To say that making a Call Of Duty campaign was Danger Close’s sole objective when embarking upon the development of Warfighter, however, would be to do it a disservice: it also had to beat Black Ops II to the shelves by a few weeks. Warfighter feels rushed. You’ll find evidence of this in the subtitle typos; the physics (a fallen foe’s final action will often be to fling his assault rifle 30ft in the air); and the gormless friendly AI characters, who repeatedly boot you out of cover that their scripting insists they should occupy. There’s little sense of pacing, even within individual battles, which appear to be over until you hit a scripting tripwire and another dozen generic brown-skinned foes emerge from cover in unison. On top of that we experienced several crashes, one of which was immaculately timed to coincide with a checkpoint. That a six-hour-long campaign manages to outstay its welcome is, in fairness, quite an achievement.
This lack of polish extends to the multiplayer, which is, if anything, even more disappointing, because it contains the seeds of some genuinely good ideas. For instance, teams are subdivided into pairs, which doesn’t force cooperation so much as gently encourage it. As long as your Fireteam buddy isn’t in direct combat, you’ll respawn at his side, and you can heal and resupply each other for points boosts. Home Run is a smart blend of Call Of Duty’s Capture The Flag and Search And Destroy, while Combat Mission addresses one of the enduring flaws in Activision’s series: players using the objective-based gametypes to farm kills (because the chokepoints are clearly marked on the map), rather than going for the objective itself. Danger Close’s solution is brutally effective, giving players nothing for killing a foe aside from the relief of staying alive and a handful of seconds to plant a bomb unhindered.
But many problems persist. The framerate is the worst, and is especially galling given that latency is at a minimum, even during our early days with the game against transatlantic foes. The connection may be smooth, but the action is anything but. We have few complaints about the rate of levelling up, but it’s still some time before you get to the genuinely useful unlocks.
And while you’re given a choice of six classes at the outset, you’re stuck with your first choice, with the others then folded into the progression tree. The early hours with a multiplayer shooter are all about experimentation, so not letting you revise this decision – the one you’re forced to make before a shot has been fired – is misguided. What’s more, the menu interface is a mess, with usability sacrificed for a tile-and-tab-based layout that’s present in-game as well. This means a mid-match check of your kill-to-death ratio is four button presses away.
While another six months in development wouldn’t have removed the lingering bad taste from one of the more tasteless marketing campaigns in recent memory – including tie-ins with the real-world manufacturers who make the in-game ordnance, and a branded tomahawk that was later removed from sale – it would have done much to help smooth out the kinks in a game where at least the multiplayer has genuine potential. Instead, what’s shipped is rushed, uninspired and cynical. Activision and Treyarch have questions of their own to answer in a few short weeks – chiefly whether a near-future setting will breathe life into a series many feel has grown stagnant – but EA and Danger Close have set them a very low bar indeed.