November 4, 2016.
Infinite Ward started this whole annual Call of Duty blockbuster style single player campaign stuff. They are the original Kings of AAA video games, or at least they were, until the studio shake-up that we won’t go into. In fact the only games able to outsell Call of Duty are Rockstar’s GTA titles, and they’re few and far between in comparison. The question, however, is can Infinity Ward live up to the high expectations set by their former selves, following a lacklustre reception to Ghosts and Advanced Warfare, after the departure of the majority of the studio, including its founders? That is that multi-billion dollar question…
With a line-up including Claudia Black, David Harewood, and of course, Kit Harrington, it goes without saying that the cast is fantastic. The acting throughout reflects that, with a stellar yet chilling performance from Jon Snow in Space.
A great cast and brilliant acting is no good without a solid plot though, and it’s easy to be cynical when you think of Infinite Warfare as COD IN SPACE, but Infinity Ward have pulled out all the stops with the storyline this year. If you preferred the Hollywood-esque storylines of Ghosts and Advanced Warfare to the bat-shit crazy what-drugs-are-they-on plots of Black Ops, you’re probably going to enjoy Infinite Warfare. There are no flashback to WWI, no yelling about arbitrary numbers (did we ever find out what those numbers meant?!) and you’ll not see a single zombie in the campaign of IW. What you will experience is an emotional tale set in a futuristic sci-fi environment, not dissimilar to Babylon 5 or Star Trek, where the Earth is in peril from the attempts of colonisation by a dictatorial, narcissistic psychopath. Not so different from modern American politics, then.
Early in the game you’re introduced to your robot companion, Ethan – or Robot Riley, if you will. Ethan will soon become a fan-favourite, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. His witty commentary and charming artificial yet almost-lifelike personality give him a level of depth not possible with our canine companion of yore. Ethan is cheeky yet reliable, and you’ll go through an emotional journey with him. Pretty much exactly half-way through the game, something will happen that strengthens your bond forever. No spoilers here, but it’s safe to say there are no cheap plot-twists in Infinite Warfare. There’s no sly “Oh he’s/she’s secretly been working for the enemy faction all along!” cliché, which would’ve been so easy to slip in. Infinity Ward really tries hard to give a full and deep story, and that really pays off.
Side missions are a new introduction to Call of Duty. Giving players the ability to select missions they’d like to take their crew on, around the solar system, both in space and on-planet adds a refreshing change of pace to the campaign. What’s more, these are completely optional, meaning you can mainline the game in 5 hours, or get another hour or two’s worth of content by completing all the side missions. Nice touch, Infinity Ward.
Side-missions notwithstanding, Infinite Warfare’s campaign is still a very linear experience. There are definitely times you’ll be thinking more along the lines of “How do they want me to solve this?” than “How crafty can I be in this situation?”. There’s little room for player creativity, when it comes to traversing levels or solving combat scenarios. That may be a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. It does mean that Call of Duty is still an incredibly tightly scripted experience. That is something we’ve come to expect, but is it still acceptable in a time when many other games are offering different paths based on player decisions?
If you’re a fan of story and the kind of player who often chases down dictaphones and tape recordings for that extra nugget of information, then make sure you stick around for the end credits. There’s a nice extra feature there that adds more to the story.
Graphically, this game is on point, of course. We wouldn’t expect any less from an Infinity Ward title. Those CGI cut-scenes are absolutely amazing. What’s more impressive though, is not how immersive they are, but how flawlessly they transition into gameplay and back out again. It’s not in the slightest bit choppy. The Soundtrack is brilliant, too. For some reason, the dramatic music throughout felt like a finale, like we’re about to witness the end of something great.
Having a 5-7 hour single player campaign makes a lot of sense. It felt like the perfect length of time, it wasn’t stretched or padded out, and it certainly wasn’t cut short. Let’s be honest, most COD players usually don’t even complete the campaign, so it makes better sense to keep it short and sweet, and focus more time and effort on the all-important multiplayer.
Zombies, once the emo step-child of the Call of Duty family, has matured and formed its own niche. It’s such an integral part to the Call of Duty package now, that it has become an expectation that every COD studio develops a Zombies mode for their title. This year’s iteration contains all the usual elements, from Easter Eggs to weapon upgrades and window barriers, but Zombies is still definitely a complicated beast. Infinity Ward have attempted to address the accessibility-issue, in their first version of Zombies, with an addition of information/tutorial popups throughout, but it’s still not the most accessible mode in the game. Unless you have a good team who know what they’re doing, you’re not going to get very far at all. In fact, just breaking into the double-digit levels is going to be a challenge for most people.
There is of course an entire sub-culture of Zombies community members, including some really talented YouTubers and Streamers, who are more than happy to talk you through the story and how to progress in Zombies mode, so we recommend doing a bit of research before you jump in. If that puts you off, maybe it’s best leaving Zombies mode until last.
Zombies in Spaceland does have a cool vibe to it, with the ‘funky’ 70s/80s style, florescent colouring, complete with David Hasselhoff cameo. The player characters are a little over-stereotyped, though. It does the job that needs to be done, and Zombies fans from Black Ops will be satisfied, no doubt.
Multiplayer is where COD gets its longevity. It is the meat and veg of the package. The problem is, post-Modern Warfare 2/Infinity Ward drama, no other studio’s Call of Duty title has managed to gain as much popularity in the Multiplayer mode as the Black Ops titles do. Treyarch stepped up in IW’s stead and have had that area on lock-down ever since. Interestingly, there are influences from Black Ops all the way through IW’s multiplayer, which hardcore fans will most likely see as a good thing. Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer plays a little like the lovechild of Black Ops III and Advanced Warfare.
Taking cues from BLOPS3’s ‘Specialists’ loadouts, IW introduces 6 different ‘Rigs’, essentially exoskeletons providing different perks and special weapons that unlock faster during the round, the more kills or objectives you get.
Sliding, wall-running and boost-jumping all also return in this title, making the combat as fast-paced as ever. Problem is, the Time-To-Kill (TTK) is still incredibly low. Unless you spot an enemy player first, or you’re extremely good at the game, you’re pretty much guaranteed to die, with no time to retaliate. Assault Rifles are rendered practically unusable in this game; due to the close-quarters of the maps and the high fire rate of SMGs, you’re going to need an SMG to stand a chance. It’s a bloody difficult multiplayer game to play, unless you have the skill or time to invest in getting better. It’s certainly no pick-up-and-gun.
Infinite Warfare multiplayer has a new currency, in Salvage. Earned through playing matches, Salvage can be used to unlock weapon variants. Each weapon having a number of interesting perks attached to variants available, keeps things interesting. Weapon skins are back too, unlockable through challenges.
Supply Drops, Scorestreaks, and Perks are all back, making multiplayer feel like the comfy, familiar blanket. The futuristic new weapons are quite something – we reckon the Erad SMG will quickly become a fan-favourite, with its high fire rate, damage and accuracy, and the fact that it’s a default unlock. The Volk assault rifle feels a little like a futuristic AK-47. There are a range of new Scorestreaks, too, with Warden / Thor delivering missile payloads, a Scarab replacing the usual Remote Control with a drone and Scorchers looking similar to what you’d expect from an Air Strike. All very fun to achieve.
We’ve already reviewed Modern Warfare Remastered’s campaign, so don’t need to talk about how gorgeous it looks in full HD glory. But we do need to talk about how fun the multiplayer is… because MWR is just so much more fun than the multiplayer in Infinite Warfare! The TTK is more reasonable. It’s boots-on-the-ground combat, without all the fast paced wall-running, boost jumping and whatnot. The level design is quite retro compared to modern CODs, but it still works. The guns are obviously a lot more realistic. For those looking for some modern warfare, as opposed to science-fiction, MWR is going to be their game this year.
Battlefield’s taking it way back to WWI, Titanfall 2 and Infinite Warfare are warping to the future, Modern Warfare Remastered is perfectly placed to bridge that gap. And bridge it well, it does. It’s still a difficult game, and you’ve got to have your guts about you, but the stripped-down back-to-basics realistic shooter has a certain appeal to it. The first true Multiplayer Online Call of Duty shows why the franchise became so successful, and all CODs that followed owe a debt to MW and the original Infinity Ward team.
One way or another, though, Infinite Warfare provides a huge package with a lot of fun gameplay throughout. There’s something here for everyone, and enough to keep us all playing for another year. Where CoD goes next, though, is anyone’s guess.
Excellent single player
Amazing visuals and soundtrack
Time to kill on Multi is a worry
Zombies is still Zombies
Infinite Warfare provides a huge package with a lot of fun gameplay throughout. There's something here for everyone, and enough to keep us all playing for another year.