Call of Duty – Infinite Warfare


The last time Infinity Ward headed a Call of Duty game was Ghost, and I liked Ghost better than any of the games that came after – it was just long enough and it didn’t spend too much time getting lost in ill-constructed upgrade systems or branching paths. Instead, Ghosts offered a blockbuster experience with tons of variety – not all of it worked and some really did not fit into the Call of Duty mold, but it was a fun game.

Infinite Warfare has a lot of that – it has a few upgrades, but they are all passive things you get automatically and silently. You get to pick your loadouts, but in true Call of Duty fashion the weapons are all similar enough – and you change them frequently enough – that it does not matter much. The problem with too much player customization is that it becomes difficult to balance challenges for the player and a specialized character tends to approach problems in their preferred way, so in a sense the game opens up more possibilites but individual playthroughs are prone to being less varied – much like Ghosts, Infinite Warfare errs on the side of variety.

Now, it is where Infinite Warfare gets this variety that it becomes a bit odd – early on, you are promoted to captain a battleship and somehow still take part in dogfights and infantry assaults with marines – thematically and gameplay-wise it feels more like Mass Effect. Missions swap between the dogfighting and different styles of more traditional CoD – shooting, ultimately it is still a linear game and it feels like it could have gotten even more actual variety out of not pretending otherwise, but the core gameplay is solid enough to hold it. But it is hard to connect what is mostly a sci-fi experience to the military shooter legacy.

And the setting and gameplay is not the only place where Infinite Warfare diverges from its predecessors, the story goes more for high drama than a more subdued military recollection, and it does not really work. That’s not to say that other CoD games have not failed here, or that the series even at its height was some sort of literary masterpiece, but at least Modern Warfare had a sense of self. All the communication was wrapped in faux-military professionalism, the bomber mission had a cold distance to it that spoke volumes (and it did so without being as overt as the controversial “No Russian” mission of MW2) and when the nuke was dropped halfway through the game it did not ask us to empathize with a silent protagonist but rather dwelled on the sad fate of one soldier forgotten among many. Infinite Warfare, by comparison, throws a series of characters at you in a desperate bid to familiarize you with them only so they can make heroic sacrifices later – even without the legacy of a more subdued commentary on modern military, it feels shallow and taints a mechanically interesting part of the game.

There is still a very solid core of shooting there and the variety in gameplay – while not as great as in Ghosts – is compelling enough that it is a very enjoyable game, but it is a shame when you can see the ending an hour before it happens and the delivery almost makes you want to stop playing.

Posted on Nov 30/16 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Titanfall 2


Considering Respawn’s origins, it is hardly surprising that the Titanfall 2 campaign is a varied affair – levels start out by being merely distinct in theme and layout, then new mechanics are introduced and removed for a few levels before the climactic finale. It is the good kind of variation that serves to keep an action game interesting without lowering the pace, the kind of variation that does not betray the core gameplay. I’m thinking of Call of Duty: Ghosts and even to some extent Bulletstorm when playing this, although Titanfall has more to the core game than either of them and aspires to be more serious and less gimmicky with the gameplay variations. It does not necessarily work – while Titanfall throws some decent attempts at parkour, world-switching and gadgeteering in there it is not Mirror’s Edge or any game that have gone into more depth of these mechanics. Bulletstorm had a radio-controlled dinosaur with a laser, and I feel like if Titanfall did not pretend to have gameplay variation that was deeper than it really is, it could have had a tone more in line with the premise of big robots and acrobatic pilots.

That is not to say that I heavily disliked the Narrative – while predictable and having a gallery of European stereotypes as villains, the generic brown-haired army dude in the lead role takes a commendably small part and most of the player’s attention is on the titan and its “unintentionally funny societally impaired” – schtick. Not the most original of concepts to do, but it is pulled off well.

Titanfall 2 is – much like my favorite parts of the Call of Duty series – not a singleplayer campaign that wastes your time with things similar to what you have already played, or things that you will not appreciate. It is a smooth experience that dabbles in variation enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that it loses track of its core gameplay. I sometimes wish it had been bolder, but it is a very fun and well-crafted game.

… I’ve been meaning to write something about Destiny: Rise of Iron for a while now, but again it is hard to say something about a game I’ve sunk so much time into. The story is standard Destiny fare and not very interesting – I think it is hard to give the single-player campaign gravitas when the multiplayer endgame throws challenges at you that are on a cosmically different scale, and I think it is a mistake for them to keep trying. The raid Wrath of the Machine may just be the strongest content in all of Destiny though – unlike Crota’s End that prioritized individuals and King’s Fall that had very strict rules for how to play it, Wrath of the Machine somehow manages to focus on teamwork and mobility while still allowing every player to contribute in whatever way they feel like. All classes and subclasses have some use, all weapons have their advantages and all quirky exotic pieces can be made to shine with a little imagination. Also, it is current-gen exclusive so it looks much nicer than the previous raids. It is no small feat to have pulled all this off, and I applaud Bungie for it.

Posted on Nov 29/16 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »