The team behind Call of Duty: Vanguard, which launches this week, hopes to raise awareness of the unsung black heroes of the Second World War.
Award-winning actor, Chiké Okonkwo, who portrays the new game’s protagonist, Arthur Kingsley, told Sky News it was time for a new perspective on the history of the conflict: “Lest we forget both these conflicts at the beginning of the 21st Century were World wars, they encompassed the whole world.”
Kingsley is based on the historical serviceman, Sergeant Sidney Cornell, who won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery.
Okonkwo said “The great thing about Vanguard is that it’s not necessarily about ‘forced diversity’ at all in my opinion, it’s about taking a different look at the different fronts of that war.”
He is adamant that this is not a change to the historical narrative, but a broadening of it: “I always think about film making or storytelling in general, and it matters where you put the camera, and if you shift the camera just a few degrees you’ll see an entirely different world.
“I’m extremely proud of Sledgehammer Games for going in this direction, because it’s just epic and we’re able to see something slightly different from what we’ve seen before.
“I loved Pearl Harbour and I loved those films and they’re important pieces of history, but it’s incredible to be part of a franchise that’s now going to be able to tell vastly different stories.
“Growing up in the UK, a lot of our historical study was about the war, and I learned a little bit about Gurkhas, and those forces, but still it was only cursory. It was a very white, male, Eurocentric perspective of the war.”
The game, developed for Activision by Sledgehammer Games, will on launch day offer 20 multiplayer maps, new Zombies content, and a new campaign.
Asked whether acting for a video game was different to conventional acting, Okonkwo suggested young and up and coming actors should prepare for this new form of acting: “I feel as though more and more technology will advance and that will be the way a lot of films, not just video games, are made.
“If I could have done that at GCSE level it would have been much easier.”
When asked how he prepared for the role, he divulged his methods: “I was away over new year, and I took my Xbox with me to Jamaica, and played the [COD: WWII, 2017] campaign, and was trying to play it really quietly but it’s a very intense game, so it wasn’t very relaxing.
“It was the best way of doing that initial piece of research.”
Vanguard will have to fight off upcoming titles such as Battlefield 2042 and Halo in the run up to Christmas, but the new CoD comes with an added incentive for players: Warzone.
CoD’s battle royale mode, released at the dawn of lockdown, became intensely popular during the pandemic, with its free price tag attracting thousands of new players.
Players in Vanguard will be able to gain experience points to level up weapons, characters, and make progress in the battlepass, across Call of Duties: Cold War, Modern Warfare, Vanguard and Warzone, completely synchronising all four titles.