E3 2016 – Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Preview – Grounded in Space (PS4)

Surprisem folks! There’s another Call of Duty on the way, which seems to spread a massive amount of hate given both that it’s a Call of Duty title and that it’s a space shooter. The name alone instills a level of internet disgust that is only possibly matched by the seemingly rampant armchair outrage at Destiny. But Sony and Activision decided to be a little tricky this year. If you watched the PlayStation press conference, they showed you a video of an epic space dogfight, zero gravity combat, and taking over an enemy ship. And they did it all without telling you it was the new Call of Duty until that last moment. They tricked everyone, and it worked.

You probably found yourself nodding along, thinking this gritty space war game actually looked pretty cool. For those of you that didn’t watch the trailer above, follow along now as I briefly recant what you saw. We see someone walking to the bridge of the ship in what appears to be a more militarized version of Mass Effect. Once there, a holographic console is used to select a mission somewhere in the solar system. Again, there’s quite a Mass Effect vibe going on here. From there we head to the ship bay where we jump in our ship and take off into the stars, leading quickly into an intense dogfight. Popping open the canopy, we’re treated to combat in zero gravity, redefining what we know about cover and combat mechanics in a Call of Duty game. In fact, so far, none of this looks definitively like Call of Duty, and I bet most of you were even a little interested. 

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It wasn’t until the end that you realized what you’d been getting into was actually the upcoming Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It’s like enjoying a new song on the radio without realizing that you’re actually listening to a band you hate. You might feel a little dirty after tapping your feet to the beat. You may feel a bit betrayed. But get over the name. Sony showed us that what’s underneath the stigma of a name is in fact a great game that’s looking to be a lot of fun. Go ahead. Watch that trailer again and try not to think “Call of Duty” while you do. You might just find yourself becoming interested.

To Infinity…

Infinite Warfare is the first game in Infinity Ward’s part of Call of Duty’s three-year development cycle. While you may think that the high tech space shooter is overdone, Infinity Ward found an interesting way to counter this by making it classic, gritty warfare, evoking the feelings of a time when things like laser weapons and space travel were not a part of the equation on the battlefield. They’ve done this by creating a game where it isn’t one man against the world. You’re not imply a grunt following the orders of a stern leaders. You’re the captain this time around and the decisions are yours. The responsibilities are yours. The lives of thousands of soldiers are yours.

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is an underdog story. As the leader of the last defense force standing between Earth and the Settlement Defense Front — who are oddly enough going on quite the offensive despite their name — Reyes will be the player link to a story that evolves from the mentality of no soldier left behind and brotherhood, to realizing that sacrifices must be made and that the mission comes first. This is a classic and clear cut war story. It’s good versus evil on the grand scale of classic warfare, just in a futuristic zero gravity setting. 

Imagine for a moment the opportunity to be part of a massive skirmish on the ground, war happening all around. You and your squad move forward, pushing towards an objective. Suddenly you are in your ship — a jackal — cruising into space and getting involved in a space dogfight that makes Star Wars battles almost look tame by comparison. And it’s seamless. Being that small piece in something bigger than yourself is one thing. Having that small piece be the leader of that bigger set piece is decidedly unlike Call of Duty and more along the lines of something like Halo or Mass Effect.

…And Beyond

While Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will have a dedicated linear narrative because there’s a story they want to tell, Infinity Ward has taken great strides in making everything around the narrative as seamless and unscripted as possible. Watch the video above again. In the interest of time, there are some cuts made here and there, but Infinity Ward has promised a seamless experience. So you’ll choose your mission (more on this in a moment), go to the hangar, hop in your ship, and fly to the mission seamlessly. It makes everything feel so much more connected and not separated by each mission or level.

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The feeling of being a leader rather than a grunt also promises much more emotional impact, because your choices and responsibility will lead directly to their fates. While the narrative is a set story, they seek to give the player attachment and help you feel like the decisions being made are ones you would actually make in those situations. Infinity Ward calls this player-protaganist parity. Where the leadership aspect permeates the gameplay is in the freedom to seamlessly (hey, there’s that word again) undertake side missions called ship assaults. Ship assaults are a variety of missions like stealth infiltration, full on battles, stealing intel and tech from ships, and scuttling enemy vessels, all of which help to give you and your squad more weapons and abilities to make future missions more manageable. 

Step away from your own stigma of the Call of Duty name for a moment. Whether you like it or not, Infinite Warfare should be looked at for its own merits and not the brand. Breaking the traditional mold of space shooters, Infinity Ward is creating a campaign that combines many elements seen in different games, but never all seen in a single game before. It’s looking to be a brilliant take on both the space shooter and Call of Duty formula that breaks conventions we’re used to as gamers. Let out a sigh of relief. Despite the internet’s initial misconceptions, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare actually looks pretty damn cool.