Sledgehammer was introduced to Activision at a very awkward time. The world’s largest third-party publisher had poached the creative minds behind Dead Space, Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, from EA and Visceral Games and put them to work on a third-person spin-off of the Call of Duty series that took place during the Vietnam War.
Shortly afterwards, Infinity Ward took a huge hit when much of the staff and its founding members left to form Respawn Entertainment in the middle of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Sledgehammer was forced to cancel “at least six to eight months” of work on their third-person shooter to cover the loss.
Of course, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 would go on to be the biggest game of the year, earning the new team nothing but stars in the eyes of Activision, but that enticing third-person shooter remains shrouded to this day.
Glen Schofield had a chat with Game Informer about the game, which very much sounds like a solid retooling of Dead Space‘s best mechanics to match the Call of Duty universe. The dark and horrific halls of the Ishimura starship had been replaced with the winding confusing jungles of Vietnam, and its undead inhabitants replaced with guerrilla fighters.
“We were definitely getting some Dead Space moments. I don’t mean that from sci-fi, I mean that was a war that was scary for the [American soldiers]. They didn’t know if in the jungle there was a booby trap, or what was in those tunnels. And there were thousands of miles of tunnel underground. It was a hidden war.”
Schofield went on to say that sensitivity of the Vietnam War along with the chance to work on the huge blockbuster release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 series were the final decisions to cease production and focus development of the main series without looking back.
“We found out as we were researching it as well, all around the world it’s actually known as America’s war. Not Vietnam’s. We were the only ones that called it the Vietnam War. It’s kind of unpopular. And we didn’t really understand the marketing aspect of that.”
That sentiment obviously didn’t reside in the halls of Activision as Vietnam was used as the setting in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, although far in the future and not revolving around the actual historical war.
Schofield mentions that he would like to revisit the third-person project if Activision were to request it, but that is not likely to happen. The publisher has decided to dedicate three studios to the CoD franchise, giving each game in the annual franchise into a three year development cycle. Sledgehammer has been included in this rotation, and it will unlikely be able to break the cycle for the chance to work on an unproven formula.
It’s a shame really, because a single player third-person Dead Space inspired spin-off is probably the only way Activision could get me to buy a Call of Duty game these days.