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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review

By | November 3, 2016
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The Call of Duty franchise is one of the biggest in all of video games, and yet the reveal of the latest game in the series was not met well at all, to put it somewhat lightly. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare takes the series in bold new directions, propelling players further into the future than they’ve ever been in a Call of Duty game. But this boldness was met with a lot of skepticism, both warranted and not so warranted. With the game finally here, the question is was it the right choice? Largely, yes, but the game is far from perfect.

But first, the technical details. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a good looking game. It’s not the most amazing looking game in the world, but the visual design and technical power is very good. Characters especially are of a high quality, allowing for some really nice cutscenes and up close moments. There are some issues, and some levels will use repeated design elements, but unless you’re really looking closely for these things they likely won’t impact the feel of the game. Now, onto the single player campaign…

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Campaign Review

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare takes place on some unknown date in the distant future. Earth has expanded its reach out into the Solar System, establishing colonies on Mars, and other planets and moons. Not all is well though, with the colonies growing increasingly restless at the mining work that is required to maintain Earth and its residents. This leads to the formation of the Settlement Defense Front, a group dedicated to the eradication and subjugation of Earth. The game opens with a mission against the SDF from the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA), with the real catalyst for the campaign being a surprise attack on Earth that propels the player character of Nick Reyes to the role of Captain, and sets the course for what is to follow.

Call of Duty campaigns are often very enjoyable, but still not the main draw for a lot of players.

Call of Duty campaigns are often very enjoyable, but still not the main draw for a lot of players. That will likely remain the case with Infinite Warfare as it features a lackluster campaign that has its moments, but is overall a very skippable affair. The problems start with the story, which features one of the most black and white conflicts in gaming history. The SDF is portrayed as Space Nazis of sorts, with little motivation and a constant stream of violent rhetoric. What’s odd is that there is seemingly a lot of gray that could be played with here.

The SDF likely has a valid case against Earth, with our homeworld being completely reliant on the mining work of the outer colonies. Earth, as seen in early missions, is an opulent utopia of sorts. Guarded by its “Iron Shield” there is little to no conflict, or even worry of it. Conversely, the settlements are much smaller, and more purposeful, showing that the people there likely have little in the way of luxuries. None of this is focused on though, with the SDF and its leader, Rear Admiral Salen Kotch, played well by Kit Harrington, simply being shown to have a deep seated hatred of Earth that cannot be worked out without the complete eradication of one side, or the other.

Reviews  Infinite Warfare Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Call of Duty

Likewise, the overarching plot of the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare campaign makes very little actual sense. Barring the optional side missions, more on them later, the game takes about 5-6 hours to get through. These hours are chock full of action, explosions, and a bunch of make or break missions where the fate of Earth is on the line. However, according to the story as it is presented, this all takes place in just over a day, with no rest for the characters or the ship.

The sense of time within the campaign feels completely off, and while I wondered if it was just that I blazed through it, there are actual lines spoken in cutscenes that set the timeframe. Looking at everything that happens in the campaign, this just doesn’t fit, and it continuously breaks the immersion that the story is trying to achieve. Smaller encounters also bolster this feeling, with characters meeting each other for the first time, some of which have a vehement dislike for each other, then coming together to become best friends, all within a day or two. It’s odd and it feels unnecessary.

It’s worse if you do play through the optional side missions, though the fun they contain is totally worth it. These are actually some of the best parts of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, featuring more experimental objectives, including some very fun stealth sections. It is also nice for Call of Duty to give its players some more agency in how they play through the game. Don’t like stealth? Skip that mission and just keep going. Playing through all of them almost doubles the campaign length too, so it’s good, solid content for players, even if the extra runtime just adds to the timeframe disconnect.

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There are other story elements that are either full blown plot holes, or just somewhat odd, but with Call of Duty the important part is how the game plays. Here Infinite Warfare still works well. The “boots-on-the-ground” action is just as fast and frenetic as always. Storming hills, taking out military installations, and fighting through the streets is still tons of fun, and all of the new gadgets that the futuristic setting allows are nice additions. Aside from the Jackal there isn’t a lot of noteworthy new tech additions, but they add up to something that players will find fun and refreshing.

The Jackals will likely be the most controversial new item in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but they shouldn’t be. These space vehicles usually amount to 1/4 of most missions, with a few of the optional side missions being solely dedicated to them. Like most things Call of Duty, the Jackals control like a dream. Aiming is tough, but with some time players will get the hang of it. The flight controls are amazing though, even if they do sort of go against the laws of physics at times. Unfortunately the zero gravity sections don’t feel quite as good.

These combat sections are visually stunning and conceptually very cool. They also employ the use of a grappling hook that can lead to some awesome moments, like grappling to an enemy, pulling the pin on their grenades, then floating off and watching them explode. This will all take a lot of getting used to though, as managing your character in full three dimensions is tough, and you will often find yourself drifting out of cover, or getting shot by enemies that you thought were not a threat.

Reviews  Infinite Warfare Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Call of Duty

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s campaign has a few other shining spots amidst this criticism. Its best work is in the characters, with the robot Ethan being easily the best. This robotic helper will quickly engender itself to the audience and create some real stakes for players to get invested in. The CoD series is not without its standout characters, and Ethan easily stands alongside the best of them. Other characters are fine, and the central duo of Reyes and Salter do create some nice moments. Even when the story falters, these characters and their interactions never totally fail.

The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare campaign is still an enjoyable romp, especially if you don’t care too much about the plot itself. Overall you sort of get the sense that you know where the story is going, and while there are some surprises in there, other moments serve less as foreshadowing and more as spotlights on what the plot is trying to convey. But if you get past those things you’ll have a good time.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Multiplayer Review

So the campaign isn’t that great. “Who cares?” I hear you all saying. For a huge number of loyal Call of Duty players, the only thing that really matters is the multiplayer. Infinite Warfare does not disappoint here, thankfully, though it also doesn’t offer a lot of surprises.

If you’ve stuck with the series through the last few entries then pretty much everything in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer will feel familiar, which is probably a good thing for most. The movement mechanics have been brought over from Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3, allowing for a smooth, easy to control experience from start to finish.

Maps are well designed, offering some nice variety while maintaining the tight design philosophy of the series. The jump to the future has allowed for some huge deviations from the settings of the past. Instead of just being limited to the Middle East or other conflict zones, Infinite Warfare can go wherever it wants. This means maps can be set on distant mining colonies, or in war torn cities on other worlds. It’s a minor touch, but it is actually much appreciated alongside the maintenance of the core gameplay design.

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The big thing that most players are wondering and worried about is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s unlock system. A bit of controversy was stirred up during the beta when it was revealed that higher tier weapons can be unlocked via paying real money for rare loot crates. This crate system is the big thing in multiplayer these days, but most games keep it locked to cosmetic items. Infinite Warfare does buck this trend, allowing players who have earned a ton of keys, or bought COD Points to try for that rare item.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is still the same great multiplayer action that you’ve come to expect

Some might classify this as “pay to win”, but I would not. While these unlocked guns do offer a stat boost, unless you’re playing at top tier levels they don’t seem to sway the match all that much. They look cool, and are fun to wield over the less capable model, but overall the unlocks are more for fun and showing off. And everything here can be earned from just playing the game, you just might have to play a whole lot of the game.

Luckily there are two paths to these unlocks, with keys getting you crates, and salvage allowing you to be more specific in what you unlock. I’m an assault rifle fan, and once I lock in on the model I like, I usually stick with it through most games. So for me, I could grind out those unlocks with just salvage, ignoring the crate system until I was ready to go for other guns, or just get some cosmetic items.

There’s a ton of stuff to unlock here too, and you always have ways of maximizing what you’re working toward. On top of keys and salvage, you also have selectable Mission Teams. These different teams offer unique unlocks that you can work toward by doing different things such as going for multikills, or earning the most points in Hardpoint.

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All of this is to say that, even with some questionable unlock options, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is still the same great competitive multiplayer action that you’ve come to expect. Not much has changed, and that is good considering how much has been altered in the setting and campaign areas. There is a new gamemode, but it mostly adds to the experience without standing out too much. You’ll play it and have fun, but it won’t replace your current favorites. Infinite Warfare will easily take up the mantle from Black Ops 3, becoming the new de facto multiplayer shooter for millions of gamers.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Zombies Review

But that’s still not all that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare contains. On top of the campaign and multiplayer we still have the now requisite zombies mode. The current map is Zombies in Spaceland, and is actually by far my favorite part of the game. The co-op gameplay here is totally on point, delivering a tense experience through increasingly difficult waves of zombie, clown, and other fun types of enemies.

Mixing together an all-star cast, zombies, theme parks, and tons of eighties tropes, Zombies in Spaceland really hits on a ton of things that players will find hilarious and fun. But none of those trapping would work if the gameplay wasn’t enjoyable as well. Luckily it is, taking the tried-and-true COD zombies gameplay and adding a few nice layers on top to keep it fresh.

To be fair, there isn’t a ton of stuff that longtime players will be surprised by here, at least in the core gameplay. But surprises are what this mode is all about, and it packs them in with tons of Easter Eggs, references, and throwaway jokes. You’ll definitely have a ton of laughs at some of the goofy things that can and will happen in your time with Infinite Warfare’s Zombies mode. And that’s all on top of the already stellar gameplay cycle that has you fending off zombies, collecting money and tickets, and working your way toward those higher levels.

The Verdict

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is chock full of content. The campaign, multiplayer, and zombies modes all add up to a game that will keep you playing for hours. These individual modes might have their faults, with the campaign being particularly skippable if you just want that base action gameplay. The multiplayer remains true to its roots, even with the big shift in setting. And Zombies is the highlight of the experience in a lot of ways, offering a great co-op experience. All together, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a winner. It just might not be the biggest winner the series has had.

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