This document examines in brief the narrative structure and other primary information elements of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games, 2014). The research considers the product and its materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.
1.1. Advanced future
Born with the homonymous first chapter (2003), the famous videogame series of Call of Duty has focused its success on representing first-person war scenarios between historical, recent and future conflicts, managing to define a recognizable stylistic dimension and to establish important commercial results, becoming an iconic product of the entire creative industry and a brand having a strong economic and cultural impact.
Conscious of a constantly changing sector context, the result sought in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare had to assess the introduction of specific elements of innovation with the difficult task of increasing the narrative and interactive potential of a videogame title that has become a symbol and synonym of adrenaline-filled military entertainment. Sledgehammer Games has thus had the delicate responsibility to evaluate how to condition the future development paths of all the intellectual property of Activision by introducing its creative vision between totalitarian scenarios, exoskeletons, special abilities and evolved weapons, drones and suspended vehicles. And all this with the added difficulty of being able to maintain the product recognizable by building a distinct and competitive identity.
The choice of a futuristic vision (also seen in Black Ops II, 2012; and Ghosts, 2013), has continued to project the public inside scenarios with a techno-scientific orientation, still leaving the original dimension of play of Call of Duty (born by representing World War II with a high level of realism), recently returned with Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games, 2017) after the sci-fi titles with the bionic and spatial component of Black Ops III (Treyarch, 2015) and Infinite Warfare (Infinite Ward, 2016).
After over three years of development, six months of promotional activity (including indiscretions, previews and exclusive reviews), over two hundred professionals involved and an important commercial responsibility toward millions of users, on November 4, 2014 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare became officially available for sale. It was soon declared the best-selling entertainment product of 2014, the first among videogame, cinema, editorial (books) and music products, increasing the historical total sales value of Call of Duty to over 10 billion dollars.
1.2. Story (summary)
2054. Discharged due to the amputation reported during the battle of Seoul, Marines veteran Jack Mitchell begins a new career in Atlas Corporation, the most powerful private military company in the world, presided over by the charismatic Jonathan Irons. Rehabilitated for service thanks to an exclusive advanced prosthesis, Jack is trained with Gideon and soon embarks on Atlas’ operational missions against the KVA, an emerging terrorist group led by Hades, a Georgian extremist. When a nuclear attack provokes an unprecedented humanitarian crisis (2055), Atlas is in charge of restoring order and reconstructing the affected cities, entirely replacing the authority of national governments, controlling services and infrastructures of entire continents.
Four years later (2059) Jack, Gideon and Ilona are on duty in Greece, hunting for Hades. Before being mortally wounded in an armed confrontation, the terrorist accuses Jonathan Irons of leaving a memory device with incriminating material to Jack and Ilona. Mitchell and Ilona are arrested, but they manage to escape with the unexpected help of Cormack, Jack’s sergeant in Korea, now head of Sentinel, a special military unit created to counter the controversial conduct of Atlas. After a radical authoritarian drift, an attack with explosive drones in San Francisco and an armed clash against the US Navy (2060), Atlas is now declared a global enemy, and an international coalition decides to intervene.
During the decisive battle of New Baghdad (2061), Irons authorizes the use of Manticore, a lethal chemical weapon, exterminating the invading army. Mitchell, Gideon, Ilona and Cormack survive and are captured and interned in an Atlas concentration camp and here sentenced to death. Mitchell and Gideon succeed in escaping and attempt to save Cormack (mortally wounded by Irons). They decide to go back to the city to fight and thwart an intercontinental Manticore missile attack and sabotage Irons’ plans to conquer the world.
Now defeated in a last physical confrontation with Jack on top of a building, the president of Atlas falls from the building but remains alive, hanging onto Mitchell’s artificial arm. Despite pleas, Jack decides to brutally sever his prosthesis with a knife, thus making Irons precipitate, screaming, into the flames.
2. Analysis: world, elements and narration
By adopting a very synthetic approach, we indicate the dominant structural components of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare considering four main items, with the related information elements established during the creative process.
The scenario and the settings considered in the time interval between 2054 and 2061, in line with the main story and with Jack Mitchell’s personal experience during the military service and career as an operator at Atlas Corporation and then at Sentinel.
The series of situations and events of the story, with the relative actions of temporal, personal and collective change.
The subject chosen as the only primary protagonist (Jack Mitchell), a young US citizen involved in military operations (Marine Corps) and corporate operations (Atlas Corporation) during the period spanning from July 10, 2054 to January 8, 2061.
The futuristic-themed technological context, including tactical instrumentation, analog and digital systems, civil and military vehicles, and their interaction mechanisms in a virtual environment.
The story of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare evolves in a futuristic narrative context with a dystopian and militaristic theme having a strong mechanical component (with exoskeletal systems and advanced prosthetic implants), over a period of seven years (2054–2061). The world scenario underlines and amplifies the main war context, including areas of armed conflict (the initial US intervention in defense of Seoul against the North Korean army); a growing international terrorist threat (the KVA headed by the extremist Hades, guilty of countless attacks), and the controversial economic rise of multiple private military companies that have now become independent powers with the operational capacity to evade international standards and strike entire nations ( as is the case with Jonathan Irons’ Atlas Corporation, determined to conquer the world with its own corporate army).
“What happens when an organization […] can operate outside of the Geneva Convention […] What if that got out of control? […] We thought that was fascinating and provocative.”
The choice of a historical period in the future has allowed us to reconsider the usual narrative and interactive properties of Call of Duty. In the creative phase, we embarked on a quest for the introduction of innovative elements (both by assessing the performance level of available devices and by studying the known fictional worlds). We succeeded in determining a different videogame experience compared to previous stories (altering the era, the environments, the weapons, history, animated transitions, interactive modes), but one that is simultaneously recognizable and renewed, in a stylistic dimension now endowed with a promising futuristic connotation with a realistic orientation, obtained by excluding all materials and industrial products deemed incompatible with the world conceived.
“Being able to conceive a vision of a future time excluding science fiction elements has been very difficult. […] It took about six months. […] We looked for references, but I can’t find one movie in which it is the future but not sci-fi.”
2.1.3. Cardinal elements
The introduction of an unpublished narrative universe set in a future world (the 2014 projected ahead of 40–50 years maintaining a relatively plausible vision), has facilitated the alteration of many characterizing properties and expanded the prospects of serial development. This entailed the complex task of deciding which foundational choices to adopt and which to exclude, which structural innovations to introduce and which to postpone, aware of radically conditioning the sectoral context and commercial expectations.
Reconstructing the main creative coordinates of CoD: Advanced Warfare, five cardinal foundations were detected, i.e. the set of fundamental narrative requirements to conceive and support the world and the internal videogame narrative considering:
- Arsenal (advanced technological context)
Description: how and with what instruments the human body relates to the surrounding reality (movement, appearance, vision, communication) and which modes of behavior are possible in different contexts (defensive, offensive, evasive, communicative, medical).
Connotation: propulsion exoskeletons and heavy armor, hybrid and multi-function weapons, temporary invisibility, grappling hook, armed drones, automatic mobile shields, augmented reality, suspended motorcycles and quadruped tanks have completely revolutionized combat modes, affording unprecedented tactical action.
- Terrorism (Hades’ KVA)
Description: hostile and deadly entity, enemy of the prevailing values; reason of moral and military conflict, and cause of continuous changes (missions, terrorist attack, growth of Atlas, revelation of complicity, final revolution).
Connotation: the KVA, a movement of Chechen separatists under the command of Joseph Chkheidze, aka Hades, has carried out terrorist attacks on every continent. The KVA represents a totally destructive enemy entity, thus ennobling Atlas’ war cause and by supporting the experience of Jack Mitchell, motivating its ideological opposition and corporate loyalty.
- Hero (Jack Mitchell)
Description: the chosen observer, the controlled body, male figure with a precise mental profile (mutilated military veteran, friendship loss, rehabilitation, moral choice, betrayal, redemption), specific physical limits (articular mutilation replaced with an advanced prosthesis) in continuous relation with the surrounding world (events, people, instruments, spaces).
Connotation: the world observed and known through the story of Jack Mitchell, first as a Marine recruiter on a mission to Korea (2054), then as an active Atlas operator against the KVA (2055–2059), and finally as a chosen soldier in Sentinel (2060–2061) ) deployed against Jonathan Irons, discovered to be a traitor and an enemy.
- Authority (Atlas)
Description: positive and saving entity (fighting terrorism, offering Jack a career), producer of advanced systems (tactical arsenal, rehabilitative prosthesis), primary context of theoretical and practical knowledge (politics, science and military industry, Jack’s training and the corporate operational context), personal and moral reference (the paternal and supportive Jonathan Irons, the fraternal Gideon and Ilona), activator of serial experiences and geographical variables (the numerous anti-terrorist missions against Hades).
Connotation: private military company with enormous resources, Atlas, owned by Jonathan Irons, introduces Jack Mitchell in a series of international missions against the KVA, showing the violent reality of a world in a constant state of tension, danger and crisis, where national security and authority are contracted out to private industries.
- Revelation (Sentinel)
Description: unexpected, unfathomable and initially omitted, capable of rewriting perceived truth and reversing the existential roles of entities and people by changing the pre-established primary order in the world (Atlas is good/KVA is the enemy; KVA is defeated, Atlas becomes the enemy; Jack joins Sentinel against Irons), with new interpersonal relationships (Cormack’s return, the new Knox and McDonnell), possibly with its own unique arsenal (ex: the exoskeleton with invisibility function and continuous propulsion flight), a military plane).
Connotation: special military unit created in collaboration with the US and international armed forces with the aim of countering Atlas’ totalitarian ascent especially after the nuclear attack by the KVA (2055).
2.1.4. Narrative levels
The futuristic world manifests itself through the point of view of Jack Mitchell considering a time interval between 2054 and 2061. Engaged in Korea with the Marines, Jack personally knows the radical changes in military conflicts. In service as an Atlas operator, he supports the company’s rise by performing missions and killing Hades. Recruited in Sentinel, he hinders Atlas’ totalitarian plans and personally causes the death of Irons. Jack’s personal experience is therefore interconnected with a series of related narrative contexts — both dependent and subordinate — mutually active through the entire fictional world (pre-existent and encompassing Jack), the corporate history of Atlas (even in events prior to the videogame story), and the recent Mitchell’s experience (2054–2061).
The chosen intellectual property is therefore expressed with the triple cognitive relationship between World-Atlas-Jack (and vice versa, given the centrality of Jack as an observer and primary actor), reciprocally circumscribing a specific narrative space where videogame interaction takes place and where relative information elements are accessed.
The information structure is supported by establishing a relationship between three primary narrative levels:
- Level 0 (or matrix level)
It represents the entire future fictional world (including cultural aspects, techno-scientific contexts, nations, conflicts, people and territories) in a period that spans before and after the 2054–2061 interval. Given the large amount of material, the first narrative level can be interpreted as a matrix of infinite applicative possibilities, where the videogame story presented is only the result of an extrapolation of information. This is done by isolating the historical space of Atlas and the reduced experiential point of view of Jack Mitchell within a circumscribed temporal space and situational context (corresponding to the perceptible and visible limits with the chosen story).
- Level 1
It represents the history of Atlas Corporation in a period before and after the story of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It also includes the contextual coordinates extracted from the fictional world (Level 0) for the formulation of Level 1 (e.g.: in the future, private military companies replace the regular army, technological progress has changed the war industry, terrorism is an international threat , and other founding conditions).
- Level 2
It represents Jack Mitchell’s personal experience in CoD: AW.
It indicates the protagonist’s limited biographical segment distributed among recruitment in the Marines, his career in Atlas Corporation, his entry in Sentinel and the general world conditions. Visibly, Jack’s World-Atlas cognitive experience is limited and partial.
- Undefined level
It represents all the unexplored narrative possibilities of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It is the result understood considering all the areas left without interaction with other levels:
[(Lev.0 + Lev.1 + Lev.2) — (Inters. 1 + Inters. 2)] = U.L.
The undefined level indicates all the narrative potential yet unexpressed, and therefore ready to be elaborated in further products and in transmedia initiatives within the creative universe of Call of Duty. 
2.1.5. Narrative development
The story develops along 15 missions, distributed in 12 geographical locations and resolved through interaction in 3 distinct military factions:
- 15 missions
Induction — recruited in the Marines, Jack fights in the forefront in Seoul.
Atlas — rehabilitated with an advanced prosthesis, Jack Mitchell enters Atlas.
Traffic — the first Atlas mission against the KVA.
Fission — KVA succeeds in detonating a series of nuclear reactors.
Aftermath — search and capture of Pierre Danois (KVA collaborator).
Manhunt — Jack, Ilona and Gideon find and kill Hades.
Utopia — Jack and Ilona find evidence and testify against Atlas.
Sentinel– Jack and Ilona enter a special military unit against Atlas.
Crash — Jack, Cormack and Ilona retrieve one of Atlas’ chemical weapons.
Bio Lab — Jack, Gideon and Cormack sabotage one of Atlas’ chemical laboratories.
Collapse — an attack by Atlas destroys the San Francisco bridge.
Armada — Atlas attacks US military ships.
Throttle — an international coalition and Sentinel side against Atlas.
Captured — Jack, Gideon, Ilona and Cormack are captured. Cormack dies.
Terminus — Jack and Gideon block a global chemical attack by Atlas. Jack kills Jonathan Irons. Gideon rescues Jack.
- 12 locations
Seoul (South Korea; Jack fights with Will Irons and Cormack)
Arlington (Virginia, USA; Will Irons’ funeral; Jack meets Jonathan)
Fort David (Maryland, USA; training in Atlas with Gideon and Joker)
Lagos (Nigeria; first mission against the KVA; release of hostages)
Seattle (Washington, USA; Atlas fails against the KVA; nuclear attack)
Detroit (Michigan, USA; the city is in ruins; Pierre Danois is captured)
Santorini (Greece; killing of Hades; accusation against Jonathan Irons).
New Baghdad (Iraq; 2 missions: arrest and flight of Jack and Ilona, death of Irons)
Bangkok (Thailand; Irons’ villa: recovery of confidential information)
Darwin Glacier (Antarctica; recovery of the Manticore load)
Strandja (Bulgaria; destruction of Manticore laboratory)
San Francisco (California, USA; Atlas becomes a terrorist entity)
- 3 factions
Marine Corps (1 mission)
Atlas Corporation (6 missions)
Sentinel Task Force (8 missions)
2.1.6. Visual synthesis
The story of Advanced Warfare develops along eight key events:
(Note: texts and numbering are reported with extremely brief criteria).
- 1. Seoul attack + Death of Will Irons
Together in the Marines, Jack, Will and Cormack fight in Seoul against the North Korean army. Will is killed. Saved by Cormack, Jack returns to his homeland mutilated, meets the entrepreneur Jonathan Irons, and enters Atlas.
- 2. Training + First Atlas mission
After completing his corporate training with Gideon, Joker and Ilona, Jack undertakes a series of international missions as an Atlas operator.
- 3. Worldwide terrorist attack + Humanitarian crisis + Atlas power
Hades and the KVA simultaneously strike a series of nuclear reactors, causing intercontinental devastation. Atlas is in charge of rebuilding the affected cities and becomes an indisputable power.
- 4. Capture of Pierre Danois
Atlas captures a collaborator of Hades and manages to discover the position of an imminent meeting between KVA financiers planned in Santorini, Greece. Going against international treaties, Atlas decides to intervene militarily.
- 5. Killing of Hades
Before he dies, Hades accuses Jonathan Irons and leaves a memory device containing confidential material to Jack and Ilona.
- 6. Sentinel Task Force
Having discovered the complicity between Irons and Hades, Jack and Ilona side with Cormack in Sentinel, a special military unit created to fight the controversial totalitarian drift of Atlas.
- 7. Attack in San Francisco
Atlas forces destroy the Golden Gate Bridge with explosive drones and attack the US military fleet.
- 8. International Coalition + The End of Irons
Now set against the entire world, Irons finds shelter in New Baghdad where he uses the chemical weapon Manticore and tortures enemy soldiers. After Cormack’s death, Gideon and Jack carry out a definitive mission, succeeding in preventing an intercontinental chemical attack and finally killing Irons.
2.2. Key entity
2.2.1. Atlas Corporation
Atlas is the symbol of a future world in constant tension between political instability and armed conflicts, between institutional crises and international terrorism, where a private company managed to become the world’s first financial and war power, avoiding or almost entirely replacing state authority. Atlas’ techno-social context recalls affinities with multiple aspects of today’s world, including political, economic and moral issues, defining a futuristic dystopian context with a militaristic component.
“We are a super-power for hire. […] Because politicians don’t know how to solve problems. But I do.”
“Ideas don’t determine who’s right. Power determines who’s right. And I have the power. So I’m right.”
With a personal army available, virtually unlimited funds, private training centers and an exclusive, technically advanced arsenal, Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), founder and president of Atlas, represents a charismatic and idealistic man, skilled in commercial relations and also willing to make extreme decisions (including armed interventions, murder and creation of chemical weapons) with the conviction of being able to definitively resolve the world’s problems in opposition to politicians and institutions considered incapable of really helping humanity.
Irons’ personal profile evolves into an existential cycle with a vindictive, self-congratulatory and self-destructive tendency, between family mourning (Will’s death), resentment and disappointment (against the army and the US government) and business growth (through military missions and intercontinental collaborations), and determines an absolutist drift (with terrorist attacks, forced detention, torture) towards fatal and catastrophic outcomes (international conflict and death).
In a summary list, we assess Atlas’ business evolution, indicating the main phases taking place in the period 2054–2061:
- International growth
Present as an independent entity in Korea during the North Korean invasion of Seoul (2054), and operating in infrastructural works in several nations, Atlas is experiencing an important moment of growth when the terrorist activity of Hades — head of KVA — begins to represent a serious and constant danger (March 2055). The positive period for the company coincides with the arrival and training of Jack Mitchell (concluded in February 2055), wanted in Atlas after the death of Will Irons, a fellow comrade who died in Korea due to an accidental explosion.
It is Will’s father, Jonathan Irons, who recruits the mutilated veteran Jack in the company with the promise of a new life.
- Fight against terrorism
During 2055, Hades’ terrorist activity intensified initially in Nigeria (abduction in Lagos, March 7), and continued with an assault on the Seattle nuclear power plant (United States, April 28). The attack simultaneously affects all the major international nuclear power plants in the United States, Europe and Asia, causing destruction, contamination, evacuations, and over fifty thousand victims: the world plunges into an unprecedented total crisis.
- Humanitarian crisis
Entrusted with bringing order and peace around the world after the catastrophic nuclear attack, Atlas is called upon to provide relief services, security, transportation, housing, and to rebuild entire cities, making huge profits. The company, now as powerful as a nation, thus began to control vast urban areas by administering their operations, resources, telecommunications, population, territorial borders, making executive decisions without institutional restrictions for a period of more than four years (2055–2059).
- Chemical weapons
The killing of Hades during an Atlas operation (Santorini, September 13, 2059) accidentally reveals Jonathan Irons’ terrorist complicity with the Seattle nuclear attack to Mitchell and Ilona. Discovered with incriminating materials against Irons, Jack and Ilona are arrested. They succeed in escaping, and are recruited into Sentinel (Cormack’s special military unit created against Atlas’ authoritarian drift). Their activity allows publicly accusing Irons and revealing the existence of Manticore, a devastating chemical weapon developed in a corporate laboratory.
- Corporate terrorism
After compromising himself in an incriminating speech against the United Nations, Irons decides to attack the US Navy in California (June 15, 2060). The attack with a swarm of explosive drones first causes the collapse of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and then it is extended to military ships in transit. The attack definitively exposes Atlas’ hostility towards the free world and anticipates the beginning of an international conflict.
- Open conflict
In New Baghdad, deployed with the Atlas army in the city, Irons uses Manticore to decimate Allied soldiers and Sentinel units (January 8, 2061). Jack, Gideon, Ilona and Cormack are captured and transferred to an Atlas concentration camp. Having managed to escape with Ilona and Cormack (who later dies), Jack and Gideon discover an imminent missile attack with Manticore, aimed at all the major military bases in the world with the intent of rendering Atlas invincible.
- Death of Jonathan Irons
The final scuffle with Jack Mitchell on top of a building sees Irons suspended in space, hanging from Jack’s joint prosthesis. After Irons’ delirious claims, between echoes of paternity and threatening tones, Mitchell decides to brutally remove his artificial arm using a knife, dropping Irons screaming into the flames.
“What I’ve started won’t end with me. It’s bigger than me.” —Jonathan Irons
Despite the decisive death of Jonathan Irons (January 8, 2061), it is possible to predict how the story of Atlas will involve further armed clashes, arrests, trials, political scandals, new international treaties, dismantling of arsenals, corporate mergers and many other related events, possibly representable in a transmedia communication architecture that explores diversified narrative intervals through interdependent stories and products.
Once the primary narrative context is defined (delimited with the future interval 2054–2061), the story describes the personal experience of Jack Mitchell, a Marine recruit, sent, after six months of service, into combat action in Seoul against the invading North Korean army.
During the first operational mission in Korea, Mitchell sees his friend Will Irons die and survives a violent explosion but loses his left arm. Returning to his homeland mutilated and unemployed, during Will’s funeral, Jack meets Jonathan Irons, president of Atlas, an impressive private military company. The promise of rehabilitation with an advanced prosthesis, an exclusive training and a stable career convinces Jack to enter the company: it is the beginning of a new existential phase for him.
“After Korea, I thought I was done. But Irons gave me something to believe in.”—Jack Mitchell
Mitchell’s point of view as an Atlas operator active in serial missions against Hades, allows quickly changing the videogame experience, altering environments (artificial and natural), locations (missions in the city with diversified architectural spaces urban, wooded, tropical, marine, arctic areas), equipment, weapons and modes of interaction (adaptive tactical equipment in line with the intended objective). This allows restoring a variable and dynamic interactive context, which demonstrates the potential to concentrate the entire narrative development in a single main hero, deepening its emotional profile in one, uniform linear narrative.
He’s a normal guy. Just joined the military. […] We wanted a guy who started off as anybody […] He starts out as a normal guy and we see him growing over the course of six-eight years.
The seven-year story described with multiple existential changes in Jack (patriotic duty, bereavement, rehabilitation, career, moral choice, alliance, redemption, sacrifice) and the series of cardinal military events (divided into 15 missions, carried out with 3 distinct factions: Marines, Atlas, Sentinel) make the many locations (ranging from Korea, the United States, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Thailand, Greece, Iraq, and the relative internal spatial diversification) explorable, ostensibly simulating Mitchell’s entire personal and professional development. From the initial key event (the traumatic conflict in Seoul as a recruit); his growth as a professional (career in Atlas); his decisive awareness (with Sentinel against Jonathan Irons), to an open and positive ending (the death of Irons and victory against Atlas), alternating physical condition, moods, and personal decisions.
In summary, Jack Mitchell’s life can be represented by considering six types of existential conditions (possibly divisible into further components) useful to identify which emotional states, and hence which narrative implications, the story includes:
The death of Will Irons causes Jack the amputation of an arm followed by a deep sense of pain and impotence. Back home two weeks after the accident, Mitchell finds himself alone, disabled and unemployed, destined for an uncertain future.
After the funeral ceremony dedicated to Will, the meeting with Jonathan Irons affords Jack the opportunity for a new life with medical care and advanced technologies available (the exclusive joint replacement owned by Atlas), the necessary tactical training, and a real prospect of professional growth in the military. The entry into the company, shared with comrades Gideon, Joker and Ilona, helps Jack find new motivations and a positive psychophysical state.
Welcomed, trained and cared for, Jack finds in Atlas a new existential purpose: special friendships (Gideon, Joker and Ilona), personal gratitude and trust (towards Irons), economic independence, an advanced arsenal (exclusive weapons), adrenaline, popularity (Atlas’ growing media visibility) and a sense of political-identity affiliation (the war case against KVA) help Jack build a context of success and well-being.
The implicit complicity with Irons in a concealed agreement with terrorist Hades (who died revealing incriminating material) persuades Jack and Ilona to stand against Irons, guilty of having fostered the worldwide nuclear attack with the scope of power and speculation. When Jack is discovered and arrested along with Ilona, Cormack intervenes and recruits them in Sentinel, the special military unit created to counter Atlas’ totalitarian drift.
- Personal redemption
Sentinel’s initiative unleashes in Jack a feeling of personal redemption against Irons, a terrorist now ready to carry out a mass extermination with the specially created chemical weapon Manticore. Sentinel’s cause, shared by Jack, leads him to team up definitively against Atlas, which has now become overtly hostile.
- Universal justice
After the destructive attack of San Francisco, (the Golden Gate Bridge demolished, the US military fleet compromised due to a surprise attack), and Cormack’s death at the hands of Irons, Jack’s primary military objective (Sentinel’s attack in an multinational alliance against Atlas’ world domination) rises to a higher level, charged with a personal value and a metaphorical connotation. The clash with Irons is an opportunity to redeem his honor and, from an extended perspective, to protect the democratic values by saving the whole of humanity. So Jack is called to perform an individual mission that can condition the collective future. The success of Jack and Gideon — who are even willing to sacrifice themselves — is achieved in a final, decisive and fatal battle between physical struggle (intense combat action with the heavy AST exoskeleton) and mental conflict (the revolt towards his own savior, who turned out to be a twisted criminal), between democracy and dictatorship, between the free world and slavery, between Good and Evil, finally making an extreme individual choice by deliberately dropping Irons into the flames (with a hypothetical reference to Hell).
If we examine the key existential conditions, it is possible to visually represent Jack’s entire emotional cycle in a precise interval of seven years that began with his enrollment in the Marines (January 2054) and ended with the death of Jonathan Irons (8 January, 2061), and evaluate its evolution. In this way we obtain Mitchell’s emotional curve (helical along the vertical plane, sinusoidal in the horizontal) and see a constant alternation between opposing emotional states, in a cycle of ascension (see loss-gratification interval), of descent (betrayal) and again of ascent (redemption), until it ends with a positive final resolution.
2.2.3. Other characters
Jack’s personal story is related and intertwined with other people, choices, events and locations, conditioning the entire story.
In short, we can identify ten main subjects:
- Will Irons — Jack’s recruit and fellow soldier in the Marines; he dies in Seoul (2054), saving him before an explosion.
- Cormack — Marine sergeant, he commands Jack and Will’s unit in Seoul (2054). Together with General McDonnell and Knox, he founded the Sentinel unit to counter Atlas after Hades’ nuclear attack (April 28, 2055)
- Jonathan Irons — offers Jack a career in Atlas providing medical rehabilitation, tactical training and an advanced arsenal.
- Gideon — Atlas expert operator; he is a company instructor and Jack’s main friend.
- Joker — Atlas expert operator; he assists Jack during training and the first business missions.
- Ilona — Experienced Atlas operator, together with Jack she discovers Jonathan Irons’ treachery and his complicity with Hades.
- Joseph Chkheidze (Hades) — Georgian terrorist at the head of KVA; he carries out an international nuclear attack sabotaging many power stations.
- Knox — Sentinel operator; he is Cormack’s main collaborator.
- McDonnell — US Army general, coordinates the Sentinel special unit together with Cormack and Knox.
2054: the technological evolution has radically changed the military industry and combat tactics, leading to the emergence of soldiers equipped with exoskeletons, augmented reality systems and enhanced weapons, totally revolutionizing operational capabilities and modes of action.
During the creative process of CoD: Advanced Warfare, the choices of the artistic and creative direction of the materials, functionalities and interactions between instruments, weapons, military equipment and vehicles had a twofold task. One was to project the user into a futuristic and compelling world; the other was to be able to maintain the vision of a technologically advanced scenario, but one deeply rooted in an industrial dimension that is still recognizable and traceable to a plausible context.
“The future tech in the game is actually based on technology that we see today and we’re taking it further. Call of Duty has got to be reliable, it has got to be believable.”
Faithful to the chosen requirements, the designers of Sledgehammer Games have carefully researched and documented themselves by examining experiments, apparatuses and prototypes especially in the aerospace and military fields. And they did so by studying their key properties and then hypothesizing their future changes, with a careful evaluation of executive issues, devices created and resulting interactive aspects, deciding which level of creative coherence to associate with a specific type of mechanics and virtual interaction. The systematic consultation of archival material and collaborations with historical, scientific and military consultants  have allowed to very carefully define a futuristic scenario with a reduced sci-fi connotation, a scenario considered relatively plausible precisely because it was conceived considering data, references and actual phenomena.
Remaining in a partial and synthetic description, the futuristic arsenal includes:
Fundamental interactive element and symbol of innovation in CoD: AW, the exoskeleton is an orthosis system similar to a partial armor, able to increase combat performance through electronic and mechanical enhancements constructed by tracing the human bone structure to support it and increase its ability to move, its strength, resistance and interaction. Available in 2 different models (Assault, Specialist) with distinct variable functions between the Marines, Atlas and Sentinel forces, and also used in the full armed version AST , Jack Mitchell’s exoskeleton is partially customizable by using the performance experience points obtained by completing the missions needed to improve the Exo-Abilities, the special exoskeletal tactical skills.
The application of modifications to special structural components (joint ortheses, central module, propulsion system, sensors) allows incrementing many parameters divided into 11 primary enhancements: Detection (identification of grenades), Resistance (reduction of explosive damages), Armor (increase in health), Tactical (increase in supplies), Lethal grenade (increase in supplies), Dart (speed), Battery (increase in exoskeleton energy), Reload (reduction of ammunitions loading), Recoil (reduction of weapon vibration), Backlash (increase of stability if struck) and Quick aim (speed in aiming).
Left mutilated after the initial mission in Seoul, Jack enters into service at Atlas thanks to an exclusive company prosthesis included with a new exoskeleton and a series of advanced weapons. The artificial implant allows Jack to recover all the motor and articular functions, combining positioning sensors, a telecommunications system, a magnetic gripping function in gloves, a removable grappling hook, a temporary invisibility system and other functions for tactical use.
- Direct energy weapons
Extremely powerful, the enabled weapons carry an energy flow directed against the enemy, loading itself through an internal reserve and thus allowing to maintain an extended firing range without the need for interruption, favoring the soldier during particularly intense fighting.
- Multi-function grenades
The soldier has a special multi-purpose grenade and can select the type of offensive action preferred by quickly changing the detonation settings between creating a direct impact explosion, making enemies visible by scanning the environment, releasing an electromagnetic discharge to disable drones and other devices, striking an enemy from a distance with an autonomous propulsion charge, or disorienting other soldiers with a bright stun discharge.
- Mobile anti-bullet barriers
Armored shields synchronized with the soldier allow moving forward, backward and sideways, proceeding smoothly during combat maneuvers, especially in the case of numerical inferiority.
When the soldier is ready to shoot, the barrier is aligned and lowered automatically via a proximity sensor, rising again to protect the operator immediately after the fire. In addition to the mobile models, Mitchell’s exoskeleton integrates a removable ballistic shield.
In addition to a medium-sized model (indicatively transportable like a rifle and equipped with its own weapon), Atlas has an extremely small (1–2 cm) drone, simulated with the appearance of a fly, used for exploratory purposes during missions precisely because it is able to enter otherwise inaccessible spaces, sending live information without being detected. Through a synchronized portable device, Mitchell can directly control a drone, send audio-visual information, identify subjects and start an armed attack.
- Assault vehicles and suspended aircraft
The US Army, Atlas and Sentinel have several land, sea and air military vehicles available. The equipment in use includes a quadruped tank (only visible in Seoul and Atlas storage areas), a suspended vertically propelled tank (Atlas), a suspended armored motorcycle (Atlas), a motorboat-submarine, helicopters (Atlas and Sentinel) and fighter planes (together with Sentinel).
The exoskeleton, the mechanical enhancements and the special exoskeletal skills activated through experience points define a radical change throughout Call of Duty. This affords a series of basic tactical enhancements normally present in role-playing systems with experiential growth (increasing vital values, motor skills, equipment, performance with weapons), in addition to new potential for environmental interaction obtained with the Exo-Abilities (extended jumps, ballistic shield, multidirectional movements, extractable grappling hook, invisibility function, accelerated perception, sound). This makes the combination of tactical operations during action particularly variable and dynamic.
“The exoskeleton is a game changer, it’s the thing that’s really ushering in a new era of Call of Duty.”
Free to choose multiple behavioral solutions and to decide which tactical enhancements to adopt, the user has an appreciable freedom of action.
The resulting choice conditions favor the feeling of uniqueness during the game sessions and ideally generate interest in wanting an individual reiteration (e.g.: by selecting a higher difficulty level), as well as in an alternative and competitive continuation with the mode Exo-Zombies and multiplayer. Here, equipment, exoskeletal skills, reaction times, and even the tactical use of an architectural space strongly influence performance against other users.
3.1. Strategic three-year period
The adoption of a new three-year production system has allowed Sledgehammer Games and Activision to evolve with a series of decisive narrative, executive and interaction innovations, orienting Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the entire videogame series towards a renewed creative perspective, pursued and reworked also in the science fiction titles of Black Ops III (2015) and Infinite Warfare (2016).
Below is an extreme synthesis of some key elements of innovation:
- Futuristic world
The 2054–2061 world sees Jonathan Irons’ powerful private military company Atlas Corporation against Hades’ terrorist force KVA.
The conflicting Atlas-KVA relationship helps define the primary narrative conditions (subjects, technologies, locations, events, missions, hero role).
The Assault, Specialist exoskeletal models for military use and the heavy AST version allow unprecedented movements and tactical functions. The series of special integrated mechanical abilities (propulsion, health increase, grappling hook, invisibility, sound impulses, altered perception, ballistic shield) stimulate dynamic and diversified environmental interactions.
- Weapons and vehicles
Multifunction grenades (fragmentation, stun light, electromagnetic pulse, autonomous propulsion, scanning for enemies), direct energy rifles, mobile ballistic barriers, drones, motorcycles and suspended tanks make the combat sessions particularly variable.
- Experience points
The basic progression system based on the experience points obtained during the missions allows enhancing certain operational aspects (speed increase, resistance to explosions, exoskeleton battery, ammunition refill times, quick aim, reduction of recoil, spare grenades), improving and personalizing your own performance with the soldier.
The sophisticated animation system with cinematic style photorealistic sequences, and the stage performances of important actors (such as Kevin Spacey, Troy Baker, Gideon Emery, Russell Richardson, Angela Gots) have allowed enhancing the narrative transitions, unifying the evolution of the story and increasing the emotional connection with the user.
The futuristic setting, the advanced arsenal, the reference to real, current and sensitive topics (see the documentary investigation in collaboration with VICE), and the sensational “cinema-videogame” scenic contamination contributed both to fostering a strong commercial curiosity and to establishing semantic and narrative relationships directly with the videogame world.
3.2. Sectoral heritage
Similar to many other media entertainment products with bionic, cybernetic and biorobotic connotations, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare explores and interprets a fundamental theme of the whole sci-fi domain with a transhumanist connotation: the bodily enhancement.
Considering in synthesis which structural elements determine the foundational narrative conditions and the techno-industrial thematic denotation with mechanical connotation, we indicate three primary elements:
What alteration properties the enhanced body has obtained by transcending the normal physical, intellectual and perceptive human limitations through the use of drugs, multifunctional prosthetics, exoskeletal/cybernetic systems, nanotechnologies, genetic engineering interventions, artificial intelligence, accidental mutations, advanced weapons, special skills.
The type of alteration chosen (mechanical, chemical, biotechnological, genetic) implies the definition of relative modalities of visual representation, interaction and narrative contextualization.
- Techno-social scenario
What foundational elements describe the narrative coordinates of the story structuring plot and history: epoch, geography and territories, society, culture, economy, anthropological and technological context, internal temporal scan with key events (cataclysms, humanitarian crisis, armed conflicts, scientific discoveries, mysteries, alien invasions) and related subjects (hostile companies, rebels and terrorists, mutant creatures, paranormal beings).
- Hero-events relationship
What informative and interactive relationship the story establishes between hero, events and the world (humanity in danger, survival, revenge, unexpected, predestination, betrayal, research, protection, illusory truth) and what interactions the primary existential mission entails (knowledge, obligation, reconstruction of personal memory, exploration, escape, struggle, alliance, salvation, care, sacrifice, justice, competition, revolution).
If described and assessed together with many other elements of analysis, the key conditions indicated become particularly useful both to examine the immersive potential of a product (studying its languages, meanings, the level of cognitive and emotional involvement), and to establish a series of requisites for comparison applicable to entire intellectual properties, favoring the identification of stylistic affinities, narrative structures, promotional strategies, media conversion processes, the possibility of transmedia expansion and commercial crossover between creative universes.
Exploring the wide and varied sector scenario, the priority requirement remains the construction of narrative architectures designed to multiply the opportunities for in-depth study and media development in the long term with the aim of: stimulating a feeling of affiliation towards certain stories and related commercial trends; fostering the creation of complex narrative universes by seeking interaction with the public; stimulating a cyclical migration mechanism between related products (owners or rivals). In this context, stories and collateral narrative ramifications entwine and complement each other, expanding through creative potentials and immersive entertainment initiatives, destined to evolve into diversified, interdependent and theoretically unlimited communication systems.
The hyperlinks are abbreviated by Google Url Shortener.
 Between 2003 and 2015, the CoD videogame series sold over 175 million copies. The famous rival series of Medal of Honor (1999-) and Battlefield (2002-) together have contributed to define fundamental stylistic requirements, in a continuous commercial evolution that is still active and highly competitive. [https://goo.gl/21moZG]
 Founded in 2009 by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey in Foster City, California, the company demonstrated its operational capabilities by collaborating with Activision and assisting Infinite Ward during the development stages of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2011). [https://goo.gl/WDjzzN]
 See the recent choice of Call of Duty: WWII, in direct rivalry with Battlefield 1 (set during the First World War). Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment, 2014) represented another direct rival of Cod: AW. [https://goo.gl/mGRG7M][https://goo.gl/5gYkaF] [https://goo.gl/1L8HXc] [https://goo.gl/Q5hN3p]
 CoD: Advanced Warfare is the first Activision videogame product created with the new three-year development cycle (initially set at two years): three separate studies (Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch Studios and Infinity Ward) work in rotation maintaining the annual publication of a security, with the aim of increasing its quality level. [https://goo.gl/yrvWKv] [https://goo.gl/2e2hvn]
 Published May 1, 2014, At New Era Arrives May 4th ends with the worldwide revelation date of Call of Duty (without making the subtitle of Advanced Warfare), scheduled for May 4. Simultaneously, Game Informer publishes a first promotional image announcing an exclusive extended article released on May 4. The very same day, however, with great surprise the first Call of Duty reveal trailer: AW is published in advance, as it was officially scheduled for May 4. The unexpected release of confidential information forced Activision to intervene in order to maintain the temporal control of the promotional campaign. [https://goo.gl/oqUnSZ] [http://goo.gl/ueN3bi]
 The purchase of a special limited edition (Day Zero Edition) made the title available 24 hours earlier (November 3). [https://goo.gl/kAZPte]
 However, the statements are only partially demonstrated through official documents. A further commercial success is the next videogame chapter of Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Treyarch, 2015), that managed to obtain a sales value of over 550 million dollars in 72 hours. [https://goo.gl/mReQps] [https://goo.gl/zJxUrk] [https://goo.gl/uWzzWZ] [https://goo.gl/dkBRXZ]
 The survival experience Exo Zombies (divided into four chapters that can be purchased in the expansion packs Havoc, Ascendance, Supremacy, and Reckoning published separately from AW) explores a complementary timeframe telling the story of four Atlas employees involved in a laboratory accident, where a sudden horde of mutant creatures created with the Manticore chemical weapon is out of control. The project involves the participation of important actors (John Malkovich, Rose McGowan, Jon Bernthal, Bill Paxton and Bruce Campbell) in the roles of the protagonists (Oz, Lilith Swann, Jim Decker, Kahn and Lennox), introducing a new story.
The horrifying component is an element of continuity in several episodes of Call of Duty and allows differentiating scenarios and main themes by intercepting users wishing to recognize the quality mark of CoD, but in a game mode that is decontextualized, independent and diversified. [https://goo.gl/HDghxp][https://goo.gl/JeY5k7][https://goo.gl/ePP6fz]
 Interview with M. Condrey, 2014. [https://goo.gl/ZCaaqF]
 Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch, 2012) presents a partial narrative development set in 2025. [https://goo.gl/6DtyBX]
 Initially, the advanced arsenal in CoD: AW also included a grenade with a teleportation function, then excluded precisely because it was in contrast with the chosen futuristic requirements and the required military advice. [https://goo.gl/XE4v3e]
 Interview with M. Condrey and G. Schofield. [https://goo.gl/1VTrgm]
 In November 2015, Activision Blizzard announced the creation of an in-house study to convert intellectual gaming assets into film and television products. A first Call of Duty film is currently being created. One of the many comic book cases of Dark Horse (just remembering the famous narrative crossing between Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator and Prometheus), six issues dedicated to the background of Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015). [goo.gl/L9GZNQ] [goo.gl/x47NvV] [https://goo.gl/LZdMMA][https://goo.gl/ZXpUfJ] [https://goo.gl/jccTRr] [https://goo.gl/kEV8bb]
 Among the many sources of inspiration is the controversial affair between the United States and Blackwater (now Academi), a private military company responsible for illegal activities during numerous security operations in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein (2003), supporting or replacing the US military. [https://goo.gl/YLaUy1] [https://goo.gl/Td7soA]
 Jonathan Irons in Atlas (2) and Collapse (11). [https://goo.gl/5dFjEa]
 During the videogame experience it is possible to find and store 17 personal contents of Jonathan Irons (15 audio recordings, 2 videos), deepening narrative aspects and connected emotional states. [https://goo.gl/1pmYmr]
 Jonathan Irons in Terminus, final mission.
 Jack, introduction to Traffic, third mission, 2055.
 The previous chapters of CoD (excluding Black Ops II; Treyarch, 2012) habitually presented the story through multiple points of view, fragmenting the narrative into a flow of events in distinct periods, with events that are unrelated to each other, or only partially interdependent.
 Interview with G. Schofield and M. Condrey, 2014, Game Informer. [https://goo.gl/ntrzbw]
 Interview with G. Schofield. [https://goo.gl/hhfotf]
 The official website of CoD: AW it included an updated news section dedicated to different technological innovation contexts, with articles and links to external sites (the section is currently deactivated).
 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), Lockheed Martin, other companies (Hyundai, Ford, Ekso Bionics, Raytheon) and institutions (Berkeley, Harvard, MIT) currently developing exoskeletons, prosthetic implants, augmented reality systems, and medical support devices for civil and military use. [https://goo.gl/h1zYpY] [https://goo.gl/pXJeYx][https://goo.gl/m6jVYN][https://goo.gl/Q2dxan][https://goo.gl/wURGFk] [https://goo.gl/FU4uQF][https://goo.gl/a2eDrG][https://goo.gl/kkTsPo]
 Similar to a fully protective robotic armor, AST is a heavy exoskeleton equipped with a machine gun, missiles and multiple propelling explosive charges. Although visible during Mitchell’s military experience, the AST model is usable only during the last mission in New Baghdad (Terminus), when Jack and Gideon together attempt a definitive attack with the intent to stop Irons’ impending world chemical attack with Manticore. [https://goo.gl/1J9xcy]
 Interview with Glen Schofield, 2014. [https://goo.gl/YHh8ex]
 Users all over the world are invited annually to compete in a Call of Duty world championship. The event, in collaboration with Xbox, resumes the communicative modes seen during sporting competitions, turning game sessions into a collective entertainment experience where rival teams (selected at international level) compete in multiplayer mode on a stage dedicated to a Call of Duty episode. Thousands of spectators watch live via multi-screens, supporting players, while experienced journalists comment on the sessions with interviews, exclusive guests and insights. A physical trophy and an economic amount constitute the prize for the winners. See the 2015 edition dedicated to CoD: [https://goo.gl/6fxVQt]
Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information. References to all the sources consulted have been inserted using numbers in square brackets  and reported in the references at the conclusion, with the relative explanatory notes.
The iconographic material, the trademarks (registered or unregistered) and all the information reported as being in any case protected belong to the respective owners. The internal use of protected material responds exclusively to a scientific and cultural intent.
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