Electronic Arts, Epic Games and People Can Fly ramped-up their marketing campaign for the forthcoming Bulletstorm today, with the launch of a brand new website and offer of a free game, Duty Calls. Duty Calls is of course ripping on the phenomenally popular Call of Duty franchise, but in that respect does it have the edge on Activision’s cash cow? Is this even a relevant question?
Obviously a parody of the gameplay seen in Activision’s long-running franchise, Duty Calls is surprisingly well designed. More than just a five minute snigger in Call of Duty’s direction, Duty Calls is a pioneering piece of marketing design, akin to any digitally delivered games intended to market their respective father title (Fable Pub Games and Kingmaker, for example) and yet most certainly a more inspired experience. Duty Calls isn’t an invitation to build your character early or offer additional in-game rewards; it’s an invitation to join in with an entirely new experience in the outrageously comical vein of Bulletstorm.
Of course, intended to entice players to purchase Bulletstorm, Duty Calls does have a great level of humour that’s all of its own: working with both the player’s expectations and for the in-game actors. Be it the levelling-up system, the ‘boring’ sound effect added to every shot or disregard for artificial life, Duty Calls is elegantly written and fantastically presented. The player follows a linear route through the game, taking out only a handful of enemies before its climax. Duty Calls only lasts a few minutes, but in that time it manages to present as much character as many games do in a ten hour duration. This, of course, is the intention of the confidently designed piece of software: Duty Calls isn’t actually a game, but an interactive marketing tool. It’s an infomercial for the modern era.
Despite the fact that Duty Calls is a fairly lightweight presentation, it’s as visually impressive as anything the last console generation offered. This of course only enhances the impact the software will have upon the users, as the graphical prowess of the game is an enticement to continue fourth just as much as the intriguingly askew gameplay scenario.
As a marketing tool, Duty Calls is undoubtedly a generational leap. Delivering the humorous pastiche that has become expected of comic book tie-ins or short trailers, but in an interactive experience. Epic Games and People Can Fly has certainly pushed the boat out when it comes to Bulletstorm’s marketing campaign, but in Duty Calls you will find one of the most intelligent deliveries the videogames industry has ever seen. In short, Duty Calls is simply not to be taken lightly.