The Call of Duty franchise has been known in past years for its Michael Bay-esque single-player campaigns focusing on big explosions with little substance, as well as a robust multiplayer experience that has shaped the FPS online world. With Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare the franchise can now boast a stellar, diverse, and interesting campaign that matches its rich and varied multiplayer options. It was a pleasant experience to be surprised by the campaign and as a result become more invested in the multiplayer experience because of my admiration of the systems established in the campaign.
COD: Infinite Warfare is a far-future take on the franchise where humanity has explored and settled other planets. The game’s campaign is centered on a battle for the Solar System, which the Settlement Defense Front (SDF) is attempting to take over. I was controlling Nick Reyes (voiced by Brian Bloom) who is part of the Special Combat Air Recon (SCAR) group and becomes the commander of one of two remaining United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA) warships.
Call of Duty often borrows a lot of elements from other fiction, and I found myself noticing that this game had a lot of elements from Battlestar Gallactica – two remaining warships, UNSA fighting hostile forces that have superior resources and firepower. They even had sleeper agents in the UNSA who sabotaged the Earth’s defenses in advance of the invasion.
There is also a little bit of Wing Commander in here, with Reyes not only commanding the Retribution but also heading out on missions due to their limited resources in the field. To top it off there are enemy Ace Fighter pilots who are flagged as you play through the missions.
The nice thing is that Infinite Warfare blends all of these elements into a convincing universe that features interesting characters (a first in a long time for COD) who actually have complex stories and interactions. On the ground missions there are also undeniable similarities to Titanfall, with a mech companion, wall running, and hordes of mechanized soldiers to mow down.
While the story is vastly improved from previous entries it is still no Interstellar or Gravity. It centers on the traditional tropes of a big bad fighting for what he believes is right and the good guys who must stop him. The main protagonist is Rear Admiral Salen Kotch, played by Game of Thrones‘s Kit Harrington, and I have to say I really enjoyed his screen-chewing performance. It was interesting seeing the actor who portrays Jon Snow playing a bad guy, and I took a morbid fascination watching him be the big bad.
The rest of the cast are all excellent. Lt. Nora Slater or Salt, your wingman (Jamie Gray Hyder), is interesting and complex. The rest of the ship’s crew is a diverse mix, and from Chief Engineer Audrey MaCallum to Navigator Diallo they are all excellently voiced and portrayed on screen. The casting and representation of the characters further pushes this entry in the COD franchise to higher levels as I actually cared about my crew and teammates and that is a rare thing for me.
Gameplay-wise, Infinite Warfare is as tight and polished as you could expect from the series. There are two types of action in this title. The first and most common is ground combat, where you equip the ever-evolving loadouts you have access to and take on enemy forces, ships, and mechs. The other type is space combat, which is a very arcade-like take on the wing commander formula, where you customize your ship, head out to engagements, and take out fighters and capital ships. Both are incredibly satisfying but as expected the tactics are much deeper in the ground combat portions of the game. As the Space Combat was something really interesting to me I did a short Let’s play on that mode and if you check it out you will see it looks spectacular.
When boots are on the ground you have access to a number of tools, grenades, and tactical weapons as well as two guns which can be customized with up to three attachments. Over the course of the game you get access to a number of cool features such as thermal sights, emp and anti-grav grenades, and mech hacking. There are a lot of options but the bloated Exo-Suit powers from games like Advanced Warfare are gone and the game is better for it. I have to say I found the combat very enjoyable and was pleasantly surprised that I felt truly in control as I played; in previous COD games I always felt like I was told to go everywhere and made to shoot in certain ways, while in this title I felt like I had agency over my actions and it made the experience much more enjoyable.
On the multiplayer front there are two main sections: Zombies (of course), and the stock multiplayer experience we are so familiar with. The Zombies mode is a hoot. This time you are actors brought in by a director channeling both Vincent Price and John Waters as he throws you into a real-world zombie apocalypse just to get a great movie filmed. The premise is all based on ’80s sensibilities and even features classic ’80s pop tunes. The action is typical for the series in that there are waves of enemies, but the developer added so many fun touches, like sunglasses you can wear at night, a robot you assemble and use to pause challenges, and weird weapons that channel ’80s action flicks. All in all the Zombies mode is pure magic and I had a blast.
The stock multiplayer mode is plenty of fun as well. As in Black Ops III you get to choose a combat rig to suit your play-style, each with payloads and traits that you use as you progress in the matches. There are typical match assortments such as free-for-all and team deathmatch as well as modes that focus on holding points or destroying targets. It is no surprise that the matchmaking is top-notch, gameplay is fast and lag-free, and the community is huge. It is also no surprise that the people online can be quite toxic, which makes me more thankful than ever for mute buttons. Despite some noise and immaturity, the multiplayer is as good as ever and keeps me coming back even after finishing the campaign.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is from developer Infinite Ward and is the first COD title they have released on the new three-year development cycle Activision has enabled by having three main developers. The extra time really shows in the thoughtful and diverse campaign and outrageously fun Zombies multiplayer mode. Being a huge fan of science fiction I really enjoyed everything the single-player campaign had to offer and because I really got into the game it made me itch to play more and really dive into the satisfying multiplayer experience as well. Infinite Warfare is the best Call of Duty experience in many years and a return to form for the series.