Infinite Warfare is undoubtedly the black sheep of the franchise – since its reveal it has met with nothing but derision from the hardcore fans who wanted “boots on the ground” gameplay and none of this “space bullshit”.
The thing is though, Infinite Warfare has done a number of things really well and the hatred of the title stems from nothing else other than “this is not a thing I want; give me my thing please” mentality.
Perhaps the best thing that came from Infinite Warfare is Jackal Assault. A free VR experience that does not require the base game – if you have the PSVR headset and 5 spare minutes you can experience this mode for yourself.
And I think you want to try this…
…Jackal Assault puts you into the cockpit of the titular Jackal; a nimble one man space assault craft not unlike an X-Wing and it tasks you with protecting your frigate from an enemy assault.
First things first, the immersion here is incredibly, the cockpit of the Jackal is incredibly detailed and so too is your mother ship interior. The game begins with you in the hangar and allows to to take in the sights and sounds of an intergalactic frigate – when the time comes to take off though it is spectacularly good! Orange lights and a buzzer are accompanied by convincing smoke before the thrust kicks in and everything flies by your eyes in an instant. The effect of taking off is incredibly convincing and it makes the reveal of space and its serenity much more effective – it truly is a brilliant VR experience.
The sense of immersion never leaves you either; the tutorial is very organic as it has you following your superior through a scouting route when it goes wrong (as it often does) the results are spectacular! A large frigate emerges from hyperspace and suddenly the serenity of space is replaced with a battleground with ships, debris and lasers everywhere. It’s exhilarating and exciting – everything Call of Duty is when it’s at its best.
The combat on offer here is simplistic and arcadey in feel. You have a machine gun which is aimed where your nose is pointing and you also have rockets which are aimed using 1-to-1 headtracking. You can lock onto a number of ships at the same time and rain fury upon them with just the push of a button and it works brilliantly; there is no lag and I experienced no issues whatsoever. It’s all very simple but this is attempting to emulate the classic space shooters of the arcade era and in that respect it is job well done; everything here is simple and allows for the player to improve with small adjustments in tactics/playstyle. Multiple playthroughs are expected of you and you’ll oblige the developers because the experience is so good.
The “story” follows a traditional 3 act structure; the slow beginning, the complication and the “boss” fight and it is in this structure that Jackal Assault is at its strongest. This serves to acclimatise you to VR while ramping up experience intensity and it also allows the experience to be highly choreographed as well as expertly crafted! What’s here is amongst some of the best set piece crafting seen in recent Call of Duty games – it moves at rocket pace and it constantly keeps the player busy. At times it can give you too much to do, but it all adds to the frenetic arcade nature of the title and it fits in well tonally.
Everything is over in about 5-8 minutes and usually that will be something to complain about.Here it seems fair; a lot of work has went into this and it is an exceptionally well crafted experience for the players! It’s not often you receive such a well made mode for free and it seems a shame to knock it when it achieves everything it sets out to do. Besides replayability is provided by a high score table in which you can compete with your friends and when you have 3 or 4 friends on their it can get competitive and high score wars break out with no-one wanting to lose. It adds a layer to the game and encourages you to play again and make adjustments to how you play in order to get that “perfect” run together. One more go is the mantra here.
On a technical level, Jackal Assault is impressive, it controls brilliantly (although I would’ve like if the Jackals had more sense of weight), the graphics are robust, everything is well textured and stands up to scrutiny, the explosions are lacklustre though which prove to be a distraction because everything else looks great.
The sound though is incredible – once again VR’s 360 degree audio is the star of the show, you can tell the position of enemy ships entirely on sound cues which makes you instinctively turn you head (and aim). It not only adds to the immersion but it makes it! Once again, a cockpit game is highlighting just how comfortable and impressive VR can be for the player!
Overall this is very good mode, it’s incredibly good fun and expertly made. While it is over in the blink of an eye you will find yourself going back to it time and time again to beat your own and your friends score. You may not be playing it this time next week, but you’ll remember it!
And surely that’s something to be commended.