Developer: Infinity Ward
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Price: $59.99 (Standard), $79.99 (Legacy Edition)
The Call of Duty franchise has a long and storied history and Infinite Warfare’s trail to release was one for the record books. It had one of the most downvoted YouTube videos in history, while its competitors seemingly pressed forward to win the hearts of their audience. Many even conjectured the coinciding release of Modern Warfare Remastered was nothing more than a ploy to lure gamers into buying Infinity Ward’s latest game. Now the game’s out, and while Infinite Warfare is far from perfect, I can confidently say fans of the series will be happy with this year’s offering.
Life and death, murder and war, and in the face of overwhelming odds, courage: these are all ongoing themes throughout Infinite Warfare’s narrative. It’s also often implied (and at times, outright stated) that caring for others is a weakness on the battlefield.
As a war-based first-person shooter, you’ll shoot, stab, and blow up your enemies. There’s blood spatter and the like though no chunky viscera. At times, you’ll even be able to pull the helmets off of soldiers in space, dooming them to the vacuum of the abyss. The deaths of some characters in the narrative can be a bit gut-wrenching, though none are explicitly disturbing based on look. The zombie mode has heads and limbs rolling, so keep that in mind.
The game does feature some crude humor. Much of it is the bantering of soldiers going into battle, trying to ease nerves. There is a considerable amount of language in the game. Expect to hear the same sort of language an R-rated action film would have. There is substantial attention given to marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Per the ESRB’s summary, there are topless women with chest covered by zombies hands, a pole dancer, and partially exposed buttocks (though I do not recall encountering any of this in the narrative campaign. It is suggested that the zombie mode includes this content though).
The main protagonist constantly maintains the mantra that “a good commander brings his men home,” while many of the soldiers reiterate that all must be sacrificed for the mission.
Despite the fact that three separate companies are in the rotation to create Call of Duty titles, Infinity Ward undoubtedly set the franchise on its meteoric rise. Though they spawned a completely new format for multiplayer progress that every first-person shooter on earth has glommed onto, the multiplayer in Infinite Warfare feels like a rubber stamp of Black Ops III. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it’s so similar, they even kept the round-ending flourishes and special move/archetype setup Treyarch’s last title featured.
Taking that into account, Infinite Warfare‘s multiplayer doesn’t feel like it does much new. As we mentioned in our preview coverage, they’ve added mission teams, which give players tasks to complete during each round of play and rewards them accordingly. They’re also touting the combat rigs as a selling point, though in truth it works the same as Black Ops III‘s specialists, complete with unique outfits and special abilities.
What made Call of Duty’s multiplayer so addicting is still intact, though, and the gunplay feels as tight as ever. The game’s full suite of modes is back in force, along with two new offerings: Frontline, a deathmatch-style mode where everyone spawns in their own base, and Defender, a keep-away style game that rewards teams for holding a ball. In terms of modes and movement, Infinite Warfare feels unchanged from Black Ops III though this year’s game adds several more maps for players to enjoy. It’s worth noting that, in my experience, the game still seemed to have some spawnpoint struggles, occasionally leading to one-sided games where the losing team was completely funneled into a single location.
I’m glad to see Infinity Ward bring some of their storytelling chops back with Infinite Warfare. Earth has run out of resources and it’s taken to the stars to find more. The Settlement Defense Forces, an insurgent army led by Salen Kotch (Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones) have broken ties with Earth, declaring war with the intention of completely destroying the planet and its inhabitants. Players will control Nick Reyes (Brian Bloom, The A-Team, Dollhouse), a fighter-pilot-turned-warship-captain, as he and his crew launch a series of assaults to beat back the SDF and save Earth.
From start to finish, Infinite Warfare‘s narrative is a fun experience. Though we never really see the cast beyond their roles as soldiers, Reyes and his team are all likable characters, especially the combat robot Ethan (Jeffrey Nordling, Arrow, CSI: New York) who brings an ironic sense of humanity and humor to the whole affair. Infinity Ward has also brought a welcome change to the campaign, giving players a galactic map (not unlike Mass Effect) to launch side missions that will upgrade your hardware. Players will get to do boots-on-the-ground missions, space walks, and spaceship combat, and regardless of which, there are some great moments to play through and see. I also thought the use of 3-D printers to custom outfit soldiers was a nice nod to a relatable future.
With all of that said, CoD:IW ‘s campaign is far from flawless. The characters are likable, but we rarely get to see anything about who they are outside their role as a soldier. This sets up some situations later in the story that feel like they don’t carry the weight the writers were going for. While I enjoyed the ship combat and thought it brought a refreshing air of variety to the game, it felt very rinse-and-repeat near the end of the tale. This is especially true if you’ve done a lot of the side missions. There are only a small handful of ship types and once you figure out the strategies for each enemy, mowing through them all can begin to feel like slogging through an exploding swamp. I also feel like the story gives away too much too quickly, leaving the final couple missions less engaging than the beginning of the story.
Call of Duty has become so many things to fans. The inclusion of a zombie mode has become a staple in the series, trying to make sure the perennial title is a one stop shop for story, competitive, and cooperative gameplay to keep hungry fans satiated. This year’s entry actually feels particularly well done. Titled “Zombies in Spaceland,” players will take on the role of an actors mysteriously pulled into a horror movie where they’ll need to survive a zombie-infested theme park. Set in the 1980’s, Spaceland comes complete with period-appropriate clothing and licensed music. It was pretty slick jumping into Spaceland and wrecking walkers while Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night jammed away. The game even has a period-appropriate arcade players can pass the time at between deaths. It’s definitely something players will come back to time and again.
Infinite Warfare‘s campaign looks great, taking on a near-cinematic feel at times. Space stations feel detailed and lived-in, while celestial bodies breed a sense of awe while you perform evasive maneuvers in your ship. Characters models look spot-on, lending credibility to the storytelling. Seriously, the resemblances of Conor McGregor and David Harewood (Supergirl) are uncanny. The zombie mode’s aesthetic totally works too, blending the culture of a generation with great music and voice acting for a memorable experience. While the rest of the game looks and sounds incredible, the multiplayer feels, aesthetically, much less memorable. The ability to customize your rig and gear is a nice touch, but there aren’t nearly as many stand-and-stare moments looking through the multiplayer maps as the other modes provide.
Overall, I think Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a great package that will be unjustly overlooked this year. Despite a few issues with the pacing, the campaign is a great offering, providing likable characters and some fun set piece moments with excellent environmental variety. Zombies in Spaceland will provide hours of fun for fans looking to rewind time a few decades and tap their toes while they wreck undead with a few friends. The multiplayer offering is the most contentious part of the package, feeling largely unchanged from Black Ops III. While some may pass it by for giant mechs or a trip back in time, it’s a well-rounded package that brings a few new things to the table for longtime fans to enjoy. If you’re a fan of tight first-person shooters or just Call of Duty, Infinite Warfare will give you plenty to enjoy for another year.
Physical review copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare provided by Activision and Step-3
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The Bottom Line
Infinite Warfare has a great campaign and a fun zombie mode. The multiplayer is solid, but it feels like it was lifted straight out of Black Ops III and given a new coat of paint. Fans of the franchise will find more of the same to love here but multiplayer fans looking for new flavor may look to the series' competitors this year.