The Infinite Warfare season has slowly seen the rise of Europeans as a contender for international championships.
At the two most recent tournaments, CWL Dallas and ESWC Paris, we have seen Splyce, Epsilon, and Fnatic place inside the top eight. When you look at the rosters of these teams, you see that all the players are from the United Kingdom. Looking deeper, I realized no players outside the UK have even vaguely touched a top placing at a premier tournament this year.
This was surprising. I remembered back to the days of Black Ops 2 and Ghosts where there was always a battle between the French and the British to see who could steal the higher placings at the limited international events Europeans could afford to attend. It was even more saddening realizing that at CWL London, a tournament only open to European teams, no players from France made it into the top eight. The same thing happened again at ESWC Paris, their very own country’s trademark event. So where has all of France’s top tier talent gone?
Many of France’s most storied professionals such as Clément “RiskiN” Hattée, Jordy “Krnage” Mercier and most notably Corentin “Gotaga” Houssein have now hung up their controllers. These players, despite having inconsistent results, have built up wealthy banks of experience by competing across the globe at the likes of the Call of Duty Championship and the renowned MLG Anaheim. This is experience that would be best shared with some of France’s rising stars. However, these players exited the scene early into Activision’s World League era.
I think that particularly, Gotaga had a huge opportunity to nurture the youngsters. An unwillingness to split from the pack may be an explanation as to why he decided to quit, partnered with the little success he and his longstanding teammates had. Gotaga always had either Kevin “BroKeN” Georges, RiskiN or Krnage on his team at all times in his career and perhaps he felt uncomfortable playing without them when they ultimately made the decision to leave Call of Duty behind.
Gotaga tried to play with local talent such as Wailers “Wailers” Locart and the French Monster’s own brother Ronan “Carbon” Houssein. Again, with little success. He just couldn’t perform without Krnage, RiskiN, or Broken by his side.
Throughout his career, Gotaga was hailed as a phenomenal slayer and a fantastically skilled sniper. Fans could definitely see this from his streams and YouTube content. This is why he always played with one of the aforementioned trio as they would play around him, rather than play for themselves. I have an inkling that Gotaga was unwilling to leave the slaying days to take on a more supportive team role.
Due to his experience, Gotaga could have taken on a mentor role and brought up young players to success. There is no doubt three youngsters would have listened to Gotaga, he was the figurehead of their scene.
Gotaga didn’t compete in Call of Duty for the money because he didn’t need to. His YouTube channel provided a stable enough income. He played purely because of his competitive drive, something which he could satisfy from a coaching role, from where he could carry on the development of the scene he has been part of from the beginning.
Admittedly, there are very few examples of success with coaches in Call of Duty. However, there is no harm in trying and maybe he could have changed that coaching stigma. Instead, we are left with only a handful of players that could restore French pride.
Stumped by the age restriction on the Call of Duty World League, we have missed out on the rise of Gotaga’s brother Carbon. The youngster, alongside fellow underage competitor Ryan “ZeeK” Lapierre, made waves in the open circuit last year. The pair achieved first and second place finishes at notable local LAN’s across France during Black Ops 3. Both now play for an organization known as ArmaTeam with Maxime “mAxxie” Ebran as captain. This veteran has competed since Modern Warfare 3, finishing 8th at the first CoD XP and attending the World Championship in 2015.
mAxxie is in a similar situation to where Gotaga could be, theoretically: mAxxie, the old guard, using fiery young players who have been unable to compete in order to make a rise back to the top. There are still question marks as to whether or not players such as Carbon and Zeek can be controlled or even reach Europe’s peak, but they are definitely ones to watch out for.
If I had to pick a player to be France’s next star it would be Wailers. Bursting onto the scene in Black Ops 3, Wailers proved to be a consistently solid assault rifle player. Even alongside the Vitality team that had the diminishing core three of Broken, Gotaga, and Riskin, he was one of few Europeans who truly embraced the “Man-o-War” meta when it first came to fruition.
Wailers has retained his spot on Vitality, although amongst new teammates. The Frenchman has joined forces with three Brits Shane “ShAnE” McKerral, Deleo “Zerg” Devitt, and Adam “Defrag” Matthews. ShAnE, much like Gotaga is another storied European player who has competed since Modern Warfare 3 and has a top eight finish at the World Championship in 2013. Alongside him are two other breakout players, Defrag and Zerg. The latter has attended two UK events and placed 1st and 3rd. With support from veteran Shane, maybe Britain will actually be the ones to restore French hope and help Wailers bring home a trophy.
Watch Vitality and ArmaTeam in action throughout this weekend at the Call of Duty: World League in Birmingham.