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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare developers on the battle with the backlash

"I'm glad the trend is the way it is."

There's a scene in the first Battlefield 1 trailer that sums up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare's reveal. It involves a huge flaming airship crashing and burning, going down like a lead balloon.

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Call of Duty fans were surprised by Infinite Warfare's definitive leap into the future (however much sci-fi has been a part of the series now for years) and angry at the fact this year's bonus Modern Warfare Remaster required the purchase of a pricier package.

Now, three months on, the dust has settled. Developer Infinity Ward has picked itself up from the dubious honour of having the most-downvoted YouTube trailer of all time and, back in its California studio, work continues on the biggest shake-up for a Call of Duty setting since the developer's own Modern Warfare.

Out at Gamescom last week, it felt like discussion of the game had turned a corner. In a chat with Eurogamer, narrative lead Taylor Kurosaki and writer Brian Bloom broke off from discussing their own story for Infinite Warfare to discuss how the narrative surrounding the game was on the up.

"It's a passionate developer, it's a passionate audience," Bloom said.

"What we've been seeing is, the more assets we put out, the more the response has got more positive," Kurosaki added. "I'm glad the trend is the way it is."

Since Infinite Warfare's calamitous unveiling, Infinity Ward took time to work out when and how it should show the game next. Wisely, it elected to reveal elements that would explain how Infinite Warfare's new setting was simply the next evolution - not a complete reinvention - of the series' hugely successful formula, accompanied by fresh gameplay to illustrate the point.

Yes, gameplay now includes zero-G combat and the ability to pilot a futuristic fighter jet, but this has all been designed to feel familiar for regular COD players.

"The more people see the narrative, the zero-G combat... They've seen Jackal [the game's fighter jet] gameplay - which is not on-rails, it's not a one-off," Kurosaki continued.

Jackal gameplay is designed to mimic and enhance the standard Call of Duty gameplay, he added. There's no fussy controls, it simply lets you dodge, aim down sights and spray fire on your foes using meatier hardware.

Zero-G combat, meanwhile, is designed around the idea of being able to quickly flank and outmanoeuvre enemies.

And then there's your standard "boots on the ground" combat, which still makes up the meat and potatoes of the game.

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Taylor Kurosaki.

"You have your Navy Seal commando combat on one hand and a Top Gun-style pilot on the other," Kurosaki said. "You have your boots on the ground combat, your zero-G combat with your grappling hook to flank enemies, and the further expression of that combat by being in the seat of that fighter."

Fans worried Call of Duty was straying too far from its core gameplay should know none of the original mechanics are being removed or replaced, Kurosaki stressed.

"It's not addition by subtraction, or subtraction by addition. It's addition by addition, and a further expression of that [gameplay] loop."

And, to be honest, it's high time for some change. Call of Duty has itched towards a far-future setting for years now. Campaign footage we were shown saw Infinite Warfare's characters dealing with the game's enemy separatist faction, but their environment was just as much of a threat.

Your small squad is forced to stay alive on a rapidly-spinning asteroid trapped in a day-night cycle gone haywire. There's no oxygen, the map is regularly baked by searing sunlight, and everything outside your suit is death.

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And for those who really don't like space? An '80s themed zombies mode with the Hoff.

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Just as Infinity Ward is trusting its playerbase with some new tricks and features, main character Reyes will be experienced enough to handle the changes, too.

"Our player base has really grown up with us," Kurosaki said. "They don't need to have the artifice of being recruits on day one anymore. We thought it'd be refreshing to say, 'well the guy you're playing is a veteran now', just as our players are."

Infinity Ward still has its head down working on the game and the real litmus test for opinion on its gameplay will come when its hardcore fans finally get hands-on with its multiplayer at COD XP next week. But, already, the reception for recent gameplay reveals has been cautiously upbeat.

It's far from scientific, but the latest trailers released during Gamescom have a far healthier like to dislike ratio on YouTube - there are 20k upvotes and 8k down on the main campaign video and a similar amount for the game's Zombies mode reveal stream.

"We're happy the response has been positive," Kurosaki concluded, "but we have to stick to our lathe and focus on making this game the best it can possibly be. Infinity Ward has wanted to make this game for such a long time.

"[The criticism] strengthened our resolve. We just had to get back to it and complete our mission. Reyes has a mission to complete, we do too. It's amazing how analogous some of these things are - the burden of leadership is something a lot of people at the studio feel."

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