Thursday, 12 January 2017

Go back underground and stay there until you're ready to die

WHEESHT - looks like I'm really letting the old blog go to pot in 2017.  Nearly two weeks in the bag and only on my third post. 
Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare is no better to play or less frustratingly limited in ambition than any of the other COD games of the last decade. Not that it matters, since opinions on it formed the moment the first trailer dropped and ever since then it's just been a matter of justifying and reinforcing those first opinions by any means and never once ever considering the possibility of being in error - so basically having an opinion on Infinite Warfare is the same as having an opinion on Jeremy Corbyn.

The big changes are the use of a hub where you can decide the order in which all but the initial and final missions are carried out, alongside the introduction of mostly-optional starfighter missions where you fly a remarkably easy-to-handle craft in some basic but fun dogfights, the best of which has you chasing and boarding a fleeing ship through the upper atmosphere of Urectum.
The game excels at set-pieces like this because the controls are so uncomplicated that you can enjoy the spectacle for what it is without being too annoyed by the bafflingly ubiquitous QTE sequences that no-one I've encountered seems to enjoy.  For some reason game makers still think they can fool you into thinking you're involved with scripted on-rail sequences by including arbitrary button-mashing like the stick-twiddling and clicking you need to go through every time you launch a solo fighter - although the loud WHOOSH and the whizzing launch tubes going past as you take off is fun to watch.
 That bit is shamelessly lifted from the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the kind of sci-fi influence that sadly doesn't extend to the rest of the game, which is alien-free and features an aesthetic and backstory that will be familiar to fans of the Killzone games, though most critics will probably cite the Battlestar Galactica remake as the main influence, rather than Space: Above and Beyond, a tv series with which the game setting and backstory has far more in common, right down to the more familiar tropes of heroic fantasy that NuBSG seemed to think itself above - although there is a fun sequence where you and a bunch of thick-eared marines in beach buggies storm what is clearly Moonbase Alpha.

The story - as ever - is dripping in homoerotic machismo and an almost sexual fetishism of overly-earnest male bonding standing in for any character development, while the main villain is basically "what if Jon Snow was The Mandarin from Iron Man 3, only in space" and is just as stupid and ludicrous in practice as that sounds, but effectively comes off as the panto villain the series relies upon in order to justify the war crimes the player regularly commits.

It's great fun when it isn't too challenging, but when it forces you to go back and replay bits - most likely because the method of taking out a particular enemy hasn't been explained to you yet - it gets very grind-y and borderline frustrating having to go through it all over again before the enemy in question shows up, and then possibly tops you almost immediately and prompts a repeat of the same boring sequence of events all over again.  The first time this happens is barely five minutes into the game and nearly made me stop playing altogether, until I realised that the game was forcing me to do something COD rarely does: stop, slow down, and think things through from cover - possibly the single most ludicrous conceit of the entire enterprise.  This is COD, dammit, an I wanna just do a shooting!
Ignore the haters: it's mostly good fun, uncomplicated to play, and lush to look at.

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