Infinite Warfare is the first Call of Duty game to venture away from Earth but does it break through the atmosphere or burn upon entry?
Another year, another Call of Duty game although this time, war has changed. Infinite Warfare places you in the shoes of Nick Reyes, a soldier in the UNSA and Captain of the Retribution, as you try to take the fight back to the Settlement Defence Front lead by Admiral Salen Kotch (Kit Harrington) after their attack on earth.
First things first, Infinite Warfare looks breathtaking at times. The opening of the game sees you jumping out of a transport above the clouds on Europa and wing suiting through an electrical storm to land on an icy plain with Jupiter hanging over your head. It is one of the best introductions to a Call of Duty game in recent memory and will definitely stick with you. Everything from the different planets and maps to the guns themselves looks superb with some particularly stand out vistas taking your breath away.
The audio doesn’t let the side down either, guns really pop and there will forever be some kind of explosion happening on screen that you can almost feel thanks to the sound. The most notable moment is when your ship warps to a distant part of the galaxy and everything around you shakes and rattles as you’re blasting through space. The soundtrack is also surprisingly deep for a Call of Duty game as the music calms down at certain rather poignant points during the story and then picks up in the lead up to a crescendo, both in terms of the action and the music.
The way the story is presented in Infinite Warfare certainly strays from the norm for the series. As Captain Nick Reyes of the UNSA Retribution it is up to you to decide in which order you want to do each mission as for the first time in the Call of Duty series you have side-missions you can do. More akin to a game like Mass Effect this feature lets you look at a map on the bridge of your ship and decide which missions you want to do. The story missions are obligatory but the optional missions will let you unlock upgrades for your Jackal, new gun blueprints and perks for your character. There is a lot of variety to these missions and you’ll find yourself stealthing your way through zero-gravity in an asteroid field; dog-fighting through the wreckage of huge space ships and dressing as an enemy soldier so you can sneak through their base undetected.
During these missions you’ll find yourself using anti-gravity grenades, the spider-like ‘seekers’ and self inflating foam barriers to crouch behind. It’s obvious that the developers put a lot of thought into the equipment and the guns on offer as everything clicks together smoothly to form a cohesive experience. The flow of the game as a whole is very smooth as between missions you’ll have a chance to spend some time in your ship where you can talk to NPCs and explore the lore of the game on your computer. It’s the little things that make this time enjoyable, after missions you’ll be able to go to the rec room where your troops will be watching a news broadcast on your most recent exploits and you’ll hear them talking about the war and their lives. Another example is the gradual improvement of your ship after it takes damage near the start of the story. Neither of these things are highlighted or shoved in your face but are subtler cues and insights into the morale of the people under your command. The flow of the game is also undoubtedly helped by the complete lack of loading screens in-game which from a purely technical standpoint is incredibly impressive but from a gameplay standpoint helps with the immersion.
As far as immersion goes the story does a fabulous job of not only grabbing hold of your attention but also keeping it. Without giving too much away the story is a commonly used sci-fi plot in which people born around the galaxy decide they don’t want to be governed by Earth anymore which leads to war. There is a price to pay in this war however as I found myself caring about the characters. I enjoyed taking advice from Gator on the bridge as to what mission I should take next as well as the catch-ups with Griffin as I chose my load-out for the upcoming mission. Every character feels like a real person with real motivations and personalities and the script is well-written with specific characters really displaying their emotions in believable ways. Of all the characters a special mention should go to Nick Reyes, his Lieutenant, Norah Salter, and the robotic companion Ethan. The relationship between Nick and Norah is especially well-acted whereas the relationship between Nick and Ethan is simply a real joy to follow throughout with Ethan especially providing a few out-loud laughs during the story. There really isn’t anything that feels out of place or even off as Infinite Warfare offers the strongest campaign in the series since the days of the Modern Warfare trilogy.
Sadly, this sense of exploration and wonderment is not replicated in the multiplayer mode. The multiplayer in Infinite Warfare feels a lot like the multiplayer in Black Ops 3 and Advanced Warfare as you’ll slide around, boost over small buildings and wall-run your way to a near-certain death. The gameplay, much like the single-player campaign, is as tight and responsive as ever but the maps don’t change much from the tried and tested formula of 3 main lanes with a little verticality and flanking options.
It’s a shame there are no Jackal fights or space ship invasion modes that would take the series in a new direction and inject some life into the Call of Duty multiplayer scene. Some of the issues I had in the Beta test persist such as the aforementioned maps feeling too similar, the amount of leveling trees and unlockables being a bit ridiculous and the disappointment in seeing micro-transactions in a AAA title. Thankfully shotguns and the audio in multiplayer have been improved and pack more of a punch than in the beta. At this point in the series it feels almost as if there are too many layers to the multiplayer as each year sees something new added and then polished as opposed to changing and removing systems that are already in place.
The final point of the Call of Duty trident, the popular Zombies mode, makes a triumphant return this year as well. Set in an 80’s theme park you’ve been called in for an audition by Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) who plays a movie director hell-bent on creating the best horror film. The setting is well-realised and each character fits a certain stereotype from the decade such as the jock and the nerd. In terms of difficulty this definitely feels easier than previous years as I found myself consistently getting to the later stages with random players online and no communication. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however as this allows you more time to explore the park and go on some of the rides, put together a robot and complete challenges. Most of the equipment you unlock is fun to use and some actually made me chuckle such as the boombox. The music is great, it features David Hasselhoff and seeing zombies in neon suspenders won’t get old for some time. As far as setting and gameplay go this could be the best zombies mode since the original in World at War.
Overview: This is one of the best entries in the Call of Duty series with a story that packs an emotional punch and an absolute treat of a zombies mode. The multiplayer slightly lets the game down but is still solid in it’s own right and for fans of the series there is plenty of progression and weapons to work through. Whisper it quietly, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is not only one of the better Call of Duty entries, it’s also a great game.