The Call of Duty games have always had stories (even, occasionally, a loose internal mythology) to drive their single-player campaigns. But since the dawn of online multiplayer for home gaming consoles it’s been a foregone conclusion that the series’ main selling point is the appeal of engaging other users worldwide in highly popular (and thus highly populated) rounds what amounts to multiplayer digital paintball as a form of everyday stress relief: Work hard, come home, pretend to shoot people, feel better.
But the new live-action trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare goes a step further: Explicitly casting the sci-fi sequel as a refuge from Brexit anxiety, the U.S. election season, and other current events frustrations.
The trailer cold-opens with a succession of images depicting a diverse group of everyday citizens watching, dismayed, as a variety of news headlines depicting exaggerated (but only just so) endpoints to various grim newsworthy stories: 2016 is declared “the worst year ever,” Canada builds a giant wall on the U.S. border, a newspaper announces that Europe will leave the European Union, and a cable news anchor is seen reporting that an election debate moderator “punched a presidential candidate in the face.” A random viewer then declares: “Screw it, let’s go to space!,” at which point a military aircraft from the game arrives to spirit everyone off into an Infinite Warfare shooting-gallery where they all seem much happier.
Live-action trailers like this have become a tradition for the Call of Duty franchise, puncturing the ominous macho solemnity of the story trailers with the innately humorous spectacle of seeing ordinary gamers, office workers, food servers, subway passengers, and other normal folks acting like action heroes in the games’ over-the-top military-themed scenarios. While some have braced at the idea of so openly celebrated military hardware fantasy as a release for everyday stress, the spots are also reflective of the growing sense of diversity in modern gaming spaces: COD is by now so ubiquitous, your opponents really could be anybody.
Infinite Warfare is the 14th installment in the franchise’s main series since it launched in 2003 and the latest to increasingly eschew a realistic modern setting in favor of a futuristic science-fiction setting. Taking place in the distant future, the game tasks players with protecting interplanetary offworld human colonies, where resources needed to sustain life on Earth are mined, from attacks by radical militant splinter groups. The game will also feature the by now obligatory horror/comedy-themed “zombie modes” and a remastered version of the classic fourth installment, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will launch on Friday, November 4 2016.