Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare'

by Brian Dumlao on Nov. 30, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will immerse players in a war story that, for the first time in franchise history, extends beyond the reaches of Earth into the vast expanse of our solar system.

Buy Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

When the storyline for the Modern Warfare trilogy wrapped up and the original founders left the studio, Infinity Ward had a rare opportunity to create a new storyline for the franchise. It seemed exciting at the time, but once Call of Duty: Ghosts hit almost every platform imaginable, fans weren't enthralled by the results despite the plethora of content. Infinity Ward is back with a chance to produce another new story for the series in the form of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

Just like the games released in this console generation, Infinite Warfare has three main modes that serve as the pillars of the title. Campaign is the first, and it feels like the developer really tried to give the game an identity separate from the rest of the series. The story is now set far into the future, when space travel and colonization are part of normal life. Though the colonization efforts were initially a success, the colonists broke away from Earth's rule and formed the SDF, a powerful military force of their own. It didn't take long before the SDF attacked civilians and military forces in Geneva. With only half a crew and two ships in active operation, it is up to newly promoted Captain Reyes to stop the SDF from mobilizing and taking control of Earth and its settlements by buying time for the Earth forces to regroup.

PlayStation fans will recognize this tale is similar to the Killzone series, when the Helghast, once settlers themselves, turned against the forces of their former motherland with an advanced army of their own. The difference is that it in Infinite Warfare, the heroes are more likeable than the villains. Though both sides of the conflict have characters to fill specific roles, you'll spend enough time with the heroes to grow attached to them. That includes Ethan, a robot who has more character than most of the people in Call of Duty's franchise history. The story pushes the series' staples of honor, freedom and sacrifice but isn't so heavy-handed that disinterest creeps in.

The gameplay follows the tried-and-true formula of placing you in the shoes of a character who, despite being a commanding officer, goes boots-to-the-ground at every opportunity. The movement system from the last game reappears here, and there are a few areas where you're expected to jump jet, wall-run or slide if you want to get the drop on an enemy.

The real changes come from the different weapons at your disposal. You have a few guns that have dual firing modes, such as a sniper rifle that can become an assault rifle. You also have a wider variety of grenades outside of the normal frag. For example, anti-grav traps enemies in a small field where they helplessly float in the air while the vortex sucks multiple things into a black hole. Then you can hack into nearby enemy robots to take control of them for a short while so they either attack their allies or blow up.

Even though most of your combat time is spent on foot, it doesn't behave like it did in the older titles. Part of this is due to the fluctuating gravity, where some jumps are longer and higher than normal. It can quickly get out of control if you aren't paying attention. Luckily, you have a tether, so you can propel yourself further in space. Interestingly, with gun combat being slow in space, you'll likely rely on your tether to pull in enemies and melee them in grim but satisfying ways.

The standout addition to the Campaign is dogfighting, which occurs more often than you'd think. You will have to manually start up the Raptor jets by warming up the engine, but other than that, it plays like any arcade space or aircraft fighter. Missiles and cannons can deliver more damage to larger craft, but your standard machine gun can work wonders as well. You have boosters to catch up to an enemy, and you have flares to distract enemy missiles coming toward you. The action is fast, and you have enough dogfighting sections that it makes for a good break from the soldier-to-soldier combat.

The Campaign may not be that remarkable, but it comes in at a decent length for single-player experiences of the modern era. The Campaign also flows very well from one spot to another, so while there are loads of transitions, none of them feel abrupt. They are all used as plausible means for getting to one environment to another, so the Campaign feels like a single long day, something the series hasn't really done before.

Zombies are the second pillar of the game, and this is the first time Infinity Ward has tackled a creation from fellow development studio, Treyarch. A once-famous horror movie director has put out a casting call for his comeback film. Four teens arrive at the movie theater, and before they have a chance to process what's happening, the director activates a portal to suck the teens into whatever movie setting he wants. The first film is set in a 1980s amusement park, and the teens adopt the tropes of the era. Armed with the futuristic weapons in the park, their job is to activate the power and machinery before the zombie horde overwhelms them.

Aesthetics are hit-and-miss. For something that so obviously parodies the '80s, it's great to see zombies wearing outrageous garb, like the Thriller jacket and leotards. The same can be said of two of the four characters, namely the jock and valley girl. The nerd's bicycle helmet and fanny pack seem off, while the rapper looks like a good caricature of LL Cool J, right down to the sweatsuit and bucket hat. Meanwhile, you'll hear songs from the likes of Blondie, and David Hasselhoff mans the deejay booth. However, given the placement of the loudspeakers in the park, you won't be able to hear the songs everywhere.

The map is reminiscent of Morg City from Black Ops III but is laid out in a more sensible fashion. Each of the areas you unlock and traverse is quite sizeable, so there aren't many choke points where you can get sandwiched between hordes. A number of areas have lasers to cut down the undead, and there's a shooting gallery ride where you can take a break from hunting zombies. The nature of the game means that you're only going to discover every single area in one shot if you have a skilled team, but that also means it'll take time before you get bored of the single map offering.

The basic tenets remain intact: kill zombies, buy guns to kill zombies more efficiently, and slow down their progress. Beyond that, Infinity Ward has thrown in a number of things that make it feel radically different from previous franchise offerings. Before you enter a match, you can edit your Fate & Fortune card loadout, which gives you loads of temporary buffs once you eliminate enough zombies and survive enough waves. That includes unlimited ammo and one-hit zombie kills. Some of those powers can also pop up randomly on the field. Redemption tickets and tokens can be picked up and redeemed for extra weapons.

The biggest and best addition comes from your demise. Should you fall while others are still in battle, you have the chance to build up soul energy to grant you a comeback to the fray. To build this up, you'll play loads of carnival games and a few retro titles, like Pitfall. It gives the fallen a ton to do, and while it takes time to build up the meter, at least you won't be idling and watching someone else play.

As silly as the mode is, especially with such a radical departure from the established mythos, it remains fun. This is still the closest anyone will get to a Left 4 Dead experience on the PlayStation consoles, and it handles the formula quite well, especially when you mix in the leveling for upgrades and cosmetic items that keeps players hooked on the series. One change that stands out is the ability to take this on solo while still gaining levels as if you were playing with others. Since it still offers up a split-screen experience, one has to wonder why the offline mode exists, when you gain nothing from not connecting.

The game's final pillar — and the most important one to the fan base — is multiplayer. Many critics of the series have said that the multiplayer gameplay never changes, and this year's iteration does its best to strengthen that idea. Lots of the mechanics are taken wholesale from Black Ops III. The idea of rigs and their associated abilities is a replacement for the more fleshed-out characters in Treyarch's game. Considering that all of the rigs have helmets and no faces, it feels even less personable. Movement is largely untouched, as the jump jet, slide, and wall-runs are all here and behaving the same as before. The other tenets of multiplayer, like leveling and unlocking weapons and customization options, remain as prime temptations to keep grinding. From a mechanical standpoint, nothing has changed.

However, there are some changes that make this game feel a little different from prior titles. All of the upgrades and customization options you gained from Zombies is carried over here, and vice versa. The weapon may be unlocked at a different level depending on what you're playing, but at least you won't have to grind away at getting the same upgrades in one mode that you've already acquired in the other. There are now faction quests that give you nice secondary missions in each match. Fulfilling those earn you more customization options and upgrade parts, some of which are exclusive to the faction progression. Win or lose, finishing matches always earns you keys, which can be exchanged for loot crates that get you even more perks and options. Instead of letting duplicate items go to waste, those are now automatically converted to scrap, which is used to get more stuff.

From a gameplay standpoint, the levels strike a balance between feeling exactly the same and feeling fresh. Almost all of the stages are multi-tiered in elevation, but some don't feel like they take advantage of the wall-running and jumping as effectively as they could. Some levels take advantage of the space theme and introduce reduced gravity to the proceedings. The jumping doesn't go to outrageous levels, but it's fun to get some nice elevation without using your jets.

To the average player, it would seem like those changes were made to help make the multiplayer seem more inviting to lapsed players or newcomers. The truth is that the the community has more die-hard players than casual ones now, so unless you're a quick learner, you will get wrecked on your first dozen outings. Matchmaking does a poor job of matching people with similar skill levels, so it will feel deflating to see yourself with a single-digit level while everyone else has either prestiged or is well on their way. Luckily, the game offers up bot play for those who don't want to be humiliated by their fellow humans, but since that comes with no level advancement, those who want to get better stuff will have to bear being at the bottom of the scoreboard for a long while.

The series has always enjoyed a strong overall presentation, and Infinite Warfare is no different. Helped out by the space theme, the environments are much more interesting, and the usual spate of explosions and destruction are punctuated nicely by an abundance of smoke and particle effects. Get close enough to an exploding frag grenade without suffering damage, and you'll get a nice spray of water and dust on your visor. Character designs are still excellent, and the animations are more detailed than before. It runs at a pretty smooth 60fps most of the time, maintaining the tradition seen from Call of Duty 2 onward. Sound design is also excellent, with this being one of the few games to employ the controller's speaker as a means to enhance basic countdown sounds or provide radio chatter while in your Raptor. Music is epic, and the voice work in all three modes is well done.

At the very least, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a much better effort from Infinity Ward when compared to Ghosts. Though the campaign hits all of the familiar beats, it still has a nice flow, and characters are likeable, if predictable. Zombies mode provides so many improvements to the formula that it can't be missed, while the multiplayer mode changes don't make it much different from what we saw a year ago. Despite the understandable fatigue players may feel toward the series by now, Infinite Warfare remains a solid offering in a season with multiple first-person shooter games hitting store shelves at the same time.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
blog comments powered by Disqus