In my previous post about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I said it’s probably the first COD with a truly naval focus. A big part of that is how much flight combat plays into the game, particularly if you decide to do all the side missions.
I think if you just beeline through the main missions the flight combat only shows up in one or two missions, so it’s sort of just one of the many neat distractions that tend to come and go in COD games. Something like half of the the side missions are just air battles though, and that’s where it wore thin for me.
On one hand these parts made me wonder why Infinity Ward or any other COD developer never tried to make air combat missions in the World War II games. COD is full of tank battles. Last time I said Infinite Warfare feels analogous to what could have been a Pacific WWII game, and the air battle gameplay could fit right in there. Maybe there were dogfight missions in previous games and I’m just forgetting them. On the other hand the air combat in Infinite Warfare is just too simple. You pretty much just lock onto enemy fighters, fire, and use flairs to avoid enemy missiles. Again, this is fine when it’s just an aside that happens once or twice (like the air combat section in Black Ops III), but not when something like five or six missions are nothing but this.
I didn’t hear much criticism of this either. If there wasn’t much, I think people accept it in Infinite Warefare along with the simplistic flight combat in Star Wars Battlefront because nobody is making flight combat games for consoles anymore. The same thing happened with the flight combat part in Halo: Reach — it made me wonder where the full-blown Halo dogfighting game was. Maybe there are a bunch of simulation games on PC I don’t know about, but the flight combat game in the style of Crimson Skies or Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, seems to have disappeared.
I honestly don’t understand it, because I think it would be perfect for the mainstream shooter audience to latch onto. The arcade flight combat game is a simple, easily understandable action game that tends to be fast-paced with a lot of quick gratification. Just toss a COD multiplayer-like structure on it with a nice variety of ships and weapons and there you go. It shouldn’t have to just be a component of another game.
The last significant console flight combat game I remember was Ace Combat 6 in 2007 (we don’t talk about Assault Horizon), and even then Namco and Microsoft treated it as a big deal because console flight combat games were on their way out at that time. I guess Ubisoft’s HAWX games were good but they didn’t really leave a lasting impact. Ace Combat 7 is on the way but that’s still pretty much it when it comes to big mainstream games. I guess you’ve also got the Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous but how popular is that? How big is the PS4 version of War Thunder?
Anyway, I think an important reason for the flight element to Infinite Warfare is that it kind of acts as a bridge between land combat and the aircraft carrier that acts as the player character’s home base. In that aspect I think Infinite Warfare sometimes feels like the game Star Fox always wanted to be — that all-encompassing sci-fi warfare experience that combines ground and air combat with the presence of a sort of “mothership.” I just wish the air combat part felt more developed.
- The Patlabor Reboot short is streaming for free until February, English subs: http://animatorexpo.com/patlabor-reboot/
- Interesting article about how the AAA game market might be changing: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2016-11-25-weak-aaa-launches-are-a-precursor-to-industry-transition