Inclusive Or Not, Playable Women In Call Of Duty: Ghosts Doesn't Change The Brand
Posted on Thursday, August 15 @ 00:44:16 PST by Daniel Bischoff
In video game trailers, the most important information comes at the end. The game's release date, supported platforms, and the ever present push to preorder typically wind down whatever highly choreographed song and dance the publisher has composed, and today's new Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal trailer (above) is no different. Regardless, I was most impressed with what came just before the title card.
Ghosts is the first entry in the series to allow players to completely customize their character, all the way down to their combatant's gender. You can give your female or male soldier face paint, armor, head gear, and choose from dozens of patches. This compliments the kind of customization players are probably used to: assault rifles, hand guns, perks, attachments, killstreak rewards.... It's all there... but now you can play as a woman.
Out of Infinity Ward's new modes, weapons, maps and more, female avatars felt unexpected, important, like a significant step forward for the industry, what with Call of Duty representing gamers as the medium's biggest property, played by tens of millions of people every day, of every week, of every month, of every year. Before the show started, a slide on Activision's big screen informed us that not millions, but billions of care packages, the boxes players can call in for a random killstreak (from a stash of ammo to a massive, kill-the-entire-team missile strike), have been delivered in-game.
Those care packages could be used to construct 10 separate Great Walls of China. 10.
Why would anyone want to play as a female soldier? Activision says that techincal limitations kept them from making this addition sooner and that gear has been altered to ensure female avatars don't have an advantage over their male counterparts (as say Master Chief may have had over Halo 2's optional Elite avatar in multiplayer). In the end, Infinity Ward's desire to allow as much character cutomization as possible drove the decision to include a female soldier, but I still can't shake the feeling that these are excuses and little else.
With record-breaking sales figures year after year, why couldn't Activision have invested in female avatar support on the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation of consoles? With all the fancy graphics tech going into Call of Duty: Ghosts, player-specific decorations seem peculiar and decidely last-gen. I'll have more on what makes Ghosts a next-generation Call of Duty game tomorrow, but changing what my soldier was wearing does not make that list.
In the end, this image largely exemplifies how little female soliders change Call of Duty as a brand, as a franchise, as a multiplayer-focused first-person shooter. In one of the game's maps, a strip joint advertises live nudes, while an interior display promises special events for anyone willing to show up in the middle of a massive multiplayer war. This image proves that the significant addition of female avatars for Activision's blockbuster franchise is an exception, and not a rule.
Based on my hands-on time, I'm very excited for Call of Duty: Ghosts. It feels like a return to Modern Warfare 2 (which I loved and spent countless hours playing) and I'll write more about why that's a great thing for long-time fans later as well. Every single match I played in almost three hours of hands-on time was with a female avatar. I helped lead my team to several victories as a woman soldier, but I couldn't shake the feeling that Call of Duty remains juvenile despite the newfound inclusivity.
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