Warzone will soon be adding its third wave of weapons to the game with Call of Duty: Vanguard. The new title is set in World War 2, so players can expect to be using all the staple weapons of WW2 like the M1 Garand, the Tommy Gun, Lugers, and more. Players can also expect skin bundles and cosmetics for the various World War 2 additions to the game.
With the wave of new historical weapons hailing from one of the most important events in the past century, there is an important question that Warzone developers need to answer.
Will they be adjusting their cosmetic style to match the gravitas of World War 2, or are we going to get an Anime girl M1 Garrand?
Call of Duty, anime girl skins, and historical fictions
World War 2 is considered one of the most important events in human history and was the defining event of the 20th century. It established many of the international relationships and agreements that exist today, and it involved many of the most powerful actors in the world vying for material and ideological control of the world's resources. In many ways, it is the war that defined the most important ethical and political questions of the 20th century.
So with all that in mind, many Warzone players are already meming on Activision about the possibility of them adding some of the anime-style skins to World War 2 weapons and characters. It's just a really funny idea, considering the importance with which the war is treated by western culture on a broad basis.
Of course, Vanguard is just a game, so the developers also want to keep it fun and light-hearted. It's not like the game needs to bum people out with all drab cosmetics in the name of being faithful to the events of World War 2. So a lot of Warzone players are waiting curiously in the wings to see exactly what Call of Duty plans to do with these skins, amid the bright cartoony skin meta that is dominating not just Call of Duty, but also CS:GO, VALORANT, and others.
The direction that many of Warzone’s new store bundles and battle passes have taken over the past year is pretty flamboyant and cartoony in some cases. This is in spite of the fact that they are ostensibly portraying historical weapons from the Cold War.
Take for example the Mara Kawaii Cat bundle, which features a bright anime gun and operator skin from Call of Duty Modern Warfare. This gun skin is clearly not attempting to pay homage to a realistic battlefield-ready service weapon, but no one really cares because it's not meant to be accurate, it is being presented outside the context of a real battlefield.
Another more recent example would be the Ultra Weaver Requiem Reconnaissance bundle released in Warzone Season 5. This skin features a bright purple, shimmery texture on the gun that is reminiscent more of a sci-fi skin than a camo you would see in war. It is applied to a Cold War weapon, so one could argue means that Warzone has already broken the seal on applying unrealistic weapon skins to guns from historical conflicts.
Of course, gun skins have also existed in the World War 2 Call of Duty games too. In the Sledgehammer developed COD: WW2, some skins already bordered on sci-fi skins similar to the Requiem Reconnaissance skin, featuring camos related to the Nazi Zombies mode with purple lightning effects. So there is already some precedent for pushing the envelope on gun skins, even for World War 2 games.
However, the entire aesthetic of Vanguard appears to be emphasizing a more gritty, realistic take on World War 2. The trailer they showed this past week had some pretty serious overtones and depicted a dark and dangerous image of the war. Given the already increased scrutiny around World War 2 games and the direction this game is taking, it is possible the developers will steer away from these more sci-fi and anime-inspired skins, toward a more grounded take on cosmetics.
How historically accurate will the COD: Vanguard cosmetics be?
This year's new COD: Vanguard brings Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games back to this cosmetics crossroads once again.
Where will they draw the line on the anime girls, sci-fi shimmery skins, and otherwise ahistorical skins for guns that are explicitly from World War 2? Are they going to just forge ahead with the anime girls and the bright sci-fi skins, or will the developers take a more historical route in presenting these weapons?
If Raven does choose to stick with Anime bundles, they could face criticism for their cavalier approach to presenting World War 2 material. There are always higher levels of scrutiny targetted at games that touch World War 2, more than any other war. Take for example when Battlefield 5 came out and there was a huge discussion about whether the game's focus on a disabled woman character in their trailer was appropriate since the majority of soldiers were men in that war.
There was a lot of pushback to the claim that women weren't involved in World War 2, since there were a large number of women fighters, but the point stands that players cared more about the historical accuracy of that game because it was World War 2. Rarely do we hear similar debates around other war games, there is something exceptional and almost sacred about how people tend to think about World War 2 depictions, including ones in video games.
On top of this, Call of Duty invites criticism with its very name. Call of Duty is a pretty serious name to live up to.
Should Vanguard and Warzone take the historically accurate route, there is actually a lot of great material for both guns and vehicles to work with from the time period. During World War 2, a lot of soldiers did customize equipment, especially their planes. During World War 2 all the way through the Vietnam war, U.S. soldiers painted pin-ups and other designs on the nose of their planes.
There are fewer examples of service weapons being personalized, but custom weapon designs inspired by retro-military art designs and historical gun customizations could be cool. With some creativity and a lot of research, skin designers for Vanguard have plenty of in-period ways to create designs that players want to buy for planes, characters, and weapons alike.
So Raven has two options here. They can stick to the standard, more limited aesthetics that are born from researching and understanding equipment art from World War 2. This direction would constrain the art style of the cosmetics in the name of honoring one of the most important conflicts in human history. It would also be harder to do and potentially would sell fewer skin packs.
Alternatively, they could just treat the weapons the way they have been. You can have a bright pink anime Tommy gun with Japanese script scrawled across the side, you can have that electric Sci-fi skin for your World War 2 plane. This route is definitely less interested in paying homage to history and would be unpopular with history buffs, but it could possibly appeal to a wider base of players and would continue the current skin aesthetic that the developers have already established in Warzone over the past year and a half.
Either way, it is going to be interesting to see how the developers of Vanguard choose to balance the historical burden of a World War 2 game with the desire to sell more cosmetic bundles.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.