rulesets for Call of Duty heavily differ from the casual matchmaking game modes, creating a huge disparity between casual and competitive gamers. Even if you were remotely interested in going pro or playing comp, finding scrims or actual teams to play against was virtually impossible in previous installments.


“It’s great what Call of Duty and MLG are doing,” Apathy says in regards to GameBattles integration. “It’s much easier to introduce the competitive scene to casual gamers and give amateurs an avenue to improve. I’m all over that system. Sometimes we get on as a team and roll with it. Super easy to use, super easy to find tournaments and games.”


On top of the exposure that this integration will bring to the competitive scene—Call of Duty is the best-selling game globally every year—Activision is going all in on helping the amateur scene. With several online tournaments that garner Pro Points for the circuit in addition to every major event hosting an Open Bracket, there are more than enough avenues for newcomers to try and make a name for themselves.


“The first MLG Gamebattles online 2k tournament that took place recently,” Nameless declares, “There were more than 1000 teams signed-up for it. That’s a lot. That’s crazy and it’s a good thing to help the scene grow.”


All of this is an essential step in the right direction if Call of Duty is expected to grow its competitive user base. Yet, while the core ideas behind World War are incredibly good for the scene, how does the game stack up when put underneath the microscope?


"I think I'm still happy with boots-on-the-ground," Aches concludes. "There are some things that need to change obviously. Off the bat, there's bullet penetration. We had someone literally kill someone straight through a tank. And I think the map design could be better; it's like they forgot how to build good, straightforward maps."


In 4 vs 4 competitive play, it's paramount the maps stay within a 3-lane style and have a limited amount of verticality. That way your team's strategies are varied by what you're going to push, and how many players are covering a given area.


"For me, they should just take some old maps because people love them and bring them back," Apathy explains. "That's not to say these new maps are totally unplayable by any stretch, but they could be a lot better.  Now that gunfights are more straight forward, you want these maps to make you decide on what you're going to control and frankly, they've built some awesome maps over the years. Revamp them."


Nameless adds, "Honestly for me, sniping is too easy. Too easy. It's good that there are some varied strats with ARs, SMGs, and Snipers. But we're pros — we don't even need to hold breath to get some clean shots. I mean, I'm not entirely sure they should make it harder, but I guess that's a complaint."


Even with these complaints, each one of the EG players agreed World War II is a "breath of fresh air" and is a great first step in taking Call of Duty back to its glory days.


"I hope they just take this concept and keep rolling with it," Apathy maintains when asked if the franchise needs some diversity. "I get that they make a new Call of Duty every year, but please, just don't change anything that doesn't need to change. I'd rather have a more consistent experience. If the scene is expected to grow, there has to be consistency in the gameplay."


Aches agrees and just wants the scene to be able to grow: "Yeah, with a huge support for esports, the only thing that needs to stay the same is gameplay. You can release a game every year. That's fine, but keep the core gameplay the same. Leave the double jump to Titanfall. If you do that, you won't split your fans and the scene should grow."


It's safe to say the Evil Geniuses roster won't be missing the futuristic iterations of Call of Duty. Now that Activision is listening to fans by removing double-jumping, going back to World War, and adding esports support, who can blame them.


"With the CWL season coming up, I can only hope the game gets updated with proper balance changes and maybe some good competitive maps," Nameless asserts. "Because for the most part, this is a good direction for the pros and for the amateurs, and hopefully when they do inevitably release another Call of Duty, they'll just take the core of World War and just make it better. Boots-on-the-ground; just keep it that way."