An engaging story, beautiful cinematography, characters with depth, this could easily be a big budget movie, but surprisingly not – I’m talking about a game.
I picked up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare a few days ago. Call of duty is a long running first person shooter franchise. The last time I played was Call of Duty was Black Ops way back in 2010/11.
The storyline had me totally absorbed in the first couple of missions. In fact I was more into the story and characters in this game than in any film I’ve seen this year.
** Spoilers **
A few things that stood out to me:
- The storytelling genuinely surprised me a few times:
- In the intro mission you are sent to a weapons research facility to steal a prototype weapon, you get caught and executed. I kept waiting for the game to give me an option to escape. It’s a clever way to set the scene and it very quickly get’s you emotionally on side with the good guys.
- Shortly after the intro you attend a visually stunning parade of spaceships and other craft flying over an ultra modern city (Geneva). You get on your craft to ship out to a mission. Suddenly out of nowhere the city / fleet is attacked and you end up crashing and going into an excellent ground fight through the streets.
- The characters are spot on; a couple of examples:
- Ethan – A robot, witty and brilliantly written. The perfect stereotype ‘marine’ chat with some funny self referential ‘robot in human society’ jokes. After just five minutes I really liked this guy.
- Staff Sergeant Omar – A little bit of a gruff character; gets his nose out of joint with your taking over his ship and being on his team. They did a good job in making me dislike but still respect a character. A fine balance.
- Breathtaking transitions:
- The first mission involves a relatively long shooter fight through the streets, this culminates in re-capturing the defence grid control (Sci Fi trope), you then jump in a ship whereupon I expected a cut scene to mission complete menu screen, instead you get control of the ship and fly straight into space and into a space battle. This little bit of genre merging makes the experience seamless and I really felt like I was in a story rather than just a shooter. Eat your heart out ‘No Mans Land’, I felt better about flying from planet to space in Call of Duty.
- There are a few interesting themes to think about in this game:
- Rather than humans vs. aliens it goes into human vs. human conflict in a space faring society; probably a more realistic space future given human history.
- There is something about Robots as characters fitting in with human society.
- In the first mission a Captain uses his ship to ram another ship; which causes a lot of injury and some deaths, including the Captain. There is some dialogue around “he shouldn’t have done that, a captains duty is to take his crew home safely” vs. “he did a heroic thing which bought us time to recover”.
- Good use of PS4 hardware:
- One little touch I loved was the use of the controller speaker. While the main sound came out of the monitor, the controller speaker acted like a wireless radio making the little beeps, buzzes and occasional voice chat you would expect in army communications. This really simple touch ups the immersion hugely.
Call of Duty is a huge budget game; gameplay and visuals are as expected, excellent. In addition to that there are a lot of famous actors providing character voices.
The big surprise for me is how far they’ve come in terms of storytelling and cinematography, some of the cut scene shots; how the camera moves around, are really impressive.