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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

November 15, 2016

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4)
untitledWhat’s good:
-finely written and masterfully produced single player campaign
-snappy and precise shooting mechanics
-great competitive multiplayer maps
-cool looking and fun to use futuristic guns and equipment

What’s bad:
-competitive multiplayer lacks innovation

What I thought: “Surprisingly enthralling single player; fun but underwhelming multiplayer.”

 

They Should’ve Sent a Poet
It’s easy to see where all of the production budget went.
The only thing I could think, booting up Infinite Warfare’s campaign mode and playing through an early sequence in which I was transitioned flawlessly from narrative cutscene to on-foot gameplay to space combat to on foot to dropping into orbit around the moon and then once again placed on foot for a superbly done scripted sequence, all permeated by tight writing and seamless pacing, all without a loading screen that I thought to myself “This all looks very expensive…”

Production budgets don’t make a game though, but gameplay, and Infinite Warfare does just enough through spinning expectations of gameplay loop developed through playing years of these sorts of games on their head, as well as including a large helping of fast and responsive ship combat to relieve some of the boring infantry slog you’ve come to expect from this series’ single player.

You fill the shoes of Reyes, Commander of the Retribution, and you not only plot this warship’s course, selecting missions at whichever pace you deem fit, but you also lead your forces to victory by getting your hands dirty in said missions yourself.
Completing side missions unlocks new gear for your fighter and new perks or traits for you as a soldier on the ground. These side missions don’t see the same degree of scripted over the top action as the main narrative missions, but they’re quick and action-packed, so I always felt compelled to finish them.

In broad-sweeping terms, the narrative of Infinite Warfare is rather light. In the future, as Commander Reyes, you defend Earth and its colonists from the Settlement Defense Front, which is a relentless faction desiring resources and the eradication of all who stand in their way.
The conflict is large, but the narrative is not, which says much about the quality of the dialogue and voice performances, as it’s both immersive and entertaining.
The characters of Infinite Warfare are likable and quite memorable, which, save for Price and crew from the Modern Warfare trilogy, is not something I can say about any other game in the series. Ethan, your trusty jokester robot buddy is the highlight, and produced audible laughter from his performance on several occasions.

For a series of which many players will see the single player offering through maybe once, if at all, Infinite Warfare’s campaign is the most compelling I’ve seen from the series thus far. The scenarios you’re placed in, and the individuals you are placed in them with are both creative and wonderfully executed.

 

The One Constant, In All the Galaxy
The leap into the space age offered ample room for Infinite Warfare to be something different as far as competitive multiplayer goes, and I won’t lie, it took time for the shock of “this really is just more Black Ops 3, isn’t it” to subside, but once it had, I found a competitive shooter with some of the best feeling run and gun gameplay thus far, as well as some of the best multiplayer maps the series has seen in years.

Maps make the game, and if a map is too vertical or too open or too complex, attempting to survive traversing from one end of that map to the other becomes less than fun, especially in a game like Infinite Warfare where the outcome of a firefight most often rests on which of the two players was looking in the right spot at the right moment.
All of the best Call of Duty maps of yore were essentially a big circle with riskier routes available to cut through the middle to reach your destination more quickly. This risk/reward style of design was great, and it gave the maps more character, which is something recent Call of Duty maps have failed miserably at.
Infinite Warfare foregoes this more classic approach to map design, and instead offers maps based around lanes. There are of course maps with more options for cutting through here or there, but generally speaking, each map has three pathways, either vertical or horizontal, which, when you’re on a team that sticks together, can make matches a wonderfully intense push and pull, with players taking the long way around to potentially catch their opponents unaware, while the main firefight unfolds in one or two lanes.

There are some duds in Infinite Warfare, and not every map takes full advantage of the movement abilities of the players, but when it comes to learning the layouts and predicting where enemies might be, IW generally hit all of the right marks.
While it’s truly disappointing that the galaxy-spanning conflicts found in the multiplayer are merely an aesthetic placed over existing Call of Duty mechanics, each map looks and feels distinct, and after a round or two, no longer were there instances in which I spawned and didn’t immediately know exactly where I was on the given map.
Locales range from the futuristic prison of Breakout, residing on a snowy mountain, to Mayday, which takes place in the periphery of a black hole, which distorts the space around it, to the undersized Genesis, whose small size leads to nonstop action. The visual variety is great, and as far as layouts go, even while supporting the lane-based design, the maps each feel distinct there as well.

I wish I were as elated about the rest of the design in competitive multiplayer.
Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer is perhaps the closest a Call of Duty game’s multiplayer has come to a previous entry in the series thus far. The Pick 10 system is back, and so are Specialists which are now called Combat Rigs, and while it’s a petty complaint, even the in-game UI is absurdly close to how Black Ops 3’s looked.

If you played BO3, you don’t need me to explain the aforementioned systems, but for the sake of review, the Pick 10 system allows you to choose not to bring a piece of equipment with you into battle in exchange for something else. Want two tactical grenades? Sure, you can do that. But it’ll cost you 2 points. Want a second perk in a specific category? Same.
While I can appreciate the manner in which this system lets you focus on specific things and toss away the equipment you don’t want to use (read: handguns), I’ve always felt that it’s a little too lenient on perks and especially weapon attachments.
Infinite Warfare isn’t Weapon Attachment City as Advanced Warfare was a couple years ago, but the trade-offs or natural counters for certain attachments ensure they will never be used, while some (read: suppressors) feel mandatory. If I feel like I’m handicapping myself by not bringing a specific attachment or perk, then the custom class system is busted.

It's tough not to shake your head, but in all seriousness, the kids these days are all about vaping.

I know, I know. It’s tough not to shake your head, but in all seriousness, the kids these days are more into vaping.

Alongside your equipment loadout, you’re required to choose a Combat Rig. These come with a Payload ability, which is earned over time as well as by performing score-based tasks such as getting kills or capturing objectives. Payloads can cater to attack or defense, with weapons like Merc’s Steel Dragon, which automatically targets and belches energy damage at close range, to Stryker’s Gravity Vortex Gun, which fires a slow moving mass which sucks up and damages anything caught in its wake. Merc’s Reactive Armor on the other hand, will briefly soak up damage while Synaptic’s Rewind ability lets them teleport to where they were moments before, refilling health and ammo in the process.
Combat Rigs each also offer up one of three special traits, which are just additional perks in disguise, and these are smaller yet meaningful things like sending out a short ranged ping to detect enemies with each kill as Warfighter, or enabling the ability to perform Advanced Warfare-esque bursts of movement as Synaptic.
I don’t dislike Combat Rigs in concept, but they really are just more scorestreaks and perks layered on top of the existing ones. It would have been nice to see them taken advantage of if more interesting ways, such as energy weapons being more effective against robots as they do in the game’s campaign.

Out of the gate, Infinite Warfare offers a large number of playlists, ranging from the boring staples like Team Deathmatch (Kill Confirmed should replace this mode by default) to exciting objectives like Defender, which has two teams fighting over a neutral ball which needs to be held to earn points similar to Halo’s Oddball.
What’s here gets the job done, but I would have liked to see the objective stuff thrown into its own playlist, as individually these gametypes are difficult to find matches for during certain times of the day.
It would be interesting to see some more creative gametypes added at some point to change up the gameplay (How about Barebones? Does anyone remember that?), and I’m not a fan of the change to make Domination and Hardpoint round based as it slows those matches down, but what’s there is fine.
It should be noted that whether it’s due to lower playercounts or network weirdness or whatever it may be, sometimes finding and getting into matches can take longer than it should, but this can hopefully be fixed in a patch.

Even if the player health pools are still a tad small for my personal liking, the production value seen in the campaign has bled over into multiplayer. There are fewer changes than seen in the single player, but things like animation and sound design have seen welcome improvements over the past couple entries in the series, even if the frenzied pace of most matches removes your ability to soak them in.

I was ready to dismiss Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer, but it is oddly difficult to put down, and I’m often thinking to myself while preoccupied with other things: “Man, I should play some more Infinite Warfare…” Whether you’re taking the maligned silent approach, being a trooper like myself and using rockets to deny the enemy team their scorestreaks, or boost jumping all over the place and letting luck sort it out, it isn’t the most innovative multiplayer, but it is undeniably fun.

 

We Will All Go On Fighting
The Black Market, which felt like the grindiest carrot on a stick from Black Ops 3 has also been expanded upon with Infinite Warfare.
Now it comes attached to an Armory, with what they’re calling the Prototype Lab. Here, beefed up versions of existing weapons can be created by using Salvage earned by logging in each day or by finding in it Supply Drops.
Each variant of a given weapon comes with a rarity rating, and the rarer the gun, generally the better or more unique its perks are.
Yes, more perks. Maybe it’ll change your 3-round burst assault rifle into a fully automatic, or maybe it’ll let you call in a dumb nuke if you get a large streak of kills. These perks can be interesting, but none I’ve encountered seem to make so much of a difference that one gun would be much more sought out than another.
It’s a good thing, too, because if you aren’t putting yourself at the mercy of the randomness of Supply Drops, crafting the specific weapon you want is perhaps the most grinding you will do in a modern video game.
Salvage is earned very slowly. At the time I’m writing this review, I’ve spent numerous hours with the game, reaching level 44, and I’m just shy of enough scrap to craft the rare version of a weapon I want. Rares cost 500 to craft, and the uncommons under them, which you are required to own before you can craft a higher quality, require 200, so it’s safe to assume the better stuff will be exponentially more expensive to craft.
Loot shooter this is not, and if played like one, you will drive yourself insane.

Need more Perks? Weapon Crafting seems to think so!

Need more Perks? The Prototype Lab seems to think so!

Perhaps you can get lucky with Supply Drops though. These come in two flavors, grey and blue, and as you would expect, the more expensive box comes with more expensive loot.
The grind to get these boxes is somewhat less tedious than Weapon Crafting however, thanks to Infinite Warfare’s Mission Teams.
There are four teams, with four slightly different styles of challenges. Ranging from “get kills with energy weapons” to the seemingly non-functional “get kills while attacking/defending an objective” (I tried in Domination to no avail). These challenges must be chosen before a match for you to make progress, and each challenge can only be completed during a single match, with rewards based on how well you did.
These don’t necessarily change the way you play the game, but it feels good to get a gold rating on one, and even if the implementation of the objective-focused challenges isn’t spot-on, it would in theory get people to play in the different playlists.
In theory.
The Black Market, Prototype Lab and Mission Teams join all of the unlockable weapons, equipment, and player cards you’ve come to expect from Call of Duty multiplayer. If it’s an XP treadmill you’re interested in, Infinite Warfare more than has you covered.

Infinite Warfare took me by surprise. Having enjoyed Call of Duty games less and less over the past few years, the wonderfully done campaign and samey but irresistible competitive multiplayer found in Infinite Warfare has rekindled some degree of confidence in the series moving forward.
(Also I guess there’s a Zombie mode, if you’re into that.)

 

From → Games

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