Infinite Warfare’s sci-fi story shoots to thrill, breathing new life into a tired series.
If you’ve visited the site or listened to our podcast regularly over the last few years, you’re probably already well aware that I’ve been suffering from a pretty serious case of FPS fatigue. This didn’t happen overnight, but having played hundreds of shooters over the past quarter century, I really feel like the genre reached its zenith a long time ago. And while I still try to dabble in the annual releases, the usual suspects have done very little to rekindle my love for the stagnating genre.
It can be argued that the Call of Duty games are the chief offenders when it comes to delivering by-the-numbers shooters. Developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch’s releases have begun to feel like the Madden of the shooter world, only slightly updating the formula for each new release. And the campaigns, the part of the package I most enjoy, have felt like little more than afterthoughts since the release of Modern Warfare 3 as the studios have put a greater emphasis on honing each successive game’s multiplayer component. That said, color me surprised to find that the game that’s made me care about the first-person shooter once again is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Perhaps what Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare does better than any other game in the series is worldbuilding. Developer Infinity Ward has done a spectacular job of bringing the war-ravaged future of our solar system to life in Infinite Warfare. From the breathtaking Fleet Day parade on Geneva to the far-flung weapons labs of Pluto, each of the locales you visit has a sense of both purpose and permanence, and the detailed briefings and bios found in your personal terminal aboard your flagship, The Retribution, add welcome context to each insertion the SCAR team undertakes. I was genuinely surprised to find myself spending quite a bit of time poring over all of the documents and dossiers in the game because I was genuinely intrigued by the backstory; a sensation I’ve never felt from a Call of Duty game before.
Speaking of the Retribution, these moments aboard the sprawling metal behemoth the SCAR forces call home was a grounding experience that served as a great way to help players connect with their team. From the snarky exchanges between Omar and your loyal assault droid Ethan to the bustling of the crew aboard your ship, you really feel like you’re one part of an huge and elite fighting force looking to retake the solar system from the clutches of the militant SDF, lead by none other than a digitized Kit Harrington (whose phoned-in performance is surprisingly one of the weakest parts of Infinite Warfare’s package). From the Retribution’s bridge you can view a very Mass Effect-inspired star chart and set a course for various optional side missions, which range from air-to-air assaults in your Jackal fighter to ship boarding battles complete with incredible zero-gravity combat. These optional sorties are a fantastic addition to Infinite Warfare’s package, and reward players with bonus perks as well, giving the game a slight touch of RPG-style progression that broadens the scope of the game while avoiding feeling intrusive or out of place for the series.
I’ve never felt that the Call of Duty games are especially immersive, but Infinite Warfare’s masterful design managed to pull me in in such a way that few shooters have managed to do. This is thanks in no small part to the almost nonexistent load times. Over the course of just one mission I watched a parade, soared above a city only to crash into a crowded mall, traded shots with heavily-armed robots while dodging falling capital ships on the streets of Geneva, only to take to the stars and reduce an SFD capital ship to space junk. And I did this all without a single pause in the action. How’s that for immersion? The sheer scale of the campaign and its breakneck sense of inertia meld together to create a shooter that’s simply unrivaled in its scope and pacing.
Previous Call of Duty titles have inserted vehicle-bound segments into the campaign to spice things up. The thing is, the AC-130 gunship bombardments and turret shooter scenes that pepper each release amount to little more than flashy shooting galleries to provide a change of pace throughout the campaign. Infinite Warfare eschews these tropes for Jackal dogfights which, while wildly different from the moment-to-moment shooter gameplay, still feel like an organic part of Infinite Warfare’s formula. No, these sorties set in the cosmos won’t give Ace Combat a run for its money, but dog-fighting with SDF aces and reducing capital ships to rubble with an array of hi-tech weaponry is immensely well executed and satisfying. Considering the fact I went in thinking the Jackal assaults would be little more than a distraction from the campaign’s main course, I happily gorged on my humble pie after spending time in the cockpit of my lethal star-fighter.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe just how much Infinity Ward managed to get right with Infinite Warfare. For a series that’s rested on its laurels for far too long, it’s great to see the developer take some risks by taking the long in the tooth shooter series out of its comfort zone, and, at least in my opinion, the gamble really paid off. Not only did Infinite Warfare restore my faith in the Call of Duty series, it made me embrace first-person shooters all over again. Each new addition to the formula, no matter how small, adds to the overall experience. And when looked at as a whole, they come together to move the needle in a totally unexpected way.
Hats off to Infinity Ward for moving their flagship franchise forward in a meaningful way. Here’s hoping they continue to do so from here on out. One thing’s for sure, if the next installment is half as good as this one, I’ll be enlisting for that fight on day one.
So, what are your thoughts on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare? Do you feel that Infinity Ward is taking the long-running shooter series in the right direction? Or do you feel that it’s high time the developer puts a round between the eyes of the franchise to begin work on something new? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to sound off in the comments section below and let me know what you think of the game.
For more on Infinite Warfare, read Adam’s full review here. He wasn’t quite as enamored with the game as I was, mind you. But to be fair, Adam really likes Too Human, too. Take that however you want to.
Love you, Adam. <3