Activision’s new release builds on the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise’s legacy of excellent single-player gameplay, though there are a few chinks in the annual release schedule armor.
Developer: Infinity Ward/Raven Software (respectively)
Release Date: November 4th, 2016
NOTE: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare - Legacy Edition was played on a PlayStation 4 console.
It’s an understatement to say there has been a good chunk of shooters released this year, with Battlefield, DOOM, Destiny: Rise of Iron, to name a few. But their release pales in comparison to Call of Duty’s consistent release schedule. Without fail since 2007, Activision has released a Call of Duty game every year between three different developers. They’ve ranged from World War II, Modern Warfare and near future warfare but have rarely strayed away from the core gameplay that Infinity Ward laid the ground work for.
In 2016, vitriol surrounding Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has been intense. The game community made it the most disliked trailer on YouTube with 3.3 million dislikes – surpassing the Ghostbusters 2016 trailer by a substantial margin. But the public’s perception is unwarranted. The hatred is too thick and palpable. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare continues the franchise’s legacy of excellent gameplay and single-player, although there are a few chinks in the armor with the annual releases. The repetition is starting to wear the series down.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s single-player is straight out of a Hollywood summer blockbuster in that it never goes deeper than the surface with its characters or themes. From the get-go, we are told to hate the Settlement Defense Front (SDF), a group of well-funded rebels/terrorists, who kill a special operative strike team from Earth’s UNSA on the Jupiter moon, Europa. Led by Admiral Koch, played by Kit Harrington, the SDF strikes back at Earth when the player takes control of Nick Reyes – an apple pie eating, Abercrombie & Fitch wearing American – and thus begins a journey in our local solar system to strike back against the SDF. Along the way, you will tag along with your right-hand gal, Lieutenant Salter and E3N “Ethan.”
Ethan is the only noticeable standout as he will often crack jokes and banter with the other members of your unit. We see his character arc – at first he’s distrusted but inevitably becomes one of the team. In recognizing an interesting dynamic I’m sure will present itself in our own military one day, I’m becoming concerned at my level of attachment to robots found in Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 (this will not be the last time I compare the two). It’s easy to warm up to the cold machines when the humans deliver their lines with such boredom. There was never a moment when I believed the actors behind the human characters weren’t reading from a script in a booth.
You eventually attain the rank of Commander and can choose your missions at will. The standard corridor shooting is retained in its entirety in Infinite Warfare but space combat is the game’s major misstep.
Every year, Call of Duty adds a new gameplay element to the single-player to entice new and old customers into a purchase. In 2013, Ghosts added a dog. In 2014, Advanced Warfare added combat suits. But 2016’s space combat is so unbelievably boring that you’d mistake it for a tick on the back of the box rather than a worthwhile gameplay inclusion. It never does anything interesting with the constant sequences where you engage in boring dogfights in space. Often, larger ships will appear which you’ll need more rockets and ammunition to destroy -- these are the Ambien to Infinite Warfare’s space combat. The game even goes so far as to completely remove player control and treats you to a first-person cutscene, effectively giving up on any sense of player immersion.
Infinite Warfare occupies a holding pattern for this year’s iteration in the multiplayer suite. The standard level progression is here as well as the “Pick 10” system that allows you to choose attachments, perks and weapons if there are only ten of them. The class system returns from Black Ops 3 but with more customization on abilities -- the level of customization of your soldier, abilities, perks, gun skins, armor, and gestures borders on the ludicrous. Few games offer as many customization options as Infinite Warfare and it guarantees that no two soldiers look alike. One of my talking points from Black Ops 3 last year was that the movement system – ripped straight out of Titanfall – has no business being in a game where the maps are not designed to support that level of movement. Where Titanfall offers a level of fluidity to its wall-running and sliding, which by comparison will feel static and rigid in Call of Duty until the developers figure out how to adapt their map design.
Microtransactions rear their ugly head from Black Ops 3’s controversial Supply Drops but there is a new system in place where players can scrap repeat items they get and put them towards a gun they actually want. To a degree, it fixes some problems.
Surprisingly, zombies make a return in an Infinity Ward-developed Call of Duty when the mode is usually reserved for Treyarch games. Zombies in Spaceland is the first zombie map where four players (online or local) can team up together to fight the continuing waves of the zombie hoard. It’s as enjoyable as it was in the previous iterations of the franchise and continues the tradition of bringing in celebrity voice over talent such as Seth Green, David Hasselhoff and SNL star Sasheer Zamata. This time around, you can pick cards that act as the “supers” in multiplayer with a subtler effect. Lighting zombies on fire if they hit you and faster health regeneration are only some of the abilities that will make your fight with the undead that much more continuous. It’s nothing to write home about for the casual player who may play it a handful of times, but for dedicated fans of the mode since 2008, it’s a real treat.
At the risk of sounding like an infomercial…that’s not all. This edition of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare comes with a Call of Duty 4 remaster of the 2007 classic. This has been one of the main pieces of contention with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare because gamers felt that there was no need to pay $79.99 USD for a game they wanted bundled with one they didn’t – the package should have been sold for a lower price. And for the additional $19.99, you’re getting a game that certainly has not aged well in the multiplayer space.
Compared to shooters today, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare feels sluggish. The maps included don’t measure up to their 2016 contemporaries. The guns are just as responsive as they were but there are severe balancing issues. It’s a more “boots on the ground” approach to Call of Duty without all the bells and whistles from their previous games but Call of Duty 4 multiplayer serves as a harsh reminder that shooters have evolved well past the point of no return. The Call of Duty 4 single-player doesn’t suffer nearly as much as the multiplayer does as it is paced so well and the gameplay so engrossing. I only hope that this doesn’t become a trend, where each new iteration of Call of Duty is forced to include a remastered version of an even older game. Given the state of the sales of Infinite Warfare, I doubt that’s going to be an issue.
On the back of the retail box, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare - Legacy Edition brags about all the content you’re getting for $79.99 USD, and it is impressive in a day and age when some games ship with a multiplayer-only. There’s a lot here for the most diehard Call of Duty fan to enjoy but perhaps Activision may have bit off more than they could chew this time around. I hope the sales numbers are a wakeup call to the franchise’s current state if Activision expects to keep this franchise competitive with other stellar first-person shooters in the foreseeable future.