Plugged In

Why mess with a good thing?

In its latest issue, the Official Xbox Magazine pulled back the curtain on the next installment in the “Call of Duty” series. Good news, right?

After all, “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” was one of the top-selling games of 2007 and the recipient of countless Game of the Year awards (including mine). It continues to be the most-played game on Xbox Live and the first batch of new maps have been downloaded more than a million times.

If you haven’t figured it out, people love this game. I love this game. It stands to reason, then, that I should be giddy with excitement over a sequel, right? Sadly, that’s not the case.

Why, you ask? Because “Call of Duty” is going back to World War II.

(Pardon me while I cry on my keyboard.)

I suppose I should take solace in the fact that “Call of Duty: World at War,” set to be released later this year or early in 2009, will focus on the Pacific theater of operations, a first for the series. And Treyarch, the development team behind “Call of Duty 3,” will be utilizing the same engine that’s driving “Modern Warfare.” There is also talk of four-player co-op, but that’s really a minor addition as far as I’m concerned.

The fact of the matter here is that “COD4” broke new ground in the FPS genre. It raised the bar for shooters in every way imaginable — graphics, sound, gameplay, presentation, multiplayer . . . you name it, developer Infinity Ward (which also created the original “Call of Duty” and “Call of Duty 2”) nailed it. Treyarch hasn’t had the same success.

I understand that the “Call of Duty” franchise is a huge cash cow for publisher Activision. But does there need to be a new “COD” released every year?

I would much rather continue to play “Modern Warfare” for another year while awaiting the next masterpiece from the guys at Infinity Ward. “Call of Duty” is their baby and, as history has shown, nobody can make a “COD” game quite like they can (sorry Treyarch).

And take a look at other respected gaming franchises. There’s not a new “Halo” every year. Or “Grand Theft Auto.” Or “Final Fantasy.” And I wouldn’t hesitate to put “Call of Duty” in the same league as those games.

But if every other offering in the series is going to be subpar, “Call of Duty” will never reach its full potential. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more.