Call Of Duty: In­fi­nite War­fare PC, PS4, Xbox One

In­fin­ity Ward fights grav­ity and the past

EDGE - - GAMES SECTIONS - De­vel­oper Ac­tivi­sion Pub­lisher In­fin­ity Ward For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin US Re­lease Novem­ber 4

Be­fore they could dis­cover new worlds, the first as­tro­nauts had to re­dis­cover move­ment, ad­just­ing to an en­vi­ron­ment in which the only mean­ing­ful prepo­si­tions are ‘to­wards’ and ‘away’. In trans­port­ing play­ers to Earth’s or­bit and be­yond, Call Of Duty: In­fi­nite

War­fare is at­tempt­ing its own rein­ven­tion, but the shift is, so far, oddly lack­ing in drama – grounded, as ever, by the pres­sures of bal­anc­ing the gun­play for re­turn­ing play­ers and the fawn­ing yet selec­tive con­sul­ta­tion with real-life mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties.

Dur­ing the cam­paign’s hand­ful of zero-G sec­tions, there’s a grap­pling har­poon you can use to ping be­tween chunks of free-float­ing de­bris, an ac­cel­er­a­tion of flank­ing that’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing but not trans­for­ma­tive. You’ll also board a starfighter that uses roughly the same con­trol scheme as on-foot com­bat, al­low­ing you to aim down the sights and strafe as you un­leash mis­siles and can­nons against kilo­me­tre-long cap­i­tal ships. “We have US Navy Seal con­sul­tants and we asked, ‘If you were go­ing to fight in a zero-grav­ity en­vi­ron­ment, how would that play out in your mind?’” nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor Tay­lor

Kurosaki ex­plains. “And they all said, over and over again: ‘You need to be in cover, just like on the ground’.”

It’s a dispir­it­ingly mun­dane vi­sion of space con­flict, fol­low­ing the wide-eyed naivete of games such as No Man’s Sky, though In­fin­ity Ward does share with Hello Games a ha­tred of rough edges. The plot might take you from Mars to Europa, but where pre­vi­ous

CODs are all rapid per­spec­tive shifts, this it­er­a­tion’s tran­si­tions have been care­fully smoothed down. A break­neck de­scent from a cruiser’s bridge to a moon’s con­gealed and wind­ing crust is flu­idly de­liv­ered as a mix of first­per­son sto­ry­telling and pre­ren­dered cutscene, with no load­ing pauses. “The game is ef­fec­tively in re­al­time,” Kurosaki says. The plot also aims to unify what Kurosaki (a vet­eran of Sony’s Un­charted se­ries) terms the two poles of the COD- brand war story – the tale of the grunt in the trenches ver­sus that of the unit com­man­der, bowed by re­spon­si­bil­ity. As by-the-num­bers Cau­casian pro­tag­o­nist Nick Reyes, you’ll ul­ti­mately take charge of a cap­i­tal ship, the Ret­ri­bu­tion, to pur­sue a war against the Set­tle­ment De­fense Front, a group of colo­nial rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies led by Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington.

Mul­ti­player, mean­while, dis­re­gards

the pos­si­bil­i­ties and chal­lenges of zero-G tra­ver­sal al­most en­tirely in favour of In­fin­ity Ward’s own spin on Black Ops 3’ s en­gag­ingly hefty boost-jump­ing and wall-run­ning, whose grand­est ad­di­tions, the RIGS, are es­sen­tially more fo­cused, im­per­sonal ver­sions of Black

Ops 3’ s MOBA-es­que Spe­cial­ists. There are six in all, each en­com­pass­ing a choice of three su­per abil­i­ties that are charged up dur­ing the match like kill­streaks, plus one of three pas­sive traits. If the abil­i­ties and traits them­selves are fa­mil­iar, there’s a pleas­ing pre­ci­sion to how they in­ter­lock and com­ple­ment the game’s brashly restyled mix of weapon classes, grenades, de­ploy­ables and streak re­wards.

The ro­botic Sy­nap­tics RIG, for ex­am­ple, has the abil­ity to trans­form into a four-legged mech that’s con­trolled in third­per­son, low­er­ing your hit­box and boost­ing your melee attack – a party trick that chimes nicely with a trait that briefly in­creases your speed for ev­ery en­emy downed. A more cal­cu­lat­ing Stryker player might opt for a tur­ret that can be placed on walls and floors, plus a trait whereby placed equip­ment and throw­ables mark tar­gets on the HUD. It’s both a deep­en­ing of COD’s class el­e­ments and, in nar­row­ing down the cast af­ter Black Ops 3, an ac­knowl­edge­ment that the di­ver­sity of roles of­fered by MOBAs doesn’t work for a shooter in which, to quote mul­ti­player de­signer Joe

Ce­cot, “Ev­ery player wants to be a rock­star.” The mul­ti­player also takes a page from Bungie’s Des­tiny in the form of new weapon pro­to­types, crafted us­ing sal­vage that’s gath­ered in-game (Ac­tivi­sion has yet to say whether you can also buy pro­to­types via mi­cro­trans­ac­tions, but we’ll be sur­prised if this isn’t the case). There are four grades of each weapon model, dis­tin­guished by gar­ish de­cals and ar­cane perks – a weapon-spe­cific streak that calls in a tac­ti­cal nuke af­ter 25 kills, for ex­am­ple, or a viewfinder that high­lights wounded op­po­nents. “One of the things Call Of Duty has been re­ally suc­cess­ful with in the past is tak­ing things from other gen­res,” Ce­cot notes. “Player pro­gres­sion, the XP bar, lev­el­ling up – you could even look at score­streaks as fill­ing up your su­per me­ter and call­ing in some­thing epic in a fight­ing game. So I would say, yes, Des­tiny had some in­flu­ence.” It’s un­likely that In­fi­nite War­fare’s rarer guns will ex­ert the same ap­peal of a Gjal­larhorn – Call Of Duty is too well-known a prop­erty to gen­er­ate that kind of mys­tique

– but they’re cer­tainly more en­gag­ing in­cen­tives for long-term play than Pres­tig­ing a char­ac­ter for the 11th time over.

In­fi­nite War­fare is hardly unique in sub­or­di­nat­ing a vivid set­ting to the needs of a proven com­bat loop, and nor is it alone in pos­ing a fu­ture that bleakly and com­pla­cently slops Earth’s wars for re­sources across the galaxy. But there’s some­thing ar­rest­ing about how In­fin­ity Ward’s ap­proach cuts against that of Tre­yarch, the stu­dio’s old­est in­ter­nal ri­val. Black Ops 3 was an un­tidy punk remix for Call Of Duty, its chap­ters playable in any or­der, its well-worn de­sign el­e­ments made vis­i­ble to the player as holo­graphic pro­jec­tions, its plot a clumsy med­i­ta­tion on the bank­ruptcy of its own geopol­i­tics. In­fi­nite

War­fare craves that avail­abil­ity to player choice, but seems un­will­ing to risk any frag­men­ta­tion or self-ref­er­en­tial­ity. Its cam­paign oc­ca­sion­ally lets you choose which mis­sions to play first, for ex­am­ple, but rep­re­sents this as Reyes de­cid­ing where to con­tinue the fight for the so­lar sys­tem – there’s no sense, as in Black Ops 3, that the abil­ity to re­ar­range the nar­ra­tive might be a com­men­tary on COD’s lack of real co­he­sion.

Only in the re­turn­ing wave-based Zom­bies mode does the de­vel­oper re­ally per­mit it­self the lux­ury of a lit­tle fourth-wall theatre. As as­so­ci­ate project di­rec­tor Lee Ross puts it, “If you look at the rest of the game you’re in Kansas, and when you step into Zom­bies you’re in Oz.” This in­stal­ment of the cher­ished mode is set in an ’80s theme-park with rid­able roller­coast­ers. Held to­gether by the usual rhythm of slay­ing waves of un­dead and spend­ing the re­wards on gear and un­lock­able paths, it seems as much a colour­ful stag­ing ground for anx­i­eties about ar­ti­fi­cial-feel­ing COD sce­nario el­e­ments as it is a throw­back to Flynn’s Ar­cade and Cap­tain EO.

In­fin­ity Ward’s lat­est project is, above all, caught in the grav­ity well of two games: the de­vel­oper’s pre­vi­ous Call Of Duty: Ghosts, a trau­matic cross-gen­er­a­tion game that was com­pleted fol­low­ing an ex­o­dus of staff to Res­pawn En­ter­tain­ment, and the orig­i­nal, trend-set­ting Modern War­fare, which has been (per­haps counter-pro­duc­tively) re­mas­tered to ac­com­pany In­fi­nite War­fare as a spe­cial edi­tion. The tur­moil of the for­mer ex­plains this it­er­a­tion’s ob­ses­sion with smooth­ness and pol­ish; the pres­ence of the lat­ter its re­luc­tance to stray too far from for­mula. The re­sults are ro­bust enough to en­tice but, so far, nei­ther the ex­is­ten­tial chal­lenge posed by

Black Ops 3 nor the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the premise feel like they’re be­ing fully em­braced.

In­fin­ity Ward’s lat­est project is, above all, caught in the grav­ity well of two games

Call Of Duty’s real classes are its weapons, not its char­ac­ters. Im­pos­ing though they are, the new RIGS are aux­il­iary sys­tems

FROM TOP As­so­ci­ate project di­rec­tor Lee Ross; nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor Tay­lor Kurosaki; mul­ti­player de­signer Joe Ce­cot

Reyes’ ship, the Ret­ri­bu­tion, is Mass Ef­fect’s Nor­mandy with­out the soap opera sub­plots, a hub space where you’ll rearm and plot out your next ad­ven­ture

TOP LEFT Cameos for this year’s Zom­bies mode in­clude Seth Green and The Hoff. It’s more ac­ces­si­ble than Black­Ops3’ s puz­zledriven of­fer­ing, but theme-park rides pose bespoke chal­lenges.

ABOVE The weapon streaks mix old stand­bys such as the UAV and Care Pack­age with slight in­no­va­tions such as a mech that can be set to au­topi­lot – a nod to Ti­tan­fall

LEFT The game’s cap­i­tal ships are a fu­sion of NASA space sta­tion and US Navy car­rier, flat-topped with re­tractable Faster Than Light drives and swiv­el­ling deck guns

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