Despite the studio only being founded in 2009, Sledgehammer Games has worked on several high-profile Call of Duty titles in its twelve years.
By Richard Warren
Published Apr 26, 2021
Through all the Call of Duty 2021 rumors that have been spread thus far, one of the most common points made by leakers is that Sledgehammer Games will be the developer for this year’s release. Though this has not yet been officially confirmed by Activision, there has been no shortage of red flags that point to the developer’s role in the project. If these rumors prove true, this will be the sixth entry in the franchise that Sledgehammer has worked on — and the third that it has developed on its own.
With such a storied history, Call of Duty fans looking to get an idea of Sledgehammer Games’ past work have plenty to pull from. While some will be a better indicator of what the 2021 game could look like, as the games fully developed by Sledgehammer provide the best indication, all the studio’s past work is worthy of consideration. As such, here is every Call of Duty project that Sledgehammer Games has developed or assisted with since it was founded.
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When Sledgehammer Games was founded, its very first project was a scrapped third person shooter named Call of Duty: Vietnam. A solid move due to several Sledgehammer Games members previously working on the Dead Space series, the concept certainly sounded appealing. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as Sledgehammer Games instead needed to support Infinity Ward with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s development. Tensions between Activision and Infinity Ward led to half of the studio quitting, eventually forming Respawn Entertainment. As a result, Sledgehammer Games did a lot of the work to bring Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s campaign and multiplayer to the finish line, with the game still proving a financial and critical success.
Come 2014, Sledgehammer Games finally had the chance to develop its own Call of Duty game. Rather than returning to its ideas for a Vietnam title, though, the studio thrust the Call of Duty series into the future. A move that remains divisive to this day, as it took away boots-on-the-ground gameplay in favor of exo suits, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare remains interesting. The first of three futuristic Call of Duty games, the project introduced some concepts that became series staples.
More than ever before, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare focused on character customization. This saw the very first supply drops introduced, a loot box system that would prove controversial for years. Alongside futuristic gadgets, weapons, and abilities, players were treated to a campaign that focused on the rise and fall of the Atlas Corporation. A decent story propelled by the now-infamous actor Kevin Spacey, the mercenary-focused narrative is remembered fondly by those that played it. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare also featured Exo Zombies, and while the mode was received negatively by fans, it was the first attempt at the Survival mode from a studio other than Treyarch.
A direct response to the harsh criticism of the futuristic trend of the series, Call of Duty: WW2 brought a boots-on-the-ground focus back to Call of Duty. In complete contrast to the the tone established in Sledgehammer’s previous game, Call of Duty: WW2 offered a realistic campaign that opened with the beaches of Normandy being stormed. Weaponry was accurate to the 1940s setting, and locations were inspired by places where real battles took place.
The game also introduced the interesting Headquarters feature, which was essentially a hub for players to meet up with others online. Like the Tower from the Destiny series, players could pick up contracts, emote, and complete small easter eggs throughout the military base. Features like a 1v1 arena and shooting range were plenty of fun, too, though the area never really caught on with fans. Ahead of its time, server issues and slower load times saw the Headquarters idea being an afterthought — though it would be great to see another attempt made. Call of Duty: WW2 also featured what was arguably the best non-Treyarch version of Zombies, as the mode doubled down on horror to deliver some awesome designs for the undead. Even with its strengths, though, the game was disliked by fans due to weak multiplayer maps, poor balancing, and the odd Divisions system.
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Following the lukewarm reception to Call of Duty: WW2, Sledgehammer Games took on the role of support studio once again. Assisting Infinity Ward with the development of the well-received reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the developer found more success with the Modern Warfare subseries. While it remains to be seen if Sledgehammer Games will once again provide support for 2022’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, its help with the 2019 game is worthy of appreciation. At the same time, its role in development was far smaller than Infinity Ward’s this time around, as Infinity Ward had since recovered from the issues it was dealing with back in 2011.
Call of Duty 2020 was originally meant to be a Sledgehammer release, with the three-year cycle continuing. Unfortunately, development struggles saw Sledgehammer Games struggling to get its game to the finish line, meaning that Treyarch had to step in to finish its development. In turn, the 2020 release became Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, with Treyarch focusing on multiplayer while Raven Software made the campaign. Sledgehammer also assisted, though Treyarch being forced to step in ahead of its scheduled 2021 release is likely why the launch for the game was so buggy. It could explain the lack of maps at launch as well, with everything set back by the move.
Call of Duty’s 2021 release may mark the start of a new three-year cycle, as Sledgehammer Games is reportedly set to make its first game since 2017’s Call of Duty: WW2. In fact, the game will apparently boast a World War 2 setting, something that already gives it some key similarities to Sledgehammer’s previous solo outing. It will be interesting to see how Sledgehammer makes the overused setting of the second World War feel fresh, especially with how like it is to be compared to Call of Duty: WW2.
The supposed cross-gen release for this year’s Call of Duty game will ensure that it is visually similar to recent entries, with visual fidelity likely to be only slightly improved for next-gen owners. With a Zombies mode appearing in both of Sledgehammer’s previous solo games, it seems likely that the 2021 release will feature the undead once again. Beyond this, Sledgehammer will likely introduce a never-before-seen feature, as it did the same with supply drops and Headquarters in the past. With skill-based matchmaking and Call of Duty: Warzone integration also rumored, the 2021 game is certainly shaping up to be intriguing. Hopefully, Sledgehammer Games can win over fans with its latest game, as the studio has yet to deliver a crowd-pleasing subseries like Black Ops or Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty 2021 is in development for unspecified platforms.
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A lifelong gamer and comics fan who loves writing about everything in nerd culture… and has a small addiction to trophy and achievement hunting.
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