Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare represents the first step of recovery for the beleaguered Infinity Ward, who recently hit rock bottom with their last entry into the long running franchise: Call of Duty: Ghosts, a game that’s basically the metaphorical equivalent of jacking off a guy in an alley for a sandwich. The general gaming public just wasn’t ready for Ghosts’ canine-infused gameplay and wisely Infinity Ward has traveled clear out to the reaches of outer space in order to forge a new path for themselves and the franchise they (sorta) started.
Infinite Warfare tells the story a splinter group of humanity known as the Settlement Defense Front (or SDF) who have colonized Mars and turned hostile towards their former home planet. You play as Nick Reyes, a remarkably talented man who after surviving a failed SDF attack on Earth quickly finds himself going from regular old fighter pilot to full on commander of the Retribution, an enormous carrier class battleship. Of course Reyes is a soldier first and a Commander second, resulting in you picking your missions and leading them despite the protests of your crew. Your goal? Push the SDF back and ensure the security of Earth.
Antagonizing you as you traipse about space is Game of Throne’s Kit Harrington who does a passable (although largely underutilized) job as the series’ latest celebrity stunt villain. Space Jon Snow appears periodically almost always via pre-recorded video to let you know how bad Mars is gonna beat up the poor Earth. Say what you will about Kevin Spacey’s appearance in the series, he was a much more compelling and interesting villain than Harrington, who I would estimate probably has less than twenty minutes of screen time.
The campaign makes good use of its space setting, with plenty of combat taking place in zero gravity. But perhaps the largest and most welcome addition to the series is the ship to ship combat. These segments control in a fashion similar to the chopper missions from previous games, only this time you’re on a completely free axis. These missions are simple, there’s not much to do between switching weapons and launching flares whenever missiles lock onto you, but even so these segments are light and fun, reminiscent of an extremely stripped down Wing Commander. Originally I assumed the combat would just be used for a one off moment and then forgotten about but it actually makes several appearances throughout the campaign, both in the main story missions and in a collection of side missions available to you.
Infinite Warfare continues Call of Duty’s new impetus to lift movement mechanics from Titanfall, featuring boosted jumps and wall running similar to what we saw in Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3. Unfortunately the way the game plays it really doesn’t feel like those movement mechanics should have been copied to begin with. You take damage so quickly and recover so slowly that it’s pretty much never advisable to take a run and gun approach in combat. This was a big shift for me coming off of Titanfall 2 which pretty much has you moving at all times.
Visually the game looks great but I did encounter a fair bit of frame stutter on the Xbox One version of the game, which is a shame as Call of Duty is almost always the series that I can count on to keep that 60 FPS running strong.
The campaign is imperfect, but objectively more solid than either of Infinity Ward’s last two outings. I wouldn’t say that it’s strong enough to stand on its own, and unfortunately Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer component leaves a lot to be desired. I’m having a very hard time grasping what Infinite Warfare offers that you didn’t already get with Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3. There are new guns, several of which are locked behind nasty microtransactions, and some new maps, but that’s pretty much it. I would have liked to see the game make better use of its space setting. The dog fights are fun, figure out how to get that into multiplayer. Or maybe have a map that takes place in zero gravity. Why does the Call of Duty that pushes the genre further into sci-fi than ever have multiplayer that feels so damn generic?
Funny enough, while I found that my time spent in Titanfall hurt my experience in the campaign, I would actually suggest it improved my performance in the multiplayer. It was a little refreshing to go back to a straight forward multiplayer shooter where everyone is pretty much tied to the ground and running through nice narrow hallways where you’re less likely to be flanked. I don’t know if I had more fun than I did in Titanfall, but I absolutely 100% got more kills.
The popular Zombies mode makes an appearance, a first for a non-Treyarch title. It’s servicable, and like Black Ops 3 features its own insular story (this time told through an 80s style cartoon), but like the multiplayer I don’t really see enough forward momentum to enthusiastically suggest you drop sixty dollars on it.
2016 has been a big year for the first person shooter, with Titanfall 2 and Doom introducing new (or revitalizing old) ways to play, Call of Duty’s lack of progress sticks out now more than ever before. The campaign is good, maybe even the best Call of Duty has turned out in awhile, and I feel like it will be worth investigating should the game ever go on a significant sale but the rest of the package is lackluster at best. If you’re a long running fan of the series you almost certainly didn’t wait for this review to pick it up. If you’ve been on the fence about it I’d suggest a wait and see approach before you go jettisoning yourself out into space.