Reviews// Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Posted 6 Dec 2016 12:13 by
With 14 'main line' Call of Duty games since 2003, franchise fatigue is a real concern. Activision has, to a certain degree, become a prisoner of its own success. New games in the series need to offer something new, but also avoid changing too much lest they upset their extremely loyal fan base.

The solution to this problem has been the sharing of development duties among several studios, with each providing a subtly different take on the Call of Duty universe. Last year's release, Black Ops 3, developed by Treyarch, was largely excellent. The multiplayer in particular proved to be very popular. This year it is Infinity Ward's turn and it's taking Call of Duty to the final frontier, space.

Shifting combat to locations in space provides Infinite Warfare with the opportunity to really change up the successful, although slightly stale Call of Duty formula. However, the impact of the change in location is lessened somewhat by the game's similarity, particularly in terms of weapons and abilities compared with last year's Black Ops 3.

Remote controlling enemy combatants felt new and exciting last year, this year not so much. The game's similarity to last year's release, in terms of weapons and abilities, rather limits its potential as a new franchise in the Call of Duty universe.

However, the new environments available because of moving the game into space do provide some great opportunities to experience something new. The game takes place largely on the space ship 'Retribution.' This ship serves as a central hub from which the player is able to launch missions. Unlike previous entries in the series, as well as the main campaign missions, Infinite Warfare provides the player with shorter encounters based either on ship to ship combat or 'ship assaults.' Succeeding in these side missions provides the player with more gear to customise his/her loadout, thus enhancing chances of success in the main campaign.

Infinite Warfare's campaign pits the player as a member of Earth's Special Combat Air Recon (SCAR), against the hostile Settlement Defence Front (SDF). The battle takes place entirely in Earth's solar system and begins rather poorly. Story in Call of Duty games has never been high art, but it's usually solid and enjoyable. The lack of nuance in the depiction of the enemy in Infinite Warfare is rather regrettable.

It is so clearly a battle between good and evil that any subtly is completely lost and consequently, any opportunity for real engagement on the part of the player. Kit Harrington portrays pantomime levels of villainy and feels wasted in the role. This is a shame as it is clear that a lot of effort has been put into the campaign. Aside from Harrington, the game has some of the best characters I've seen in a Call of Duty game and I genuinely enjoyed the dialogue between them. It's just a shame that the reason they fight feels so hollow. This is really important for a future shooter because there is less grounding in reality, thus making a solid story all the more important.

The game plays well enough, although the future weapons aren't anything special. They are mostly just clones of existing weapons with the addition of developments from Black Ops 3. In addition to weapon classes, another layer of strategy is given to the player through the choice of either energy or ballistic bullets.

However, I found that the class was of more importance, as in the heat of battle I didn't care what I was using as long as it did damage. Movement feels as fluid in this game as in Black Ops 3. However, it feels far less free than, for example, Titanfall as wall running and other more advanced movement are restricted to specific areas. Zero gravity combat is as unwieldly as should perhaps be expected. Movement is smooth and the use of a grappling hook makes things more bearable. Nevertheless, I rarely enjoyed these sections of the game and was relieved whenever gravity was restored.

Space combat sections, wherein the player pilots a ship heavily inspired by Battlestar Galactica's 'vipers' are hugely enjoyable. Although initially a little disorientating and lacking some of the depth of a dedicated space combat simulation, this is an excellent first try. The player is given full freedom of movement and the game shifts seamlessly from ground based combat to ships in a manner reminiscent of No Man's Sky. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game and wished that there was more, perhaps with deeper mission objectives.

It is once space combat is introduced that the game really picks up and starts to break away from the more usual Call of Duty conventions. One mission takes place on an installation that is periodically, because of its orbit, exposed to the sun which leads to tense moments of running from cover to cover to avoid the extreme heat. Another mission takes place on an asteroid with the player grappling from one rock to another whilst trying to avoid detection by the SDF. These missions are genuinely memorable and demonstrate what I hope will be the future of the Infinite Warfare branch of the Call of Duty franchise, should Activision decide to persist with it. Although combat is still genuinely very enjoyable, I just wish that Infinity Ward had pushed the boundaries a little further.

Another area that would have benefited from greater innovation is the multiplayer. The most interesting aspect of the game, the space combat, is absent because Infinity Ward has chosen instead to provide a rather conservative set of features. Level designs are simplistic but functional and easy to learn.

However, the skill barrier to entry is still rather high for anyone who is curious and would like to become involved in competitive matches. Call of Duty still struggles to be welcoming to either newcomers or casual players, an aspect that the Titanfall series has absolutely nailed. Because of the size and engagement of the multiplayer community, it is understandable that Infinity Ward is reticent to take further risks with it. However, as other games try new things there is a very real danger the series could get left behind.

Infinite Warfare is a very well put together package with enough content to entertain for a considerable length of time. With the shift towards space combat, Infinity Ward has
demonstrated that the series can innovate. I just hope that with the inevitable next release the boundaries can be pushed a little further.

Pros:
+ Space combat is implemented extremely well.
+ Memorable characters in campaign mode.
+ Visually impressive.

Cons
- Multiplayer is lacklustre.
- Campaign story lacks depth.
- Innovation doesn't go far enough.

SPOnG Score: 7/10

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