Beneath the military exterior of Call of Duty, it tends to shed its demeanor in its cosmetics. Just last year I paid $2 to customize my guns in Black Ops 4 with a cherry blossom skin. I felt it was a low point for me in terms of impulse buys, but it's something that a lot of Call of Duty players seem to do, as much as they also want the shooter to stick to its camouflaged roots. (Only my guess is most don't see a pastel pink skin and think, 'gimme!' like me.)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is looking to be the exception to the rule. How character and gun cosmetic customization ends up looking has been a big point of discussion in the grander Call of Duty community as of late. At a Modern Warfare multiplayer event this week, I asked multiplayer design director Geoffrey Smith and animation director Mark Grigsby if any such colorful cosmetics would be making their way into Modern Warfare's otherwise more grounded style.
"I don't think that's possible with Joel [Emslie, the art director]. He has a very, very specific taste," Smith says as the two developers laugh. "And I think that all of us really want to make sure that everything kind of stays in the vein of what we're making. As soon as you start adding those out into the environment, it starts kind of getting away from it."
Still, they're apprehensive to say there's zero chance of some flair coming to Modern Warfare—"I'm sure there's some wiggle room there," says Grigsby—it just might be more toned down in its cosmetic offerings than other recent Call of Duty games.
"In general, I think that when you start really saturating those colors, it starts breaking away from our aesthetic," says Smith. "Where we can still keep different bright colors, it's just we've gotta knock down the saturation to kind of sit within the scene. I mean, we work really hard to make everything kind of fit within the world; environment stuff to all these things and everything is balanced and light adjusted so any of the additional content that we put out should fit in that world."
The character models themselves are split between two factions: Coalition and Allegiance. Within each faction are different subfactions (inspired by "the entire world of badass groups") and unique characters where you can pick and choose your go-to soldier. In one, for example, you could play as a man with a cool poncho and aviator glasses; another looked like a dude I would avoid at all costs just on account of his preferred style of sunglasses. The two factions are described by Smith as being a throwback to the roots of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
"We really had these strong distinct sides back in the day, from Favela gang to Rangers, and we wanted to keep that aesthetic," says Smith. "A lot of the recent games have been more like, I guess you could say like PMC [Private Military Company], where everybody's just kind of their own person and they're all mixed ranks."
While Infinity Ward and Activision aren't discussing how microtransactions will work yet, Modern Warfare will not include a season pass, meaning all the maps added post-launch will be at no additional cost. It's introducing input-based crossplay too, so you can gather all your gamepad-playing friends on PC with your console pals. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is set to release on October 25 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.