“Infinite Warfare” Heralds the Past, Present and Future of Call of Duty

Posted on May 2, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox with 0

"Infinite Warfare" Heralds the Past, Present and Future of Call of Duty

Activision has formally announced Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, revealing details about its single player campaign and release timing. But I’m curious what happened to the expected Ghosts 2, and whether this series of games has lost its way.

It used to be so simple. Back in the day–about a decade ago—Call of Duty was a series of World War II shooters that came from Infinity Ward, a team that had originally made a previous WWII shooter called Medal of Honor. The original COD and some add-on packs shipped on the PC, but I jumped ship to the Xbox 360 when that console appeared in 2005 with Call of Duty 2 as a launch title.

Call of Duty 2 proved to me that shooters could really work on a console, and while Call of Duty 3—a follow-up that was made by Treyarch—had its issues, I still loved it for its historical setting and, more important over time, its multiplayer prowess.

When Infinity Ward returned with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, everything changed. The setting, of course, but also multiplayer, which was suddenly expanded with massive new customization capabilities. Through this game, I had played the single player campaign in each COD game all the way through before dipping into multiplayer, but this proved to be a mistake with Modern Warfare: By the time I picked up multiplayer, I was thrust into an environment where everyone else was up to date on the changes and taking advantages of features I didn’t even comprehend. It took me a long time to catch up, and I never again ignored multiplayer like that.

Modern Warfare was so successful that Activision formalized a release cycle where every other game was made in turn by Infinity Ward and Treyarch. The latter studio coasted a bit with Call of Duty: World at War, another WWII title, in 2008, but that game did a great job of using—and improving on—the multiplayer mechanics of Modern Warfare. And then it set aside all criticism with the still-widely-lauded Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010.

Between these games, of course, Infinity Ward delivered Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and then that studio almost imploded during the development of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, causing Activision to fire much of the team and bring in a third studio, Sledgehammer, to finish it for release. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 went on to be enormously successful, and I still consider the Modern Warfare titles to be the high point, overall, for the series. (That said, the Black Ops series has been excellent as well, and is certainly in that same rarefied company.)

Given the expense and time it takes to make COD games, Activision changed the release cycle again, with three studios—Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer—being responsible for one game every three years. So while Treyarch continued with Black Ops, Infinity Ward followed up the Modern Warfare cycle with a new series, Ghosts. And Sledgehammer created its own new series, Advanced Warfare, which introduced the notion of verticality in game play courtesy of futuristic jetbacks. We’ve come a long way since WWII, I guess.

Call of Duty release schedule (Source: Wikipedia and my memory)

Call of Duty release schedule (Source: Wikipedia and my memory)

The problem is, Advanced Warfare sucked. It’s the only COD game I didn’t continue playing regularly in the year after its release, and it triggered many months of me rediscovering the classic Modern Warfare and Black Ops multiplayer levels that are so familiar to me they’re like memories of actual places.

And apparently Ghost sucked, too, though I consider it to be a truly great COD multiplayer experience in particular. If you’re a fan of the MW or BO series, Ghosts is great. (It’s also the last pre-jetpack title.) Because Infinity Ward has apparently abandoned a multi-game storyline (of which only one part was released) to switch to this newly-announced Infinite Warfare. Which, of courses, takes us even further into futuristic science fiction warfare scenarios.

I’ve seen people call for a return to WWII, but I don’t see that as a viable solution to COD’s ever-growing sprawl. (That said, surely one of the three game series that Activision has in development could at least make some passing nod to COD’s past.) But on the good news front, Black Ops 3, which uses the same jetpack game play style as Advanced Warfare, isreally good, is in fact among the best of the COD games of all time. (Well, the multiplayer is. BO3 holds the distinction of being the only COD game in which I’ve not completed the single player experience because it is so pointless.) So it’s possible that Infinity Ward wanted to inject that kind of life into its own games. And that Ghosts was collateral damage.

(And not to get too far ahead of things, but given how terrible Advanced Warfare was, I have to think that Sledgehammer is looking to do the same. But that game is so bland it’s not clear what they can do to fix it.)

So. Infinite Warfare. You can see the official teaser trailer here. Stakes are upped, etc. You know the drill.

There’s also a behind-the-scenes promo with key Infinity Ward developers here. They seem excited. I’m sure they are.

But … This stuff is leaving me a bit dry. Where we used to battle Nazis—the ultimate enemy, really—here we get the Settlement Defense Front, a name so boring it invites comparisons to the trade disputes in “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.” Cripes, there’s even an outer space environment in the game, which means this thing could be COD’s Moonraker. Not good.

Jump the shark much?

Jump the shark much?

But there’s one thing about this trailer that’s even more boring than the enemy’s name: It focuses only on the single player experience, which, in this day and age, most gamers ignore anyway.

So we’ll see.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare ships November 4 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. So there’s no Xbox 360 version, a first. But for you COD old-timers who are tired of all this futuristic nonsense, here’s a bit of good news: There will indeed be a completely remastered version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare included with the game. This new MW will include ten multiplayer maps from the original, too, complete with “enhanced textures, physically based rendering, high-dynamic range lighting, and much more.” (It’s being made by Raven, who you may remember from “Heretic” days; so there’s a fourth studio involved with COD now.)

I spend a lot of time playing COD, an embarrassing amount of time, so I’ll be sure to put Infinite Warfare—and the remastered Modern Warfare—through the ringer come November. I hope they live up to the reputation of the series that bears their names.


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