A bridge just far enough.
Playing Day of Infamy reminds me of playing the original Call of Duty over a LAN network at a sleepover at a friend’s house as a teenager. It was just the two of us stalking suspiciously around these ruined French villages and snow-blasted Soviet bunkers. At any moment we could round a corner and get instantly gibbed by a nearby parent-awakeningly-loud shot from a bolt-action rifle. The actual combat didn’t last long, but it was all about the palm-sweatingly intense build-up to that life-or-death moment. This is the true appeal of more realistic FPS games to me – and Day of Infamy seems to get it.
Day of Infamy is a multiplayer FPS set in that classic game-inspiring conflict called World War II. What’s immediately apparent when you get started in any of the modes is the great attention to atmosphere. When I loaded into my first game – starting off on the beach of a Normandy landing styled map – it was a microcosm of every Hoo-rah World War II movie I’d ever seen. Playing as the Americans, I heard a commanding officer say something like “Ah’ don’t give a good God damn if we’re outnumbered. The brass told us to take this position!” before I knew it, the entire squad of US marines was charging up the beaches around me, yelling out enemy positions, screaming in pain or confusion; Nazi bullets snapping off nearby cover as I dashed behind a rocky outcropping.
I levelled my shaky rifle, the recoil knocking my aim off with every shot, barely able to tell if I’d manage to kill some far-off Nazi or not. Every time I reloaded my weapon, my soldier would nervously mumble “Oh shit… Oh shit…” or “C’mon, godamnit!” as his shaky hands loaded in the next round. I could practically feel my heart in my throat hearing footsteps approaching my position, angry german voices rising in volume. I whipped out my pistol and fired it in a desperate frenzy; bullets pinging off nearby surroundings – death only ever a second away. I barely had time to register that the two black-uniformed corpses in front of me were no longer moving before a mortar dropped nearby, my vision blurring, a tinny whine piercing my ears. As I sprinted into the scant cover of a nearby ruined building, I was just thinking: “Wow, this is great!”
It’s interesting, because Day of Infamy comes from the makers of Insurgency – a modern-style military shooter which I found to be tiresomely generic and boring. However, with this go around, I really feel like they’ve realized a key fact: atmosphere matters. Even in its present alpha version – rather than feeling like a threadbare preview of the final game – Day of Infamy feels like a fleshed out, immediate experience. There’s already a wide variety of different classes to play: from your tommy-gun wielding assault troopers, to snipers. Even an absolutely horrific flamethrower is on offer (you’d better believe you’ll hear some blood-curdling screams when you get killed by it). There are already three different fully implemented factions – including the Americans, Nazis and Commonwealth forces (that’s the Brits!). There’s a handy command wheel which allows you to quickly communicate important information, such as whether you need someone to radio in a mortar strike. Working together with your team feels very intuitive.
As well as pitched multiplayer team battles – where you capture objectives to gain more re-enforcement waves – there’s also single-player and co-operative modes where you can take on the AI by yourself or with a buddy. It’s surprising how enjoyable these modes already are. I had one particularly fun mission where I was patrolling with my squad through a battered French town, with my AI allies being smart enough to duck behind cover, throw smoke grenades to obscure enemy fire, and generally hold their own. Also, the enemy seemed to be setting up canny ambushes: going prone and laying down rifle fire on our squad from the high ground. It was very tense as the squad slowly got whittled down, with me taking control of another solider with each death. When I cracked the mission, it was fist-pumpingly satisfying. The only thing that seems really missing from Day of Infamy so far is the lack of persistent rewards or any sort of a campaign mode to tie together the disparate missions. Other than that little niggle though, Day of Infamy looks like it might be a D-Day of World War II FPSes – pushing back the tide for the setting after Call of Duty and its ilk have neglected it for so long. Expect me to fighting on the beaches, fighting on the hills and reviewing the full version of Day of Infamy when it lands under a hail of bullets.