Call of Duty is a series that seems to get less interesting every year in some way or another. When games as visually rich as these ones hit, you start to feel fatigued after a few years because they all end up looking the same. They look good… but they look the same. I don’t like to knock the visual presentation of games much because I think modern gaming has given us the best looking titles we could hope for. With games like Call of Duty being released annually however, you have to bring more to the table than spectacular visuals to earn my purchase.
The past few games in this franchise have not done that. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare does.
Infinity Ward takes a turn this year with the franchise, following a lackluster previous attempt with 2013’s “Ghosts.”. Infinite Warfare may have benefited from not being shouldered with creating two versions of this game, as the Xbox 360/PS3 platforms were finally left behind for a focus on current-gen platforms and the PC. The game is more polished than Ghosts and runs quite well. Jittery aspects of past Call of Duty titles seem to be completely absent from Infinite Warfare, and I’m pleased by that.
The campaign of Infinite Warfare is quite good. The story reminds me a lot of the gritty sci-fi shows that are seeing lots of success these days. If you liked titles such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Expanse,” or “Dark Matter,” you will no doubt enjoy the way Infinite Warfare’s story is crafted and presented. They clearly took their inspiration from other successes in the genre, and kept the presentation of over-the-top set pieces from the franchise too. There is clearly a ton of inspiration from “Halo” and “Titanfall” thrown in there too… perhaps a little too much for die-hard fans of said franchises. While it all works within the confines of this new universe Infinity Ward, some of it seems pretty shameless in its imitation. As a pretty loyal Halo fan, I actually found it somewhat funny, and perhaps enjoyed the game more as a result. It’s all in good fun, as far as I’m concerned, and I hope we get more stories in this universe in the future.
The story is set in a future where the Solar System is nearly completely colonized by humanity and Mars and Earth are the two solar superpowers. The United Nations is still around and is the principal power controlling the solar system, but Mars has decided to fight back against the Earth’s dominance with its massive war fleet. You play as a pilot/solider for the UNSA (United Nations Space Administration) following a massive surprise attack by the Mars military that leaves most of the UNSA in ruins. Your job is to wage a pseudo-guerrilla war to both weaken the Martian fleet while also giving Earth time to rebuild its defenses and turn the war around in their favor.
The game is linear, mostly, but has a really interesting twist on progression that past Call of Duty games don’t have. As part of your character’s arc, you end up being put in command of one of the last UNSA ships in the fleet, and as the new captain you must choose the range of missions undertaken to accomplish the overall objective of rebuilding and rearming. The story missions are linear, but between them you can choose a decent array of secondary missions to accomplish that award your character with perks for future missions.
The perks are pretty standard fare, like improved weapon reload time and better damage resistance, but you can pick and choose when you want to earn them. The mission you complete for these unlocks are all presented in a “most wanted” fashion, with each one presenting you with Martian military leaders as targets that are tracked on a deck of cards in the Captain’s office. In order to take these leaders out, you’ll do a number of missions ranging from stealth infiltration of enemy ships to full on assaults. There are also space combat missions that utilize a very well-crafted (but still somewhat simplistic) flight sim. You can do these missions in any order, and each one still has plenty of story polish. These are not cut-and-paste side missions that other games are guilty of. These are all interesting, and worth your time. It’s a nice spin to what is traditionally linear and I kind of wish there were more side missions. I was sad when I finished them all.
The characters are also well crafted (as far as Call of Duty characters go). This should not really be that much of a surprise coming from the creators of the Modern Warfare trilogy. Their characters have always been somewhat memorable, but they did even better this time. The standout character may be the lovable robot warrior “E3N” (Ethan). Ethan is an advanced combat mech with a real sense of awareness among a slew of simple robots used by both sides. He is funny, dedicated, loyal, and definitely aware of his existence. He’s not a “dumb” bot by any means, and it’s fun to watch the other characters come to accept him as more of a fellow soldier and not just a piece of equipment. By the end of the game, you’ll think of him more as a human than a robot.
The game’s weapons are all well thought out and not terribly overbearing. They took a more conservative approach to weapons in this game, which surprised me. Much like Halo, there are only a few types of each gun, rather than dozens of them that all end up being basically the same. There’s a very distinct “shotgun” and “rocket launcher”, and various other energy weapons. You’ll unlock new weapons as you find and scan them in the field. After that, your ship’s crew can 3D print them for use in future missions as you see fit. You can swap out things like silencers and enhanced scopes (once you unlock them) providing a lot of choice among a smaller selection of base weapons. It works well, and rewards players for trying out different things for different situations. Your Star fighter can similarly be customized, but you are limited to unlocking new weapons and equipment for it only by completing side missions.
I enjoyed the campaign a lot, mostly because the story was well crafted and presented in a way that never got boring or overly repetitive. Playing on harder difficulties introduces a bit of a game play loop that can get a bit tedious (shoot, take shots, hide, recover, repeat) but it’s not as bad as other games in the franchise. I never found myself in a situation that resulted in hours of retrying. There are many was to tackle combat situations throughout the game, making it less of a grind. There’s some decent wall-running and double jumping as part of your skill set/equipment loadout, but it’s not as robust or fun as Titanfall’s movement. This is still grounded in most of Call of Duty’s traditional control scheme. That said, they found ways to shake things up, such as the aforementioned space flight sections, but perhaps the most interesting sections of the game were spacewalks. During these moments, you can control your spin and thrust independently, and get around quicker with a grappling hook. Boarding ships from the outside never got old. There are some fun gadgets available too, such as shock grenades and hacking modules, allowing you to temporarily take over the bodies of robotic enemies and cause havoc behind enemy lines. One of the most satisfying experiences in the entire game is to take over a bot and have it self destruct inside a grouping of enemies.
Multiplayer, however, is a much different story. It’s a lot of the same, as far as a Call of Duty game can be. If you enjoy it, this will probably work for you. If you don’t, you’ll probably want to skip it. It’s a fast paced, poorly balanced romp that will steamroll you if you are not a competitive player. I was destroyed when I jumped in, most likely because I spent the first few days in the campaign and everyone who skipped straight to the multiplayer at launch had a distinct advantage but not waiting. I promptly exited the mode and did their zombie mode instead.
Quick thought on Zombie mode: It’s good!
It’s played in a space world-themed amusement park, which plenty of upgrade perks you can buy as you progress, and has voice acting by Paul Reubens and David Hasselhoff, among others. There’s plenty of funny moments and lots of undead to kill. Compared to other Call of Duty Zombie modes, it is par for the course in about every aspect, but the humor made it fun for me. That said, if waves of enemies is your thing, go play Gears of War 4’s horde mode instead. It’s a little more interesting with the tower defense aspects. Still… it’s a solid effort by Infinity Ward.
Now that I’ve finished the campaign and had a go at the online modes, I have a few points I’d like to address directly Activision:
- Your team made an excellent story mode. You should continue to strive to make great stories like this in all your games. No more excuses. You have people who are talented and can pull it off
- Why is there no cooperative play in your games? Infinite Warfare would have been great with a second (or third) (or fourth) player, especially in the space flight sections.
- I want more Ethan
Jokes aside, I genuinely enjoyed this game and am already playing through the campaign a second time. I kind of wish I could have bought just the campaign and zombie modes as some sort of mini-pack at a lower price, because the multiplayer aspect I will most likely never tough again.
With that being said, I can’t recommend this game as a full price purchase for anyone unless they truly enjoy how Call of Duty’s multiplayer is crafted. It’s not a full game for me as a result. Your money may be best spent on the game during a holiday sale or some other discount opportunity. It’s a great game, but you can probably wait to play it.