It’s been noted in some circles that the single-player campaigns in recent outings of the Call Of Duty franchise have been a touch on the skimpy side. And while there have been a ton of fun secrets and Call Of Duty Easter eggs in these same games over the years, it can’t be denied that six hours apiece for the story modes in Vanguard, Modern Warfare 2019, and Black Ops: Cold War has felt short. Now, it’s a given at this point that these games are more and more geared toward multiplayer action. But more could be done to beef up the campaigns, and one relatively easy solution would be to incorporate mini-games.
There have been mini-games in shooters previously; think the Squid Jump game in Splatoon, or the three mini-games in Timespltters 2. However, those have been cartoonish side gimmicks rather than games that would fit into a world of realistic combat. To liven up the next Call Of Duty installment (and add a bit of length to the campaign) developers could instead base new content on what soldiers have actually done to entertain themselves at war in the past. While the very idea of recreation on the front lines sounds bizarre, we actually know quite a bit about how soldiers have amused themselves. And based on that knowledge, the following mini-games would all make for appropriate inclusions….
One of the most famous (and heavily romanticized) moments of World War 1 was Christmas Day 1914, when the Allied and German soldiers put down arms, climbed out of the trenches, and played soccer. Activision hasn’t published a soccer game for a long time: The last was a 1989 home conversion of SNK coin-op Fighting Soccer. But the studio probably doesn’t need a ton of experience to build in a mini-game. For that matter, the folks at Activision could also potentially convert code from the soccer mini-game in its Kinect title Big League Sports. Whatever the case, it would be quite a new experience for soldiers to be able to take a break and kick a ball around in the next CoD game.
While some older films sought to portray war as heroic, and more recent films show it as hell, Sam Mendes’s 2005 hit Jarhead gave us an odd perspective that war is, above all, monotonous. Endless remedial training, countless routine drills, and a general sense that it’s all for naught pervade the film. Now, some gamers may recall certain button-bashing sports games like Hyper Sports or Winter Games, wherein victory relied on nothing more than hammering the keyboard (or wagging a joystick) as fast as you could. Some may remember the 1997 game Combat School by Konami –– in which seven wrist-breaking stages of drills like obstacle courses and arm wrestling lead up to an impossible shooting mission in which one hit results in death. It’s kind of bleak, but the same sort of challenge (maybe without the wrist breaking) could make for a good mini-game.
No, not the wooden kid with the big nose…. Around the time of World War 2, the card game Pinochle was quite popular. For those who don’t know it (it isn’t as popular today), the game is similar to rummy, and played between two teams of two players, such that it could keep four soldiers entertained at once. In the real world, it’s a fairly long game too, with games lasting up to five hours –– which no doubt helps to while away the hours on a night watch inside a barracks. We don’t imagine anyone would want to play for quite that long within a CoD experience, but a scaled-down version as a co-op mini-game could work quite well.
Card games have always been popular with troops, and it makes perfect sense. Cards are small, easy to carry, and even circumvent language barriers. There have been many variants of poker played by soldiers over the centuries, but these days it seems everybody knows how to play Texas Hold’em. It can be played by as few as two players or by a whole section of 10, with each player being dealt two individual cards and then using the five cards dealt on the table to make the best hand. We don’t necessarily know which types of poker have been “in” during which wars in history, but modern gamers would appreciate this as another mini-game option –– perhaps in particular if any sort of in-game loot or items could be staked on betting outcomes.
Have you ever wanted to be Vince Carter or Zach LaVine lighting up the NBA Dunk Contest, but been thwarted by not being 6-foot-5 with a 40-inch vertical leap? Well, that would be many of us, and there is a solution: zero gravity. Astronauts and cosmonauts have played badminton aboard the ISS, and astronaut Leland Melvin has spoken of a game called “float ball” as being “like basketball but with more hang time.” Now, that doesn’t sound like a fit for the average setting we’ve seen in recent CoD installments. But if an upcoming game were to revisit the outer space setting and zero gravity mechanics of the Infinite Warfare outing, then perhaps some sporting games pre- or post-stage as you decompress from the action would be in order.
We all have fond memories of mini-games in storied franchises –– going to the casino in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas… taking time out of the tag-team tournament for 10-pin bowling in Tekken… Given the joy these small experiences brought us, it’s fair to wonder if Call Of Duty is missing out on something that could go beyond an Easter egg to truly enhance campaign mode with a bit more fun.