Perhaps one of, if not the most anticipated annual first person shooters (FPS), the Call of Duty (CoD) franchise returns with its latest installment, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (IF). Taking cues from their developer cousins and fellow co-CoD producers, Sledgehammer Games and Treyarch, lauded CoD developers Infinity Ward have taken the reigns of the franchise again for a futuristic endeavor set in a contemporary setting.
Unfortunately for IF, the cues towards the future clutch extremely tight to the past, wrenching and straining what should have been a contestant for the most dynamic release of 2016.
Call of Duty:Infinite Warfare’s campaign pits you as commander Nick Reyes, a run of the mill protagonist whose quest to save Earth from the Settlement Defense Front (SDF) of Mars takes you on a galactic adventure throughout the solar system. While many FPS campaigns should at least attempt to have intriguing protagonists, Reyes boring personality shines throughout like a loud fart in utter silence. In what should be heartfelt moments between Reyes and the more lovable side characters, you often find yourself wondering if he even has a personality. Too often will an interesting climax occur and Reyes will react with the passion of a subdued rock, which is disappointing as he’s initially poised to be a very dynamic character. As previously mentioned, the other characters in the story, especially those in your immediate party, steal the limelight often making points in the story seem very real; very human.
Coupled with the predictable narrative of the campaign, the game just falls flat. We’ve seen the tropes of a villain who is evil just because and the hero who has to save Earth because he has to before. Besides being 6-7 hours in length, depending on what difficulty mode is selected (the harder modes are quite challenging), IF doesn’t offer anything that sets itself apart from your average shooter, a consistent theme throughout the story.
Nearly the coup de gras of it all and the main hallmark of any shooter, the guns are just meh. Although there are a myriad of weapon options and loadouts to choose from at various intervals, they all feel almost exactly the same. IF seems to pay little attention to its own statics for each weapon which is nonsensical. “Bolt action” guns have little to no recoil or penalty for spamming them, shotguns fire at nearly the same rate as automatic rifles, and enemies have apparently trained under the tutelage of a futuristic 50 cent. You’ll die trying to kill them.
Glaring faults aside, Call of Duty:Infinite Warfare is gorgeous. It utilizes the expanse and mystique of the space setting to its advantage. There’s more than a few times where a requisite break in combat is called for to revel in the stunning textures and breathtaking spacescapes (can this be a thing). There was a clear emphasis in really fleshing out the player experiences in space graphically, which, in this aspect is a great job by Infinity Ward.
This isn’t to say there aren’t good things about the campaign either. Space dogfighting is reminiscent of the Star Wars Battlefront series, making the experience surprisingly refreshing. You get a plethora of weapons and tactics to choose from when piloting “the Jackal” (the game’s designated name for the ship) which proves vastly more interesting than ground combat.
Unfortunately, battleship combat is not enough to save IF from its misgivings as the multiplayer happily and readily offers more of the same like the campaign. The maps are way too small for any real competitive pacing of engaging combat and all too frequently are you starting at the minimap rather than pounding the pavement looking for targets. Additionally, one of the of the multiplayer modes most pertinent gripes is the lag problem that really shouldn’t inhibit play as much as it does. Anyone who’s played a CoD game before can instantly get accustomed to the flow of play, but you need to offer a prayer that your connection is good enough or you aren’t hosting the match so you don’t get gunned down by bullets many leagues away from you. While the variety of weapon options, killstreaks, and payloads are nice add-ons, they ultimately feel like layers clearly hiding a product we’ve experienced before.
While the attempt to craft a “different” game can be recognized on Infinity Ward’s end, there is something distasteful about a developer trying to offer just a game and not an experience in 2016. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare introduces so many unique concepts to the series like the space combat and gundam like mecha units but they are far from fleshed out. The game could have been dynamic if it explored more of its own concepts but the linear storytelling and bland tropes are just painfully obvious rehashes of an experience we as players have already had many times over. The flat gunplay and half-baked multiplayer leave no wow factor; there is little to no charisma to this game. While you shouldn’t fix if it ain’t broke, an old dog eventually has to learn new tricks and for the Call of Duty series the time has most certainly come.