Activision is back on its bullshit, and by that I mean the massive games publisher is again suspected of lifting ideas from outside artwork to create the skins it sells in Call of Duty: Vanguard and Warzone. This time, it appears likely the company took direct inspiration from a skin created by an ex-CoD staffer that is slated to appear in the forthcoming, supposed Call of Duty killer Deadrop, which is being developed by Herschel “DrDisrespect” Beahm’s studio Midnight Society. Talk about sussy.
Vanguard and Warzone kicked off its fourth season, Mercenaries of Fortune, with the usual accouterments: new Operators like Carver Butcher from 2017's WWII, additional weapons, some map adjustments, and a new event that continuously spawns zombies, among other things. Mixed in Season 4 are some more skins for a variety of both games’ Operators, including one, as we reported last week, that was clearly ripped off another artist’s concept art. After pulling that skin, Activision apologized in a statement to Polygon, calling the plagiarism a “misstep” and saying it has “the utmost respect for creativity and content creation.”
Unfortunately, it seems that “utmost respect” for the content creator community may be proving unfounded. Robert “fourzerotwo” Bowling, a former creative strategist at Infinity Ward and now studio head of Midnight Society, began sharing art back in July for a skin he made for a soldier in the upcoming game Deadrop.
The skin features a pretty sci-fi aesthetic, with an ice-blue holomask, a black hooded cape or robe, and what appears to be some sort of mecha body armor. It honestly looks like a palette swap for GR-74/Jack, the player character in the first-person slasher Ghostrunner. That’s to say that while the design itself isn’t that original, the “Doomsayer” skin Activision started selling this week in the Call of Duty store for the Shadow faction Operator Shigenori Ota looks way too close to Bowling’s creation to be a coincidence.
The similarities are uncanny. Sure, the Call of Duty skin has a more pronounced blue, looking a bit more electric than ghostly, but you can’t deny that the two look eerily alike. From the blue mask to the black hood to the mecha body armor, it seems very likely the Vanguard and Warzone devs were at least “inspired” by Bowling.
Bowling told Kotaku that he doesn’t have “anything else to add” beyond his recent tweet lamenting that Activision and Infinity Ward could’ve “at least [named] it after me.”
“I found out about this due to my mentions blowing up from our community tagging me in their replies,” Bowling told Kotaku. He then sent a photo of a legendary-tier Call of Duty sniper rifle called “Corporate Theft.” Savage.
Kotaku has reached out to Activision for comment.
It’s unclear if Activision, which has become widely known for its ongoing legal issues, will move to address the marked similarity between the new Call of Duty skin and Bowling’s Deadrop work.