Every year brings with it another Call of Duty game. But 2016, in particular, was pretty tough for the long-running franchise after Activision revealed that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare would be yet another futuristic game. Many fans weren’t pleased when the first trailers started popping up, and some of them still aren’t. But is Infinite Warfare really such a bad game? As it happens, Infinite Warfare actually turned out to be a pretty decent title all things considered. It’s certainly not groundbreaking, mind you, but I do feel like people jumped on the hate train a little too soon on this one.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty it’s worth mentioning that I am by no means a long-time CoD player. I’ll mostly be looking at this as a standalone product and not will not be talking too much about the series as a whole. Also, this review is entirely about the PC version of the game, so expect a few opinions related to the general performance. With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, shall we?
The game takes players further into the future than ever before. There’s a good amount of variety throughout the campaign when it comes to weapons and gadgets and, for the most part, the futuristic technology seems pretty plausible given the current trends. The story itself, however, is a bit of a hard sell for me. Infinite Warfare’s premise revolves around the idea that humanity will deplete Earth’s natural resources in the future. Meanwhile, all the most powerful nations will eventually band together in order to colonize other planets and moons throughout the Solar System in an attempt to deal with the crisis. Naturally, the peace doesn’t last for long and soon enough the humans of Earth are attacked by rebel colonists coming from Mars because of….reasons.
The main problem with the storyline is its over-the-top generic enemies who are given very little backstory and are just as believable as scientists with German accents in a Hollywood action movie. In fact, the entire single-player campaign plays out just like a popcorn flick, starring liberty-loving American soldiers lead by a charismatic war veteran and a liberty-hating terrorist organization lead by a comic book villain played by Jon Snow (Kit Harington) himself, complete with British accent and giant facial scar.
True, the whole Call of Duty series is essentially based on wartime cliches, however, that trend seems even more noticeable in Infinite Warfare given the futuristic setting and the fact that the villains were not based on real-world bad guys. Rather, they were specifically designed to be as generic as possible. Having said all that, the campaign is actually pretty enjoyable if you don’t focus too much on the story and try to see it for what it is.
Pew Pew in Space
Gameplay-wise, there’s a lot to enjoy here, as Infinite Warfare goes all out with the whole space opera idea and incorporates a lot of different elements in the process. In addition to the action-packed boots on the ground missions Call of Duty fans have come to expect, Infinite Warfare also includes a good amount of space combat. Seemingly inspired by old-school space sims like Wing Commander and Freelancer, this particular component feels surprisingly good, if a bit simplistic, and is a great addition to the overall experience.
In fact, I found myself enjoying the space battles more than I enjoyed the regular missions, which provide very little in terms of innovation. That’s not to say that the core gameplay is completely identical to previous titles, though, because there are a couple of noteworthy additions here and there.
Infinite Warfare’s campaign focuses a lot on verticality and incorporates a number of tools that allow players to quickly traverse various environments. Including wall-running, a grappling hook, and a short-range jetpack. All these elements are very much reminiscent of Titanfall and they work really well in the context of Infinite Warfare’s futuristic setting.
Unfortunately, the campaign isn’t as fast-paced as one might expect due to the high number of armored enemies that can soak up a lot of bullets. Consequently, firefights tend to drag out a bit, which happens to be a pretty counterintuitive design choice in a game that does its best to instill a sense of urgency into the player’s mind.
This is a recurring theme all throughout the campaign, as you are constantly being told that Earth itself is at stake and that time is of the essence. And yet, there are only a handful of timed instances where you actually need to hurry up to complete certain objectives. To be fair, a lot of games do this, particularly RPGs. But it tends to stand out more in an action FPS like Infinite Warfare where the single-player campaign clocks in at only 6-8 hours for most people.
A Solid Campaign, All Things Considered
Despite all its flaws and inconsistencies, however, this may very well be one of the best Call of Duty campaigns to date and certainly the most visually impressive. It’s pretty obvious that Infinity Ward put a lot of effort into making players care about the main characters and the world they inhabit. Sure, the writing can be a bit cheesy at times but at the end of the day, this is a Call of Duty game so we all knew what we were signing up for. It’s clear that the developers invested a lot of time and resources into making the Infinite Warfare campaign into an epic action-packed experience and while it does have its weaknesses, it also has some pretty amazing moments and some equally cool weapons to play with.
As for the new-ish loadout system, I found it to be well put together and interesting to play with once I gained access to more upgrades for various weapons and gadgets. It’s not the best thing in the game but it does add a bit of extra immersion and a layer of tactical thinking as certain load outs are clearly better than others depending on the mission.
Speaking of, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the developers borrowed some ideas from Mass Effect when designing the mission selection screen, which interestingly enough, comes off as a very nice tribute to Bioware’s series. Unfortunately, the game also borrows some less flattering aspects like elevator rides and downtime between missions caused by running around the ship aimlessly.
Unlike Mass Effect, however, Infinite Warfare does a pretty poor job at making you feel like a badass commander in charge of an advanced spaceship. At first glance, the game does feature everything needed in order to bring that fantasy to life. But it ultimately fails at making anything feel meaningful as there’s really not much to do aboard the UNSA Retribution.
All in all, the single-player campaign of Infinite Warfare is a pretty decent offering if you’re a fan of sci-fi first-person shooters and don’t mind all the classic video game tropes. Unsurprisingly, the same also goes for the multiplayer and then some.
Multiplayer Lacks Innovation
While I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily terrible, the multiplayer makes very little effort to bring something new to the table and falls short of its true potential while trying to play it safe by offering familiar gameplay. Problem is, the combat doesn’t feel nearly as futuristic as the Infinite Warfare label might suggest and is, in fact, just a slightly rehashed version of the multiplayer found in the last game. That can be either a good or a bad thing depending on whether or not you liked Black Ops 3.
But I feel like it would have been a great idea to just go all out with this one since it was clear from the beginning that gamers were going to judge it harshly anyway based on its setting alone. Why not focus more on mobility, plasma weapons, robots, and crazy gadgets if you’re placing the game in the distant future?
As it stands, it just feels like more of the same but with a shinier coat of paint on. That wouldn’t necessarily be a huge problem under normal circumstances because most Call of Duty players already know the drill by now. In the case of Infinite Warfare, however, the lack of innovation in regards to the multiplayer sticks out like a sore thumb as 2016 saw the release of several other major FPS games that tried to do things a bit differently and succeeded to a certain extent. It also doesn’t help that Infinite Warfare was launched so close to two other first-person shooters in the form of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, both of which pack very solid multiplayer components.
In stark contrast to the multiplayer, Infinite Warfare’s new zombie mode is a breath of fresh air for fans of the franchise who were longing for something new and interesting. The Zombies in Spaceland mode features some very original visuals and art design inspired by 1980s horror films and pop culture. Quite honestly, this may very well be the best part of the whole Infinite Warfare package and not only because the retro visuals look awesome but also because the gameplay is very solid and consistent all the way through.
This time around, the action takes place in an abandoned theme park inhabited by some very quirky undead dressed in colorful outfits. Not to be outdone, the playable characters are also very representative of the time, each of them depicting tried and true archetypes like the nerd or the jock.
What makes Zombies in Spaceland so great is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and simply tries to provide a good old-fashioned fun experience. And it totally works. Not only that but the zombie mode is actually way more enjoyable than the regular multiplayer when you’re playing with friends and makes for a perfect team-building exercise as it requires a great deal of communication and cooperation from everyone involved.
Sure, you can run around and be Rambo for a while but you’ll eventually need your teammates (and they’ll need you) if you want to get anywhere in this mode. It’s actually a bit unfortunate that the zombie mode is becoming the most popular part of Call of Duty because it’s clear that the developers have some very good ideas. Many of which should have definitely been implemented in the campaign and multiplayer.
As for the PC version, in particular, there are certainly a few things that could use some improvement. However, the game runs fine overall on a decent rig. While there were indeed a number of technical issues at launch, subsequent patches combined with new driver updates took care of most of the problems. Having said that, the port continues to be capped at 60 FPS in single-player and 91 FPS in multiplayer, which is a bit of a bummer for hardcore PC gamers. The frame rate is by no means terrible, however, the PC community happens to be very picky when it comes to things like this, so it’s unsurprising that many of the complaints directed at Infinite Warfare as a whole are, in fact, actually directed at the capped frame rate.
On the bright side, the PC version of Infinite Warfare does offer a decent amount of options for those who enjoy fiddling with the game settings, including the highly demanded FOV slider. Also, unlike certain other recently released games which will not be mentioned (cough Dishonored 2), running a bunch of background applications or repeatedly alt-tabbing doesn’t seem to slow things down one bit.
The real problem with the PC version, however, is that nobody is playing the multiplayer. Not sure if it’s the controversial supply drop boxes, the lack of additional features or the constant neglect showed by most of the industry towards PC gaming in recent years, but it looks the master race is finding it pretty difficult to continue paying full price for titles with lackluster multiplayer. No surprise there since there are plenty of good PC exclusive multiplayer games. But I’m afraid Activision will take this the wrong way and see this lack of interest as one more reason to focus even more on the console versions in the future.
Needless to say, this is a very unfortunate situation as Call of Duty started on PC and now very few people continue to play it on this platform. Unsurprisingly, Modern Warfare Remastered is doing a bit better when it comes to active players, though it’s clear that many more people would have supported the game if it was being sold separately. I’m just saying.
Wrapping Things Up
The bottom line is that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare isn’t the train wreck a lot of people expected it to be. It’s certainly not Game of the Year material but it’s honestly not that bad all things considered. The game’s main advantage is that it offers three separate components so there’s a little something for everybody here. Don’t like the multiplayer? Check out the campaign. Don’t like that either? Maybe try Zombies in Spaceland.
In other words, the full Infinite Warfare package is better than the sum of its parts and definitely worth looking into at some point. Understandably, it’s hard to justify a purchase for the PC right now given the competition, especially if you’re not a fan of the franchise.
This review was originally published on geeksnack.com on November 22nd, 2016 before the site was taken down the following year. The piece was edited and updated to reflect certain events that have occurred in the meantime.
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If you’re a veteran CoD player you probably won’t be too disappointed by what Infinite Warfare has to offer in terms of single-player content, zombie mode, and maybe even the multiplayer after a few more patches and DLC.