Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review – Star Wars

Off we go to war again…

06

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 04, 2016
Copy purchased

Let’s get this part out of the way – I’m done caring about, attempting to review, or trying to play Call of Duty‘s competitive multiplayer mode.

After more than a decade of yearly releases – games now catering to a very specific audience that has spent years playing very little else outside of them – going online with a new COD is akin to flipping A Game of Thrones to a random page and just starting the story from there.

It’s no secret I’m not the most skilled player of games in the world, but I’m not that awful. I can pick up Titanfall 2 or Battlefield 1 and hold my own, sometimes even get into MVP territory now and then. Hell, there are shooters I can play after months of hiatus and put in at least a decent enough showing to remain a solid, if unremarkable, contributor to my side of the fight.

But Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare? I couldn’t have gotten a colder welcome if I was playing naked in the fucking Antarctic.

It’s impenetrable to me. Utterly incomprehensible gibberish in which dozens of opponents, at launch, were already ridiculously high levels and rocking all sorts of expensive looking guns.

From this day forth, until the series changes things significantly, I’m just not going to give the competitive multiplayer much of a look. I’ll accept all the judgement that such a decision might earn me as a critic, but I’m done with it. I wash my hands of a feature that, in my humble opinion, does not want me there.

03

With the competitive mode taken care of, it’s time to look at what I’ve always cared more about anyway – the campaign.

For the past few years, starting with the dire Call of Duty: Ghosts, I’ve found myself increasingly bored to tears by the narrative offerings of Activision’s biggest cash cow. Desperate in their attempts to shake things up without rocking the boat too much, they’ve been half-baked and inconsequential, slapdash in their writing and rote in their gameplay.

To its credit, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare boasts easily the best campaign since Black Ops II – it’s energetic, it’s sincere, and even when held back by the series’ all-too familiar trappings, it’s plain just how much it wants to break free.

It very nearly does.

One major problem with the last few Call of Duty games is how rushed the worldbuilding is. It has come off as creatively stranded as it attempts to generate a whole new universe with each game, and the process has an inevitably rushed feel to it. We’re quickly introduced to the heroes and villains, the political climate is given mere cliff notes, and then shooting happens.

Initially, Infinite Warfare suffers from this same problem, and it’s an issue that definitely persists throughout. Unlike the last few games, however, things improve as they develop.

02

Beginning with a hurried explanation of what might be centuries of galactic history, we’re told Earth is at odds with yet another abbreviated military group, the Settlement Defense Front. They’re bad because of reasons, and they have Kit Harington on their side because we need another villain rocking the facial scan of a famous man.

While not explored anywhere near as much as they should be, the SDF present the most interesting threat a COD game’s seen in years. We get only glimpses of their culture via Admiral Koch (Harington) and historical tidbits after player deaths, but they’re reminiscent of Killzone‘s Helghast with their collectivist culture and contempt for the “weakness” they see in more free civilizations.

It’s my hope that Infinite Warfare‘s universe persists across more games, because even if this game did nothing else, it at least made me care enough about the factions at war to want to learn more.

Themes of leadership, loss, and making tough calls are a large part of the story, and while they take time to get going, these narrative threads grow into surprisingly evocative parts of the story.

As Captain Reyes, players are put in the boots of an idealistic leader who doesn’t want to lose a single soldier. Infinite Warfare takes great pains to destroy that idealism, to show loss as an inevitability and sacrifice as a call that has to be made. This is reflected with Koch, who routinely claims that “Death is no disgrace” and is happy to let anybody die if it advances a greater cause.

All this is present in Infinite Warfare, but it’s frustratingly downplayed at times to the point where it feels almost jarring when the themes are emphasized clearly. Some scenes play out without an adequate build if you’re not paying strict attention. The contrast between Reyes and Koch can be lost if you’re not reading optional text that could easily be missed.

It’s all there – it just needed greater focus.

05

Infinite Warfare suffers from emulating Titanfall while lacking the same level design and freedom Titanfall 2 awards its players.

While there’s wallrunning and jet packs, they’re limited in their application and environments do nothing to encourage their use. They exist as shallow accoutrements, halfhearted acknowledgements that Call of Duty needs dynamic new ideas but lacking enough dynamism to actually matter.

Anything fresh is crammed into an existing, traditional, safe COD package. Robotic enemies and human soldiers are hard to distinguish in a firefight, and while the weaponry is supposed to be futuristic, they look, sound, and handle like any old assortment of guns you could find in other shooters.

That “energy” assault rifle is, for all intents and purposes, just another assault rifle.

Some nice touches have made their way into the glossy, dizzying array of setpieces and combat. Technological toys such as spider-like Seeker explosives and remote hacking devices that allow for possession of enemy robots aren’t exactly new to the world of videogames, but they spice things up a bit and they’re not dull to play with.

Space combat appears several times, with zero-gravity environments providing interesting situations. Players float among the space debris, using rocks and destroyed ships as cover, wielding a grappling hook that can latch onto enemy astronauts and lead to highly entertaining executions.

The biggest shakeup is the prevalence of flight combat, with fully controllable “Raptor” ships that partake in a multitude of dogfights. While these segments are messy and err on the wrong side of chaotic, their fast paced rollercoaster rides do a solid job of stopping ground battles from growing too monotonous.

Guns and ships are both upgraded with unlockables earned throughout each mission, and there are quite a few optional missions to take part in for extra rewards. So many optional missions, however, that they actually make up a majority of content. Trying to blaze through the mandatory objectives will lead to a significantly short campaign.

04

One major issue I have with Infinite Warfare is truly indicative of all the problems I’ve brought up so far – Reyes becomes a commander soon after the game’s opening segments, the captain of a warship with a small army under him. However, you’d think he were a mere grunt during gameplay with every other soldier bossing him around, sending him places, and generally addressing him the way a captain should never be addressed.

This is handwaved lightly by Reyes’ one-of-the-guys persona, but it’s still an uphill struggle to swallow frequent disrespect and disregard from what are supposed to be his subordinates. Their saying “sir” every now and then only serves to maintain the disassociation as you’re expected to believe you’re in charge while remaining a standardized shepherded COD footsoldier.

Infinite Warfare is still too afraid to step outside its ancient comfort zones, but the frightened steps it does make are positive ones, and despite dated design and unwarranted creative restraint, the campaign comes out as a net success. At the very least, it is able to tell a coherent story and lead toward a satisfying conclusion, which Call of Duty hasn’t managed in a long time.

While competitive multiplayer is a no-go, Infinity Ward brought the undead back for Zombies in Spaceland, another cooperative wave-based slaughterfest. Taking place in a 1980s sci-fi theme park, the increasing silliness of the ever popular mode carries its own distinct appeal.

Unfortunately, for all the retro music, bright colors, and irreverent humor, the game takes several distasteful cues from the free-to-play market, with the kind of crates and card packs that you expect to see in the average freemium mobile game. This is not helped by how strong the zombies get, how quickly they overwhelm you, and how much of a difference the random unlocks can make to your survival.

This freemium randomized crap is part of the competitive multiplayer too, but fuck competitive multiplayer.

This is one zombies mode that, as appealing as it should be, I can’t see myself sticking with.

01

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is very much like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate in that it’s a promising show of energy for a series that desperately needs a break. Despite alternating studios and the claim this game took Infinity Ward three years to make, the backbone of this series is tired and needs a considerable rest.

Incremental updates just aren’t cutting it, especially not so soon after the financially less successful but creatively superior Titanfall 2.

Still… good campaign while it lasts.

6.5/10
Alright

HisDivineOrder
Guest
HisDivineOrder

First, I don’t play Call of Duty games for the multiplayer. Heresy, I know. Also, I haven’t played Black Ops 3, but I generally know what happened and where it went story-wise. With that said, I think Infinite Warfare’s story/campaign was probably CoD’s best since Black Ops or Black Ops 2. It’s no Modern Warfare (CoD 4), but it’s definitely a step above MW2 or MW3, well above Ghosts and leagues above Advanced Warfare. The drag about IW is that you can see that if they’d had a normal development cycle they could have turned this hub world with optional… Read more »

HelixShade
Guest
HelixShade

Hey Jim,

I’m about to head back off to bed here, but I wanted to drop by and say I appreciate your decision to continue providing content in what must be a difficult time for you (and America, but that’s besides the point).

Thank God for you indeed.

Perry Martin
Guest

It’s…aggravating, really. Infinity Ward has clearly learned from the mistakes of Ghosts (for the most part) and tried to do something genuinely worthwhile, but I suppose Acitivsion had to cut their cheddar somehow. I’ve tried to defend this franchise for a while, saying that it’s not the “industry killer” that people keep saying it is, but the sheer greed Activision showed with this game disgusts me. Pre-Order DLC, freemium supply crates, the sort of skins that even CS:GO would shake it’s shoddy little head at and, of course, shackling the Remaster to the Legacy edition. It’s like they KNEW this… Read more »

Lloyd
Guest
Lloyd

The campaign felt really short even when doing all the optional stuff. When it was over I had to go and look through the mission list and was shocked to find more there than I had thought. The bad guys, weapons, setting, etc. all were just bland and forgettable for me.

While not terrible it just made me glad I had MW Remastered and TF2 to fill the void.

MJC
Guest
MJC

“I couldn’t have gotten a colder welcome if I was playing naked in the fucking Antarctic.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Thank god for you, Jim Sterling, for making me laugh on this otherwise pretty miserable day.

DeadlyYellow
Guest
DeadlyYellow

The series hit a peak with me during Black Ops when I got the Final Kill cam panic-knifing my local host.

Haven’t touched it since.

brokedownsystem
Guest
brokedownsystem

the modern warfare remaster is fun, but it’s a painful reminder of how little I’ve progressed as a player over the years, especially with the newer entries with all the wall-running and jet pack bullshit. I simply am awful an anticipating where people are going to be. the spawns don’t help. It would be worthwhile to review the matchmaking at least. I’m been asking around if anybody else has the same problem of taking forever to get into round (sometimes as much as 5+ minutes). At least what little I’ve played of titanfall 2’s mp was fun, (all of 1… Read more »

Ivan Sorensen
Guest
Ivan Sorensen

Opinions will differ but this was one of the better FPS campaigns I’d played in a few years.

Sorry you didn’t like it Jim but we’ve had a very strong year in shooters regardless.

Justin Graham
Guest
Justin Graham

I have no interest in playing Infinite Warfare, bu it’s heartening to know that they actually put more effort into the campaign this time around. Ghosts and Black Ops 3 were really stupid at best and totally incoherent at their worst.

Benjamin Schouten
Guest
Benjamin Schouten

I don’t begrudge you for not playing multiplayer, all I imagine now is you and Yahtzee Croshaw, manning the walls of single player against the invading armies of multiplayer

gasmaskangel
Guest
gasmaskangel

You might even say that the CoD series is weighed down by gravity.

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

The campaign was starred in and written by Brian Bloom who also voiced Lynch.

Logan Graham
Guest
Logan Graham

Damn. Pissing on Call of Duty isn’t even fun anymore. :C

Skyhook Rider
Guest
Skyhook Rider

Well speaking as someone completely new to call of duty I thought that Black ops 3’s multiplayer was pretty welcoming to me as a new comer (haven’t touched IW). But maybe its either that we have different tastes/preferences or it could be differences in design between blops 3 and infinite warfare.

Joao Oliveira
Guest
Joao Oliveira

The campaign was not so bad, but binge playing it may have been a bad decision on my part as it got boring pretty fast. But the death screen messages with quotes and bits of lore on the SDF are most certainly the most laughable and pathetic attempt I have ever seen at villainizing I have ever seen. I was waiting at some point to read: “The SDF civic duties consist in taking candy from babies and beating up old people and pregnant women if they look like they need a sit on the bus”

cowboyjimmy
Guest
cowboyjimmy

Shooter season 2016, honestly, im pretty good with Doom & Overwatch, BF1, TF2, CoD do not interest me at all, regardless of their quality, they just look the same to me, especially CoD and TF2, BF1 looks like a reskinned Battlefront, which i enjoyed, but probably for different reasons.

SmaMan
Guest
SmaMan

I’m not at all surprised, but one tiny part of me was hoping the space-flight combat would’ve been good. That’s always been my forte through StarFox 64, and Ace Combat. We haven’t had a good aerial dogfighting game in years. (GTAV’s fighter jet missions were about the closest thing to it that I’ve played.)

Stephen Mc Devitt
Guest
Stephen Mc Devitt

How appropriate a review a game about U.S. military soldiers shooting and shouting Oscar Mike goes up the same day as the very embodiment of American capitalism and corporate greed is elected to be president of the (now not-so) United States.

In a Trump-era game industry, games like Grand Theft Auto VI and almost every other game will be banned because “Video games are corrupting our children!” while Call of Duty will continue to exist for being overly patriotic to a fault. I say this as someone who isn’t American and finding excessive shooty-bang-bangs leaving me fatigue.

TimRobbins
Guest
TimRobbins

It doesn’t help the multiplayer inaccessibility that Activision doesn’t let their years-old CoD games drop below 30 bucks. They’ve created an audience inner circle that’s willing to shell out well more than what they need to make a new one every year, so there’s no reason to worry about new players. I’d like to try one of the series’ older titles to see if I like the gameplay, but not for a gamble of nearly 3 humble monthlies.

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

Fair enough review, the MP does that same thing Ghosts did with it threw way too much at players in terms of choices for class load outs. On top of using Blops’ movement style, it’s no wonder why it would be frustrating for those who aren’t die hard fans to be able to enjoy themselves. If the gameplay didn’t in Blops3 didn’t gel with you, it probably won’t here either. I personally am really enjoying it, but I’m one of those guys who maxed his prestige in Blops, so there’s really not much different here. Still though, I think that… Read more »

Jimmy Donnellan
Guest
Jimmy Donnellan

Couldn’t agree more about multiplayer. First CoD I have played in a few years and I feel underpowered and outgunned by everyone else online. it doesn’t feel the same way its peers do. It’s one long grind of attrition after another until you have gear somewhat capable.

It’s a bore.

Mitchell Swingle
Guest
Mitchell Swingle

Glad to see that you use a real scale when reviewing games. 6.5 would be considered shit to other people.

Vinnie Vincent's Dead Dog
Guest
Vinnie Vincent's Dead Dog

Each iteration of the Call of Duty series is like a condom. Use it once and throw it away.

CaitSeith
Guest
CaitSeith

“Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me”

We have so many games in space lately that I wanted to sing. Sorry.

Josh Griffiths
Guest
Josh Griffiths

“Infinite Warfare”… what an appropriate name all things considered right now.