Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Defining shooter of 2007? Quite probably. Impossible to improve upon? You might well think so. After all, even with a proper two year development cycle, Treyarch's follow-up still failed to excite the gaming comminity anything like its predecessor did, despite noticably aping Infinity Ward's design plan in a whole lot of different ways.
But we don't think so. With two years of very eclectic shooters in between IW's two games, we've had time to take a step back. We've let things sink in and we've taken on board what the competition has done, and we reckon we've come up with a pretty thorough list of additions and changes the studio could make to truly evolve the series yet again while still remaining faithfully CoD. And here they are...
Not another fictionalised news story
With no historical conflict to draw from, CoD 4 did a good job of presenting us with a plausible, fictional campaign inspired by the horrible events filling today's news. But with that done, we want something different this time. We don't want a re-run with a different villain, and a made-up World War III just wouldn't have the resonance that Infinity Ward CoD's are legendary for.
The solution? Explore real-life modern war from a different angle. Our current favourite idea is to take things right out of the traditional armed forces and drop us into the pay-per-bullet boots of a private military contractor. Given the use of these just-about-legitimised mercenaries by world governments in conflicts all over the globe, there's the potential for a seriously varied campaign, especially as we wouldn't be tied to any particular nation or regime. Hell, the new CoD could even take in a PMC soldier's entire career, switched sides, bought loyalties, dead colleagues and all. If CoD 4 made you think about your moral positioning, this could give you a breakdown.
Seriously. Not only is it annoying (just how short is the fuse on that grenade anyway?), it makes no sense whatsoever. Do CoD 4's combatants carry explosives wired up to little heart-rate monitors that trigger as soon as they're killed? Do they undertake years of conditioned training until a grenade drop becomes a reflex action upon a heavy dose of being shot? We'd presume not, if only because that course would see a severely low pass-rate.
But whatever the reason, Martyrdom needs to go. It's cheap, it requires no skill whatsoever to use, and in a game as dense and tactical as CoD 4 multiplayer, a perk that actually rewards players for being crap really has no place at all.
Just think how much it would mix up multiplayer if we got random, dynamically changing weather during battle. Think you have to think on your toes already? Try staying hidden when a sudden downpour has you leaving trackable footprints in the mud. Or sniping when your quarry disappears into the fog. Or even having to rethink your grenade throws as the wind kicks up.
All of these features would have to be toggleable, obviously, as they'd change the game enough to annoy some purists, but as an occasional shake-up to the formula they'd be a blast. Every weather condition would bring with it a host of offensive and defensive bonuses and traumas, and if implemented with enough thought for balance could add as much to the game as perks did to CoD 4, essentially doubling or tripling the number of multiplater maps available. And it goes without saying that IW could come up with solid gold if it themed whole levels around this stuff in the single-player campaign.
More stealth in campaign and multiplayer
Ask anyone what the standout points of CoD 4 are and young Pricey's stealth missions will always be high on the list. They came out of nowhere with a change of pace and a density of atmosphere that kicked us hard in the face and kept us hooked from tense, pulse-pounding start to breathless, adrenalin-soaked finish. They were two of the finest-crafted pieces of gaming to grace the already brilliant 2007, and we want more in IW's next CoD.
But this time around, how about we drop the sniping and go up close and personal? How about a plot line which sees our character stranded behind enemy lines, bereft of back-up or equipment. Maybe we've been captured and are breaking out of an enemy camp, or perhaps a mission has gone drastically tits-up and we've become split up from our squad. Whatever the reason, we want the same agonisingly tense and lonely atmosphere combined with dirtier, riskier, hands-around-the-throat stealth kills. One of CoD 4's greatest strengths was the brutally uncompromising way in which it forced us to question the violence of our actions every step of the way, and removing the distancing effect of the sniper scope would take that up to the next level.
And with the mechanics established in campaign, how about a new stealth game mode in multiplayer? Perhaps a team deathmatch, with one side trying to silently infiltrate a base as the other attempts to maintain security. Or even better, a single player going up against everyone else in the lobby, the role designated at random or awarded to whoever killed the last candidate off.