Video Games

The New Call of Duty Trailer is a Monologue About the Perils of Nation Building


Modern Warfare 3/Infinity Ward

There's a new entry in the massively popular Call of Duty video game franchise coming later this year: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Judging by the first trailer, which was released this morning, it appears to be about, ah, the challenges of nation-building.

Also: shooting things. Lots and lots of shooting things.

And apparently the game's single-player story stars House of Cards' leading man Kevin Spacey, or a digital version of him anyway. Today's trailer is built around a delightfully menacing, scenery-chewing Spacey monologue about how setting up a democracy in a foreign country is actually really hard because of various cultural complications…which of course leads him to argue that what's really needed is a strong authoritarian leader. 

It's a little silly, a little provocative, and a lot of fun, in part because it appears to focus more on story and character than the last few franchise entries, which have grown increasingly stale even as the series has remained among the most popular and successful in the video game market. (Although sales of last year's installment, Ghosts, were down somewhat and generally considered disappointing.) 

Watch the complete trailer below:

I've played all of the Call of Duty games since 2007's Modern Warfare, and what's always struck me about the series, as well as other military shooters, is the way they are reflexively pro-war, or, at the very least, pro-combat. It's built into the essence and structure of the gameplay: As a player, you're there to fight, and your only real choices are about how to go about the process of shooting and stabbing and blowing stuff up. Playing the games basically requires you to embrace their (virtual, fake) wars, and the blustery combat ethos of the game world. 

There's a kind of exuberant militarism to the series—Modern Warfare 2 interspersed quotes from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld into the gameplay—that isn't so much political as it is adamantly cynical. The games aren't really trying to make an ideological point; they're trying to provoke people while enthusiastically embracing the various trappings and excesses of their playable-action-movie premises. Judging by the new trailer, the next Call of Duty looks like more of the same. 

Be sure to check out Reason's new Video Game Nation issue, which looks at many of the interesting and unexpected ways that games are changing our politics and culture. 

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  1. People still play those nigh-rail shooters?

    Well, the sales figures say there’s a market. I just don’t uderstand them.

  2. What’s so messed up about that sick and twisted monologue is its truthfulness.

    1. America has never installed democracy in 100 years?

      Japan doesn’t count? South Korea?

      1. Well, South Korea was basically ruled by a series of autocratic governments until the late 80s.

      2. And Japan, while a democracy, was functional one party rule for 55 years.

      3. Installed like Windows. Tragically

    2. People don’t want freedom.
      They want boundaries. Rules.
      Protection, from invaders and from themselves.

  3. It’s not really about the on-rails single-player components anymore (although I do enjoy some of the setpiece moments). It’s the multiplayer. There’s a reason Titanfall didn’t even bother including a single-player campaign.

    I really preferred Battlefield 4 to this year’s other big shooters. The single-player was pretty mediocre, but the multiplayer was really, really great: complex loadout management, excellent character animations that gave you a very good sense of what other players were doing, and environments that you could destroy in ways that meaningfully changed the gameplay. Titanfall is a lot of twitchy fun, but BF4 is the one I keep coming back to because it’s the most tactically interesting of the big multiplayer shooters.

    1. agreed on all points, still haven’t bought titanfall even though i played the beta; probably skip it and just keep playing BF. I’ll admit a COD with vehicle combat (hopefully in multiplayer!) could be a nice change of pace, i haven’t played a COD since Black ops

      1. Libertarian BF4 players unite! add me @killiusmaxximus

    2. Agreed – Titanfall is great frenetic action with some cool new gameplay elements that makes the fast-twitch COD series feel almost slow in comparison (I wonder if that has anything to do with the new direction with this Advanced Warfare), but BF4 has depth that keeps me coming back. Even if you suck at the “I SEE HIM AND HE SEES ME, QUICK -SHOOOOT!” encounters (like I do), there are still plenty of things to do to help out your team.

    3. Ugh I can’t stand any of these generic unoriginal war FPSs anymore. Does BF still have regenerating health? Excessive reliance on ADS? Then I’m not interested. Until these games do something interesting (VR) I’m not interested.

    4. Reason reader and avid BF4 player? Respect, sir! add me on live, @killiusmaxximus

  4. Wait, military shooter games are pro-combat? Are racings games also pro-driving fast?

    1. Ever played Spec Ops: The Line?

      1. No, but I’m guessing it’s a exception to Suderman’s “pro-combat” generalization.

  5. The gameplay looks incredibly boring, but the trailer was well done.

  6. These battlefield games are incredibly boring. How am I supposed to play as a girl and get random loot drops in one of them?!?

    1. Fortunately there’s a new Borderlands game on the way.

      1. Epi only play JRPGs. He has more than 30 Snorlaxes.

      2. What you just heard was the sound of Epi squealing like Nicole.

      3. It’s like you really know Episiarch to his very core.

        1. Not like your mom, jesse.

          1. Umm, I think you mean you know my mom to her very core

            *wink wink, nudge nudge*

            The joke would work better if you weren’t hung like a mosquito on a cold day.

      4. Well, you just made my day, sir.

      5. I did end up downloading a playing a bit of the first Borderlands last night, per Epi’s recommendation (After about an hour I switched to the FIFA 2014 World Cup game I also downloaded).

        I rather enjoy Borderlands so far. The animation reminds me a bit of a computer game I played in the late 90’s called Full Throttle

  7. “I’ve played all of the Call of Duty games since 2007’s Modern Warfare, and…… my wife lets me eat sugar cereal on Saturday before cartoons.”

    Just kidding, Sudermandingo. Seriously though, that’s probably something you should get an intern to cop to. Grown men play “Fallout” or something; CoD is purely for Kidults.

    1. Oh, I spent far more time playing Skyrim than I did all the CoD games combined. I probably spent less than five hours on Ghosts, which was just incredibly bland.

      But I’m generally interested in video games and what that market is like, so I usually try to check out most of the big, reasonably well-reviewed games.

      1. If they can ever get their shit together, Ubisoft is supposed to release the newest Rainbow Six entry which was always my favorite FPS.

        The Co-op stuff they had from story mode to terrorist hunt was so much more fun than anything I’ve played online with B4 or COD. Plus I liked their cover system WAY better.

      2. I ruined Skyrim for myself by using the potion/enchantment hack to create myself a bow that can one-shot kill any dragon and an armor so strong I can let giants hit me a million times before any noticable change in my health.

        1. ha! i did something similar with oblivion, i had a whole set of armor that was enchanted with chameleon such that nobody could ever see me no matter what. game. over.

          1. The ability to create your own spells in Oblivion was awesome, and at higher levels definitely led to “god mode” play where you were invisible yet dropping massive firestorms from a distance.

      3. I confess to owning an Xbox. The older one, now. (360?)

        I am ashamed, and project my shame on others. Its typical bully-behavior.

        Never did the FPS thing other than HALO back in the day, and then Far Cry (3)? the one in Africa which is totally racist and neocolonialist and something, which is probably why it is good. Also, in that the guns jam and break, and that they are *really* fucking hard to shoot accurately. That one was the only game that I thought was a unique approach to the “FPS” thing: it was basically impossible to hit people while moving. You also had to be conscious of Ammo.

        Havent touched the thing in years now. Last games I saw that almost made me get the urge to play again were the new(er) “Deus Ex” game, and L.A. Noire. Havent played either yet.

  8. I’m still playing Dark Souls 2. I think I’m at the 200+ hour mark now. According to the British press, I’ll soon go out and stab a teacher to death.

  9. Call of Duty isn’t a shooter, it’s in the spunkgargleweewee genre.

  10. I stopped playing CoD after the third one came out /behind the times

    But it’s the kidz on those multi-player games that drive me nuts. There is only a few FPS games – notably Rising Storm and Red Orchestra II – where the players are generally not asshats. I continue to play them even though their graphics are no longer start of the art.

  11. I stopped playing Call of Duty awhile ago. The maps are too small and constricting. Whenever a new map pack comes out, everyone just camps until they play the map enough to know where the choke points, spawn locations, and corners are. I find it pretty one dimensional.

    I haven’t played Battlefield 4 yet, but I enjoyed 3 – teamwork is rewarded, there’s actually strategy involved, you can’t level up so that you’re insanely overpowered.

    I actually enjoyed Mass Effect’s multiplayer a good bit. When it first came out, silver and gold levels were actually really difficult even with a four person squad.

  12. Ugh … I like my videogames like I like most things NON FUCKING POLITICAL. Its bad enough I am subjected to some left wing screed every time I turn on NPR, watch TV, open a general interest magazine, or sit through a PTA meeting but videogames are MY TIME.

  13. I like the House of Cards quasi tie in. It does make sense as a logical continuation of President Underwood’s philosophy of governance.

    1. I like it a lot too. Maybe they’ll succeed at what Defiance failed at.

  14. I hate COD with a passion. Even MW1 sucked. Tiny maps regenerating health awful twitch gameplay. It’s just cookie-cutter cancer but at least the new one looks kind of original…BlOPs robot wars in the future excepted…I’m sure the gameplay will suck.
    Worst part: Xbone

  15. I completely disregarded COD after discovering how amazing BF3 was… this trailer is pretty intense though, definitely caught my attention.

    Too bad I don’t plan on buying an xboxone or ps4 any time in the next year or two. Ehh, probably would be a disappointing $70.00 spent anyway.

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