Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare brings Infinity Ward back into the fold after an extended absence. Since their last title, Sledgehammer Games etched its name into the franchise’s history books with an amazing Advanced Warfare and Treyarch revived Black Ops with a solid, but slowed-down affair. It took away the quick action of Advanced Warfare in favor of something a bit more deliberate. Infinite Warfare keeps this same kind of gameplay setup alive – but moves everything into deep space. This may seem like too drastic a change, but the narrative focus allows this shift to be pretty organic.
You’re still a soldier in a war-torn area – it just happens to be an area in space. The focus of the game is still on the soldiers and the fight they’re in. As a part of the military, you’re fighting a war against a powerful force that won’t allow your group to even get raw supplies – and they’re killing off your forces at every turn. The breaking point occurs after a “weapon retrieval mission” goes well, but ends in the death of everyone on the team. You’re torn about the loss of your friends, while your highest-ranked commanding officer says the core mission succeeded – and throws a parade.
As per usual, there are some twists and turns here and some shifts in gameplay. The story is reasonably compelling and does have characters you want to see more of – but there isn’t quite an antagonist like Jonathan Irons from Advanced Warfare that really makes you want to see him get his comeuppance. Here, the focus is more on your team and not so much the individuals on the opposition side – it works, but isn’t the most compelling thing in the world. Fortunately, everything goes from set piece to set piece and changes up the formula enough to keep things interesting.
Zombies mode returns with the most comedic variant so far – Zombies in Spaceland – and it’s probably the most purely entertaining version yet. The idea is that you’re part of a team of actors out to defeat the hordes set up by a director – who opens up access to new parts of the set as the waves continue. This blends absurdity in perfectly and is a riot to play. The second you start blasting away at zombies while “Relax” blares over the loudspeaker, you know you’re in for a fun time.
Playing online is a riot because you can help out your allies and they can help you – so there’s far more tension. If you’re down, you never know if you’ll be saved – but being wounded does lead to some great stuff. You can still attack with melee shots and a few gunshots, and doing so with the most convincing VHS effects on the screen in quite some time works nicely. The tower defense elements return and the map is far more fun here than it was before thanks to the bright neon and theme park motif. Zombies mode has become a bit of a cliché by now, but tongue in cheek setups like this work perfectly for it.
Multiplayer is usually the bread and butter of FPS games and remains a highlight here. The core gameplay of Black Ops III feels like it’s back here – but things are a bit faster-paced. The mid-air action is a bit snappier than before, while on-foot remains a bit sluggish compared to Advanced Warfare. Much like Black Ops III, you can run, but it always feels like you’ve got lead feet because you never quite gain as much momentum as you want to – and after playing Titanfall 2, this aspect feels positively archaic.
New modes have been added to the multiplayer mix, which do help keep things fresher than the usual Team Deathmatch / Kill Confirmed setup. Well, in theory – since so many of the modes wind up with dwindling fan bases so you can’t even play them if you wanted to. Search and Destroy is a highlight, and mixes in the usual defend mode with a one hit kill risk. Your goal is to either defend your area or defuse a bomb depending on the side you’re on, and survive. The permadeath for the round adds quite a bit of tension and makes it so while there is a consequence, you can still play in the next round. It’s a good way to add a level of gravitas to each death you incur without reducing fun.
Frontline changes things up a bit and features much smaller maps and an all-action format. You’ve still got a goal to kill your enemies and get to a score first – here being 100 – but the contained maps are almost claustrophobic. You have to make use of far more strategy and can’t just go in guns blazing. You need to carefully check the on-screen map and be aware of your surroundings. Running around crazily will either get you killed by gunfire or sent off one of the many cliff-heavy areas that adorn the map.
Multiplayer is largely lag-free and quite a bit of fun. During extended play sessions, lag wasn’t an issue outside of a brief instance at the start with a bit of a time skip leading to a single death. The map selection is far more enjoyable here than in Black Ops III, which makes a huge difference. There’s a solid mix of really small maps that require skill to succeed along with wide-open maps that force you to fight smart. You have no hiding places, so you need to fight smart, kill often, and heal up as much as you can. Failing to do so will result in a fast death.
Visually, Infinite Warfare has some of the best textures in the series so far. While nothing quite tops the outstanding work done with Battlefield 1 when it comes to contemporary shooters, Infinite Warfare does hold its own when it comes to environmental textures – which look outstanding and add a sense of realism to a fairly unrealistic world. Character models are pretty good – but the faces aren’t on par with what’s been seen in recent games like Mafia III, which really did raise the bar. Guns look solid, but definitely aren’t as good as BF1’s. The ragdoll death animations remain entertaining and make getting shot out of the sky a laugh riot.
Infinite Warfare’s sound design definitely benefits from a good set of headphones or a solid home theater setup. Using my Astro A30s, I was able to get a far better idea of where enemies were. It didn’t do me much in the way of good because I still wound up getting killed a ton, but it is a great feature to have in theory since you can at least get some kind of an idea if someone is coming up from behind you. Musically, things are subdued outside of dramatic moments and the pure silliness of Zombies mode – which works just fine.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare improves upon Black Ops III in several ways. By speeding up wall-running and slightly upping the pace, everything feels snappier and more responsive. Combat still feels weighty and gunfire has some oomph to it – especially if you have a solid audio setup. The new campaign has some incredibly fun set pieces and tells a compelling enough story to make you want to get from Point A to B. Anyone who was turned off by Black Ops III should give Infinite Warfare a shot – it is far more enjoyable as a whole and shows that Infinity Ward still has a lot left in the tank.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for the PlayStation 4 provided by Activision.