Wot I Think – Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s Campaign

Battlefield 1 may have fallen back to 1914 but the other first-person shooters of the year are marching on, towards militaristic futurewar. Titanfall 2 was released a week ago (inexplicably, in the gap between two monster franchises) and now Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare [official site] has rounded off the explosive triumvirate with more grenades, dogfights and tin men. It’s that final image – that of the tin man – which best sums up how I feel about the story campaign of Infinity Ward’s latest gunromp. Let me try to explain what I mean.

We’ll have more thoughts on the multiplayer soon – that gauntlet of monstrous and lethal humans still needs to be run. Right now, this article is solely about the main singleplayer mode, which, I’m sorry to say, is very uninteresting.

The missions of the campaign are submerged in a po-faced and serious half-story – Martian secessionists have decided to come back and murder earth for no other reason than “grr, militarism”. The premise is brainless sci-fi politics with a lower-case ‘p’, a story which can safely be summarised as “Killzone again” and stuffed with dry characters who have nothing interesting to say. The villains are likewise grey and lifeless. Kit Harrington, aka The Uninspiring Actor In Game of Thrones Who Everyone Somehow Thinks Is Great, plays Admiral Kotch, the baddie leader. We know he is the baddie because he has a scar and does kooky villain things like shooting one of his own men to make a point.

There is one decent character on your squad. Ethan the robot (or E3N). He’s a combat-ready bot injected with a “personality core” that makes him crack jokes and announce mischievous falsities in a deadpan robo-American accent – he is basically TARS from Interstellar, messing with your prejudices of malicious AI in his own small way but always seeking to prove that, underneath all that circuitry programmed for mass murder, he’s really a decent bloke. Meanwhile, all the other characters are terminally dull, spouting nothing but military bants and serious, sour-faced orders. It’s a telling criticism of Infinite Warfare’s storyline that its most human character is the comic relief robot.

But story is one thing and shooting is another. It’s the point-to-point gunfights that most people will be here for. In that regard, it’s more or less what you’ve come to expect, with a few new toys thrown in. Seeker grenades are great fun – little spider robots that scurry up to enemies, latch on to them, and detonate. Gravity grenades make your foes float off the ground helplessly, making them vulnerable to follow-up shots. A hacking computer allows you to take control of an enemy robot and harass soldiers from within their own ranks, before sandwiching yourself between as many troops as you can and pressing the self-destruct button. A lot of the guns come with secondary fire modes too, for example, the sniper rifle whose scope slides away to become a surprisingly effective assault rifle, or the submachine gun which splits into two smaller submachine guns which can be duel-wielded. This latter weapon is great, and using it along with the spiderbots and hacking charges to storm spaceship corridors is Infinite Warfare at its peak silliness and peak fun.

The rollercoaster style mission design continues, funneling you down pre-ordained paths and exploding corridors, your fellow soldiers periodically pushing you out of cover because they want it for themselves. Between main missions, some “side quests” are offered as blips on a map of the solar system, missions that don’t form part of the main story but provide perks and rewards like faster reload times or quicker down-the-sights aiming. But these side quests only come in two forms: ship-boarding missions and dogfights. While the ship boarding missions involved enough variation on subterfuge, zero-g operations and corridor gun combat to encourage me to try them all, I quickly avoided picking up the latter dogfighting side missions entirely because the spaceship handling is so frustratingly bad.

While in your fighter, it doesn’t feel like you are flying in space at all, it feels like you’re ice-skating in 3D. The sense of scale and space is all wrong and the way your craft strafes and turns is a slippery mess. And nowhere does the game’s linear extremism become more frustrating than in these spaceship battles. An early mission sees the game wresting control of your ship from you in a key battle, allowing Ethan to drive and you only to shoot, when thirty seconds before you were perfectly capable of doing both. This continues in a less-obvious but much more aggravating way the rest of the time, whereby your ship will steer for you in particular directions. If you lock on to an enemy pilot, for example, it attempts to track them and keep them in sights, flying your ship automatically behind them. The enemy ship will then magically steer the most dramatic course it can find, above capital ship hulls or through tight passages in a planet’s landscape, clearly not trusting you to get into exciting chases of your own initiative.

This simply gets in the way of you trying to control the damn thing yourself, and you end up fighting the controls of your own spacecraft just as often as you fight enemy aces. It’s these sorts of interruptive sections that show the worst excesses of the game-as-spectacle design philosophy and it is CoD’s hand-holding “the game knows best” approach taken to its most obnoxious logical conclusion. I would like to control my own spaceship, please. I have been playing videogames for one hundred years. Trust me, I can do this.

There are other disappointments. At one point you land on Earth’s moon via an exciting assault in four space jeeps, one of which, of course, doesn’t even make it to the surface (and this sequence itself is sadly non-interactive aside from a single slow-motion gunshot). But clambering out of your jeep, the moon’s gravity becomes apparent and all the soldiers including yourself are reduced to slowly bunny-hopping around – it’s hilarious and wonderful and for the first time in the game I laughed long and loud. Then some sci-fi airlock restored gravity for us and everything was back to the CoD normal. I was very sad.

There’s some satisfaction later, though, with ship-boarding missions indulging in the zero-g combat that was touted in the long marketing march. These scenes let you use a grappling hook between bits of debris or on spacerocks, then walk along their surfaces at weird jaunty angles. It’s sad that more is not done with these sections, since sniping the helmets off armed terrornauts while hanging upside down from a meteor seems like the kind of ridiculousness a science fiction shooter ought to make the most of. Sadly, even these sections invariably become simple fish-in-a-barrel style shootouts.

Much of a CoD lies in the setpieces, though, and some of these are better than others. There’s a good mission on an asteroid which is spinning at such a rate that the sun sets and rises every twenty seconds or so. As well as being a burning hazard, the sunlight powers all the lights, robots and systems, so this means that everything shuts down every 20 seconds, including the murderbots out to kill you. Then a few seconds later they power back up. Another side mission sees you sneaking into a ship to assassinate three VIPs while wearing an enemy spacesuit, running around trying not to get noticed, like the worst Agent 47. Unfortunately, moments like this are the exception and they are only half-heartedly executed. They are only bits and pieces, tiny shards of good ideas hidden among dunes and dunes of clichéd sand.

I’ll give you a better example of this half-hearted design. Between missions, you hang out on your capital ship, which is three or four rooms large with a big hangar deck. In your captain’s office, there’s a wall of playing cards, displaying a hierarchy of enemy forces, reminiscent of the playing cards of the Iraq War. When you first see this, it suggests there might be something like a nemesis system in store for you, or even just some interesting minor characters for you to meet and murder. But all it really means is that certain kills while on missions unlock a card and display a big DECEASED over them. None of the people you kill are revealed to you as you fight, only post-death. These ‘high-value targets’ could be any one of the hundreds of grunts who come at you in waves. Sometimes they are slightly more notable, like the three VIPs you assassinate on the infiltration mission. But overall, this card wall is just a fancy list for side quest completionists.

This wall of cards is representative of CoD’s story mode in general – a pretty, surface-level detail hinting at a greater depth which doesn’t actually exist. Being the captain on the bridge does not mean anything here, all these sections do is let you look at sci-fi lore and browse which mission you want to do next, making them nothing more than a good-looking level-select screen. As for the noticeboard of playing cards, I honestly don’t know why Infinity Ward bothered to put this in. It brings nothing to the game and actually just highlights how empty your overall mission is: kill the baddies.

However, if CoD campaigns are rollercoasters, designed to be played on-rails, then maybe we ought to judge it based on that expectation. So, is it a good rollercoaster? Well, no. It’s a hugely try-hard rollercoaster that offers no clever pacing or rhythm – just one hundred samey loop-the-loops one after the other. The final missions really hit this feeling home. There are only so many “heroic sacrifice” deaths you can watch before you start feeling glad that yet another soldier has croaked it in the name of EARTH 4EVA. Often the soldier has remained totally insignificant and unremarkable until the moment of their death, at which point they are treated by an interruptive cinematic as a complex and well-loved martyr. At which point I am left feeling baffled. I’m sorry, videogame, are we supposed to feel sad about this person, this valiant hero whose name was said twice in the form of a barked order? I must have missed some integral characterisation because I feel nothing but silent, dead-eyed boredem. Hurry up and die, non-descript soldier boy.

I sound like I am being harsh. So I’m going to be a bit more harsh. Infinite Warfare’s story mode is an expensive-looking spectacle without a single idea of its own, mechanically or narratively. Even Ethan the robot’s attempts to salvage the Marine vs Navy vs Army banter by playing off some well-worn robot tropes can’t save the story or dialogue from being hogwash. Even the rare glimpse of interesting ‘burning asteroid’ level design can’t redeem the rest of the grey corridors and flaming city streets. As for how good it looks (and it does look very good) that is no saving grace. I have long believed, along with many others, that we should stop praising the Call of Duties for their production values, since making a game that looks this good does not equate to making a good game – and never has.

All these issues aren’t isolated to Infinite Warfare, of course. This is a much bigger problem as regards the FPS “story mode” in general. Titanfall 2 has been getting hugely positive press for its campaign, and having played it I can understand why. Because in comparison to this and the bi-polar tone of Battlefield 1’s war stories, Titanfall 2’s tale of one man and his big robot pal is positively heart-warming. Yet even this campaign is not fantastic. It is just Pretty Good. The standard for first person shooter plots is now (has always been?) so low that we are satisfied if we get a story which is essentially Marley & Me with a mech instead of a Labrador. This is a plight known to videogames in general but to the FPS in particular: our standards as an industry are depressingly low. We are that underwhelming teenager who falls in love with the first shooting game that smiles at us. Still, it is funny to see the Titanfall 2 twitter #brand getting into trouble over such comparisons, especially when every single assertion it has made has turned out to be, as far as I’m concerned, totally correct. Of the three shooters, Titanfall 2 has the best campaign.

As for Infinite Warfare. Its sin is the same sin that the series has always committed: that of being uninventive. Like I say, we’ll have more detailed thoughts on the multiplayer later – I’ve only played a bit. As far as the campaign is concerned, an incredible amount of hard work and money has gone into it, creating explosive spectacles and heavy gunfights. But that doesn’t stop it from being a hollow chassis, a tin man of a game – shiny, impressive, with absolutely no heart.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is available on Windows 7 or later. It’s on Steam and Windows 10 Store for £39.99/$59.99 (but maybe don’t get it on Windows 10 Store)

From this site

74 Comments

  1. Jokerme says:

    “a hollow chassis, a tin man of a game – shiny, impressive, with absolutely no heart.”

    That sounds eerily similar to Bender.

  2. Pich says:

    TL;DR: buy Titanfall 2 instead

  3. klops says:

    I’ve never understood Kit Harrington, The Uninspiring Actor In Game of Thrones Who Everyone Somehow Thinks Is Great, either.

  4. IncredibleBulk92 says:

    Oh jeez, how disappointing. That first gameplay trailer sold me on this new CoD. I was so sure they’d be doing something new and interesting this year, I give anything spacey half a look after all.

    Titanfall has had all these glowing writeups and Call of Duty has proven to be just another Call of Duty. Oh course the CoD supertrain will sell billions and poor Titanfall is left in the dust. It all seems a little unfair.

    • klops says:

      So you must’ve liked CoD: Advanced Warfare?
      Spacey.

      • A Wanderer says:

        Honestly, I found Advanced Warfare’s campaign pretty good. I enjoyed half of the story, in fact, until…
        Until it turns out the big baddy is the Atlas corporation. I just felt very disappointed there. So far they had me play some kind of mercenary with shady ethics working for a big PMC, and I was thinking “Hey, for once it’s a bit morally grey, I’m some kind of dog of war, I like the idea…” and then, bam, you back to the good old Cod with ‘Murica everywhere and heroic sacrifices. Well, shit.

    • Paul says:

      If you enjoyed the gameplay trailer (I assume the one showing space combat) there is a good chance you will enjoy the game. I don’t particularly disagree with points in the review, the game could use more unique ideas and much, much better writing and characterisation, but I still think it is the best CoD campaign since first Modern Warfare. The standards are low, but it is fun and truly spectacular at times.

      That said, I did enjoy Homefront Revolution (after patches) even more, same with Shadow Warrior 2.

      • Unclepauly says:

        From what I hear (underneath all the bugs and weird design choices), there is a good game in Homefront Revolution.

        • Paul says:

          There are no significant bugs now in Homefront, just some glitch here and there. Game is great, looks amazing and runs well.

  5. vorador says:

    The COD series has doing this for a while. All spectacle with enormous production values, but no substance. Never going forwards, always stuck where Modern Warfare left it.

    And this one does the worst sin that imho a game can do, that is, regularly taking control off your hands in order to deliver “the best experience” AKA the biggest cinematographic explosion. Ugh.

    Thankfully, it seems people are getting tired of Activision’s hubris. It has barely made a splash on Steam Top 10 list.

  6. lancelot says:

    I didn’t like the campaign gameplay at all.

    It’s hard to tell a shotgun and an energy weapon apart. They just look like futuristic weapon #1 and futuristic weapon #2, you have to look for the lightning icon on the HUD to distinguish them. The weapon accessories aren’t very useful or interesting.

    Even worse, it’s hard to tell apart your allies and enemies. Especially bad with robots; my rule of thumb was “if it’s facing in the same direction as me, it’s an ally, otherwise it’s an enemy”. But then I encountered a robot who was running towards me, I was getting ready to shoot, then the robot turned and moved away. I thought, okay, it’s our robot with bad AI. Except it was an enemy robot with bad AI, he turned again and attacked me.

    I think they deliberately took away the ability to easily identify all targets (since it’s not Black Ops), but that makes most gunfights extremely hectic. You have someone shooting at you from somewhere, and your screen immediately becomes blurred, making it even worse.

    In Black Ops 3 it could be really interesting to just watch the battlefield: here are our troops advancing, here are the enemies defending, here’s a vehicle ramming through the gates and joining the fight, and now let’s see what happens when we detonate the charges, etc. The gunfights in Infinite Warfare are such a mess that there are almost no such moments here (I’m not talking about the cutscenes).

    And most ground missions are just chains of several “run to the next door; press F” sequences. Sometimes it’s “tap F repeatedly”.

    One space mission is timed. One sequence puts you in a tiny room and makes you defend against waves of enemies, and if at that point in the mission you happen to be poorly equipped, tough luck.

    • LTK says:

      The inability to tell friend from foe seems like it would be a pointed illustration of the chaos of war had it been in any other game. Indeed, I’d quite like to believe that’s the case here too, but it seems more likely that complaints of “I don’t know who to shoot” would be swiftly and unthinkingly addressed in the design, rather than saying “Well, that’s what war’s like.”

      • Haxton Fale says:

        And then they give you scopes that highlight enemies in several different ways. Orange outline, red outline, red highlight on blue everything, there’s even one shotgun scope that aims for you. Oh, and the drone, and seekers.

        We have tech that lets a tiny spiderbot identify friends from foes, we can even stuff that in a scope, then why not have enemies highlighted on the futuristic HUD when you’re not in space?

    • A Wanderer says:

      I remember that World at War also had this problem ; everything was grey or brown, every soldier was a grey or brown silhouette shooting at something and you could only really identify them with their language. But In WaW, I’m pretty sure it was a deliberate decision to have the gunfights look and feel confused as hell – as it’s what really happens on the battlefield. Here it’s just annoying.

  7. Traipse says:

    Correction: you misspelled “boredom” in the “heroic sacrifice” paragraph.

  8. renzollama says:

    This is one of the worst pieces I’ve ever read on RPS. You really have an axe to grind about FPS campaigns, which is fine, but the professional thing would be to either allow someone else to critique FPS games or write a separate article about it yourself. If I remember correctly, you’re also the writer on the Battlefield 1 piece who told us that being the best battlefield campaign was a “low bar,” which is where I picked up on the negativity originally. Here, you completely invalidate the points in your review at the end by telling us that, essentially, all FPS campaigns are shit. You even attempt to invalidate the opinions of other RPS writers by telling us that the only reason anyone thinks Titanfall 2’s campaign is great is because their standards are so low.

    You’ve basically used a game review as a tedious springboard into a rant that insults the majority of the readership who would be interested in reading said review. I can’t imagine why readers who are excited about FPS games would continue to return to RPS for this kind of nakedly biased coverage.

    • liquidsoap89 says:

      I’d argue that Brendan is correct with his statement. I’ll just speak for myself here, but I absolutely have lower standards when it comes to FPS campaigns. Outside of a handful of them, we are definitely far more forgiving of an FPS’ flaws than we are with something like RPGs or racing games etc. A typical FPS is much like a typical Michael Bay movie. The spectacle is forced on you far more than any other aspect of the game. And that’s fine if all you want is spectacle, but then you have to decide if that one single aspect is worth the price of admission. I personally don’t care about multiplayer shooters, but I was interested in this game because space. For me to pay $80 for just the single player portion, it better be damn good. I can watch a movie if I want spectacle, and I can pay much less too. If you’re going to make a game with a story, put some effort in to that story. If not, then don’t try to claim that it’s anything other than what it really is – hollow advertisement footage for a multiplayer game.

      And in regards to this being the place for that rant. I think it’s a perfectly valid place to bring these issues up. CoD has been criticized for the same flaws year after year, with no clear attempt at trying to fix them. It’s one of the spokesmen for FPS campaigns, so it should be called out when its flaws are repeated.

    • Jerkzilla says:

      But you haven’t actually addressed any specific points the author made. And there’s nothing inherently wrong in stating that generaly, FPS games have bad campaigns, it’s his opinion and putting it forward only helps you make a better judgement. If you disagree with Brendan, then find another game critic to listen to, that’s basically how you use critics in general no? Find one who likes the same stuff as you do and see what they say.

      Honestly though, at this point, good FPSs campaigns are often regarded as such in the same way porn movies can have good stories, that is, only when compared to each other. The moment you start picking them apart, even for the most glaring inconsistencies and problems, you either get tacit approval or “It’s only a game!” shouted at you.

      • picatju says:

        Your comparison with porn movies is accurate. But if your review of porn is about how the story sucked, you’ve missed the point of porn.

        • MrUnimport says:

          I don’t know, I’ve heard a lot of reviews of porn games that commend their storyline. Why can’t all sorts of things have good story?

    • Kefren says:

      Seemed like a totally accurate review to me. I was not insulted. In fact, I’d have been harder on the game. I’d detest the jingoism, linearity, and having control taken from me to make me watch an explosion, as if thousands of years of culture later we are still monkey-zombies that get distracted from second death by fireworks.

    • renzollama says:

      Small correction to my last statement. What I should have written was:

      I can’t imagine why readers who are excited about FPS games would continue to return to RPS for this kind of nakedly biased coverage, aside from those who came here specifically to have the same bias confirmed. Judging by the comments it seems that that group is actually the majority of the readership, so my concern about RPS view counts was probably completely unfounded. Keep up the negativity, it seems to be working just fine.

      • blind_boy_grunt says:

        quick question: Do you actually think the story for battlefield and cod are good, or do you just enjoy playing the games?

      • Ashabel says:

        Have you considered that people aren’t biased against FPS games as much as they’re biased against the frequency of awful story campaigns in big-budget military action games?

        People here loved the hell out of the campaigns in DOOM (the writing was dumb but more or less matched the mood of the game), Wolfenstein: The New Order and its prequel, Half-Life 1-2 and Shadow Warrior, so people here absolutely do love the hell out of a good FPS campaign. There is no reason for anyone to settle for the lowest common denominator.

        The issue of CoD campaigns is that they are largely Frankenstein monsters glued together out of pieces of other FPS campaigns that are seen by developers as vaguely successful for some abstract reason. Ghosts campaign was largely a rip-off of Homefront, and this one is largely a rip-off of Killzone with a dash of Star Trek. Except the playing card thing. That they stole not so much from the Iraq War as from Mercenaries, an absolutely awesome military action game that incidentally had a great campaign and amazing writing.

        • malkav11 says:

          Except Ghosts’ campaign is much better than Homefront. The writing’s not great in either, but Ghosts doesn’t make you hide in a mass grave and the action setpieces and environments are far more interesting. (Then again, Homefront’s an easy bar to clear, being Call of Duty’s formula minus Call of Duty’s execution.)

      • thedosbox says:

        nakedly biased coverage

        Is the coverage “nakedly biased” because you disagree with it?

        Here’s a reminder of RPS’ tagline:

        PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

        You might want to look up that last word.

        • Ghostwise says:

          And of course the notion that an “objective” review could possibly exist is blatantly absurd. The good RPS folks lampoon that often enough when they do a “best 50” list article, I think.

          But folks already went through this thousands of time when the peak of the “ethics in game journalism !!1!” wave hit.

      • wengart says:

        I dunno. I enjoy fps a lot and I appreciate the reviews RPS gives to games.

        True they aren’t being unabashedly positive, but I’m not coming from a position of complete naivety either. I’ve played FPS games before. I’ve played multiple battlefield games and multiple CODs.

        These are critical reviews which genuinely help me as a consumer make purchasing decisions.

      • sneetch says:

        Oh, now it’s the readership’s fault, got ya. Are you sure it’s not just that you disagreed with the author of the article and now you’re feeling hurt because other readers didn’t jump on your bandwagon?

      • rb207 says:

        renzollama, i was just about to say that you had made a good point, although i didnt like the way it was written. But then you re wrote it much better :)

        Its a valid critique but I dont agree with it. I think the writer could be justified to be biased against FPS single player games. I havent played one for years. The old formula of spectacle and set peices doesnt appeal to me. Multiple story lines and game changing decisions appeal much more to me.

    • bill says:

      into a rant that insults the majority of the readership
      No it doesn’t. Criticizing a game doesn’t insult the readership. If you somehow feel insulted then you seem to be either very over-sensitive or far too emotionally invested in a product.

      PS/ A review is written to give the writer’s opinion. Saying that RPS’s coverage of FPS is “biased” is a bizarre thing to say.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      You’ve got to be trolling, son.

      If I have an issue with this piece it’s that it’s entirely redundant. It could be summed up in one sentence: “the campaign is pants like all the other military point and clicks. Surprising absolutely no one”. The problem isn’t the content, it’s that bytes have been wasted on yet more blockbuster rubbish that none of the buyers will consider as part of their purchase anyway.

      That you think RPS has betrayed you by stating the obvious is a bit boggling. Nobody plays military point and clicks for exposition, if you have been, and expect to, then it is you with the ‘bias’, whatever the hell that means in this context.

    • Styles says:

      Renzollama is right, this whole article reads like a tedious, overly long rant that bemoans a lot of the things that call of duty fans are presumably fine with. I assume they’re fine with it since the series still sells like hotcakes. You’d have to have been living under a rock for some years now not to understand that this is pretty much what call of duty has been for a long time now. This is pretty much what these games are, yet Brendan froths at the mouth like it’s something new and unforgivable, and when someone calls him out on that, the RPS fanboys attack. Yes, all reviews are subjective but in order for them to be at all useful they should at least -attempt- some objectivity.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Heh it seems more like you have an axe to grind with RPS.

      As a long time FPS player and RPS reader, I thank them for their coverage – at least I know that, whenever I decide to buy an EA game again, Titanfall 2 will be first on that list.

      You sure that you’re not on Activision’s payroll? ;)

  9. Spacewalk says:

    Business as usual.

  10. TheButler83 says:

    I’m confused – when did we start expecting great stories from our FPS shooters? Aren’t they the equivalent of action movies? Sure some do plots slightly better than others but if Hollywood are happy to turn out brain dead CGI set pieces then I think CoD should be allowed to as well.

    I always assumed it went FPS -> 3Rd person adventure -> Rpg in the standard of story telling expectation hierarchy.

    And lastly have there ever been FPS games with awesome stories? Possibly half-life but struggling to think of too many more. I think I remember SiN being good, and AvP (or one of the Aliens games anyway), oh the one set in the 60s that noone ever played and I’ve forgotten its name :( … Anyone got any others

    • spagett says:

      I’d consider Metro as an FPS or is that perhaps stretching it a bit?

    • AngelAtTheTomb says:

      oh the one set in the 60s that noone ever played and I’ve forgotten its name

      You’ve got its name right there. It’s called No One Lives Forever. And it is still fantastic.

      • shankraft says:

        +1 NOLF and NOLF2 are both excellent games. Very stylish.

        • fabronaut says:

          I’m still a bit sad that Night Dive Studios wasn’t able to wrangle the rights to a remake.

          IIRC, it was Fox Interactive that published it at the time. Lord knows why they’d be holding onto an unused IP with such a tight fist, but I’m uncertain as to how those things work anyhow.

          Presumably they’re holding out for the inevitable movie tie-in for a dead franchise? :/

    • nimbulan says:

      There’s nothing wrong with an FPS as an indulgent action movie, but if it’s boring then they’ve failed. If it becomes too much of a spectacle a la Michael Bay as Call of Duty has been doing for years now, then all that spectacle loses its impact and just becomes boring.

    • Premium User Badge

      keefybabe says:

      I think the point is it shouldn’t have to be that way. Not all action movies are Michael Bay movies, not all FPSs should be this dumb.

      And dumb it is, I played the first hour or so of the campaign and am doing the refund / keep conversation with myself because I haven’t played a cod since MW2 and despite myself I’m enjoying how stupid it is.

      • TheButler83 says:

        That’s the point I was trying to make. By all accounts Titanfall 2 has an above average story so why can’t CoD be accepted for being the Michael Bay action movie? CoD was never going to be (or marketed as) a FPS with a smart and sincere story line. I’m fine with there being a place for dumb games about shooting hundreds of people in the face because smart games about shooting hundreds of people in the face are a bit of an oxymoron so must be a lot harder even concept!

        • malkav11 says:

          Yes, exactly. Only in Modern Warfare has CoD really made any serious stab at being anything other than the big dumb summer blockbuster movie of videogame campaigns. And I mean, certainly it’s fair to prefer games that have brain and heart and innovation and recommend those over the dumb spectacular. But it is missing the point to continually castigate the series for not being something it was never intended to be. And frankly, I can’t swear to this entry being a good rendition of the dumb action spectacular formula. It’s not the sort of thing I’m going to pay $60+ to play, any more than I would pay $16+ to watch a dumb action movie in the theater. But I have played every Call of Duty campaign from Modern Warfare to Advanced Warfare, and they have all been really good at the very limited thing they are trying to do. So I’d be surprised if Black Ops III or Infinite Warfare actually failed at this. It’s easy to tell they’re good at it, too, because all you have to do is play something like the recent Medal of Honor or the first Homefront to see Call of Duty gone horribly wrong.

          PS: Michael Bay is a terrible example because he is really really bad at making dumb action blockbusters. I mean, they’re super stupid, don’t get me wrong, but the action scenes that are supposed to be the reason to watch a dumb action blockbuster are utterly ruined by editing that chops them into unintelligible visual noise devoid of impact or significance.

    • Ashabel says:

      I think it might have something to do with the popular perception of the greatest FPS of all time being Half-Life 2, a game which incidentally had a very good single-player campaign.

    • trashbat says:

      I don’t know about ‘great’, but Call of Duty used to do far better stories and carry the qualities necessary to make them into reasonable exposition. I’d hazard a guess everyone can vividly remember a few particular narrative moments from those earlier games. It wasn’t Joseph Conrad or anything but it was up there with competent yarns like anything Clancy derived or for instance early ’24’.

      The later games are significantly worse in these terms. If I’m playing a COD campaign I’m not looking for highbrow, but I don’t want to feel like an idiot on rails either, and unfortunately that’s been the case with the last few.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Wait… where did my comment go?

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Clive Barker’s Undying, one of my favorite games. Never seen anything like it again.

  11. elevown says:

    – ‘tiny shards of good ideas hidden among dunes and dunes of clichéd sand.’

    You messed this metaphor up a bit – it clearly should of been ‘grains’ not shards.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Nuh-uh. As it happens I was there, at Brendan’s side, along with our two camels and our native desert guide Sven al Magnusson.

      I can thus confirm than those were shards. I’d have taken a photo but my iPhone was in my other burnoose.

  12. bit.bat says:

    I don’t see a problem with praising the production values, a game can look good and play badly at the same time.

    Its a shame about the game, I was hoping that the setting would lead to interesting changes. I wonder what they do next. Even more futuristic is probably not an option, go backwards again?

  13. Neutrino says:

    “The standard for first person shooter plots is now (has always been?) so low that we are satisfied if we get a story which is essentially Marley & Me with a mech instead of a Labrador.”

    Don’t think so. Unreal, Deus Ex, System Shock, Half Life.

    The inability of a development studio to create an FPS with a decent story appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon.

    • fabronaut says:

      Do you think it’s a side effect of them mostly using the package to sell the multiplayer?

      I assume something like ~80% of their total sales are for the multiplayer junkies. I’ve read that some people do buy the games exclusively for the campaign, such that they don’t want to ditch it entirely.

      It is a bit disappointing that most don’t seem to have very much effort put in. At least EA’s stable is putting a bit of effort forth in their latest titles. I’ll take experimental and “hey, this ain’t half bad!” over a tossed off foregone conclusion. Novelty can be a good thing!

      • Neutrino says:

        I think it’s because these FPS now are primarily console games, and console games have always been… let’s say ‘simplistic’. Only when these are ported to PC do they seem incongruous compared the richer fare we are accustomed to.

    • Premium User Badge

      Kushiel says:

      “Don’t think so. Unreal, Deus Ex, System Shock, Half Life.
      “The inability of a development studio to create an FPS with a decent story appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon.”

      That’s four out of hundreds (thousands?) of other FPS games contemporary with their releases whose stories you don’t remember or which were crap, though. That low a number isn’t a standard, it’s an exception.

      • Neutrino says:

        Possibly. But even if only a few out of the many FPS games in the past had excellent stories, where are the few out of many FPS these days that have excellent stories?

        • Premium User Badge

          Kushiel says:

          To back up a second, listing Deus Ex as an FPS with a great story is a bit of a cheat, since it’s as much an RPG as an FPS, and the former are known for generally having strong narratives. But I’ll let that slide if you let slide including one of its sequels below.

          “Excellent stories” by the standards of the four games you listed?

          Deus Ex: HR
          Bioshock 1&2
          Metro 2033
          CoJ: Gunslinger
          And lots of people seem to really like the stories of FEAR and COD4, though neither one struck me as great.

          So there you go: five to seven moderns to your four oldies.

  14. IvanLang says:

    If you have to do the old “kill one of your own men to show how bad your are” trick, at least do it wearing a purple suit, funky hair cut and Troy Baker with a sexy British accent, otherwise…. you are not even trying.

  15. SuicideKing says:

    Man i really hope this is the last CoD. Can’t go beyond infinite anyway…

    (of course they can! Infinite Warface 2!)

    • samhain says:

      Looking at player-reviews on STEAM, which are mostly all thumbs down…

      It will be a kick in the sack for Activision (sales down on launch compared to previous CoD titles) and back to the drawing board, that’s if Infinity Ward is allowed near the franchise again.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>