Infinity Ward's Lee Ross on Call of Duty: Infinity War - Rave in the Redwoods

Infinity Ward’s Lee Ross on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – Rave in the Redwoods

On January 31, the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Sabotage DLC will hit the PlayStation 4, with content for the Xbox One and PC not far behind. Sabotage will give us four new maps: Noir, Renaissance, Neon and Dominion, a re-imagining of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 classic, Afghan. It’s also giving us the next chapter in the zombie story that started with Zombies in Spaceland. This time around we’re heading to a camp in the woods in the 1990s. Rave in the Redwoods will see the return of your favorite characters, Sally (Sasheer Zamata), Andre (Jay Pharoah), A.J. (Ike Barinholtz) and Poindexter (Seth Green), but in very different roles. Willard Wyler (Paul Reubens) is still looking for the perfect kills for his film and the gang will have to fight the mysterious Slasher to survive. We recently got a chance to chat with Lee Ross, Associate Project Director at Infinity Ward, to learn all about the gameplay, the story, the weapons, the Easter eggs, the soundtrack and the surprise guest star in the game, director Kevin Smith. Tell us about Willard Wyler’s big plans and how the characters have changed this time around?

Lee Ross: Willard Wyler is still looking for his magnum opus. He’s still looking for the ultimate death scenes. He’s hoping that this is the film, Rave in the Redwoods being probably one of his goriest films ever made. He’s hoping that this is where the four protagonists will meet their demise and he’ll ultimately get the final scenes that he’s looking for. The four characters are returning from the original film Zombies in Spaceland, and they’ve made this jump into the 1990s, into this new set of archetypes. So the familiar faces and names that we’ve come to know and love from Zombies in Spaceland, A.J., Sally, Andre and Poindexter; they’re now going to be shoved into these roles that kind of mix them up and make them feel like fish out of water, so to speak. So Poindexter being our nerd character played by Seth Green, he’s jumping into the role of a raver. So all these sort of sensibilities he had in Zombies in Spaceland, where he was telling the group – he was a big fan of Willard Wyler’s work, and he could kind of tell them, “Oh, I know what to expect from Zombies in Spaceland,” but he’s kind of losing himself a bit here in Rave in the Redwoods, because he’s falling into that archetype of that raver. So he’s really into the perk candy [more on that later], he’s really into the music when he’s around the rave space, so he’s really taken a bit of a twist. The rest of the group is realizing that they don’t have this anchor that was keeping them alive in Zombies in Spaceland. They can’t really rely on him anymore, and they’re actually having to keep an eye on him a little bit more.


Our character A.J., who was our jock, he’s kind of getting thrown into a role that is like what what we had Andre playing; he’s a rapper, but he’s more like a rapper wannabe. I think the inspiration we took there was looking at Vanilla Ice and how he came into the 1990s where rap culture was really turned on its head when “Ice Ice Baby” came out. He’s gone from this guy who really knows how to swing a baseball bat to a guy who thinks that he can really rock a microphone when he really can’t. The rest of the group totally picks up on that, but he doesn’t really get it. He thinks his gold chain is really poppin’ and he definitely thinks he is one of the cooler cats.


And then, of course, Andre, as I mentioned, he was our rapper. We wanted to still keep him musically inclined, but this time we’re actually going to turn him into a grunge rocker. He’s got this kind of laid-back feeling. He’s less aggressive than he was when he was in the 1980s, and he’s really disappointed that he’s been put into this role. In fact, the first comment he makes in the intro cinematic is, “Grunge? Really?” [You can watch the live stream from Infinity Ward which has the intro at the end here.] So he’s definitely a fish out of water.


Then last, but not least, Sally, our very popular Valley Girl, she’s given up spaghetti straps and she’s put on a bandana and got some tattoos on her hands. She’s definitely going ’90s gangster. She’s kind of like a female Tupac now, and she’s going to kind of take charge in this episode. Sally was really like the damsel in distress in Zombies in Spaceland, so to speak, but this time around, she’s really pushing the crew and kind of taking control, and hopefully she can keep everybody alive, including herself.

rave-in-the-redwoods-6 An abandoned summer camp is classic ’90s horror. What sort of films did you look at to influence the game design?

Lee Ross: Oh, man! We definitely wanted to point back at – even though some of these films kind of birthed themselves in the 1980s, there was sort of the continuation of the slasher films like HalloweenFriday the 13th that continued on. So we have this character that we created called The Slasher, who kind of takes bits and pieces from all of these different characters from throughout the horror genre. He wears a welding mask, he walks around with a chainsaw, and he is a really formidable foe that chases the players all throughout the map. In addition to that, we really wanted the map to feel different. We wanted a stark contrast from the comfort zone that we put our players in Zombies in Spaceland, with this really wide open map that was bright and colorful. There weren’t really any dark spots or surprise locations where things could pop out on you. In Rave in the Redwoods, we really narrowed all those lanes. We made it much tighter and much more confining. It’s much more difficult for four players to kind of stay in the same tight location together. And in addition to that, we really have darkened up this map. We wanted it to feel like authentic to being out in woods late at night. So there are these really rich, dark pockets where zombies pop out of nowhere, and we wanted to put it as a summer camp because we thought that the forest could be a really frightening place when you’re there by yourself. Not to mention, in these traditional films, players aren’t running around with AK-47s and SMGs and things like that. They kind of grab the first thing they can to protect themselves from things that are trying to kill them. So we’ve also taken inspiration from that, so when the players start off, they don’t actually have a weapon in their hand. They have nothing but their fists, which won’t get you very far. But we put all these melee weapons in that are also nods to those horror films from the ’90s. So we’ve got a spiked baseball bat, we’ve got a machete, we’ve got a golf club–and these are things that players can find at their disposal right away. They’re free to pick up and run around with, but we really wanted to get the players up close and personal with the zombies. Having a pistol in your hand gives you a lot of comfort. You can keep your distance and pop your headshot. But now we’re requiring players to get up close and personal, which can be deadly when you’re taking on a zombie horde.

rave-in-the-redwoods-9 I’m assuming the soundtrack is very important here, like it was last time. What are we going to hear and how much fun was it to go back and listen to that music?

Lee Ross: Well, definitely there is lots of music for us to go through. The genres are very diverse in the 1990s. You were still getting a lot of rock and roll that was coming in from the ’80s, but for us, what we’re really going to be pushing for Rave in the Redwoods, we really wanted to push the rave music. We wanted to make this area authentic. Now, in Zombies in Spaceland, you would expect to hear music everywhere that you are. It’s also something that kind of gives you comfort as well. So when you’re hearing that song that was kind of a favorite track back in the ’80s, you feel like, okay, I’m kind of getting into my groove. But in Rave, we want to make sure that music is coming from the rave area of the map. So you’ll get to hear things like Aphex Twin and Crystal Method. Things like that will be playing in the rave area, but at the same time, we want you to be able to go off into the forest and you’re just going to hear the crickets. You’re just going hear the trees creaking and the wind blowing. We wanted to make those jump scares, the moment when we have something jump out and growl at you, be a little bit more intense. And again, we wanted to take away that comfort of that track playing in the background, your hero theme music.

rave-in-the-redwoods-8 Speaking of raves, tell us about Rave Mode.

Lee Ross: Yeah, so Rave Mode, or as we’re calling it, Rave Vision, the way that this works is, there are these pouches you can get by killing zombies. They’ll kind of float in the air and players can collect them. And if you take them to any of the fire pits located in and around the map and toss it into it, it will put you into this induced state where you kind of get the ability to see more than you can normally see. So when you’re in Rave Mode, everything turns into this bright, neon-colored location. It still retains its pockets of darkness here and there, but we’ve put these bright colors, not only into the world, but also onto the zombies. They’ve got body paint and face paint, and it really gives an alternative look to the whole experience. In addition to that, the Slasher that I mentioned previously, you can only see him in Rave Vision. So what’s really cool is, if we’re playing together, and I go into Rave Vision and you haven’t, I can actually be engaging with the Slasher right in front of you and you’ll be like, I don’t see him! Where is he? What’s going on?

rave-in-the-redwoods-2 So what sort of weapons are we going to have here?

Lee Ross: Well we definitely want to keep our traditional weaponry available to players. We’re going to keep them a little further out of reach. Like I mentioned the melee weapons earlier. They will definitely be at players’ disposal right away. But of course, players love what we call the wonder weapons for zombies, and we’ve got a whole set of wonder weapons for players to assemble and recover, that give players all sorts of amazing capabilities. We revealed some in our live stream yesterday, so we have a couple of crossbows with some really ornate designs on them, and have some really interesting abilities and have some really fun ways of destroying and decapitating and mutilating zombies. I’ve heard about some Easter eggs in here. So how deeply and throughly will we have to hunt to find them?

Lee Ross: Oh, we love to bury them nice and deep. In fact, there are things in Spaceland that haven’t been found and we’re really excited about that fact. There’s plenty of Easter eggs – I would say there is enough to keep players scouting around this map for some time. But, of course, for everything you find, we give you something very wonderful in return. So, for example, we have those wonder weapons that are part of the Easter eggs, but we also have story elements that hide behind this, because we wanted to be able to continue the story as far as Willard Wyler is concerned. And then, of course, we want to be able to tell the story of what happened in this film and also, who else has met their demise here. So we’re going to introduce quite a few other character’s backstories that sort of help flesh out the storyline and also let us know just how dastardly Willard Wyler really is.

rave-in-the-redwoods-1 Of course I have to ask you about Kevin Smith. How did that all come about and did he have a lot of say in how his character was used?

Lee Ross: Well, it certainly came about because we’re huge fans of Kevin Smith. He definitely fits the time period perfectly for us. He’s a really interesting character. He’s a hero that you don’t expect to be a hero, and I thought that that was a really interesting contrast, coming from David Hasselhoff in Zombies in Spaceland, where you kind of expect him to be the hero, to be the savior. But Kevin is that character that you don’t necessarily expect to see him wielding a gun and taking on zombie hordes. We thought there was an interesting contrast between those two characters. The thing about working with Kevin is, we wrote really interesting dialogue for him, but of course, we allow every actor that we work with to bring their own charm and their own personalities. So some of the creation that we had from Kevin was altering some of the dialogue and some of the lines that he felt fit his character and his persona a bit more. He definitely wanted to bring little bits of things that he might have said in some of the various films that he’s been in and TV shows and whatnot, so for us, it was really finding the range of what his character was going to be like and what kind of story we were going to tell for him. The design elements from the ’90s must have been a blast to work with. Is there a design element you’re particularly proud of?

Lee Ross: Well, that’s like picking my favorite kids! [laughs] But we certainly had a great time making this map. I think what I’m most proud of is that we were able to safely depart from what we did in Spaceland and do something that was really – it feels really different when you’re in this space, and I think that is a big challenge. The safe thing to do is to replicate what you’ve already done, put a new coat of paint on that. We really wanted to push the boundaries of what we could do with Rave in the Redwoods. We wanted to tighten those lanes. We wanted to make sure there was this really frightening atmosphere that was going on. This place–honestly, I would never want to stay in this summer camp, ever in my life! It is absolutely frightening. So I’m really proud of the environment. We were able to bring a lot of the features that we introduced in Zombies in Spaceland into Rave in the Redwoods, so things that fans really love get to make there comeback. There’s the Afterlife Arcade, where you die and bleed out, and you get to play arcade games and earn your way back to the living. We retain some of those things, and put a small twist on some of those as well. But we’ve really pushed the envelope in terms of the content that we were able to get into this map. I think fans have quite a bit to uncover and there is a lot to do in this map. I’m assuming you have plans for the next one already?

Lee Ross: Absolutely! We are way ahead of the curve, more than our fans tend to think we are. We’ve got quite a season planned for people who come along for the ride with zombies this year. We’re definitely far ahead of curve and thinking about things people don’t think we’re thinking about quite yet.

Are you guys excited for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – Rave in the Redwoods? Do you think you found all the Easter eggs in Zombies in Spaceland? Let us know in the comments. Rave in the Redwoods as well as the rest of the Sabotage DLC will hit PS4 on January 31. Xbox One and PC will get the pack shortly afterward.


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