If you haven’t seen the latest Call of Duty trailer, you should; it is spectacular. However, it leaves a lot of questions open to us, the main one in my eyes is one that we don’t ask every year, “is Call of Duty trying to make some serious political commentary?” Are they looking for a new story line or are they trying to demonise Private Military Corporations like G4S to encourage regular army recruitment.
Sledgehammer games are taking the helm on this one; these are the guys who worked in partnership with Infinity Ward on Modern Warfare 3 which, to be honest, was average at best. However, I have high hopes for them now that they have been freed from their partners shadow. So maybe they can pull something amazing out of nowhere here? Maybe they will do something new…or maybe it will just be another god damn CoD.
As you can see, Sledgehammer have gone for the futuristic angle that falls short of the tech in Halo, but fits in well with that seen in Titanfall and the film Elysium. It’s a nice change and it’s well overdue. I think they have realized that Titanfall has changed the expectation of FPS game;. they added a lot more verticality to maps which in turn has made the game much more fast paced. However, lets not fall for the usual advertising crap we fall for every year. Last November, for the release of Ghosts, we saw clips of space fights and rappelling into buildings and none of this was in the multiplayer and was only briefly experienced in the campaign, so I don’t think we should hold our breath to see exo-skeletons and invisibility cloaks in Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer either.
Now, if you look purely at this trailer that was released, this picture sums up my immediate impression
…but the Call of Duty YouTube channel gave us something extra before the leak of their official trailer. They gave us this video below, and in my opinion, it is the only glimmer of hope for a real change of direction in the franchise – or propaganda, I haven’t decided yet.
That opening first line,
In the next Call of Duty, the worlds most powerful military is not a country…its’ a corporation.
Are the guys over at Sledgehammer now attempting to say that these private military groups are very capable of taking over the world? It would appear so – but to what ends? In my mind there are two (two and a half actually) possibilities.
#0.5 Sledgehammer wants a new, refreshing storyline and nothing more
Call of Duty’s basic story format is typically something like this
Countries A, B and C attack countries X, Y and Z and the west saves the day
maybe they just want to spice things up a bit where they can introduce a real reason to have all of these crazily advanced technologies. Very likely, but this is probably not the only motive.
I have specifically labelled this #0.5 as I think it is true, but will also come hand in hand with one of the next two possibilities as opposed to being the sole reason.
#1 Sledgehammer wants to address the potential dangers of private military corporations
The United Nations Mercenary Convention explicitly prohibits the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries; the UN give their definition of a mercenary here. However, the USA and UK have not signed this convention, and most speculate that the reason behind this is that agencies like the CIA, and their UK counterpart MI6, heavily use these PMCs to carry out jobs without being officially involved.
As the video also explains,
“As of March 2013, private contractors represented 62% of the total forces in Afghanistan.”
PMCs make up a large amount of our military presence in the world, one gentleman even claims that after making some phone calls, he could have an army of 1,000 elite soldiers within a month.
Now lets say that a company like this decides to start giving themselves their own contracts, you get the whole Jason Bourne scenario, a government weapon giving themselves missions. A company with no political agenda working purely for self-interest. You mix a thousand of the country’s most elite soldiers with the country’s most advanced weaponry and I think you would probably have a force more than capable of overthrowing the national guard (or equivalent).
Needless to say, if these PMCs aren’t regulated sensibly and are not subject to public scrutiny they could very well be a potential danger to democracy. If this is what the guys at Sledgehammer are putting out then I am very, very impressed!
#2 Sledgehammer wants to demonise PMCs
However, there is also the possibility that Sledgehammer just wants the world to think that PMCs are the bad guys for their own personal agenda. The Call of Duty franchise has millions of active monthly users (though this number is massively declining with each annual iteration), which is a huge audience to whom this message will address.
But what would this personal agenda be? Why would they want to demonise PMCs?
Well the truth is joining the army is comparatively badly paid when put next to the private military. This is something servicemen and women are quickly beginning to pick up on. As PMC Contractor Phillip Mills explains,
“Why would I do 5 years in Iraq in the army and earn £120,000 when I can do 2 years in Iraq [with a PMC] and earn $400,000. […] anybody who is any good in the army, isn’t in the army anymore.”
With COD’s allegiance to the army displayed through its project Call of Duty Endowment it certainly will have strong connections to people who would like to see an end to PMCs and a return of army recruitment. Funding is also an issue for the army as it has slowly declined each year whereas PMC funding increases on a huge scale. In the 10 years after the 9/11 attacks $3.3 trillion has been spent by the US government on private defense contracts.
So by discrediting PMCs by reminding warfare enthusiasts that these people are loyal to no country and that they are available to the highest bidder would serve their connections massively.
Believe it or not, Call of Duty is one hell of a way to reach tens of millions of people with a political message and whether Sledgehammer do have a hidden agenda or not, I think this game will reveal many topics that will raise PMCs to the public’s attention.