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Starfield’s combat and movement make me yearn for the jetpack CoD era

Starfield's boost packs and zero-G combat has me feeling nostalgic for an underrated era of Call of Duty that is, sadly, unlikely to ever return.

Starfield jetpack CoD: someone in a futuristic black spacesuit floats in the air while aiming a large rifle with a red laser

In Starfield, an RPG that wants player choice to be at the forefront, it’s surprisingly hard to avoid its first-person shooter elements a lot of the time. Even if you’re trying to do a pacifist run, you’ll be thrown into gunfights quite often. That’s a criticism that can be leveled against the game for sure. However, at least Bethesda tried to spice things up when it comes to Starfield’s combat encounters and movement mechanics versus its previous games – something which isn’t too dissimilar from what Activision’s Call of Duty studios tried to do for a brief but excellent era in that franchise’s history.

There are many reasons why Starfield is one of the best RPGs of recent times, but from my experience, the action doesn’t get any better than during zero-G and low-gravity shootouts. The former often happen in derelict space stations and ships that can be boarded once most of their systems are damaged, while the latter are common in planets and moons with a lower gravity than the Earth-like worlds. Even when your boots are firmly on the ground, movement is still enhanced with your boost pack, springing you above enemies while filling your ears with a satisfying, futuristic, mechanical whoosh. We’ve talked in the past about how good the best Starfield weapons feel thanks to the improved gunplay, but it’s only during the more sci-fi action moments that Starfield truly shines as a shooter.

All the boost pack movement and zero-G shootouts also reminded me of a very specific age of Call of Duty that now, sadly, feels quite distant. After the middling Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013), the series entered a brief but distinctive era in which science fiction elements took over both the settings and the moment-to-moment gameplay. Mind you, the core military shooter action remained familiar, but ‘jetpacks’ – a collective term for various boost jumping, dashing, and general movement mechanics across this era – were now a prominent feature, bringing the series suspiciously close to what Respawn Entertainment was trying with Titanfall.

Starfield jetpack Call of Duty: Three people in spacesuits engage in a gunfight on a spacestation

Sci-fi settings also translated into story campaigns that often went down really experimental avenues, something that brought in new players while also pushing away some of the more traditional CoD veterans. For me, 2014’s Advanced Warfare didn’t quite work, but 2015’s Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare in 2016 rank among my favorite Call of Duty campaigns of all time, with BO3 in particular also nailing both zombies and regular multiplayer.

Starfield’s setting and zero-G gunfights have often made me reminisce about Infinite Warfare, specifically. Boarding and breaching missions are quite common in that CoD installment’s unusual campaign, and it’s been hard to find something like those sections since 2016. While I strongly disliked Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer element, I keep praying for a return to that sub-franchise at some point. Starfield never quite reaches the level of bombast found in IW’s most blockbuster moments, but it’s good to know players can just hop on their ships and go look for some Spacers in order to replicate that sort of encounter.

Sadly, Bethesda currently doesn’t allow players (without the help of Starfield mods) to leave their ships and float around, as Infinite Warfare would let you do. It’s an odd omission in a game otherwise fully committed to the wonders and dangers of the exploration of outer space, and even weirder since the aforementioned zero-G locations and action beats aren’t uncommon.

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What I’ve seen from those using mods to float freely in space really has me feeling nostalgic, but also desperate for it to come to Starfield in a more official capacity. I really want to bounce between asteroids and use debris for cover in Infinite Warfare-like set pieces! Fingers crossed the first Starfield DLC produces the goods…

On a more positive note, as I generally really like the game, Starfield does boost packs and low-gravity action justice. It’s been a while since “grounded” shooters have adequately put these movement options in the mix, so it was surprising to see Bethesda nailing those mechanics in such a wide open-world game. To get the most out of it, you’ll have to put some points into the Boost Pack Training and Boost Assault Training Starfield skills, but even on a basic level, the feeling is perfect for a space exploration game.

Starfield Call of Duty combat: Someone in a red and black spacesuit holding a long-barrelled sniper rifle

As for whether we’ll see this kind of movement return to the CoD series, I’m certainly not holding my breath. The excellent Infinite Warfare was the last of the jetpack CoDs, and that was over seven years ago now. With how well many recent Call of Duty titles have sold, with how much excitement there is for the Modern Warfare 3 release date, and with how the annual multiplayer experience has to feed directly into the free-to-play behemoth that is Warzone, I think there’s more chance of seeing one of Starfield’s aliens appear in a Call of Duty campaign than for us to get a jetpack CoD any time soon.

Still looking for more on Bethesda’s epic RPG? While a good Starfield wiki can be a handy source of information, our new Starfield Database goes further, offering you daily news, searchable databanks, and even interactive tools.