The future of the future will still contain the past
Most games start as a blank canvas. It’s something the founders of Sledgehammer Games have grown accustomed to, whether it was in the making of Advanced Warfare, its first game at the Call Of Duty helm, or the creation of Dead Space, when the duo were at Visceral Games. What game shall we make? In which year is it set? Who are the good guys and baddies? Weeks turn into months as you decide what guns should look like, what to call them, how they fire, and design funky reload animations for them. Slowly but surely, a picture begins to form.
Yet by winding back the clock to World War II, Sledgehammer found itself presented with a canvas that was already filled to bursting with battles, characters, stories and weaponry. That, you’d be forgiven for thinking, would knock an easy six months off the development time.
Not a bit of it. Sledgehammer spent the time it would have devoted to coming up with a setting to learning about the real-world one it had settled on. The studio heads toured Europe with a WWII historian. Back in California, development teams obsessed over the finer details to craft a game that was authentic and respectful to the source material. In the process, they learned not just about WWII history, but of their own connections to it. When one of the studio heads was helping design the limb-lopping Plasma Cutter in Dead Space, we doubt he thought of his grandfather, who lost a leg to a war wound. Here, however, such thoughts are unavoidable. The result, as Sledgehammer tells it at least, is a game that is not only steeped in its subject, but humbly respectful of it, too.
It’s tempting to sneer at Call Of Duty, one of the biggest games on the planet. But this was too fascinating a story not to tell: of developers, famous as futurists, using cutting-edge tech to teach a history lesson; of a factual research trip that turned into an emotional journey none of them expected; and of a series which, after years of travelling steadily further into the future, is now heading back to the past. Our story begins on p60.