Kris Wall reviews Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare…
Looking beyond the sci-fi leaning of its new subtitle for a moment, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the 13th game in the series, a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of a franchise that has been split between 3 different developers to keep up its annual release cycle, it’s begun to feel like the Call of Duty brand itself could quite possibly become infinite.
Infinite Warfare puts you in the boots of Captain Nick Reyes, a top military pilot within the United Nations Space Alliance, and not too dissimilar from Maverick in Top Gun. Earth has exhausted its resources and begun to branch out into the infinite expanses of space, however with a new frontier comes a new enemy in the form of the Settlement Defence Front, or SDF for short. The SDF represent a splinter faction of the UNSA that broke away during a secession war and relocated to Mars where they grew into a fascist power led by the ruthless Admiral Salen Kotch (Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harrington on commanding villainous duties)
Captain Reyes finds himself in command of the Retribution, one of Earth’s last remaining warships after the SDF launch a shocking (but visually stunning) attack on the UNSA during their Fleet Week celebrations, nearly wiping out the entirety of the Alliance’s armada and leaving the Retribution without a captain. It’s up to Reyes and his crew aboard the Retribution to lead the remnants of the coalition against the formidable and relentless might of Admiral Kotch and the Settlement Defence Front before they’re wiped out of the galaxy once and for all.
I seem to be the only person that has really enjoyed Call of Duty’s flirtations with the future, being a bit of a sci-fi nerd I like seeing the experimental tech and augmentations that Advanced Warfare and Black Ops had begun delving into, Infinite Warfare doubles down on that and uses a warp drive to really place itself in the sort of future occupied by Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek with gigantic spaceships hyper driving all over the galaxy, enhanced rigs allowing you to wall-run and boost slide and laser weapons reducing enemies to particle dust. One of my favourite parts of the campaign outside of the weaponry is the inclusion of a character called E3N / Ethan, an A.I controlled robot that partners up with Reyes on his missions. Much like BT in Titanfall 2, Ethan has been fleshed out with so much personality that he seems more human than the human characters around him and is a constant source of humorous entertainment to have by your side throughout the game.
However, while the campaign frequently looks absolutely spectacular, it never feels memorable in the time between the superb opening fleet week assault and its thrilling final mission. Even as I write this not longer after completing the campaign, I’m already struggling to remember any of the missions except one where you have to make timed dashes across the surface of Venus to avoid being incinerated by the sun when the planet rotates away from it. For a bit of added depth, Infinite Warfare includes a Most Wanted list of Admiral Kotch’s Lieutenants, Captains and ace pilots for you to hunt down, one of which is UFC superstar Conor McGregor, who shows up early on to repeatedly punch you in the face rather painfully. Seeing Kotch’s most valuable players getting struck from the board became quite a fun distraction for me. Side missions also feature in-between the main campaign that can be pursued at your leisure on a Mass Effect style galaxy map and reward you with upgrades to your weapons, kit and your fighter ship, The Jackal.
Completely new to Call of Duty are the flight sections in The Jackal which are a mixture of free flight and on-rails dogfights. The first time you prep The Jackal for flight and feel the thrusters build before launching into space is a pulse quickening moment, and then you have to contend with the ridiculously unintuitive control method of having thrusters and braking on the left stick as well as movement, so trying to turn quickly slows you to a stop instead and leaves you a sitting duck. Locking on to targets turns the section into a semi on-rails shooter, which can be fun if there’s space for them to work, not so much when you’re bouncing off asteroids and debris while your target is dancing all over the place and you’re wrestling with trying to turn quickly without stopping dead in your tracks. I found that The Jackal sections also became quite overused to the point of repetition, by the end of the game I was only bothering to play the extra missions with the ship just to hunt and complete the Most Wanted targets.
I’ve always been a fan of Call of Duty’s multiplayer component ever since Modern Warfare, losing countless hours and nights to Modern Warfare 3 and being lured back onto the battlefield with Advanced Warfare a couple of years back. Much of the fun of Call of Duty comes from learning the intricacies of its maps and how to best your opponents with the skills you’re constantly acquiring through your play. Infinite Warfare marks the first time I’ve not really enjoyed the multiplayer component at all. Firstly it drops the Boot Camp mode altogether which allows new players to be paired with new players in order to learn the mechanics and the maps together. Here you’re just thrown to the wolves against veterans who’ve already prestiged several times already, wall-running and boost sliding all over the place. In my first game I must have been killed over 40 times before I even knew what was happening, it wasn’t fun, I didn’t feel like I was able to learn anything and it was all just incredibly unwelcoming and off-putting.
There’s more customisation options in Infinite Warfare than I’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game, with a staggering amount of attachments, unlocks, killstreaks and items to truly personalise your play style. The Pick 10 system returns here giving players 10 slots to choose their preferred loadout, offering genuine tactical depth as you decide between a second firearm or an extra attachment for your primary weapon. All this is now based around your Rigs as well which forms the foundation of your style, the Warfighter rig is geared towards all round combat and killstreaks, while the Synaptic rig is built for incredible speed and close quarter combat. There are 6 rigs in total so there will be a rig that suits your style and from that point you can just keep building on it and tweaking it to your need and requirements. Infinity Ward still have a great skill for crafting excellent maps for online play, but rather crucially to the whole experience my time online with Infinite Warfare just didn’t seem to be much fun, no matter how I managed to better my performance and learn the maps and mechanics. Where Call of Duty once redefined online multiplayer, Infinite Warfare feels derivative of games like Titanfall and Overwatch, games that Modern Warfare laid down the template to influence, but games that confidently went on to evolve into something that was entirely their own thing.
Zombies returns in Infinite Warfare, something that started out as a novelty side game but has steadily grown and been expanded upon each year to the point where I can genuinely see it splintering off at some point in the near future and becoming a series in its own right. Zombies in Spaceland is probably the best zombie B-movie that’s never been committed to film, casting you as one of 4 80’s characters, The Jock, The Nerd, The Valley Girl and The Rapper and letting you loose to survive in a theme park overrun with the undead. There’s a plot of sorts here as the characters find themselves trapped inside a movie of a retired renowned horror director due to a ritual and have to work together to fight their way out. Did I mention that the park DJ is also David Hasselhoff, because obviously he is, why wouldn’t he be!
Zombies can be a game of two halves, if you find yourself in a group of strangers who aren’t communicating and working together, it can be a pretty frustrating experience. However, paired up with your friends or a coordinated team and it’s an absolute riot of a good time, packed with pulse pounding tension and tonnes of risk vs reward situations as you dare to revive a fallen teammate in order to have an extra gun by your side or risk going it alone and hoovering up the cash rewards to plug into new weapons, upgrades and items. Zombies in Spaceland is fleshed out even further with mini-games around the park, new ‘Burn Card’ power ups, and the ability to earn your way back from the dead by winning games when your teammates can’t revive you.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare unfortunately doesn’t live up to the heights of Sledgehammer’s Advanced Warfare two years ago, while the campaign is often incredible on a visual level I’m already struggling to remember it beyond its intense opening and closing chapters. Multiplayer seems geared towards tricks and style over skills, where Advanced Warfare’s added mobility heightened its gameplay, the wall-running and sliding seem to detract from the experience here, and the lack of a Boot Camp to learn the maps and basics make it hugely unwelcoming to new players. Zombies in Spaceland is endlessly wonderful and is the highlight of this whole package, I’d happily buy into a Call of Duty Zombies series. Infinite Warfare is a fun game and if you’re already a fan of the series then you’ve most likely bought Infinite Warfare and prestiged 5 times already, but in a banner year for first person shooters that also includes Battlefield, Overwatch and Titanfall 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s ideas have started to feel derivative and finite where it once ruled the battlefield.
Call of Duty Infinite Warfare was reviewed on PlayStation 4
+ Visually spectacular
+ Side missions and Most Wanted add a nice bonus to the campaign
+ Futuristic weapons feel excellent
+ E3N / Ethan is an excellent A.I character
+ Incredible amount of customisation options in multiplayer
+ Zombies in Spaceland is great
– Campaign mid-section lacks memorable highlights
– Lack of Boot Camp mode makes Multiplayer feel unwelcoming and not inclusive to new player
– Jackal controls are unintuitive
– Feels derivative of stronger games like Titanfall and Overwatch
Rating: 7.5 / 10