2016 has been rather interesting for first-person shooters, especially when it comes to single-player campaigns. Battlefield 1 brought a touching adventure focused on the sacrifices of war, while Titanfall 2 added an actual story mode that was a total blast despite its wonky storytelling, and Doom took players on an insane hell-fueled ride. And now Call of Duty is trying to bring a more narrative-centered single-player mode, to go along its online and zombie offerings. In a year brimming with excellent shooters, where does Infinite Warfare stand?
Surprisingly, the single-campaign is easily the best part of the Infinite Warfare‘s experience. You start off in a time where humans have now colonized beyond planet Earth to other locations in our solar system. This has led to the foundation of a rebel group called the Settlement Defense Front, which has risen to power to challenge Earth’s colonization efforts. This led to a surprise assault on the United Nation’s fleet, leaving Earth reeling, and with very few forces left to defend itself. Enter Nick Reyes, our lead protagonist. Because of this brutal loss, he’s thrust into commander of the Retribution, one of the surviving ships.
The game follows his story as he learns to become a good leader, which sometimes means putting the mission first over everything else. What makes this year’s Call of Duty so different is the emphasis on the characters and their growth. This time around it plays out more like a film, cinematic cut-scenes and all. Because of the spectacular acting and writing, I found myself attached to several characters, and actually felt for Commander Reyes and his crew. There were outstanding performances by Kit Harington as Admiral Salen Kotch (leader of SDF), David Harewood as Usef Omar, and Jamie Gray Hyder as Nora Salter (Reyes’ right-hand woman). Each character in the game (even the ones not mentioned here) felt real, personable, and added something to the team. This was so refreshing coming from this particular series.
Missions are no longer divided into different chapters. Instead you can either proceed with the main story, or tackle side-missions from the Retribution. Yes, you read that right: side-missions. And though you can choose to ignore them, these quests have a tendency to be incredibly interesting. On one mission, I had to sneak into a foe’s ship, steal a uniform, sabotage their life-support, and get out without drawing too much attention to myself.
As seamless as the narrative is, the gameplay also felt this way. You’ll be going from fighting on the ground in your standard fire-fights, to zero-g battles, to jumping into the brand new Jackal (your own space jet fully armed with boosters and rockets). This sort of variation in gameplay is when the game is at its best. Fire-fights are still dull, but the grind of fighting off what feels like endless waves of enemies is less grueling because you won’t be doing it to no end.
Jackals, the largest edition, are easy to maneuver, and easy to master. If you know the controls for on feet fights, then you already know how to fly these metal beasts. The basic controls of maneuvering on feet translate to flight. I’m usually not the biggest fan of dogfights, simply because it can tend to turn into a disorienting task where I don’t know the difference between up and down, but Infinite Warfare has a lock-on feature that allows you to speed towards a target with very little confusion. This is one of those moments where simple controls really work.
For all the chances the team took with the single-player campaign, it seems like they did the opposite with the multiplayer. So, if you’re still enthralled by the competitive matches this franchise has provided, then you can expect the same type of gameplay. Those fatigued with the twitchy nature of this multiplayer will find no solace in Infinite Warfare.
What you get is the usual modes like team death-match and domination, to go along with some eSports ready modes like Oddball—keep-away where someone on your team carries a ball while the others protect the carrier. Maps are similarly pretty simple, and made to streamline the experience. You will find choke-points, walls to run on, and plenty of spots to light a campfire for those stuck in their old ways. Again, presumably to make this game eSports ready. The Frontier map is the standout here. You battle on a small portion of a space station that is littered with tight corridors that it makes the match feel so much more hectic. It’s no Nuketown, but it captures some of that magic. Plus, fallen players just float around for a bit, it’s kind of awesome.
This year, Rigs will replace classes. These Rigs range from a Merc type that focuses on defense and suppressive fire, to a Phantom who loves to snipe. You pick perks and abilities that suit your style. This along with a slew of new weapons (ballistic, energy, and Prototype), make this impressively customizable, and one of the better aspects of the online mode.
The final part of this package is the new Zombies in Spaceland mode. And just like the multiplayer, this will be quite familiar to longtime players, which isn’t necessarily bad. You’re once again running around trying to survive endless waves of zombies with three other friends, unlocking new pathways and finding secrets along the way. The characters are incredibly kooky, and that gives this mode a bit more soul than the last few iterations. I do dig the wacky ’80’s theme, however. I also enjoyed going on rides and into different attractions in the park. There’s also the Afterlife Arcade that lets you win prizes that could lead you reviving. It’s a nice touch to coincide with all the perks and traps that are available throughout the map . At the end of the day, however, it’s more of the same.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s campaign is one of the best in the series. It focuses on characters and their connections to one another, while not allowing the sci-fi elements to overshadow the touching moments. And you can still expect the for those wild moments provided by the zero-g fights and insanely fun Jackal dog-fights. The multiplayer is still the same Call of Duty experience you’ve come to expect. But if you do enjoy playing on a larger stage, most, if not all, of the maps and game types are eSports ready. Zombies also suffers from feeling too familiar, but at least its insane ’80s theme makes up for that. Let’s hope the franchise continues to experiment with its storytelling.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5
This review was completed using anXbox One copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare provided by Activision. The game hit shelves on November 4, 2016 for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.