Thursday, July 27, 2017

Game Talk #20: Call of Duty - Infinite Warfare

So, why has it been so long since I've done one of these?

I'm so fucking busy that I don't even know how to describe it.

So anyway, I've been obsessed with Infinite Warfare. This game is one of those like underdog, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the absolute last moment kind of games for me. Why? A little history.

I first became introduced to Call of Duty with Modern Warfare. It blew me the fuck away. MW2 only blew me away even more. It remains, I think, the best Call of Duty game, (although now Infinite Warfare is my favorite). Modern Warfare 3 I loved as well and that's actually where I got into the multiplayer. In fact, it was the only time I've ever gotten into CoD multiplayer.

I didn't care about anything that came before Modern Warfare, nor World at War, nor Black Ops 1 & 2. But when Ghosts came out in 2013, I was excited, because it sounded interesting. I got it, fully intending to get back into multiplayer, but it just didn't work out that way, mainly because I found the game lackluster. I didn't even beat the campaign first time through, but going through it a second time, I actually enjoyed and beat it. And then haven't played it since. Extinction was a great idea, too. I really wish that would have taken off.

Also, on a side note, while I gladly would sacrifice Ghosts 2 for IW, I am kind of disappointed that they just left that cliffhanger ending.

When Advanced Warfare came out, I really liked that one. Fantastic campaign and gameplay. I thought it managed to feel different while still also feeling like a CoD game. Not to mention, good lord, those cut-scenes still look cutting edge.

Then Black Ops 3 happened, and I grabbed a copy, brand new, full price, launch day, and played through the campaign. I was less enthralled with this one. I mean, at first, I really liked where it was going, especially with some light horror aspects, and later some psychological thriller aspects. Unfortunately, it didn't build to a satisfying conclusion. (Seriously, I was so confused by the ending, I had to go look it up, and even then it still seemed weird.) So it was a great idea with a bad finale. And I still didn't like the damned multiplayer.

It was after finishing up Black Ops 3 that I know what? I need to stop buying these games brand new, full price. I mean, I'm only playing the campaign through once, maybe twice, and that's it. I just don't care about the multiplayer, and I don't even care about the zombie mode anymore. (Advanced Warfare didn't even ship with it!!!)

Then Infinite Warfare started getting teased, and I was fucking amped. I have been waiting for Call of Duty in space, and I mean ACTUALLY in space, not just like in Earth orbit for like one level, but fighting on Mars and the moon and all over the solar system, for like eight years now, back when I first got the idea. And of course we all know how the IW launch trailer became the most disliked video on YouTube ever. Or close to it, anyway.

Let's talk about that for a second. Why are/were people bitching SO much about that? Like, listen, WWII has been done TO. FUCKING. DEATH. There are so many fucking books and games and movies about it, and it's all CoD even was before Modern Warfare came along and finally made the series actually interesting. And I know people are going to say the same thing about 'future' CoD now, but I honestly think that while, yeah, I was actually getting tired of fighting robots in the nearish future, Infinite Warfare broke through the ceiling and catapulted into an entirely new realm of storytelling. This wasn't just Earth in 2050 or 2080, with some high-tech stuff and robots. This was fucking actual, real outer space, for almost the whole game.

Ironically, I did not purchase Infinite Warfare in 2016. In fact, I kind of forgot about it, since I've got so much else going on in my life, and so many other games on my to-play list. In May of this year, I decided to take a quick look at the price, and saw that it was half-off, down to 25$ on Amazon, and figured, 'Okay, yeah, a good a time as any.' And I bought it. Started playing it, got pissed off in the prologue because of one poorly designed area, and...stopped playing for about a month and a half, since that whole busyness thing doesn't really go away.

Fast forward to this month, July, where I look at the game case and think, 'Okay, CoD campaigns aren't THAT long, and I started it, I've at least got to beat it once.' So I put it back in, started a fresh campaign, and got to work.

And then I fell immediately in love.

Currently, I'm on my like...fifth playthrough of the campaign. It's rare I do that anymore, especially when I'm playing it for the sheer sake of experiencing the game and I'm not going for any achievements or challenges or anything. I'm simply enjoying the story and the environment.

So why is that? Well, let's start with a quick plot synopsis to make sure we're all on the same page.

It's the future. The game doesn't specify the year, but we've got FTL flight and colonies all over the solar system and the Earth is basically unified. There's mining colonies on moons and asteroids, orbital shipyards, and research outposts and full colonies on several planets and larger moons. Now, some time ago, during the 'gold rush' era of space colonization, the Settlement Defense Front was a military force created to instill some law and order out there on the frontier. Eventually, they decided they could do it better all by themselves and went rogue, launching the Secession Wars and attempting to seize control of the whole system. Ultimately, it culminated in peace accords and the divvying up of the system.

Apparently, though, they never stopped thinking they could do it better, and were really just biding their time. The game opens with the SDF launching an all-out surprise attack on Earth and, in the process of driving them off, the Earth loses all but two of its space-worthy destroyer ships. In the chaos, the main character, Nick Reyes, a veteran combat pilot, gets put in charge of one of these ships. And now it's up to you and your crew to stop the SDF from finishing the job by kicking their ass all over the system.

So, pretty cool premise. Gameplay wise, the game has a little over a half dozen primary story missions. That sounds like not a lot, but not only are these fairly lengthy levels, often divided up into multiple parts, but the game is supplemented by an additional nine side missions that are either areal combat or more traditional FPS style.

It's a pretty solid campaign.

So why do I like it so much?

For the sake of transparency, I think that it's really more of a coincidence that I love this game. I don't love it because it's Call of Duty, or even because it has a truly stellar campaign or story or characters, but mainly because I finally, finally have a game where I can play in the solar system. I've never really had that before. I've always had a love of astronomy and the planets and their moons. I obsessed over it all when I was much younger, and today that translates into a passing interest that, if properly stimulated, becomes intense.

Like with this game.

All that being said, Infinite Warfare is still a great campaign. It has a simple but well-executed story, a very good cast of characters that aren't 'Generic Marine #7' or 'Typical Technician #28'. When you are onboard your ship, the Retribution, even the background characters feel pretty real and diverse. That's another thing, diversity. Most of the gaming industry just got its ass handed to it in terms of having an inclusive cast by a fucking Call of Duty game. That's kind of unreal, and awesome.

So what's wrong with the game then?

Right off the bat, I didn't try the multiplayer even once. Although I glanced at it a little, and I liked what I saw in that there's a bit more of a story to the MP, I'm still not interested. The wall-running and jump-jetting and gadgets and crap, it's too much for me. I'm boring in that I just want more old school, Halo 3 and MW3 era gameplay in my multiplayer. Also, again with that busy thing, I don't really have time for multiplayer.

To be honest, not much is really wrong with the game, per say. If anything, the complaints I had were really just me wishing there were more things.

The side missions. Although they did get a bit repetitive, (every single one of them where you get out of your space jet takes place on an enemy cruiser, I wanted to go onto more planets and moons!), they're still good missions in and of themselves. And furthermore, why didn't they DLC in more of these side missions!? It'd have been absolutely perfect for such an opportunity.

The ship itself that you occupy between missions. What there was, was pretty cool. But you were confined to a very small portion of the ship. I wanted to explore! I wanted more areas to see, more features, more conversations, maybe even mini-games? It was a hugely wasted opportunity.

The zombies. Okay, this is really my biggest gripe. The zombie mode in this was just fucking stupid. The story was so out there, so over the top, so unnecessary that I didn't even see the point. I mean, it has nothing to do with the universe or the campaign, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong and I missed something, but I don't even care. In a universe of gritty military sci-fi, I don't want to play a sub-game where I'm trapped in a carnival on the moon because an '80s horror director made a deal with the Devil to be immortal and...needs to feed people to zombies to keep it going? I don't fucking know.

All I know is that they wasted a perfectly good opportunity. Why not have it be part of the universe?! It'd be so easy to have like, a research station on Venus go dark, and you are part of a four-person squad sent in to investigate, and find zombies! That'd be so fucking awesome!

Actually, you know what? Fuck it, I'll do it myself.

The other real criticism I have of the story is the bad guys. The SDF. Their intentions are really kind of basic and as an enemy, they're a little lame. I mean, they have this asshole boss who is just a lunatic. At one point, he literally tells you all to 'surrender for execution'. Like, why even bother? Is this guy really so fucking stupid that he thinks that would work? If death is a certainty following surrender, what person wouldn't keep fighting?

Really, they just kind of came off as space Nazis. They basically think that they have the right to rule over the solar system because they're tougher. Seriously, that's their argument. We are tougher than you are, so you don't deserve your stuff. We do. I mean, that makes for a quick and easy bad guy army, I guess, but it would have been nice if there was some more thought put into this.

That's all I can really think of in terms of complaints.

Oh wait, one more thing. A lot of people have complained about the name of the game, and...yeah, I mean, I can see. Infinite Warfare. What does that even mean? It sounds like a really high-concept sci-fi, but this is decidedly not high concept.

What was wrong with Solar Warfare? Spacial Warfare? Interstellar Warfare?

On the good side, there's a few cool things worked into the game. Like your 'Most Wanted Board'. Basically, it's the command structure of the SDF, and they let you know every time you kill someone on the board, and they get crossed off the list. In most cases, you actually have to fight them. Typically in dogfights. Honestly, it doesn't amount to much functionally speaking, you don't get perks for doing it or anything, but it adds to the atmosphere.

And then there are Armories you can find scattered throughout the game. Finding these will give you tangible perks in the game like faster reloading, better equipment, increased accuracy, etc.

To be honest, the game is a little basic, and I feel like that was intentional. Either they left it basic so that there was a good and easy foundation to build off of, (they say they want to make it a series within CoD, ((PLEASE)), so that would make sense), or they were spreading their resources between campaign, zombies, and multiplayer, and this was as much as they could do. Either way, despite being a bit simple, the campaign is great and well-crafted.

So if you've got a love of the solar system, or really just First Person Shooters in general, give the campaign a shot! This is a solid game. (Again, just the campaign, no idea about MP.)

My only genuine concern now is that due to the bitching and the comparatively less sales of IW, they'll cancel their plans to do sequels. Please don't, Infinity Ward! Make more! Make many more! There's so much left to explore, so much potential for expansion.

Here's hoping.

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