The Call of Duty series has been going as long as I can remember and aims to bring a fast paced first person shooter to the masses along with a playable Campaign mode that drags you into the world of some special ops team. However, what we have seen in the past is sometimes the simple reskinning of what started out as a great series which can sometimes leave you feeling a bit flat and unfulfilled. So with the introduction of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, was it going to be a whole new exciting experience or simply BLOPS or Advanced Warfare in space?
When the above trailer was revealed for the first time it received an outstanding 3.3 million dislikes and that pretty much summed up the community’s feelings and fears, like my own, that we were going to get a rehash of something we had all seen before. So, disc in hand, I loaded it onto my Xbox and held my breath.
The Campaign throws you into the epic story of one Nick Reyes, a pilot in the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA) who is suddenly left in charge when the previous Captain of his ship is killed by the Settlement Defense Front (SDF), a splinter organisation hell bent on destroying the UNSA and taking control. When you first meet Nick Reyes you can’t stop making the comparison to, say, Top Gun, with his chiseled looks and edgy persona plus the fact that he gets to fly around in a Jackal fighter. This isn’t enough to put you off the Campaign, which in my opinion is the better part of the game. The narrative is good and the mixture of ground, zero-G, space station and aerial combat really keeps the game moving in the right direction. Add to this a whole assortment of standard and spacey weapons and gadgets and you will find, even the few that don’t play the Campaign, may be dipping their toe to test the water. Like a hot bath.
Taking you through this story, as you would imagine, is a very strong cast of actors. Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones, leads the SDF and constantly appears on your screen in various popups shouting and screaming how he is going to eradicate you and everyone in his way. Your trusty Staff Sergeant Omar, on the other hand, and mechanical sidekick E3N (Ethan) are played by David Harewood, from Homeland, and Jeffrey Nordling from 24. This is just the start. The acting feels solid and you really do start to understand the character’s backgrounds as you play through the game. Add to this, the excellent one-liners from Ethan and the odd star appearance from people that probably begged to be involved and you have a decent foundation for a Campaign.
Gameplay, I also have to say, is rather good. The combat feels solid and the varied environments and corridors that you have to fight through to reach your objectives can make for an intense firefight covering multiple levels. Another nice touch is the ability to clear rooms by what I ended up calling the Total Recall effect. A simple grenade into a room on a moon base would cause the windows to explode sucking its occupants out before the auto lockdown kicks in and the blast shields reseal it. As you can imagine you have your abundance of weaponry to assist you in your objectives ranging from standard SMG’s to energy weapons (this is a space, futuristic game after all), combat droids and even aerial support from your Jackal flight team, but the things I did like were the Zero G grenades and the Seekers. The AI in the game is smart and aggressive and will try to out maneuver and flank you when it has the chance, making you think about tactics and the constant need to change cover and check your blind spots. On some occasions they can still be drawn in to a kill room, but hey there has to be a flaw in everything, right?
The HUD has been cleaned up as well. This is probably to make it easier for people new to the COD series to play, (hard to imagine I know but there will be some). When you shoot people the HUD and the reticle on the gun you are using will flash according to the damage. White for a hit, yellow for wounded and red for a kill. Now, I know this will probably annoy the veteran players of the game but it will save a lot of time and ammo for new players who stand there emptying clips into people that were already dead or dying.
Before each mission you get to choose your objective which can either be the main story or a side mission involving cutting of resources or stealing technology from the SDF. Each one comes with its own success rating. This made it easier to pick and choose your battles in the game ensuring you won’t get frustrated by constantly going up against an enemy that you just can’t beat.
The game isn’t just about ground fighting and even though we have seen some aerial combat in previous Call of Duty games, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare actually makes it an important feature. Your bird of choice is the Jackal and once you get used to it’s fast handling and aggressive nature, it truly adds another level to the game as you undertake intercept and seek and destroy missions. On completion you can then, like your hand weapons, upgrade your fighter with betters equipment. Completing achievements can even unlock nose art to give it your own unique look and feel.
Now I have to say, that the one thing that tends to annoy me are loading screens, but Infinite Warfare has handled this very well by integrating them into day to day activities. Rather than waiting for a bar to fill up on your screen you will find yourself traveling in a lift from the bridge to the armory to prepare for the mission. This activity takes 15 secs or less but seems to make the game seamless and from the pleasant conversation that passes between characters really adds to the fluidity of the Campaign. This keeps you focused rather than giving you time to nip out and put the kettle on. However, it is true to say that there will be a very small percentage of people that actually sit down and complete or even play the Campaign and this is a real shame as I feel it’s the stronger of the two parts of the game. So that leads me nicely on to the multiplayer, which to be honest had a lot to live up to and just failed to deliver.
The multiplayer part of the Call of Duty series has always been a key aspect to the game and like previous COD games you have the chance to play the Campaign in co-op mode. The real reason people will buy this game is the online aspect. Rather than having Specialist’s like the ones seen in Black Ops 3 we now have RIGS, these are exoskeleton suits that come with various abilities and powerups allowing you to wield weapons that shoot round corners, targeting computers and much more. The guns come in various forms and then can be modded to enhance abilities and include other weapons but at the same time also affect them. This tries to bring a balance to the game, in not making one weapon, a super weapon. In my eyes, it just over complicates things. We have a vendor/weapons merchant that you can buy guns from and the expected online achievement tracking, that you would expect from a Black Ops Game. The maps that come with the game are excellent as always, allowing multiple routes to anywhere, choke and ambush points. The gun modification and RIGS setup just seems to add a level of complexity that isn’t needed.
I have to say the first time I played Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare online I noticed how fast it was compared to Black Ops 3. Before I had even spawned I had been shot dead and limped tragically away from it with 3 kills and about 20 deaths, which instantly seemed to ruin my enjoyment as I didn’t last more than 5 seconds. As I slowly ranked up I started to stand my own ground but this then pointed out that to survive you would have to grind to get the better gear and ranks or just buy it like a lot of players do.
The multiplayer seems to have tried to take the best bits from many existing games, like Titanfall 2 and Battlefield and bolted them on to the existing BLOPS 3 frame, rather than refining and getting the core game right first, which a lot of the other development teams have done. Infinity Ward to me was the company that turned online FPS shooters into something epic and I’m saddened to say I don’t think this multiplayer experience is even close to previous games in the series.
On an exciting note though, we do have a new Zombies experience. Zombies in Spaceland follows the same sort of experience as in previous Call of Duty titles but this time you’re in a theme park where you have to fight off zombies whilst unlocking new areas. If that wasn’t exciting enough, you can also have a go on the rides if you so want to and it all gets wrapped up in a 80’s look and feel. Playing as one of four characters, a school jock, rapper, nerd or cheerleader, the game flashes me back to several 80’s B Movies where the four kids get attacked in a spooky fairground by the undead, not to mention exploding clowns, whilst being tormented by a failed movie actor Willard Wyler, voiced by Paul Reubens. However, no 80’s experience would be complete without the Hoff, and by luck he just happens to be the guy guiding you to safety. There is also a nice little feature when you die, being transported to a lobby where there are some fairground games you can play including a retro arcade, something you all must check out if you are a big fan of some of the old Activision titles. Zombies in Spaceland isn’t bringing anything new to the game but sticks to the recipe, if it works don’t break it. However it’s a very enjoyable game to play with your friends if you fancy smashing some Zombies whilst running around like Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang in a spooky abandoned Theme Park and listening to some awesome 80’s tunes.
Overall, I think Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has some good bits but also some bad. The Campaign; I really enjoyed and is probably the best part of the game. The multiplayer is something that I might visit from time to time but not to the extent that I played Black Ops 3. Zombies in Spaceland is definitely a must-play with friends. My personal opinion is that if you have picked up the Legacy Edition that contains Modern Warfare remastered then that game has a more solid online multiplayer experience. It’s simple yet elegant. If, though, you are looking for an awesome Campaign or zombies experience then this is definitely a game to consider.