With Call of Duty receiving some radical changes in terms of setting with Infinite Warfare, one writer looks at how this move to space could help the series.

In the last few days, the video game scene has been overwhelmed with news regarding Call of Duty. Chief among the announcements has been the official reveal of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the next installment in the series to be developed by Infinity Ward. Although many aspects of the debut trailer will look mighty familiar for fans of the franchise, there was one particular change that caught the eye of many – this time, Call of Duty is heading into space.

The reveal has had a mixed reception from the gaming community, with some excited to see exactly what Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will bring, and others instead scoffing at the notion that taking Call of Duty into space will somehow solve the flaws of the series. One thing is for certain, though: Infinity Ward desperately needed to make a change to its formula. The developer’s last Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Ghosts, struggled like no other in the franchise, suggesting that it was time for Call of Duty to get a change up.

With that in mind, Infinity Ward has clearly decided to make a bold move forward. Call of Duty has come a long way from the original games, initially distancing itself from its first setting of World War 2 with the first Modern Warfare back in 2007. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see the team that built the Modern Warfare section of the franchise making the next big leap in setting.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Multiplayer Features Maps Set on Other Planets - Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare tower and spaceships screenshot

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is also following in the footsteps of the other parts of the Call of Duty series. Treyarch’s Black Ops line fully embraced the notion of future warfare from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 onwards, while 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, from developer Sledgehammer Games, started off in a position of futuristic combat from the off.

Fan reception for these games has also been generally positive. Both Black Ops 2 and Black Ops 3 have been well-received by players, so it’s clear that Call of Duty aficionados are not entirely averse to a step into the near future. Meanwhile, although Advance Warfare was a mixed blessing, it was often the new features based on its setting that were the most positive parts of the game.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Screenshots - Splash

Given this recent history of Call of Duty, this shift for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will hopefully leave players with much to be excited about. Moving into space travel and offworld colonies will give Infinity Ward a chance to stretch its wings a little, and make a break away from the rigid formula of its previous games.

What’s more, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is looking very good so far. For starters, the initial reveal trailer and compendium of screenshots certainly shows off a strong level of graphical capability, as well as some potentially varied locations. The actual setting, too, will no doubt pique interest, with tensions between human societies on different worlds reminiscent of James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series, and without an alien in sight.

It’s early days, of course, and simply putting Call of Duty into a new setting is not just going to work without an overhaul of how the game plays. In particular, the trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare showed off a little by way of flight simulation, and this is an area where Call of Duty has historically struggled. Although the odd section of flight control is a fine diversion from the norm of FPS run-and-gun gameplay, that won’t fly when it comes to a game where spacefaring is clearly one of the main themes.

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It’s not the only change that may be needed, either. Actual FPS combat in space also appears to be on the cards, and therefore game physics will require some tweaking between levels to truly help the player feel involved and immersed in this new setting. If Infinity Ward is truly going to make the most out of this change of pace, then its traditional mechanics will need to be adjusted accordingly, or the game may end up feeling disjointed.

Although the narrative of the Call of Duty series has never been quite as big an appeal as the multiplayer, a little bit of variety here would also be appreciated. Already, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare seems to hug tight to the plot of modern Call of Duty games, with the main story kernel set to include a double-cross from a once-trusted party. Even the minutiae of the story needs to have a serious once-over, with the trailer showcasing some of the most well-known Call of Duty tropes, including where the player character is saved from the brink by an NPC ally.

However, the noises out of Infinity Ward so far seem to be very promising. Design director Jacob Minkoff confirmed that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is going to have a much more fluid path than the rigid storylines of previous games in the franchise. To begin with, players will have the choice to engage in missions in the order of their preference. What’s more, the player can also choose optional missions, with these extra targets granting the player items and loot elements to help with the main plot overall.

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This may not seem like a big change, but in comparison to other games from the history of Call of Duty, it is huge. Although Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 allowed users to choose levels of their own accord, there was never the same sense of player control over the plot, with the player instead just having the option to skip straight to the end of the campaign. Instead, this sense of user urgency will be much appreciated for those who want a more enthralling single-player experience.

The meat of the game will no doubt be kept to the multiplayer, of course, and here a change of scenery could also really shine. Although more traditional Call of Duty maps will always be popular, some variety based around this newfound change of setting (in particular maps set on other planets) could give players a huge number of options in terms of how they want to play. This will be particularly true with the multiplayer of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered factored in, where the traditional Call of Duty gameplay could be cared for through some of the most popular maps in franchise history.

All in all, then, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a pretty exciting prospect. Should Infinity Ward be bold enough to make enough changes to the formula to keep things fresh, the title could prove to put the studio back to the top of the pack in terms of Call of Duty developers. The idea of making Modern Warfare Remastered only available through purchase of specific versions of the game, however, is an entirely different matter – but that’s another topic for another day.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on November 4, 2016.