I've always considered Call of Duty to be a consistently good series. Three years ago, Infinity Ward released Call of Duty: Ghosts, which was the only entry in the series that I had to step back from and admit that it's just not up to the standards of other games in the series (well, besides Black Ops - Declassified, but that's a different story altogether). I was nervous about Infinity Ward taking the lead again, but Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare does something that I haven't seen Call of Duty do in a long time: it kicks all my favorite games in the series back one and promptly sits itself down as number one.
Infinite Warfare puts you in the middle of a war between the United Nation Space Alliance and the Settlement Defense Front. Earth has reached a point where it can no longer keep itself supplied through its natural resources and it is becoming a burden for other planets. Admiral Kotch, the leader of the SDF, doesn't take kindly to this and ambushes the UNSA's fleet, destroying all but two ships. You play as Captain Nick Reyes, captain of the Retribution. You and your crew will take on various missions to stop Kotch and bring down the SDF.
It's a simple set up, and Infinite Warfare's general plot doesn't go anywhere I honestly didn't expect. Most of the story beats can be seen coming before they arrive, and it isn't until the last few missions that it finally deviates from this. What the game did excel in was having characters I actually cared about, which was something I didn't expect. You can wander around the deck of the Retribution between missions, allowing you to watch news reports with your team or listen to interviews and disciplinary reports. Every single person on the ship gets at least one moment to shine. Reyes' wingman Salter talks about that one time she broke away from a test flight just to annoy an old Major during a barbecue, armorer Griff spend a scene ranting about his hate of modern weaponry and how he was born a hundred years too late, robot companion Ethan and marine Sargent Omar go from hating each other, to respecting each other, to trying to figure out how to get a robot to officially join the Marines. The characters feel natural, they grow both on you and as people, and it makes me want to just see more of them. Part of the reason each character feels so great is thanks to the voice acting. Unlike Black Ops 3, Infinite Warfare brings along some talented voice actors that preform their roles well. It helps keep me in the moment, allowing me to really feel for each character thanks to their performances.
Perhaps more importantly, I actually thought Infinite Warfare did a far better job dealing with the usual anti-war messages and getting across the futility of war than the usual Call of Duty game could manage. Without getting too much into spoiler territory, there are several scenes (especially near the end) that I found to do a great job in getting me involved. One late-game scene saw Reyes putting pressure on a comrade's injury. The game ties his heartbeat to the controller's vibration, and it as the scene continues and you realize there's no hope for this solider you'll feel his heartbeat slowly fade in your hands. Following this, the credits sequence allowed me to listen to the final messages of each fallen squad member, as they say goodbye to their loved ones, their kids, their parents, or even their pet dog. It's genuinely surprising stuff, and it did get me to sit back and actually feel for the characters.
If there's one knock I have against the story, it's that the villain ends up feeling ultimately pointless. Kotch isn't given nearly enough screen time to feel important, which is a shame after his interesting introduction. Kit Harrington does everything he can to try and save the character, and his acting is seriously good, just there's not nearly enough of Kotch for him to manage it. Worse, the SDF comes off as cartoonishly evil. Every time you die, you get to see a quote from the SDF's propaganda. It includes such ridiculous messages like "freedom is pointless under the SDF's sun" and "your only purpose is to be a cog in the machine." It felt like the game was almost trying to kill the anti-war message it did such a great job building up. Thankfully it's not bad enough to ruin it, but it does put a blemish on it.
The basic gameplay isn't too different from the last few Call of Duty entries. You're still going to be playing a tight, well made first person shooter with an abundance of set pieces. You still have the boost packs that allow you to double jump and wall run as well. The skill tree from Black Ops 3 has been removed, and there are no abilities that you can manage. It's something I kind of missed, though I did find myself grateful that I wasn't cycling through abilities to try and find that one counter to some enemy that I could only hurt some very specific way.
On the other hand, there's some nice new equipment to utilize. Many guns in the game actually have several firing modes. A submachine gun can be turned into a shotgun, a sniper rifle can be used as an assault rifle, an assault rifle can be split up into akimbo pistols or shotguns, and more. You also get various grenades that are rather unique. Spider grenades can crawl to and latch onto enemies, while anti-gravity variants can keep enemies stuck floating around helplessly (or, if used creatively, allow you to float up and get a better angle over cover). You also have access to equipment like shields or hacking tools to further diversify your arsenal.
Of course, there has been one huge advertised new feature, and that comes in the form of your Jackal fighter jet. You will be spending about half the game in the jet, and it's appropriately fleshed out. Flying around is easy, and the game provides you with a few different light and heavy weapons to put on your craft.
Infinite Warfare is also smart in which games it takes inspiration from. If you ever played Ace Combat: Assault Horizon then flying should feel somewhat familiar. Similar to that game, you have the ability to lock onto enemies and follow them automatically, allowing you to focus on aiming. Its a totally optional system, but its one that helps with aiming against significantly faster and more maneuverable enemies. It makes space combat come off as intense, and I actually found myself more excited for these segments than the normal ones.
In addition to the previously mentioned character segments on the bridge of the Retribution, you can also retreat to your captain's quarters where you can look up information on your assignments and use a bounty board to figure out more of the enemies. Perhaps most importantly, though, is you can partake in optional missions. About four of these missions are ship boarding missions, which play like a normal Call of Duty level. They're impressively designed, having the kind of set pieces I would have expected from the main story levels. One saw me chasing a low-flying ship over Venus, boarding it and hastily trying to capture an enemy weapon prototype before it crashes. Another sees you sneaking onto a ship to assassinate several SDF captains. The other kind of optional missions are Jackal-Only missions, quick fifteen-minute dogfights that allow you a chance to take out some big and small enemy ships.
Doing these missions are worth it, handing you perks as rewards. The more you complete the better a soldier Reyes becomes, giving him skills like faster reloads, faster health regeneration, better melee weapons, and more. You can skip them, though they're well-designed missions that push a 5-6 hour game into an 8-9 hour one without adding repetitive content. After finishing the game you can also try out the new YOLO mode. This new difficulty asks you to complete the game in one life and adds in some new gameplay elements. Your health no longer regenerates, instead requiring you to find nano-shots to stay alive. A new damage system is also added in: get shot in the leg and you're stuck limping. Take a shot to the arm and your aim is thrown off, or you may even drop your gun. In the end, the one life thing wasn't for me, but it's a neat game mode for those who are interested.
All of this is wrapped up in an impressive visual package. Each level features some amazing setpieces that really take the cake for visual design. One of the first levels sees a collapsing building filling the street with soot and ash, leading to a dramatic scene. A level later sees a battle on the Moon. When a window is blown out all the characters are sucked outside, causing a chaotic mess of characters grabbing onto each other. These scenes really benefit from Infinite Warfare's top-notch visual quality, making each one feel just a bit more exciting.
The campaign is top notch, but Infinite Warfare also has a large multiplayer suite. If you were a fan of Black Ops 3 then you should feel at home here, as Infinite Warfare is basically Black Ops 3.5. All of the movement systems have been carried over, letting you slide, wall run, and double jump with ease. Create a class is a modified version of Black Ops 3, with Combat Rigs being slightly different to Specialists. Similar to Specialists from Black Ops 3, Combat Rigs sort of work like classes with each Rig having a unique ability, called a payload, that can be activated by getting enough kills. Each Rig also has a unique passive skill, these called traits, that are always active. One Rig, the Synaptic, could become a monster in melee combat and gain a boost of speed every time it got a kill. Another, the Warfighter, got a special gun for shooting around corners and pinged enemies every time it killed someone. Finding a combo that works best for you is a fun little task.
Beyond this, picking weapons and other armaments is done through the usual pick 10 system. You get ten points and each gun, grenade, perk, and attachment is worth one point, with a few extras being worth two. It’s what you’d expect and it’s a perfectly decent system. Scorestreaks also return, with you being able to equip up to three. There's a pair of new game modes: Frontline is basically a team deathmatch but with teams spawning in specific bases, while Defender is a one flag capture the flag mode. Both are fun, and I found myself particularly attracted to Defender, but neither are anything revolutionary.
After every match, you’ll gain XP in various different areas. Your personal level will go up, causing you to unlock new guns, Rigs, payloads, traits, and other items to use. Your faction level will also go up depending on if you complete small missions you can choose to take. Your faction doesn’t get you rewards like new guns, but it will get you soldier customizable parts and gun cameos so you can be the pretty soldier on the battlefield. Guns also all have their own individual XP bars that, when raised, unlocks attachments for them.
There's also the Quartermaster, who you can buy supply drops from. As you play you earn keys and you can either spend 10 keys on a common chest or 30 on a rare. Chests can contain everything from skins to new versions of guns, versions that come with perks you don't need to put on your pick 10. You also earn salvage from each chest, and if you want to reduce the random factor you can use the salvage to purchase the exact guns you may want. You can also just buy keys using real money. I earned keys at a fast enough pace (a little over 40 for every 10 levels) that I wasn't super concerned abut them. While it's a shame that they're leaving the best guns up to random chance, grinding, or spending money, the buffs the guns offer usually aren't enough to change much. It's a bad system, but it's not one that ruins the multiplayer experience completely.
All in all, there's a lot here. You can dive into Infinite Warfare's multiplayer and stick at it for quite some time. I never really had any serious issues: no gun felt insanely powerful while no class made me groan every time I see it. Every map gave me more than enough to work with while at no point did I feel like I was just being spawn killed over and over. Maybe this will change in time as the meta develops, but for now, Infinite Warfare is a surprisingly enjoyable online experience.
Zombies mode returns, the first time Infinity Ward is having a go at it. Labeled Zombies in Spaceland, the basic plot is that you play as four aspiring actors who get picked to star in a horror movie. Unfortunately, when they get there they discover that the movie is actually real. They also find David Hasselhoff who is trapped in the movie and forced to relive his role of Knight Rider main character Michael Knight and has locked himself in a DJ booth to play you popular songs from the 80's. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to. It's so wonderfully cheesy that it just makes me wish that Zombies in Spaceland was a campaign rather than a survival mode.
It is what it is though, and Zombies in Spaceland continues the unfortunate tradition of trying to outdo past entries in unnecessary complexity. By the end of a few runs, I had to deal with portals, souvenir tokens, tickets for perks, flipping on power, assembling robots, completing quests, and more. There are some cool new systems, one in particular I liked was Fate and Fortune Cards. You can set up a deck of five cards, each of which has buffs like regenerating grenades, spawning power-ups, giving you special weapons, and more. Each time you kill enough zombies you can pull a card from your deck to give you a buff. It's a smart system that kept me more involved with killing zombies and ended some of the random nature of gumballs or trying to find soda machines.
The general 80’s aesthetic is done very well. The amusement park feels like it came right out of the 80’s, and David Hasselhoff is great as a DJ. The game features about 20 songs that are played randomly, including songs like “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, “Toxic Love” “I Wanna Rock”, the main theme to Knight Rider, and more. The characters are all voiced by comedians like Seth Green and Sasheer Zamata, and they get some fun lines and good jokes. Altogether it comes to an impressive visual and audio package, even if I didn’t care for more than a few rounds of it.
All told, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The campaign is easily my favorite in the series, combining some great drama with some amazing set pieces and the fun new space battles. The multiplayer isn't revolutionary but is a perfectly fine improvement on what Black Ops 3 had to offer. Finally, Zombies may not be my jam, but it provides a complicated survival mode for those who are interested. Infinite Warfare is the best Call of Duty has been in a long time, and if you enjoy the series, or just need a shooter to take up some time, then you'd be doing yourself a disservice by skipping this one.
- Impressive Set Piece Moments
- Fun Air-to-Air Combat
- Great Characters and Message
- Tons of Content
- Enjoyable Multiplayer
- Ultimately Pointless Villain
- Microtransactions and
- Overly Complex Zombies Mode