Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the catalyst that propelled the somewhat stagnant 17-year-old first-person shooter franchise back into the limelight. According to new leaks, after this triumphant comeback aided by millions of gamers playing Warzone in quarantine, the series might move in a bold new direction with the next installment by exploring a conflict not often represented in video games: the Vietnam War.
Former Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier teased over Twitter Tuesday that the next Call of Duty game could arrive in fall 2020, and this next entry in the Black Ops series of CoD games could be set during the Vietnam War. Back in May 2019, Schreier reported that sources from the game’s publisher, Activision, had plans to assign two of its studios (Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games) to develop a Cold War-era CoD for 2020. Schreier namedropped “CoD: Vietnam” specifically, which is seemingly still on track to release this year despite global coronavirus pandemic that has led to the delay of many AAA titles.
“One title I’ve heard thrown around a couple times is just ‘CoD: Vietnam.’" he tweeted. "As far as I know it’s part of the Black ops series though? Not sure. ... As of right now it's still planned for fall, but nobody knows what's going to happen in the coming months!”
This wouldn’t be the first time the shooter series has explored that time period of American military history.
Call of Duty: Black Ops was set during the Cold War and included missions in Vietnam and Laos, among many other locations. The franchise has never released a game exclusively about the Vietnam War, like how it has done for World War II in Call of Duty: World at War, for example, but Activision did try in 2011.
Sledgehammer Games was working on Call of Duty: Vietnam for “at least six to eight months” back in 2011 until Activision needed the developer’s help to ship Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 when Infinity Ward was facing some internal issues.
CoD: Vietnam was supposed to be a third-person shooter — a major departure for the series — but it never saw the light of day after the game was shelved. That could soon change, even if a third-person shooter seems farfetched for Call of Duty.
The Inverse Analysis — There’s strong evidence to believe that Activision wants to revive the long-forgotten Call of Duty: Vietnam. The company could be trying to use the momentum it created with Modern Warfare and Warzone to push another game out the door, but rushing it might not be the best move.
Activision has built a rocky reputation of releasing too many CoD titles back-to-back, which resulted in the bad reception with several installments because they felt half-baked or like small updates to a previous game that launched a year ago. Activision is able to publish a new entry almost every single year because three studios produce CoD games and take turns each year: Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, and Infinity Ward. The latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was made by Infinity Ward, and because Treyarch made Black Ops 4, that means Sledgehammer Games is probably up next. That studio previously produced Call of Duty: WWII and Advanced Warfare.
However, these studios have also collaborated on specific entries in the past. Call of Duty: Vietnam gives Activation the opportunity to deliver a unique and multifaceted glimpse of the grueling, blood-soaked war that most games seem to avoid.
Call of Duty: Black Ops was deemed “tacky” by some Vietnam War veterans. If Activision follows through on a standalone title that covers this era in history, it has to avoid glorifying a war that caused millions of deaths and severely impacted the mental health of thousands of veterans who returned from combat. Recent CoD entries try grappling with both sides of every conflict in more nuanced ways than early entries in the franchise, and Call of Duty: Vietnam would have to do the same.
Assuming the game really is in development, it could make for a bold new step forward for the franchise.