Call of Duty developers at Activision’s Infinity Ward studio took to a Twitch livestream today to talk about the design choices they made in the newest installment in the modern combat shooter series: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The new installment will take Call of Duty fans into space battles as humanity expands into the solar system in the future. But Activision is being careful in describing the game as a military shooter at heart, not a sci-fi game.
On top of that, Activision is launching a remastered version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the Infinity Ward title that debuted back in 2007. That game will be included in the deluxe edition of Infinite Warfare when it debuts on Nov. 4. These announcements should go over well with the community of 40 million monthly active users excited about the next installments in the annual franchise, which has generated more than $15 billion over the past decade.
At the start of the Infinity Ward stream, 36,000 people were online watching the trailer, with plenty of “holy s***” messages scrolling by at lightning speed. Scott Lowe, communications manager at Activision, said the trailer shows there are “new characters, new universe, new story.”
Infinity Ward faces a big test with this game. Its last title, Call of Duty: Ghosts, debuted in 2013 to widespread critical negativity. I rated that game 80 out of 100, noting that it wasn’t as good as rival Battlefield 4, which came out at the same time. Ghosts earned an overall 78 out of 100 on game review aggregator Metacritic.
After that criticism, Infinity Ward rebooted. It hired a couple of narrative writers and game designers, Taylor Kurosaki, and Jacob Minkoff, from Sony’s Naughty Dog studio, the maker of the story-driven blockbusters The Last of Us and Uncharted. The revelations so far suggest that Infinity Ward has taken some lessons from Naughty Dog and put more emphasis on dramatic story elements.
Kurosaki and Minkoff appeared on the stream to talk about their intentions about infusing their “narrative philosophy” into the action gameplay. Both said they have been fans of Call of Duty forever.
“I remember them taking the fans to a place, and I didn’t want to leave,” Kurosaki said.
Kurosaki said the team wanted to make this game and put the setting in space.
“No one was going to tell us no, you can’t make this game,” he said. “Take the military feel and take it into this new setting. Take the familiar and put it into an authentic new setting.”
Minkoff said, “Earth has been stripped of its natural resources. Now the resources we need are out there in space. It is said the first trillionaire will be the person who mines the first asteroid. With that kind resources out there, you’re going to have war.”
The Settlement Defense Front is a “brutal, militaristic, fascist group” that wants to control all of the settlements in the solar system and hold Earth in a stranglehold by controlling the resources the people of Earth need to survive, Minkoff said.
“Space allows us to take players to a place they have never been in Call of Duty before,” Minkoff said. “Of course we have the boots on ground fighting you are familiar with on Earth, but we also have the experience of fighting in zero g.”
Kurosaki said the actors are all onboard for the long term and the scenes are being shot onsite at Infinity Ward. The voice overs will be done in the motion-capture studio, not in an isolated audio booth.
“They can run around the space and take cover,” Kurosaki said.”That’s going to transport the player into the space.”
Minkoff said that despite the sci-fi setting, the “believability is paramount to us.” That’s why it doesn’t have aliens and you fight within the solar system the whole time.
Infinity Ward will have had about three years to work on the game by the time it ships, as owner Activision now has three studios working on the game — the others are Sledgehammer Games (maker of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare) and Treyarch (creator of last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III). The three studios have each created separate Call of Duty universes with their own storylines, and they alternate new releases.
Santa Monica, California-based Activision Publishing, a division of blockbuster publisher Activision Blizzard, said Call of Duty is “returning to its roots for a classic, epic battle of two armies unlike anything seen before in the record-setting series.” Infinite Warfare will immerse “players in a war story that, for the first time in franchise history, extends beyond the reaches of Earth into the vast expanse of our solar system.”
In a feature dubbed “Warships,” Infinity Ward is introducing a new element to Call of Duty For the first time in the series, where air and space combat are a key aspect of the campaign. Players will experience new combat scenarios and environments that add variety to the single player campaign. A massive warship housing the player’s crew (called the Retribution) is a key character throughout the campaign and a vessel that players will come to rely on and be responsible for. Throughout the campaign, players will also pilot their very own advanced space combat ready jet-fighter, better known as the Jackal.
The campaign ranges from boots-on-the-ground combat to piloting high-speed space-fighters, and it occurs as a near seamless experience with few visible loading times, Activision said. And the team promises the “hallmark blockbuster franchise moments that fans love.”
The game’s Multiplayer mode features an evolution of Call of Duty’s movement system with an emphasis on “front-line engagement.” Additionally, Infinite Warfare will introduce an original cooperative Zombies mode that takes players on a wild ride through a new storyline with unique gameplay features and mechanics. Typically, the Zombies co-op mode is something that only the Treyarch studio includes in games, but the inclusion of Zombies shows how hard Activision is trying to keep the franchise popular and growing.
More details about multiplayer and the new zombies experience will be announced at a later date. But Joe Cecot, lead designer at Infinity Ward, said that the opportunity to bring players into space is “really exciting for us.” There are new mechanics, lethals, and tacticals, he said.
There are zero gravity dogfights and capital ship fights in the single-player campaign, but it’s not clear how much of that will be in multiplayer.
“We’re very careful to preserve the core of Call of Duty,” Cecot said.
Brian Bright, project director at Infinity Ward, said an experienced team is working on Infinity Ward’s first Zombies cooperative team. The team did the Extinction series from Call of Duty: Ghosts.
“We are excited to do our own take on Zombies,” he said. “It’s a separate universe from what Treyarch does” with its own Black Ops Zombies co-op play. Bright said there will be a lot of Easter eggs.
Eric Monacelli, director of communications at Infinity Ward, said that Raven Software is amping up the textures and other visuals in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. They are redoing audio and are adding new techniques for graphics such as dynamic lighting, he said.
It will have 10 multiplayer map, like “Crash,” and it will include Killstreaks and other features of modern multiplayer. The next bit of news is coming in June at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) event in Los Angeles.
Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in an email to GamesBeat, “The Infinite Warfare concept scared me until today. It first sounded like Halo, now sounds like more conventional warfare (human vs. human) with a far future setting. That is less troublesome than a Halo knock off. I think the X-wing fighters will be popular as well, so I’m generally positive. If Battlefield is truly set in WWI, that may be a problem for EA and a boon for Activision.”
He added, “I think including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered as part of the bundles is genius. You get Modern Warfare for $20 or for free if you buy Infinite Warfare plus the season pass, so it’s a no brainer, and a lot of value added in.
Call of Duty: Ghosts sold around 20 million, and Black Ops III has already sold 22 million, but will keep selling through the summer, so will end up at around 25 million, Pachter said.
“Yes, Infinity Ward went from great when Jason and Vince were there to not-so-great when they left. I think Dave Stohl is a really talented developer, and I think that he runs a tight ship, so I expect them to get their karma back, but they need to prove themselves with this title,” Pachter said.
In the single-player campaign, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will lead players through a journey as they engage in heroic battles with hallmark boots-on-the-ground combat. Activision said, “The campaign spans our solar system, taking players on a journey from Earth to beyond our atmosphere. It’s grand scale war with unforgettable characters, rich emotional arcs, an epic new setting and blockbuster Call of Duty action.”
The game puts players in the role of Captain Reyes, a Tier 1 Special Operations pilot, who takes the helm of the Retribution, one of Earth’s last remaining warships. The Retribution has to take on a fanatical enemy, the Settlement Defense Front (The Front), which represents a splinter group of insurgents that broke away from the United Nations Space Alliance during a war of secession, years ago.
In the world of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Activision said, “Our planet has been stripped of its natural assets through population growth and industrial expansion. The people of Earth now rely upon colonies throughout the solar system to mine planets and asteroids for necessary fuel and other resources. The Front is a fascist power, composed of brutal and militant radicals, toughened by the extreme conditions of off-world environments. They seek to control those outposts and their wealth, putting a stranglehold on the countries of Earth. After years of uneasy stalemate, diplomatic relations are strained and it will take only the slightest nudge to tip the entire solar system into war.”