I really didn’t have very high hopes for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. And that’s a feeling that continued as I sat through the game’s opening, which put me in the grounded boots of another everyman soldier. “Yup, it’s definitely Call of Duty!” I exclaimed to nobody in particular as I fought my way through a spectacular set piece, only to meet my fate at the hands of somebody whose introduction primes them as this iteration’s big bad guy.
Call of Duty has always been about its spectacle, and that doesn’t change here. What did change, however, was my attitude towards the game as I kept playing. While Infinite Warfare doesn’t stray especially far from the established ideas you’ll find in just about every game bearing the brand, it does move just far away enough for it to feel fresher and more exciting than it has in years.
It’s set in a future where a particularly militaristic, authoritarian bunch of secessionists have taken up Mars as their new home. With a new planet comes a new set of rules and societal norms, and these former earthlings have an especially aggressive ethos. So for needless and pointless political reasons the Martian Settlement Defense Front have waged war on their former home and its people. It’s low-brow Sci-Fi politics for the masses, not as nuanced or accomplished as something like Battlestar Galactica and not especially interesting in itself.
The baddies are led by a man whose name invokes particular imagery for South Africans. A nasty man, Salen Kotch has a scar, and sociopathic tendencies gleefully displayed when he shoots his own men so you know he means serious business. He’s also played by Kit Harington, who seems just like he is in that fantasy show on TV with the boobs, midgets and not knowing anything – only he’s perhaps a little louder.
So as a new hero, it becomes your job to take him and his regime down. And for a while, it’s really just your average Call of Duty stuff. Shoot enemies from behind cover, get killed by wayward grenades as your screen becomes a muddy, crimson haze. Pop out, shoot at more people in an elaborate funnelled shooting gallery as you move about to the next area to do it all over again.
Perhaps it was the fact that I’d only recently finished Titanfall 2’s compelling campaign, but it took me a while for it to feel like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was a fun experience. That did happen though, especially when it stopped trying to be like all the ones that had come before it. For whatever reasons, Call of Duty is still clinging to whatever it is that made Modern Warfare’s single player campaign so good, so nearly every single one tries its best to emulate it, or at least emulate bits of it.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare feels its best when it’s not trying to do that – and that’s when I really started enjoying my time with the game. A lot of that happens because instead of being the usual everyman infantry guy you’re the captain of your own space destroyer, having to rely on an entire crew. While the game’s still host to that odd military bravura that permeates the series, it’s toned down a little.
Your hero, Captain Nick Reyes, seems more human, as does the crew that surrounds him. He’s got a number of sidekicks, the most interesting and notable of whom is E3N, a sassy robot that provides the comic relief. Refreshingly, that crew is made up of a diverse crew of people; people of colour, women and gosh, even women of colour – and they all feel largely well realised. Reyes relies on these people to help him make judgements that could affect the fate of the earth. While everyone is still largely uninteresting, it does feel like everyone has a distinct personality. It’s a small and subtle change to the storytelling, but it’s appreciated and it helps make everything feel more grounded and real.
It’s very definitely Science Fiction. One of the new changes to the gameplay is that you get your own customisable space bomber, the Jackal. And those missions, where you’re piloting your ship in space-bound dogfights are some of the best bits of the game. What I had expected to be a fleeting, guided experience is something that you revisit relatively often. In your Jackal, you have to take out destroyers, fighters and whole bases, using guns, cannons and lock-on missiles. It’s all very reminiscent, to me at least, of Wing Commander. It does, especially when you’re locked on to an enemy fighter, sometimes feel like it’s flying itself but still gives you the thrill of aerial combat. It can become rote, as all encounters essentially play out the same, but I found it exciting, and it made me long for days of yore, playing Wing Commander and X-Wing. There’s a surprising lot of it in the game, and it’s one of the two types of side missions you’ll find in Infinite Warfare.
The other has you boarding enemy ships in a zero-gravity environment, as an infiltrator – and provided some of my favourite moments in Infinite warfare. Propelling around asteroid fields as space-bound infantry, sniping heads from a distance as you make your way to, and in to an enemy destroyer undetected is thrilling. In some cases, the subterfuge continues aboard, as bona fide stealth levels that had me skulking up to very bad people and sitting their throats as I made my way to some or other room, to pinch some or other weapon or document.
Weapons have been given a nice futuristic overhaul too, with some interesting guns in play – most of which come with a secondary fire mode. There’s a sniper rifles whose scope can be docked to have it function as an automatic rifle, and an energy assault rifle that can be split in to two akimbo pistols. There’s even a space-age shotgun that can concentrate its blast points in real-time. Some fancy futuristic equipment makes the game more fun too, and it’s always fun deploying a spider-like seeker that actively looks for enemies, crawling up them before they explode. On top of that, you’re able to customise your load-out before each mission, selecting the guns and equipment that best suit your play style.
It takes a while, but the campaign picks up steam, becoming something that’s fun to play – and delivers the best Call of Duty campaign in years. It’s a pity that despite decent characterisation and pretty good writing, the central theme – how far would you go to complete the mission – takes a turn for the tawdry. Just how many martyrs does one game need?
Zombies in Spaceland!
Call of Duty: Zombies returns this year, a first for developer Infinity Ward. The zombies stuff is usually left to Treyarch, who added it as a fun diversion in their World at War. This time, it’s set in an 80’s theme park and called Zombies in Spaceland! The setting may be new, but it essentially follows the same template. Play as one of four heroes as you try make do with the limited ammunition and security you have. Board up windows and buy more guns as you try unlock the secrets that’ll see you through the whole park.
It’s a bit like Left 4 Dead in some ways, though it’s missing the focus and direction you’d find there. It’s whimsical, and the help offered by David Hasselhof playing himself is worthy of a few chuckles, but there’s nothing especially new here. It’s got a delightful intro animation that reminds me of the Clerks cartoon. It’s worth playing as the diversion it was intended to be, and rounds up a worthwhile overall package.
While I enjoyed the single player, I find the multiplayer wholly impenetrable. It’s for those who’re already fans – so I defer to Gavin.
Okay so now that Geoff has given you the details you need to know about the campaign it’s time for me to wax lyrical about the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare.
I spent far too many hours in Black Ops 3 multiplayer; though I do wear my 10th Prestige like a badge of honour, so I was excited to get into the multiplayer of Infinite Warfare and sink some more of my time into it.
The first thing that happens when you dive into multiplayer is that you are assigned to the JTF Wolverines, the first of 4 Mission Teams which will assign you missions and who you will be fighting for. The Wolverines are mercenaries who will fight for the highest bidder, they are the first in the fight and they will hand you your complicated missions like “Kill 5 people with an assault rifle” or “Get 2 double kills”. Completing missions gives you extra XP to rank up and allows you to gain access to special Mission Team variants of your favourite weapons.
As you play through the game you get to join other Mission Teams, if you like, namely the Orion Initiative, Sabre Team Seven and the Wraith. Each one is based around certain mission styles and will offer unique weapons and missions.
Each game you play you are given 3 live missions, once you complete one you get the rewards and a new one is added to your list. Complete them all and unlock everything that team offers. It’s a nice addition to add some excitement into the rounds but it’s nothing that I found very interesting overall.
While playing you can also earn Salvage from these missions, or by winning it in supply drops or dismantling prototype weapons. The salvage can then be used to craft special weapons in the prototype lab. These weapons are ranked from common to epic and each level will tweak your weapon in a special way. However, since the game has to be balanced in multiplayer, none of these tweaks are really going to make a massive change and if they do then expect them to be nerfed as quickly as possible.
Oh and don’t forget the keys, you can also earn keys while playing matches and once you have earned 10 keys you can purchase a supply drop from the Quartermaster and if you have 30 keys you can purchase a rare supply drop.
The supply drops will reward you with emblems, camera cards, weapons, salvage and even more keys.
We had this same mechanic in Black Ops 3 with the awesome Black Market and the creepy trader (Black Jack), however this time around I can’t say I’m loving it. The quartermaster is a boring robot and the opening of crates feels entirely sterile.
The gameplay is solid, smooth and really well done. It’s also something we’ve all done in the last year. Call of Duty doesn’t change their gameplay much. They normally tweak it in some way and while the core feels the same the game always felt new.
However this year it feels the same, it feels a bit faster and thankfully the quick scoping from the beta has been completely nerfed out so it’s again far more enjoyable. It doesn’t though feel any different. The new maps are a ton of fun and with 12 of them being released at launch we aren’t going to get bored of them anytime fast.
From Earth (or Earth-like) based maps to fighting through an exploding spaceship, the visuals and map designs are beautiful.
There are a few mechanics in play with exploding cars but the changing maps from earlier versions appear to be dead in the water and in the end the new gameplay feels very much like a large DLC expansion and not a revolution or a new game entirely.
Weapons and Equipment
One thing I do really enjoy about the new Infinite Warfare is that we now have some unique looking and feeling weapons. With half the weapons now energy based, I was worried it would feel a bit like Battlefront but thankfully the designers have made every energy weapon feel real and hefty.
However it’s with the equipment that this version really stands out with the addition of dome shields, floating mines, black hole generator and spider mines.
It’s the latter that I really think will be used to change the top end gameplay as not only are they great for blowing people up, I also find them incredibly useful to find if people are hiding around a corner. Just throw the spider mine down and if it runs to the side then there is someone there.
The dome shield made me think of the similar Halo shield or Winston’s shield in Overwatch. However unlike the Overwatch shield, you cannot shoot through this one so be careful not to let a rocket loose while under the shield, it hurts.
Another great piece of equipment is the personal radar that you can pull up and it will identify if anyone is near you and display on the screen how close they are. Once again this is great if you are playing carefully and checking if anyone is around.
Infinity Ward definitely decided to not skimp on the game modes, there are over 15 multiplayer game modes in Infinite Warfare. From the standard deathmatch to the new Frontline game mode where you always spawn in your base.
I was very excited to try out Frontier and the always fun Kill Confirmed; however I struggled to find any games in our region. Once again everyone has gravitated towards the evergreen Team Deathmatch and even though they’ve now added a new favourites option in the menu people seem to still skip that and go straight for DM.
eSports, Networking and more Complaints
Infinite Warfare Multiplayer is a solid and well-polished experience. However it’s not different enough from Black Ops 3 to justify upgrading. The steep learning curve for new players isn’t going to help bring anyone into the franchise.
It’s my personal belief that the lack of changes in multiplayer is 100% down to Activision attempting to turn Call of Duty into an eSport with an annual purchase. If Çall of Duty is going to be an eSport there is no way they can change how the multiplayer works on an annual basis. And not selling a new Call of Duty every year is going to hurt the financials far too much for that to be accepted.
Whether the desire to conquer eSports is going to be what kills the Golden Hen for Activision is something we will have to wait and see.
Regarding the online networking experience, 95% of my games were brilliant with low latency and pings, however every now and then the game completely died. We’d go from a perfect experience to 5 frames per second and everyone having to quit the game.
My final complaint is petty but still annoys me. You can choose country flags as your gamercard in the game with numerous countries being represented, however South Africa isn’t one of them and that just gets right up my nose. I’ll definitely be going back and playing more multiplayer, but it’s not going to stop me playing Overwatch anytime soon and unless Call of Duty does something special with their multiplayer next year we could end up remembering the death of Call of Duty starting with Infinite Warfare.
Last Updated: April 25, 2017