During some breaks in my overly obsessed focus on unlocking Battle Pass tiers in the latest Modern Warfare I’ve also delved into some of the recent campaign releases from prior games and thought I’d share some thoughts. More like a brain dump than anything else this time. 😉
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will probably always be remembered for the negative down votes its trailer received on YouTube which gave Battlefield 1 an unexpected PR victory over the long time franchise rival. But is it really all that justified? After playing it I think it was unnecessarily harsh because even though I’m playing the game a couple of years late I’m really enjoying it and its strong sci-fi trappings give it a unique identity. You play the role of Reyes, a pilot for the future Earth military who is caught in the middle of a sneak attack by forces from Mars lead by their commander who I will always end up calling “evil Jon Snow” (because it is). Taking command of one the only surviving Earth vessels you need to wage war on Mars’ Settlement Defense Front (SDF). If I were to be fair and honest I’d say that the campaign compares very favourably to the one in Titanfall 2 with its future technologies, science fiction elements and cool robot pal. The big difference here being that the giant mechs have mostly been replaced with a lot of space fighters.
Like all Call of Duty campaigns the game is still very much a linear experience with it guiding the player through each mission to its conclusion with the majority of combat confined to small areas to highlight the combat and the spectacle. There are a number of optional side missions though you can choose to take on that will unlock bonus weapons and gear and they are worth playing not only for extended play time but also in that they are in fun bite sized chunks that highlight the best of what the game offers. Where the game stands out from its predecessors though is the fighter combat. Jumping into your Jackal space fighter to take on enemy ships is a big part of the game and is a fun change. Where in past games this would be a on-off mode that would be mostly out of your control apart from who you shoot first, here it is a fully fledged part of the whole experience. The flight mode is extremely forgiving, perhaps even more so compared to your battles on foot, with some encounters also involving boarding enemy vessels and it’s fun to be part of the battle from end to end whereas normally you’d only be the passenger until the “real” shooting starts. This aspect of the game reminds me of what the long in development Star Citizen team is planning on doing with their campaign spin-off Squadron 42 except Infinity Ward got there first… and I really like how they handled it too. Visually the game does an amazing job of presenting worlds of the future. There’s a really great focus on the ship you command, the Retribution, which despite you not having much access to it beyond the command and hanger decks the details and conversation around you hint at there being more going on and it achieves a lot.
Combat introduces a wider mix of weapons and grenades and you’ll find some are meant to be better against humans and others fir robots so you needs to be flexible and be willing to pick up guns as you go – something which also rewards you with that weapon as part of future mission loadouts. The spider like seeker grenades are good to see in operation as they home in on nearby enemies and hacking an enemy robot to self destruct among a hidden group of soldiers is incredibly useful. You can even shoot out windows and have soldiers sucked out into space. The only gripe I have is with feedback from the weapons which come across as being a little lightweight in terms of their impact and sound effects – it’s likely more realistic seeing as energy weapons don’t need that combustion “BANG!” bullets provide but you do miss it.
Overall I’ve really enjoyed the Infinite Warfare campaign – it takes the franchise into a direction that shows that with the right approach there’s still room to innovate and even if it takes plenty cues from other games it delivers with a great deal of polish that makes it a worthwhile game to play through and totally deserves to sit among its peers.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a revelation not only in bringing the series to the modern era of combat but introducing a multiplayer mode that would take on a life of its own. I do admit though with the exception of the zombies mode in Black Ops it was also the last CoD multiplayer I focused on until Warzone as it was a very punishing game for me and started steering me to focus on the campaign side of the series more. The good thing I can say here is that in the slightly renamed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered it looks like we’re still getting what we wanted.
What has impressed me the most playing through MW Remastered is just how well it holds up. The graphics have of course been given a facelift but the gameplay feels intact and still works well. The aim assist is a lot more obvious than newer games with the game having been designed for consoles (“Aim Down Sights” snapping to targets is quite extreme) but it works and it’s very easy to get yourself drawn into the campaign again even after all these years. Parts of the story are clearly inspired by movies, Black Hawk Down being one, but the directions they take beyond that are clearly their own design and the shock value at the time made it stand out and set a standard subsequent releases felt compelled to try and outdo… not always successfully.
It’s also been fascinating to see various landmarks and areas from these missions that have been referenced in the Verdansk map in Warzone. The TV station and swimming pool are clearly inspired by those original designs and I can’t blame them for wanting to reuse them as they work very well. Seeing as I hadn’t played these games in such a long time it was a great feeling to be able to pick up on that myself.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered looks like it doesn’t try to do a lot more than just give players the game they remember (or not) but when that was already a VERY impressive game why change what already works?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered
Unlike the previous remaster, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is a campaign only release that excludes all multiplayer modes which makes it more the kind of thing I wish Activision would consider doing more of. The pricing reflects that focus which also makes this initially more appealing.
In terms of story this is also the beginning of where the series felt the need to try and outdo themselves and the controversial “No Russian” mission is maybe the most egregious example where it forced players to take on the role of a terrorist and join in killing civilians. It’s an unnecessary piece of player involvement and though there is the option to skip that sequence most are going to want to see what the fuss is about so it becomes more of a lure for shocking people. Many of the other missions feel like they have less connective tissue between them with the story merely there to let them hop from one location to another and I think that makes it less enjoyable as a whole. There are some great moments though such as a hostage rescue which is like a condensed Rainbow Six Vegas experience that I really enjoyed. The battle at Whiskey Hotel is also an impressive highlight that delivers on the full audiovisual experience… it’s an amazing sight to behold the moment you realize where you are fighting. We also see further inspirations to Warzone‘s map design, especially with the prison which is an impressive area here but brought into its own in the new game. The bathroom area, which also appears as the gulag in Warzone, is clearly inspired by movie The Rock even if its appearance in the game is only for a brief time.
It was a smart move by Activision to release this as they did in a smaller and cheaper package. Even if the stakes are higher in the story the content itself comes across more as an expansion more than a true sequel. You get a lot of what you liked from the original Modern Warfare, just not enough to make the game stand apart from it.
I was fortunate to take advantage of a sale and pickup the Infinite Warfare / Modern Warfare Remastered bundle for half price which made it an easy choice. Both of the campaigns are entertaining in their own right and that hasn’t even touched on the multiplayer and the 80’d themed zombie mode. There’s a lot of value in there for that price and Infinite Warfare is a good showcase for the creative talent that still exists at developer Infinity Ward. The second remastered game may not reach those same heights but for players not familiar with the franchise’s history there may be enough there to keep them occupied through its campaign.