Infinite Warefare Really Is “Call of Duty In Space”

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As each new Call of Duty game is accused of being “more of the same,” I think the lifeblood that keeps the main campaigns of each game worthwhile is their ability to remain fresh and keep surprising the player. After finally finishing up Infinite Warfare, I think it does a sufficient job of this, if only because it repeats a lot of what was in previous games, except in space.

The game that blew up the franchise — Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, has such a good campaign because it feels like a roller coaster. Each mission has scenarios and events that set it apart from the other ones so the game never really gets monotonous. If the game was designed right, you never feel like you’re just repeatedly going through a bunch of kill boxes. I feel this way about most of the COD games: the three Modern Warfare games, Ghosts, and Advanced Warfare.

To keep things fresh with Infinite Warfare, Infinite Ward really leaned hard on the “in space” theme. I’m not sure there’s much about the moment-to-moment action in the end that feels unique other than being set in space, but it turns out being set in space counts for a lot.

There’s a side mission that starts out with the same stealth approach as the famous “All Ghillied Up” from COD4 except instead of hiding in tall grass you’re hiding behind asteroids, sneaking aboard a battleship as it warps in. The element of zero-gravity itself makes a lot of the combat in Infinite Warfare’s campaign look and feel sufficiently new. Maybe it’s how the game often seamlessly transitions between fighting in zero-g in outer space, fighting inside a space ship, and fighting air battles outside.

One thing I like is that Infinity Ward seemed to put good effort into showing off some of the most interesting places in our solar system. You get to see the glaciers of Europa, there are scenes that show off Titan’s immense atmosphere and methane oceans. A really cool main mission uses astrophysics to make for an interesting COD scenario: you fight on an asteroid spinning wildly towards the sun, dashing in and out of the shade whenever your side of the asteroid faces away from the sun. Most sci-fi stories are stuck on making up fantastical stuff or falling back on sci-fi tropes but Infinity Ward seems to have realized real science holds a lot of cool opportunities for fiction.

What’s funny is a lot of what I saw in Infinite Warfare feels oddly analogous to what could have been a Pacific theater World War II game. The battleships could have been American and Japanese battleships, the planets on the star chart could have been Pacific islands, the space battles could have been air battles, the land assaults could have been, well, land assaults. Yeah we had World At War, but Infinite Warfare feels analogous to a hypothetical Pacific WWII COD that focused a lot more on the naval war. I think that’s what it is: Infinite Warfare feels like the first truly naval COD game. With ships as the focal point, the entire story is a naval war.

A lot of the talk surrounding Infinite Warfare was about its focus on the main character’s ship through the seamless docking and departure transitions as well as the interactions with the characters within it. While it isn’t taken to Mass Effect lengths, I guess it’s a good try considering what COD usually is: a six-ish-hour linear shooter. It kind of reminded me of the scene at the very beginning of Modern Warfare 2 where you get to walk through an American military camp in Afghanistan but all you can really do is look at the scenery, never interacting with the characters. Infinite Warfare seems to have taken that further to make “base camp” feel more tangible. In regards to that and the side missions, I don’t think anybody is ever going to really be able to go all the way until they’re willing to make an action game with the breath and pace of a full-blown RPG, or maybe just a typical open-world game with a naval focus.

I haven’t been involved with COD multiplayer for a long time so my actually buying COD games (as opposed to renting them) pretty much relies entirely on how much they feel worth replaying. The last one I immediately wanted to replay multiple times was Modern Warfare 3, as much as a lot of people apparently disliked it. Compared to Infinite Warfare I feel slightly more inclined to do this with Titanfall 2, perhaps because of how much more fun it seems to have with itself in its singleplayer campaign.

Despite the two games being made by people who used to work together and sharing a lineage in the bloodline of first person shooters, I think Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 are different enough that I don’t want to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Titanfall 2 definitely feels related to COD, but isn’t actually bound by the conventions of COD and is thus able to try a lot of new ideas, which it handles very well. It’s like the two games have branched off in different directions from the older COD games.

BULLETS:

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