There’s only one thing that really matters every time a new Call of Duty is announced: is Mr Shooty Soliderface on the box balancing just the right mix of lethal potential and enigmatic side eye?
For me, this year’s effort is a bit of a letdown and looks more like a mannequin dressed as an astronaut than a one man war machine that I might want to be. But how does he stack up in the long and varied history of COD box men? Let’s take a look:
It’s early days for COD here so its first ever pack shot has yet to nail the ‘one man looking moody’ ascetic it later refines. Okay there is one guy just about the main focus here, but the overall emotion I’m getting is ‘I’ve been told to open my mouth and point’, I’m not really feeling the silent inner torment of a video game soldier here.
Okay, getting closer. Definitely zeroing on one soldier and there’s almost a hint of pain in his eyes, although it looks more ‘trod on a plug’ than ‘thousand yard stare’. He’s still sidelined way too much though and there’s war all over the place.
There’s just too many men here. I get that the big guy up front is meant to be the focus and, bless him, he’s trying so hard to look angry on what clearly must have been a long photo shoot. But what about slightly smaller angry man behind him, and really little angry one behind him. Who am I meant to be rooting for here?
Now we’re talking. One guy, smack in centre of the box. There’s a purposeful stride although the face is a little neutral - where’s the horror of war? The PTSD? The artists are still clearly struggling to let the background noise go as well with all that clutter, dust and passing choppers.
By box number 5 Activision are really zeroing in on the whole ‘big soldier looking soldiery’ thing. Running? Check. Shooting? Check? Not actually shooting at the audience because that would be rude? Check?
Now we’re seeing the man behind the shooting. The lowered gun as he walks through the ashes and that glance off to one side all scream inner turmoil. You can almost hear his inside voice saying ‘what have we done’. That or he’s just seen something cool over there.
Nope, sorry, too close up. All I’m really getting here are arms. And why has he got two of everything? Who needs a pair M16s? Is that practical? Is he compensating for something? The overall vibe here seems to be ‘waiting room’ and that smoke in background is just lazy filler.
There’s a nice minimal feel to this more stylised approach. Man with gun. Finished. Clean, simple and hard to miss. The real touch of genius here though is that look on his face - just a hint of introspection/might have left the oven on.
Black Ops 2 has clearly learned from its earlier atrocious effort. It’s backed off on the zoom a touch and ditched the double guns. It’s also doing some strong work with both the pose and lighting. It all screams ‘weighed down by the consequences of my actions’.
What’s exactly is going on here? Is he smelling the war? (Like fireworks and Lynx, I'm told.) Or has he just realised that mask is filthy and doesn’t want it touching his perfect model’s skin a second longer. This isn’t about war, this is about an agent getting a really pissed off call in about half an hour.
After Ghost's head shot misfire this sees a welcome return to the ‘big man on box’ template. The side angle feels a little avant garde but how else are you going to show the diet power armour? Not enough existential angst though.
Back to the double guns again are we? At least two handguns is kind of okay. But who’s the star here? Chunky soldier guy or the giant orange neon logo? He looks more like he’s have a rest at from Laser Tag than fighting for our freedom. There’s no tension either, more of a ‘model waiting for direction’ thing going on.
Not really sure what’s to make of this year’s effort. Okay, top points for prominent man placement but I’m not getting any emotion, barely any gun and who brought the dropship? That helmet also screams of last minute executive interference from a suit worried that the whole space idea didn’t ‘pop’.