There’s been a new Call of Duty released every year since the original game in the series came out in 2003. Thirteen years and thirteen Call of Duty titles later, there’s no wonder that the game community is starting to feel a bit of fatigue when it comes to the franchise. Somehow, though, Activision has spurred the three studios that rotate duties of developing the Call of Duty games (Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer Games) to add enough new features and gimmicks to players coming back. In a way, the Call of Duty franchise has become to FPS fans what the Madden series is to football fans, a reliable yearly release that they buy so they can keep playing with friends.
Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, for better or worse, does little to change the equation set down by the titles that came before it. The one place it does stand out is ironically the part of the game that many just skip right past: the campaign. While Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III took us to the near future, Infinite Warfare does away with any pretense of being connected to our present day.
Someone Set Us Up The Bomb
The title is set in a time when the Earth’s natural resources have been depleted and humanity has spread out into the Solar System to seek out the raw materials they need to continue to survive. Colonies have been settled on several planets and many other moons and asteroids.throughout our local star system. However, not everyone was satisfied with serving Mother Earth, and so humanity has splintered into two groups: the Settlement Defense Front (SDF), a militant Oligarchy/Military Dictatorship which preaches hate towards the Earth and all who live on it; and the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA), a conglomerate of the nations of Earth who control trade and defense of the planet.
The campaign follows Captain Nick Reyes and the crew of the UNSA Retribution, as they counter an attack by the SDF in the beginning movements of the game that wipes out almost the entirety of the UNSA fleet. Unlike previous entries in the franchise, you have a bit more control over what order you play missions in. The Retribution serves as a hub, where you can check out news reports of your exploits, visit your office and check your computer and target list for more in-game lore, and once you're ready you can hit the bridge and use the Retribution’s navigation console to plan your next mission. Although you have to do main campaign missions in order, there are also side missions which give you perks and attachment unlocks that you can play in any order or not at all.
In addition to the Call of Duty standard ground-pounding missions, Infinite Warfare adds sequences where you pilot the Jackal VTOL fighter. Instead of being a gimmick, the Jackal sequences actually add to the campaign quite a bit, and it’s obvious Infinity Ward spent time making sure the flow between ground and air combat felt natural and smooth. So not only do you get to board enemy destroyers and carriers, you can also get the satisfaction of blowing them apart, which makes Infinite Warfare’s campaign feel a lot more “big picture” than previous entries where you relied on others to unleash the big guns. The lack of loading screens after the initial jump into the game also helped the presentation substantially and made the whole campaign feel more cohesive and smooth.
And Now the Bad News
There are some downsides to the campaign, though. Firstly, the SDF vs. UNSA struggle which makes up the primary component of the plot is very one-dimensional. While I can appreciate a simple “good vs. evil” story, nothing about either side made them unique. You could have replaced them with the Rebels vs. Imperials with very little changes to the writing and you’d have had a Star Wars single-player campaign. Kit Harrington as the SDF’s Rear Admiral Salen Kotch is also a stereotypical megalomaniac, and the performance Harington gives is stiff and unnatural compared to the rest of the cast.
There is too the issue of scale in the campaign, both of time and just how big the SDF and UNSA fleets are. In the opening sequence, we see the SDF fleet along with Admiral Kotch’s supercarrier Olympus Mons, and it seems as though there are hundreds, if not thousands of SDF destroyers, carriers, and support craft in their fleet. However, while playing the game, a UNSA carrier and destroyer were able to hold the SDF fleet in check. Also, why was the ENTIRE UNSA fleet in Earth’s atmosphere during the Fleet Week celebration when the SDF attacked? If the UNSA fleet was comparable to the SDF fleet seen in the intro, then the skies should have been black from horizon to horizon with vessels. Instead, we see maybe 20 or 30 vessels.
Additionally, it’s not really clear how long a time period there is between the SDF attack on Earth and the conclusion of the campaign. If I’m not mistaken it seems like characters constantly refer to the entire events of the campaign as taking place over one day. I feel like I have to be wrong as there’s absolutely no way that the Retribution could escape from Earth orbit, make repairs, and attack multiple enemy flotillas and installations within the span of a day. Maybe I understood wrong, but regardless, the events of the campaign take place over a nebulous time period.
These issues with the campaign might be nit-picky, but they did a lot to take me out of what was a superb story by Call of Duty standards. Even with these flaws, though, I feel the plot is the best we’ve seen in a Call of Duty since Modern Warfare, and I hope it’s an indicator that Activision will continue to work on making the single-player experience in Call of Duty just as much of a priority as the multiplayer one.
Hope You Liked Black Ops III
The two multiplayer modes included in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare were more of a mixed bag for me than the single-player campaign. The competitive multiplayer can only be described as “safe.” It’s basically Black Ops III 2.0, except instead of Specialists you pick from Rigs, which each specialize in a particular style of play. The movement is much the same as well, wallrunning and double-jumping are still available, though much like in the campaign, they aren’t emphasized by the design of the multiplayer maps. With how much Titanfall 2 explored these means of transportation, in comparison Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer maps can feel a little more restrictive.
The huge amount of customization afforded by Black Ops III also returns, with different skins to apply to your person and equipment. However, if you’re looking for a new evolution of Call of Duty multiplayer ala Battlefield 1, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for more of the same fast-paced gunplay then Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will sate your appetite.
The World of the Knight Rider
Call of Duty: Zombies is back again too, and unlike competitive multiplayer, it brings a lot of improvements and changes to the table. This time around you’ll be transported into a ‘80s horror movie, Zombies in Spaceland, which takes place in an amusement park. You’ll play as one of four ‘80s character archetypes, the nerd, the jock, the rapper, or the valley girl, as you try to find your way out. Assisting you is Michael Knight (yes the one from Knight Rider) played by David Hasselhoff who will help direct you to the artifact you need to escape.
Zombies is much more accessible for new players this time around. There are more options for players to work co-operatively, such as allowing transfer of money between them and allowing team-buying of doors. The map is a lot less cryptic this time around too, with maps posted throughout the level and prompts, both on-screen and audio, letting you know what items do and where they should be used.
The only disappointment I had with Call of Duty: Zombies was admittedly a subjective one. I preferred the more horror-based settings of previous entries, and Zombies in Spaceland is much more humorous and tongue in cheek than I cared for. This isn’t necessarily a flaw in the game at all, but fans of previous iterations may be turned off by the cutesy feel.
Same Quantity, More Quality
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the first product of Activision’s new three-year production cycle on Call of Duty titles, and the extra time taken on it shows. While Infinity Ward might have played it a little too safe when it came to the competitive multiplayer mode, the improvements in the single-player campaign and Call of Duty: Zombies are substantial. The single-player campaign, in particular, hooked me, and I hope that future campaigns in the Call of Duty universe get the same care.
This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is available now starting at $59.99 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The game is rated M.