Are Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s sci-fi setting and orbital action enough to make the stagnant series interesting again, or is space the banal frontier?
The camouflaged, cybernetically-augmented cat is out out of the bag. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be bringing developer Infinity Ward’s first-person shooter series to the far reaches of the Solar System this November. While it’s hardly a surprise to see another entry in the long-running franchise poised to bring white-knuckle thrills and kill-streaks to gamers this holiday season, the game’s new setting certainly looks to be a pretty big deviation for a series that, at least up until now, has kept its combat boots firmly entrenched on familiar, Earthly battlefields, often at the cost of meaningful innovation.
There’s no question that over the past several iterations in the series, which has been co-developed by studios Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer and Treyarch over the years, is starting to get a bit long in the tooth – at least for this humble editor. Despite the series’ shift to a various settings, such as the Cold War-era hotspots featured in the original Black Ops and the near-future worlds of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the two latest releases in the Black Ops line of games, the high-tech facelift has done fundamentally little to make these titles really stand apart from their modern-day counterparts. Powered Exo Suits and weapons that can paint a bead on foes as they cower behind walls are nice, but they really don’t do a great deal to reinvent a series that’s largely been running and gunning down the same battered battlefields and bullet-pocked industrial complexes for the past decade.
If the debut footage is any indication, the series could finally be ready to see some meaningful evolution later this year. During the brief gameplay reveal trailer that Inifnity Ward released yesterday for Infinite Warfare, we were offered a look at some familiar urban gunplay and enough requisite explosions to make Michael Bay all hot and bothered, but we also got a glimpse of a few features that look like they could breathe fresh life into a series that’s in desperate need of new ideas. While it remains to be seen if all of these new mechanics will be enough to please old fans of the series, as well as entice new players to slip into the flight suits and lock and load their high-tech arsenals, they’ve certainly gotten my attention.
The most exciting of these new features is the introduction of explosive aerial combat set against the inky black void of space. Players take control of Tier One Special Operations pilot, Captain Reyes, who just so happens to be the pilot of one of “Earth’s last remaining warships”. In the gameplay footage that was showcased yesterday we see Reyes rush through an urban environment that’s been bombarded by the game’s aggressors – the militant Settlement Defense Force – only to clamber into the cockpit of his own fighter and soar through the stratosphere. What ensues is a battle that could have been ripped straight from a Star Wars film, as Reyes and his squadron lay waste to SFD vessels high above the stratosphere. Watching this chaos unfold the thought of ever controlling one of the series’ trademark gunships again suddenly seems so quaint.
Another segment of the footage that caught my eye was the introduction of zero-gravity skirmishes set outside of orbiting spacecraft. During this showdown, (presumably) Reyes snags an enemy combatant by his neck with a grappling cable, only to pull him in and snap his neck like a twig. Sure, those who played through Advanced Warfare were able to make use of a similar mechanic, but doing so against the vastness of space, in zero-fucking-gravity, sounds like a recipe for some pretty explosive showdowns.
Overall, it remains to be seen just how often we’ll see these gameplay elements showcased in the game’s campaign and multiplayer segments. Additionally, it’ll be interesting to see just how much control of our craft and zero-gravity exploration we’ll be given when the game finally releases. Here’s hoping players are afforded a bit of freedom to play with these new toys, because they look like they could add some welcome innovation to the series which has been content to rest on its laurels. That said, I do realize that Call of Duty should always be a shooter series first and foremost, of course, but I can’t help but hope these new elements factor pretty extensively into the final product.
Honestly, I hope we see some major changes make their way to the series in this installment, because as someone who mostly soaks up the single player campaigns of Call of Duty titles and avoids the multiplayer experience, I feel the franchise has dropped the ball in when it comes to the single player component of their games far too frequently this generation. What’s been shown so far of Infinite Warfare looks like it could potentially be a game-changer, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Infinity Ward comes through this time, delivering a title that will please both fans of the single player CoD experience and those who long for more interesting multiplayer options as well.
So, do you think Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s sci-fi setting and orbital action are enough to make the stagnant shooter series interesting again, or is Infinity Ward’s sojourn into the blackness of space the banal frontier We’d love to hear what you think, so be sure to sound off in the comments section below.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is slated to be released on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on November 4, 2016.