Adam's Rant: How Respawn Shamed Activision at E3

By Adam Ma on June 28, 2013, 3:59PM EDT

Ever since Jason West and Vince Zampella broke away from Infinity Ward (taking with them almost the entirety of the original award winning Call of Duty development studio) it's felt like much of their original FPS community has been waiting to see what they come up with next.

There's no question that CoD has managed to hold a firm grasp on the console multiplayer scene since launch, but a lot of that boils down to the formulaic gameplay. While the devil may be in the fine details it's fair enough to say that hair-trigger shooting sprees and killstreaks have largely defined each Call of Duty title, with the variation depending entirely on what weapons or killstreaks are available. And it's worth noting that these incremental updates since Modern Warfare 2 are changes made by a very different Infinity Ward than the one who first developed the Call of Duty franchise.

The long story short is that Call of Duty has changed very little since West and Zampella were calling the shots, so in a way the still thriving success of the series is still very in their hands.

The old Infinity Ward has been largely developing under a new name these days, Respawn Entertainment, and their promise to deliver a new science fiction FPS has not gone undelivered. Player-manned robots, sprawling urban environments, jet packs and what appears to be some objective based gameplay. Titanfall looks as though it's trying hard to take the best of vehicle mech titles like Starhawk and the upcoming Hawken, while at the same time keeping the fast paced arcade shooter feel that's largely defined modern FPS titles. Although details are still fairly light it's fair to say weapon customization for both the Titans and regular soldiers will likely be standard, leaving only to ask what customization options will be left out.

So far Infinity Ward has announced that Call of Duty Ghosts will feature a dog , the ability to peek around a corner, and better AI for fish in single player mode.

All facetiousness aside, it was startling to see that in the wake of so much competition around the corner, Activision wouldn't be pushing any of their star development teams to come up with a little more that a few new gimmicks. Not being cross-platform, Titanfall will have a hard time catching CoD in sales, but given the tremendous amount of disappointment coming from Ghosts' E3 showing we may be witnessing what's soon to be crunch time for Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Activision if they're hoping to keep their star IP in the spotlight.

It's a bit of fine justice for those who were rooting for West and Zampella during the initial lawsuit over Modern Warfare 2 employee payments, but on the same page a disappointment for those of us who have enjoyed Call of Duty so far.

Scrutiny over the core features of Ghosts isn't the only issue but Activision's entire attitude regarding the title has been rather poor. After all, they're already willing to cite what they believe will be lower sales simply because next gen consoles will be launching around the same time. Conversation amongst the various developers tells a just as conflicting story. One moment producer Mark Rubin assures us that they're not 'resting on their laurels' and Ghosts will feature 'a new engine'. Their own animation lead Zach Volker later clarifies that new actually means 'we upgraded the old engine'. If we weren't so used to industry hype the word most people would use for this is called lying or at least playing with the truth, rather flagrantly.

Another puzzling riddle is Ghosts' E3 multiplayer content. Where is it? It's not as though there are many people out there sitting for midnight releases because they're desperately looking for the next single player installment. Playing with friends has been the prime selling component of most AAA titles, and though a good single player experience will no doubt make you feel better about that day one purchase in the case of Call of Duty no one really cares. The lack of any real multiplayer content at E3 is an incredible disappointment because we expect the developers to bring and showcase their very best.

Watching Respawn Entertainment's incredible success and attention since announcement at E3 has been to Infinity Ward what the Xbox One is to the PlayStation 4 in many ways; one of many rivalries that benefit the consumers in the long run. The list of action-oriented titles that look to impress us this holiday season is pretty long so far, and though the arcade shooter will always have a place in the hearts mainstream gaming Activision is going to need to try much harder if they plan on making an impression.

Then again, they could always bring back Guitar Hero.

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