Pete Davidson Is Not the First Celebrity To Advertise Call of Duty

Live-action Call of Duty trailers used to be an important part of the franchises’ yearly marketing.

By AlexJohn, Posted 07 Jun 2022

Live-action Call of Duty trailers used to be an important part of the franchises’ yearly marketing. The ‘There’s a Soldier in All of Us’ campaign saw regular men and women cross paths with celebrities on the battlefield in a display of fast, chaotic warfare.

The trend began with the 2010 game Call of Duty: Black Ops. The campaign’s first outing saw the likes of nurses, office staff, construction workers, and chefs battling it out with a brief cameo from basketball legend Kobe Bryant. The following year actors Jonah Hill and Sam Worthington teamed up to take down Russian forces across the globe in ‘Vet and n00b’ for Modern Warfare 3. Worthington, who had played Black Ops’ protagonist Alex Mason, plays the veteran charged with looking after and training Hill’s inexperienced, chaotic soldier.

Jonah Hill, Sam Worthington, Modern Warfare 3, Activision, Infinity Ward, Vet and n00b

By 2012 Call of Duty live-action trailers were bigger and more bombastic than ever with Black Ops 3’s trailer feeling more dynamic and building on what had come before it. In a war-torn future Los Angeles, characters keep upping the stakes against one another, from a tomahawk to a sniper to automated tanks to Robert Downey Jr. in a fighter jet. Yes, really! With the first Avengers film being released the same year, Downey was a hot property in 2012. That same year fellow Avenger Chris Evans also popped up in the trailer for the China-only title Call of Duty: Online, as “some kind of Hollywood action hero”. Meanwhile, the rest of the world got the much-maligned Call of Duty: Ghosts. The 2013 title had advanced fish AI and two notable trailers. The first, titled ‘Epic Night Out' was helmed by Logan director James Mangold and saw a group of friends and their dog battling through the casinos of Las Vegas to the sounds of Frank Sinatra, casually bumping into actress Megan Fox along the way. The second trailer was released for UK audiences and starred English actor Stephen Graham, in it, he abducted a group of men so that they could play the new DLC, Onslaught, in peace.

The trailer for 2014s Advanced Warfare does a good job of showcasing the franchise’s leap in gameplay, now featuring advanced technology like exo-suits and hoverbikes. Viewers get to see a showcase of the new mechanics’ and abilities from a first-person perspective as they frantically run, jump, punch, and fight alongside actor Taylor Kitsch; at one point they even see supermodel Emily Ratajkowski… but she turns out to be a goat. Fast forward a year and, while the story of Black Ops III might be indecipherable science fiction nonsense, its live-action trailer is quite the opposite. ‘Seize Glory’ told the epic story of Kevin, a wall running backflipping sandwich-eating badass, and featured Michael B. Jordan; model/actress Cara Delevigne; and NFL player Marshawn Lynch.

Taylor Kitsch, Advanced Warfare, Activision, Sledgehammer Games, Call of Duty

For a lot of people, franchise fatigue had set in at this point, new Call of Duty games had been released year after year and only pushed on with futuristic settings. Like any long-running franchise 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare inevitably went to space. And, like the films Jason X and Leprechaun 4: In Space, the results were… unfavorable. The live-action trailer featured cameos from Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and comedian Danny McBride, but the real story was that Infinite Warfare’s initial announcement trailer quickly became the most disliked video game trailer of all time on YouTube and at one point the 5th most disliked video on the entire platform.

In a number of commercials for DLC packs in Black Ops II; III and IV Swedish actor Peter Stormare played The Replacer: a chameleonic, intimidating figure who looks after the day jobs of every Call of Duty player distracted by each new map pack. In one Black Ops 4 advert, The Replacer worked as a farmer, an EU translator, an armored truck driver with live streamer Dr. Disrespect, and even the US President! As a reward for his hard work the character would be immortalized with a skin and weapons bundle in Blackout, Call of Duty’s first foray into the Battle Royale market.

Peter Stormare, Black Ops 4, Call of Duty, Activision, The Replacer, Treyarch

Since 2016 live-action Call of Duty trailers, especially ones featuring celebrities, have been far less common. However, the hugely successful battle royale Warzone had a trailer absolutely packed with famous faces for the launch of Season 3 in April 2021. Notable mainly for transporting players back to 1984 Verdansk, the trailer itself featured a number of chart-toppers and sports personalities including rappers Saweetie and Jack Harlow and Premier League footballer Jack Grealish. The trailer has the feel of the classic Black Ops days, but at the same time, there is a noticeable cheapness to it. In the first Black Ops trailer, Kobe felt like he was in a real environment; in Warzone’s the celebrities are green-screened into in-game locations. Yes, they are also shown playing the game in the ‘real world’ as well as in-game, but in, for example, Black Ops III, the audience knows that Robert Downey Jr. in a fighter jet is just a metaphor for him playing the game. In the Warzone trailer real people and in-game aesthetics clash and the whole thing ends up feeling more artificial than what came before it.

Finally, last but not least we have the inspiration for this retrospective. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (not to be confused with 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or 2020s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered) has received three short trailers starring comedian Pete Davidson, basketball player Trae Young and live streamer TimTheTatman. The skits are short and sweet, seeing each man as a new recruit to the ‘Ultimate Team’ of Captain Price, Ghost, and Soap. None, however, appear to be equipped to deal with the upcoming mission and might just be better off left in the van.

Trae Young, Modern Warfare 2, Activision, Infinity Ward, Call of Duty

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 will be getting an official announcement trailer on June 8th and so far, the tone of the teasers has hit the mark. Infinity Ward is clearly casting a wide net. Davidson is quite mainstream having recently left Saturday Night Live; Trae Young is a popular NBA star, and TimTheTatman is a well-liked Call of Duty live streamer. The Modern Warfare reboot was a success in 2019, revitalizing the franchise after a few duds; now Activision and Infinity Ward have the chance to continue from where they left off, starting with a captivating new marketing campaign.

Alex David Johnson
News Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Activision
Developer(s): Infinity Ward
Genres: First-Person Shooter
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2009-11-10

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