Taylor Kurosaki on How Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Transcends Setting
Ben Sheene / Dec 19th, 2016 No Comments
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare presented a bold leap for a franchise that has often been accused of resting on its laurels. This year, a series that once took players through the trenches of World Wars jettisoned off beyond Earth. Spaceships, robots and anti-gravity grenades may make the series look unfamiliar in this new entry, but developer Infinity Ward is convinced this is the same kind of game players expect from Call of Duty.
Taylor Kurosaki, narrative director at Infinity Ward, recently sat down with Gaming Illustrated to talk about Infinite Warfare and the franchise’s new direction. Can it still be Call of Duty even when sniping enemies in a distant planet?
A Soldier’s Story
“The main challenge was: did this universe feel like a plausible universe that a Call of Duty story could place in?” Kurosaki said about bringing Infinite Warfare into the distant future.
Infinite Warfare is Infinity Ward’s first Call of Duty since the series began a three-year development cycle, and it is the first time the team didn’t have to compromise its vision for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The game’s story may seem farfetched but is actually grounded in war stories of the past.
Players take on the role of Commander Nick Reyes, who leads his crew across the solar system to take on the Settlement Defense Front, a splinter group which wishes to exert its dominance over humanity. Reyes constantly demonstrates an iron will against hopeless odds, giving players a heroic avatar to get in the boots of. The series is known for a handful of memorable characters since its inception, and Reyes is the latest addition to that list.
Kurosaki knows the legacy of the series and recognizes that it is synonymous with World War II. In many players’ minds, this is still true, even with the series shifting time periods and conflicts. No matter the war, the game is played through the eyes of one or two soldiers firing across the field of battle at enemies.
“Call of Duty has always been the epitome of a soldier fantasy,” Kurosaki said. “And stories about human soldiers in conflict with other humans soldiers can transcend a lot of settings that you would normally go to.”
The conflict that Reyes and his fellow soldiers go through is on a massive, galactic scale but feels realistic and practical in the context of Infinite Warfare’s setting. While it may seem like Infinity Ward is straying from the established norm as far as possible, it is keeping with the series’ roots in some of the most important ways.
Growing the Roots
From Jackal fighters that give players the chance to dogfight in the dark of space to a robotic companion that was as believable as any human, Infinite Warfare reaches far and wide for how it allows players to engage. Futuristic setpieces are beautiful to watch unfold.
Kit Harington’s Admiral Salen Kotch is the face of the Settlement Defense Front, but his presence is often understated. In asking Kurosaki about Kotch, I was surprised at his logical response, which helped me appreciate the game’s narrative even more.
“It’s not a story about the enemy,” Kurosaki said. “The enemy is a source of pressure being put on Reyes and his team, and what’s interesting for us is how Reyes and Salter respond to that pressure that Kotch is an agent of.”
“He’s out there, he’s lurking. He’s Jaws. The shark is not in much of that movie but yet you feel that he is out there constantly hunting, constantly looking for you, wondering where he’s going to turn up next. That’s what Kotch is. He is sort of zeroing in on you, getting closer to you, and he’s not going to stop until you’re destroyed.”
By understanding the interplay between heroic soldiers and villainous dictator-like enemies, Kurosaki and the team at Infinity Ward know how to make a story tick.
Length-wise, Infinite Warfare is about average for Call of Duty standards, running about six hours. After playing from beginning to end, it’s obvious that there is an attention to detail in telling a story and immersing players in environments that are believable and a world worth fighting for.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare ultimately feels like a stepping stone toward a greater story that Infinity Ward wants to tell. It’s the first building block in a greater universe and a larger franchise that begs to be expanded upon.
By putting the player in space, a wealth of new challenges were presented that the development team had to overcome. Toiling through this unexplored territory not only benefited the narrative, but expanded the gameplay. Where does Infinity Ward’s vision for Call of Duty go from here? In a way, it’s somewhat easy to tell. But with this brave new frontier Kurosaki sums it up best: “I think you have an opportunity to redefine what Call of Duty can mean.”
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