Captain Kirk of Duty
Call of Duty has been in a strange place for a few years now. The more dismissive folks among the game-buying crowd would tell you that it’s the same game every year with better graphics and a different campaign, but they’re wrong. Each new entry tweaks at least a small part of every facet of the previous year’s game, for better or worse, and Infinite Warfare feels like we’ve reached some critical mass. The campaign is an immensely fun romp, if a bit plodding at times, and while I’m not the biggest fan of their co-op mode, Zombies in Spaceland seems like it’s a solid admission to the Call of Duty Zombies stuff. The biggest gripe with Infinite Warfare is its multiplayer, which feels like last year’s Black Ops III on different maps and with more disgusting microtransactions.
The campaigns in Activision’s premier shooter franchise (Sorry, Destiny) are usually at the very least fun, solid romps through the land of power fantasy and killing faceless bad guys, and Infinite Warfare is no exception. While it’s not the strongest campaign a CoD game has ever had, it still introduces some fresh concepts — like piloting a space jet, or sniping while stealthily space walking through an asteroid field — that play more like interesting additions than gimmicks in service of ferrying you along to the next Big Setpiece Moment. The addition of side missions and unlockable gear go a long way to adding at least some semblance of depth or choice to what has traditionally been an extremely linear experience.
At some point in the near future (I imagine it can’t be too far off — people still use plastic and styrofoam cups and physical keyboards on computers) humanity largely exhausts our natural resources on Earth. In the hopes of securing the human race’s future, colonists are sent to settle Mars and begin mining and transporting resources back to Earth. After a generation or two, the Mars-born colonists get fed up with it, and cut ties with Earth to become a radicalized secessionist state. It’s sort of a tired trope in science fiction at this point, especially when the Martian war cry is “Mars Aeternum,” but despite having played all the Red Faction games, I still enjoy the concept. At any rate, the game begins with the player character, Nick Reyes, conversing with his Admiral friend about how Earth’s government refuses to let them attack the bloodthirsty, savage colonists. This happens during Space Fleet Week, and there are literally capital ships flying around Geneva with people cheering them on. It’s bizarre. I should note that I’ve finished the campaign, and I literally had to go and look up the name of the protagonist, because he’s another Forgettable White Soldier Man who is forced to do very violent things for his country, or planet as the case may be. Regardless of all this, there are still some immensely fun moments to be had, and piloting a space fighter is a very cool way to break up the monotony of “shoot guys, trigger cutscene, shoot more guys.”
The most disappointing aspect of Infinite Warfare is its multiplayer. It feels like hardly anything’s changed since Black Ops III, which is a bummer, because it was one of the more disappointing entries in recent years (Ghosts notwithstanding). Also a bummer is the fact that you’re given a bunch of fun tools with which to move around the environment, while every map is peppered with walls you can’t run across and invisible ceilings and walls that block traversal. It’s a series of bizarre design decisions that severely hampers the entire multiplayer outing, and left me scratching my head and wondering if Infinity Ward even has the chops to get Call of Duty right anymore. In addition to all this, I don’t think the map design is very interesting. There are a ton of incredibly neat locations, but all of them feel boring and uninspired.
Speaking of the multiplayer, let’s talk microtransactions. Infinite Warfare has ’em, and they’re the grossest, most off-putting they’ve ever been. Here’s the general breakdown: Supply drops are back as previously, but the “rare” supply drops — which you can buy with Salvage that you get from playing matches, or spend some real dosh to unlock immediately — contain weapon variants with few, if any, negative attributes. This makes for a potential pay-to-win scenario in which players are forking over real money to get guns that are objectively better than their “free” counterparts. It’s disgusting, and made me want to play the multiplayer even less than I did before.
All of this adds together to make a hot-and-cold Call of Duty experience that’s as redundant as it is novel. It simultaneously feels like Infinity Ward was scared to touch too much of the multiplayer, while creating a campaign that’s the weirdest and most innovative Call of Duty’s ever been (but even that turns out to be a dull, by-the-numbers Space Military story). Perhaps if you enjoyed Black Ops III‘s multiplayer or their Zombies modes in previous years there’s something for you here, but for the asking price of $60 (or more, if you want the full package with Modern Warfare Remastered), I can’t recommend picking it up for the campaign alone.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One ; Publisher: Activision ; Developer: Infinity Ward ; Players: 1-10 ; Released: November 4th 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
This reviews is based on a retail copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare purchased by Hey Poor Player.