How Infinity Ward found its way through the no-man’s land

This article first appeared in PC Gamer UK 347 in July. To read more magazine features and stare at our beautifully glossy covers, keep in mind Subscription.

There were two Infiniti wings. First to Invent Call of Duty; The second saved her from diminishing returns. In the middle was a catastrophic event in game development, an event that took place in public places that left a world-famous studio that changed forever.

The point of origin in Call of Duty, when you get there, was actually Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. While the Infinity Ward team is still sponsored by a company called 2015 Games, they created a new paradigm for first-person shooters. Where the previous decade’s FPS heroes were unstoppable steam trains firing rods, Allied Assault’s Lt Mike Powell was an alarmingly humorist – all very vulnerable to machine-gun and mortar nests, which seemed to tear the air in two.

A group of Call of Duty Soldiers

(Photo credit: Activision)

That sentiment only doubled for the first Call of Duty game – it released amazingly only the following year. Its quintessential moment, snatched directly from the enemy at the gates, saw your Russian hero armed only with a strip of Mosin Nagant ammunition, commanding a pistol from the condemned comrade’s hands in front of him cold. During a campaign marked by ears banging and crawling through the mud, stupid luck has played as big a role in your continued survival and promotion as a player’s skill. Infinity Ward balanced this Infernal Lucky Game with a grim tone and sense of nobility inherited from Spielberg, the original architect of the Medal of Honor.

Changing faces

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