We shall fight them on the beaches, fight them on the hills… and now online as well!
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 “I don’t give ah’ 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 into a building.
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!”
Fascism, Monarchy or Democracy?
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 realised a key fact: atmosphere matters. This idea of immersion being important is also carried over into the other major improvement Day of Infamy has over Insurgency: having a sense of progression matters. As you play through different matches, you gain ranks. You also have the chance to earn the ability to play as different divisions within each of the game’s playable factions: Commonwealth, US Army and the Wehrmacht.
Playing as the Commonwealth, I’d unlocked the Highlander division from having the game since early access. With plaid caps, firey red celtic moustaches and powerfully Scottish voice lines, they were really fun to play. I remember my trooper defiantly shouting “I’ll keel ye jerry bahstards!” when he was the last man standing in Day of Infamy’s deathmatch-like Firefight mode. I’d also notice Indian troops wearing turbans as they were charging into battle, and often I’d hear Canadian sergeants giving heavily accented speeches (“Let’s take this this position, eh?”). These different divisions really add some richness and character to playing as each faction, and really incentivizes you to unlock them. In keeping with Day of Infamy’s focus on skill, all of these unlocks are purely aesthetic and don’t give you tangible gameplay bonuses. Thankfully for new players, a dogged veteran will go down from a bullet or two just as easily as a fresh recruit.
No matter which faction you’re in, there’s a wide variety of classes to choose from. The officer class is particularly good at giving battles a real ebb and flow. If accompanied by a radioman (who himself will capture points twice as fast), an officer can call down artillery strikes on enemy positions, helping to clear them out before troops move in. It’s really adrenaline pumping when you’re leaping over barricades and crawling under tanks with deafening explosions kicking up clouds of dust all around you.
All the classes felt very intuitive to use. It’s immediately clear how the flamethrower trooper is meant for fighting in trenches and bunkers, clearing them out to a chorus of terrifying screams. Likewise, the machine gunner can set up a bipod on a windowsill, or on the ground when lying prone, making him less quick to respond, but unstoppable when set up in the right spot.
The different classes work better in different situations, really encouraging players to use teamwork to succeed. Even if an entire 15 plus player team is seldom perfectly co-ordinated, getting a few friends on comms to work together with is a satisfying and rewarding experience. Calling for sniper support to help when you’re pinned down, setting up flanks and clearing rooms with grenades really is an excitingly immersive time when you’ve got a few buddies along.
There’s also a Co-op mode where you and a squad of other players can take on an army of AI bots. Entrenchment mode, where you’re defending a fixed point against endless waves of AI troopers can get a bit dull because of the stupidity of the AI. They’re simply not as cunning as human players, often charging down streets covered by machine-gunners, getting mowed down mercilessly. However, Stronghold mode is a lot more fun, because it plays a lot more like a classic early noughties Medal of Honour game, except with friends. The dumb AI isn’t an issue because of their numbers and the urgency to keep pushing forward to the next objective – whether it’s capturing a point, destroying an ammo dump or assassinating an enemy commander.
This ain’t like the FPS games back home, private!
Day of Infamy, like Insurgency before it, advertises itself to a more hardcore shooter audience. You won’t get any hit indicators or kill feeds. You’ll have to visually check that you’ve downed your target. There’s no radar and only the most minimal HUD. For example, there’s no visual ammo count, so you’ll have to remember how many bullets are in each clip! Many was the time I’d hear a dissapointing “click” just as I’d expected to deliver that final kill shot. Likewise, the respawn mechanic reflects this realism-centric focus well. In the more hardcore firefight mode, once you’re dead, you’re out for the count unless your team can capture another point.
These more hardcore mechanics were refreshing. Having to rely on the echoes of gunfire, the sounds of footsteps and the cries for help from my allies to locate hostile Jerries/Tommies/Yankies resulted in a lot of really tense situations. Call of Duty or Gears of War fans might not enjoy how often it’s encouraged to wait patiently in a fortified position, or crawl carefully forward, peeking around every corner. However, those who enjoy the mounting tension – replicating the life or death experience of real war – will relish it.
Day of Infamy comes as close as any multiplayer shooter has gotten to capturing the intensity of a pitched battle from Dubya Dubya Two. With a solid variety of modes to choose from and a goodly number of unlocks for each faction, there’s plenty of playability to compliment the excellent atmosphere. If you’re looking for a slower, more considered, more down-to-earth shooter – Day of Infamy is a bridge far enough, solider.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: New World Interactive ; Developer: New World Interactive ; Players: Online Multiplayer ; Released: March 23rd, 2017 ;
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Day of Infamy provided by the publisher.