With over a dozen “Call of Duty” titles already behind us, Activision’s latest title is shooting for the moon. The newest title, “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” takes players into the cold, dark reaches of space and introduces several new game-mechanics to the tried-and-true COD system. While it may offer a giant leap forward for the series, it’s a well built collection from some of Call of Duty’s finest work.
The newest title had a rough start, infamously becoming one of the most disliked videos on YouTube when it was first announced, but surprisingly, most of the new game is pretty fun to play.
As I mentioned earlier, the game takes players into space. The new stellar location comes just after “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” began introducing more sci-fi elements into the franchise. Before those titles “Call of Duty” games usually stuck to a routine of nostalgic wartime scenarios and modern-day hotspots. The move to sci-fi hasn’t won over everyone and the game’s biggest competitor, EA’s “Battlefield” franchise, took the opportunity to reboot into World War I while Activision was prepping for its space launch.
With the choice to blast off into space aside for a moment, the game does borrow one of the more popular elements of “Advanced Warfare.” The new game brought on a high-profile actor to play the notorious villain of the campaign. In “Advanced Warfare” the role was played by Kevin Spacey, in “Infinite Warfare” the game introduces Kit Harrington into the mix. While the choice to go with a high-profile actor as a nemesis of the game worked with Spacey, it just wasn’t quite the same with Harrington. Though it fun that Spacey didn’t get the space game.
“Infinite Warfare” has a much stronger focus on character development than previous installments, and it handles morality and honor the same way that “Black Ops” did. The story campaign frequently nudges the player to reflect on the consequences of the horrific events happening all around them, asking them to question if what the game is making you do actually a good choice, or a bad choice. In a game where you gun-down hundreds of unnamed soldiers, it can be hard to make a singular death within your own squad meaningful in anyway, but “Infinite Warfare” surprisingly offered a deeper connection to your comrades than the earlier works did. The game is still an all-out war, and yes you are still mowing down more men than ever, but at least there is some attempt to point out that you are watching soldiers die all around you.
While you spend a lot of time with members of your own crew, Activision still hasn’t found a way to give life to the villain of the game. It’s an extremely difficult task, mostly because you are both armed to the teeth and would kill each other the moment you were in the same room with one another. This is the dilemma that needs solving, and I’m not sure if it’s possible within this setup.
Most of the backstory you get on Admiral Kotch (Kit Harrington) is second-hand, told through others or watched on video-screens. It’s impersonal, just by its very nature, and while the heroic characters get these stylized moments to make them more dimensional, Admiral Kotch is just a generic villain. No matter how often Jon Snow snarls at you.
I don’t want to say it’s an impossible task, other stories in other mediums have accomplished it. The most popular trope is having the villain and hero in a dangerous situation together, giving them pause from their death dealing in time to flesh-out a story and backstory for the villain. Other titles have you start out as friends, or offer a student-teacher relationship. It’s possible, Call of Duty just hasn’t figured it out yet. At least there are more fantastic gameplay moments than terrible cut-scenes.
Gameplay is switched up quite often, a decision that I was very happy to experience. Since most of the actual gameplay is the same as previous installments, I enjoyed bouncing from location to location as I progressed through the story. Not only do the locations change, but there are drastic changes to lighting and even gravity as you play through the many missions of the campaign. The developers choice to go to space made the game more fun to play, even if more sci-fi elements had to be shoehorned into the franchise to do so. This leads us to the flight-battles, which are certainly one of the newer elements of the game.
During the beta I saw a lot of posts pointing out the flaws in the flight-mechanic’s HUD system and generic gameplay design. Players pointed out that distance was hard to measure, since the fighting was taking place in the pitch-black vacuum of space, and that the flight mechanics felt too clunky. Overall I felt that the flight battles were a fun diversion from the general gameplay, and I enjoyed my time shooting down enemies left and right. I think treating it as a simple side-quest, which it certainly is, and not as a major expansion to the gameplay is the way to go. It’s a quick exploratory addition to “Call of Duty,” and if expanded in the future, could lead to an extremely popular staple. Space battles in ships are more of a step towards a main objective, and while they aren’t short, I would like to see more of the mechanic in future games.
All of the action, on the ground and above it, is certainly more streamlined in this installment. While there are moments where characters are just spewing exposition at you, they are few and far between. In this game the narrative moments and cut-scenes are are padded around fun gameplay, which is something I think most players will appreciate.
Of course you won’t need any of that bothersome plot or character development in the multiplayer side of the game, which is convenient since that there is where most players will spend the majority of their time.
“Infinite Wardfare” basically scrubbed everything from the multiplayer that the last few installments added in. From character load-outs to skills, the game is more of a barebones design than an expansion on “Advanced Warfare.” Overall I can see the appeal for the developers to return to form.
“Black Ops” and the “Modern Warfare” titles were by far the most popular in the franchise, so it makes sense to boil everything down that was added over the last few years that didn’t quite stick with the fanbase, and update them to work within the setting. While the names and effects are new, most of the additions come from taking killstreaks and perks that were already established in previous games and giving them new space-names and themes. I wouldn’t say this is a problem, it’s actually an improvement over the last two installments, but it’s not a step forward for the franchise overall. The multiplayer felt like a reset. We’re back to were everything was going great for the franchise, and hopefully it will be solid ground for new improvements going forward.
The game added a fun mission bonus to the general FPS grind, giving players side-objectives to fight for while they play the usual maps and game-modes. The new feature offers players a chance to still unlock cosmetics and “progress,” even if they are destroyed by the opposing team. While balancing is always an issue during the first few weeks of launch, I felt that most of the guns, skills, perks and killstreak bonuses were carefully thought out. Of course it only takes a few weeks before players learn all of the best tricks and load-outs, so we will see how quickly the developers respond to the player-base in the coming months. You can check out how weapon crafting works in the featured trailer from Activision below.
In many ways the game is a return to form for Activision. While the setting and weaponry may be more sci-fi than ever, the gameplay is reminiscent of the games that were released before “Call of Duty Ghosts”. The single-player campaign is an exciting trip through a newly constructed story, filled with several very well crafted moments that are sure to be remembered. The multiplayer is the game’s biggest selling-point, and while very little could be considered “new” to the franchise, it’s largely a collection of the franchise’s best moments.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is now available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One and can be found on Steam or through authorized retailers like Amazon.com.