Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review

Infinite Warfare continues the Call of Duty's series steady progression into the future, pushing the timeline forward to the point at which the Solar System is colonized and is patrolled by large starships that wouldn't be out of place in a Star Wars movie. The campaign takes advantage of this new setting by giving you the chance to battle it out in zero-g firefights and take part in space battles at the controls of a Jackal space fighter. But even though the setting has moved firmly into the realm of Science Fiction, for the most part the multiplayer gameplay is a lot like that in Black Ops III and there are a lot of boots on the ground missions in the campaign - Infinite Warfare is still very much a Call of Duty game.

In the Infinite Warfare campaign, the nations of Earth have formed the United Nation Space Alliance, UNSA, to protect space travel and commerce and to defend the planet, and the Solar Alliance Treaty Organization, SATO, is the military arm of the alliance. Extremist elements on the Earth's far-flung colonies on the other worlds of the Solar System have begun to chaff at Earth's position as the center of government and have formed the Settlement Defense Front (SDF) in an attempt to cut ties with Earth and form a fascist state among the outer planets.

Against this backdrop, SATO holds its annual Fleet Week celebration in Geneva, Switzerland in which its large capital ships fly low over the city in parade formation. The celebration quickly turns to disaster, as SDF spies manage to hack the city's defensive weapons and turn them on the fleet. The battle does not go well for SATO, but one of its major ships, the Retribution, manages to escape to orbit and fight off the SDF fleet. The victory comes with heavy losses to the Retribution's crew, leaving Lt. Nick Reyes, a special operations soldier, in charge of both the ship and SATO's response to the SDF attack.

Infinite Warfare does a few things with the way it structures its campaign that I really like. The first is that you play as a single character, Reyes, throughout the campaign and the size of the cast of characters that you primarily interact with is relatively small. Reyes is a great character, a strong war movie style lead that never devolves into an action movie trope. The supporting cast has fully fleshed-out personalities and their relationships to each other feel real and genuine. Particularly notable characters include Lt. Nora Salter, Reye's wingman (wingwoman?) and the robotic Enhanced Tactical Humanoid 3rd Revision, aka Ethan. It's a given that a number of characters will die during a Call of Duty game, but it seems like the deaths in Infinite Warfare hit a bit harder.

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Another thing that I like about the campaign is that it feels more like an extended military operation than it does a collection of game levels. Sure, there are relative down times on the bridge of the Retribution during which you can decide on which mission to engage in next, peruse personnel files, or catch up on the latest news broadcasts, but the game cleverly hides its loading screens behind things like launch and landing sequences which gives the entire campaign an unbroken flow. You could probably make your way through the entire campaign in one extended sitting and feel like you played one really long level at the end of it all. The game uses a fairly liberal checkpoint session, so you can quit at any time without going through a game save screen and pick things up from the last checkpoint the next time you jump back into the game.

There are a set of missions that will advance the story along its main narrative, but the game gives you the opportunity to take on optional side missions as well. Doing so will reward you with equipment upgrades, but you should also play them for other reasons. These missions expand on the story, giving you a more complete look at Infinite Warfare's universe, and they also add more variety to the campaign in terms of the missions themselves. The generally smaller operations they undertake allow the game to experiment a bit with the gameplay in ways that don't necessarily fit neatly into the main storyline. For example, one mission has you leading a two person team on a covert stealth mission within an enemy ship in order to assassinate a high value target. Lastly, the campaign's length is a little short if you stick strictly to the primary story missions, and you'll extend your time in the campaign by a few hours by taking on the side missions.

As for the story missions, for the most part you'll be fighting at bases and facilities and these battles will feel like home to longtime Call of Duty fans. However, there are missions that take advantage of the space-based setting to add new gameplay elements. You'll find yourself in zero-g environments, floating outside of ships in the midst of battles. In space, your grappling hook will be your best friend, helping you to move through space and secure yourself to something solid, but it can also be used as a weapon. You can snag enemies with it, pull them towards you, and dispatch them in a variety of interesting ways - my personal favorite being sticking a grenade to their suit and then giving them a kick back out into space. The other type of mission has you piloting a space fighter known as a Jackal. These missions aren't scripted sequences or exercises in on-rails shooting, but full-on dogfights and ship attack runs. The Jackal is a blast to fly, able to take advantage of the lack of gravity to pull off maneuvers that would be impossible to make in an atmosphere. Armed with guns for hitting other fighters and cannons for dealing damage to capital ships, the Jackal also has a limited supply of missiles for when you really want to put the hurt on an enemy. When taking on the capital ships you can target different systems, giving you different options such as disabling its engines or taking out its gun batteries. There have been occasional missions in previous Call of Duty games in which you piloted a fighter, but those felt nothing like the large space battles in Infinite Warfare.

Overall, I really liked the campaign - the story is relatively standard Call of Duty fare but it was made better by good character performances, and I liked that it provided some challenging battles that put me to the test. And once you're done with the campaign, greater challenges await. Specialist mode is a more realistic difficulty level in which you can only heal yourself if you're carrying Nano Shots and the damage you take is location-based. Get shot in the arm and have trouble with your weapon, shot in the leg and have trouble walking. YOLO mode takes things even further - you get one life and if you lose it you'll need to restart the campaign from the beginning. Call of Duty has gone rogue-like.

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The multiplayer game is not a radical departure from that in Black Ops III, providing more of a refinement of that game's gameplay than taking things in a new direction. The Specialist classes from Black Ops III have been replaced by Combat Rigs, base classes that are designed to fit particular play styles and that each come with unique "payloads" - your choice of a special weapon or ability that can be used once fully charged - and "traits" - your choice of one of three additional special abilities that will help you further customize your rig to your playstyle. The payloads charge slowly, so they are not game-changing special powers, but they can sure help you out in a pinch.

There are six rigs available: FTL, geared towards mobility, run and gun with emphasis on run. Merc, a defensive specialist that can really help to lock down a hard point. Phantom, the sniper/stealth rig. Stryker, a support class with a focus on defense and tracking enemies. Synaptic, another rig that emphasizes mobility and has a focus on close quarters combat. Warfighter, the generalist class that is a good fit for a more traditional style of play.

Your choice of rig won't limit or restrict your loadout choice, and you are free to choose from any of the pre-set loadouts or create a custom one with any rig. The weapons in the game feature a mix of the type that is familiar to gamers who live in the present day, along with advanced ballistic and energy weapons. Each weapon levels-up as you use it, unlocking new attachments and sights that you can use to customize it. There are also advanced versions of each weapon, and these can be obtained by trading in the currency that you earn playing in matches for random loot drops, or 'crafted' from the salvage that is earned from those loot drops or by disposing of duplicate loot items. The weapons also feature some unique mechanics that are triggered with the Triangle button. There's an NV4 assault rifle that can be switched to use a quick aim mode that sits halfway between firing from the hip and down the sights that's useful on the smaller interior maps. The Type-2 can be broken down into a pair of pistols, letting you switch its primary function from an SMG weapon to a short range pair of weapons in an instant. Additional weapons can be unlocked by aligning with one of the game's four mission team factions. Before each match you'll be issued a couple of challenges, and if you complete them your standing with your current faction will increase.

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All of the game modes from Black Ops III return, along with two new modes, Defender and Frontline. Defender mode is a game of keep away - a satellite appears on the map and once it is grabbed by a player a timer begins counting down. If the team is able to hold on to the satellite for a full minute it scores and the satellite is reset to its original stating position. If the player holding the satellite is killed and drops it, any player from either team can pick it up.

Frontline is a Team Deathmatch variant in which there is a single spawn point for each team. Players spawn into the game with extra armor to compensate for this mode's susceptibility to spawn camping, but it still felt like this mode made it too easy for one team to get the upper hand and then never relinquish it.

There's a good variety of both kill and objective focused modes in the game, the latter giving players on the south side of a 1.0 K/D ratio an opportunity to score points in other ways than making kills. I'm still partial to Kill Confirmed, Domination, and Hardpoint, but I've had a lot of fun playing Defender and it will certainly work its way into my rotation.

As for the gameplay itself, the advanced mobility of Black Ops III is present in Infinite Warfare and you can still wall-run and quickly boost your way up and over obstacles. However, it feels like all that's been dialed back a bit in Infinite Warfare. I think that that's a good thing - it makes the mobility feel more a natural part of the battle and less like it's the emphasis of the battle, if that makes sense. I am by no means a professional or top-tier Call of Duty player, but as a gamer who enjoys playing shooters I have to say that Call of Duty is still at the top of its game when it comes to delivering multiplayer fun even though it may be only incrementally different from Black Ops III.

Zombies mode is also making its return in Infinite Warfare, this time moving the action to the 1980s and setting it in an abandoned amusement park, Spaceland. The basics of the gameplay have not changed from Black Ops III, but there are some differences. The zones in the amusement park are more spacious than they were in the claustrophobic zombie mode in Black Ops III, which makes it easier to survive for longer when you're just starting out than it was in the last game. On the other hand, it's also easier to become separated from your co-players and find yourself too far from help should you be overwhelmed by zombies. If you do bleed out, you'll have a surprise waiting for you - the afterlife is an 80s video arcade. All of the cabinets are playable, and each one is inspired by a classic 80s video game. There are even a few carnival style games to play, the kind you'll find in a pizza place that spit tickets out for prizes. Do well enough playing these games and you'll earn your way back into the game - as long as at least one of your other co-players can stay alive long enough to keep the game going until you return.

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Zombies mode features a Fate and Fortune card system that lets you select a card from your hand to play when once powered-up. The cards have different effects such as granting you limited use of a special weapon with infinite ammo or the ability to make zombies burst into flames when you take them out. Cards are earned by completing challenges in the game, and you can hold up to five of them in your hand at a time.

The amusement park's atmosphere is, well, totally awesome. The color palette is neon inspired without being eye-fatiguing bright, which stands in stark contrast to the dark gritty atmosphere of last year's zombies mode. The zombies look like they were recruited at an open casting call for 80s stereotypical characters, so you'll be facing everything from day-glow 80s fashionistas to Mohawk-sporting punk rockers. And the soundtrack is fantastic, featuring licensed tracks from the era that will get your blood pumping while you're trying to keep the zombies from spilling it. There are surprises waiting for you in the park, including at least one ride that you can hop on and shoot at targets while riding - there may be more rides, but I by no means ever made it far enough through this mode to expose all of its secrets. The new Zombies mode is a lot of fun to play, the core gameplay that's always been enjoyable is still there, and there's enough that's new and different to make exploring Spaceland enjoyable.

Buy one of the special editions of Infinite Warfare and you also get a remastered version of Call of Duty Modern Warfare, a game that I first reviewed nine years ago. You'll get the game's full single player campaign, as well as multiplayer modes. From a graphics standpoint, the game looks much better than it did in its original PS3 days but you won't mistake it for a PS4 game like, say, Infinite Warfare. The weapon and character models and textures look to have received the most work, and overall the colors look a little muted compared to today's games. That being said, the gameplay holds up quite well. The campaign set the standard for the Call of Duty games that followed, delivering several of those intense scenes that have since earned the moniker "Call of Duty moments", and the story itself is enjoyable. The multiplayer mode harkens back to the simpler days of Call of Duty, and in that way it's good for an occasional change of pace from Infinite Warfare's multiplayer modes. I had a lot of fun rediscovering some of the classic maps from Modern Warfare, and I'll be getting a lot more mileage out of its multiplayer mode than I would have thought before getting the chance to play it.

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Infinite Warfare delivers an exciting single player campaign, with compelling characters and enjoyable new gameplay elements. The multiplayer side of the game is thoroughly enjoyable, even if overall it feels like an incremental improvement over Black Ops III. Zombies mode is once again a hit, taking everything you love about the mode and cranking it up a notch. And, lastly, you won't regret paying a little extra to add Modern Warfare to the package. I can see that some gamers may have wanted a multiplayer experience that was significantly different than that of Black Ops III, but if that's not an issue for you, you will certainly get many hours of great gameplay out of Infinite Warfare.

Final Rating: 90% - Call of Duty is a series that's still at the top of its game.


Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.

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