For those who don’t remember, there was a lot of turmoil surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The friction wasn’t necessarily with the game itself, if you exclude the Modern Warfare 2: Stimulus Pack, but more so on the politics within business practices and the game’s development. There are merely echoes of the falling out of studio head Vince Zampella, his subsequent departure from Infinity Ward/Activision, and the legal battles that followed. He later found success in the erection of Respawn Entertainment, the studio responsible for the Titanfall franchise.
Amidst the clashings, something started to happen amongst fans of the franchise. There was a sea of festering hate that started to brew towards Activision CEO Robert Kotick, something that seemed to trickle down to the fans. This was where my dislike for the Call of Duty series of games started, and it continued to grow with the unrelenting annual release of a ‘Duty title, and ended with the loss of a player. That player was me.
I can’t say that I’ve really lost anything by not being a dedicated Call of Duty fan. In fact, since becoming involved in reviewing games, I’ve started to expand my gaming vocabulary, so to speak. I’ve played games that I wouldn’t normally have picked up if it weren’t for being responsible for critiquing them on a quasi-journalistic level. But, through this delve into gaming journalism, I have essentially developed a taste for particular genres, have taken a chance on others, while still neglecting the Call of Duty franchise as a whole. And, after seeing Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at E3 2016—that might actually change.
Outside of the questionable business practices, I couldn’t help but layer my disinterest in the franchise with the dated visuals. I know that a lot of people would argue that Call of Duty is visually impressive, and it is—to a certain degree. However, it is always at a distance. The same engine has been utilized throughout the series, that being some form of the IW engine. Over the years, it’s been modified for improved performance, but still has been utilized since Call of Duty 2 which was released in 2005. Even for myself, having heard that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was going to be using the same engine once again, I couldn’t help but feel that this was yet another ‘Call of Duty‘ game that was going to be shoved out on its expected fall release schedule. Even so much so, that when compared to the graphical prowess on a video discussion of the game, I stated some of my dislikes for the upcoming first-person shooter. That was until there was more revealed at E3 2016.
An article that was posted on one of our sister-sites (Playstation Enthusiast) talked about the general feeling in the room during the PlayStation press conference at E3 2016. The game trailer displayed during the show was visibly impressive, portrayed flashy gunplay, and actually looked like a game many would play. Then, when the Call of Duty logo flashed on screen, many let out a bellowing moan for even considering that this was indeed something they had grown to see on an annual basis. And, until seeing a closer look at the game, I initially shared the same sentiments towards the franchise and this new induction into a continuing release of, yet again, ‘Duty games.
On the second day of the show, I had an appointment with Activision to see an elongated trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I knew going into the appointment that there was a large possibility that I would have some negatives to say about the game, or at least knew what I was going to see was the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. But, I still gave it the old college try and went in with an
open not completely closed mind.
The opening scene of the demo was essentially what was seen in the reveal trailer. Except the demo shown were the events prior to the thrusting rockets into space. What we saw was a sweep of the city done by Reyes, Salter, Raines, and Ethan the robot. One of the main things that I noticed was that the aiming reticle was the only visible HUD item on screen. While this might have been solely for demo purposes, it was interesting to see the game focusing on the environment, even if it was as simple as a fuming dust cloud that painted the city with dirt. There was a sense of, “Man, that’s what it would really be like if all lines of sight were tarnished.” Then, we were introduced to some of the cover firing and gunplay.
Something that I had really enjoyed about games like the most recent release of Syndicate was the ability to crouch behind objects for cover and still being able to lean out and fire. This was the case with Infinite Warfare. In fact, from what was seen, there was a lot of emphasis on cover. In most first-person games when a shootout occurs, I always push the boundaries of the game, often heading in with guns-a-blazin’. It’s not so much that I don’t have time for a gunfight. Sometimes, I just want to see if I can make it out of the hailstorm of bullets, alive. But, after seeing the advancement of the squad, cover used, it allowed the game to take a much slower pace, not relying on the flashiness of hyper-augmented weaponry to carry interest.
Some of the things noticed in the demo were a less subtle. But, they were surely welcome. For instance, when sweeping the city, there were a few types of grenades thrown. Instead of damaging victims close to the blast, they completely obliterated their biology with a heavy thud. This left me intrigued and cheering on the inside. I mean, what can you really do in a room full of folks that’s no bigger than a public restroom? Other gadgets, like the spider-like bomb that ran up to enemy robots and executed similar explosions, was a great thing to see.
Another area where my attention was drawn was during the scene where an enemy drop ship lowered bots onto the plateau atop a flight of stairs. You can see this in some of the gameplay demos as a large portion of ship comes barreling down and is avoided for safety. At this point, the demo showed the use of Reyes’ arm computer hacking the descending ship and then a view inside. A self-destruct call was initiated from the robots, and the entire ship went down in flames. I was really starting to think, “This is a game I would actually enjoy.”
Over the years, I’ve developed a growing fondness for the Crysis series. And, after seeing the what the offerings have been for first-person shooter games, the vast majority have taken to space, or introduced some expression of futuristic environments, having a hostile takeover be from aliens or larger land masses, like North Korea. I had opened myself up to liking other futuristic, sci-fi shooters. So, why couldn’t I like this Call of Duty?
There was one scene in particular that I thought was telling of this example. The shotgun used in the demo wasn’t your traditional accurate at close quarters blast, no. When looking down the iron sights, there was a dot matrix that outlined your enemies silhouette, indicating spread from consecutive shots. This wasn’t exactly mind blowing, but thought it was deserved of mention. The empty cylinder was released from a hinged latch on the bottom of the gun, prompting another to be inserted for consumption. While this might not be accurate to any sort of current generation of warfare, it did however, portray something that showed creativity in design. Something that actually piqued my interest.
Having the focus be mostly about gameplay, I did see some resemblances in the engine used. But, even with the presumptively modified IW engine, there wasn’t noticeable plastic textures as seen in the other titles. And, the lighting of the game has always been something to marvel at. There was no shortage of flashy explosions, but I actually felt this time around that there was a huge focus on how this would be shown on the ground, and then in outer space. While it was a bit far-fetched to see a ship go from standard, civilian arispace and rise into the ozone, it was interesting to see the blaring white light around the exhaust fumes and the muffled boom of the engines. And, before I knew it, we were chasing enemies ships with lines of machine gun fire, ripping off helmets of enemies and pumping bodies full of space lead. And, I will admit, I liked what I saw.