Reviews November 23, 2016

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

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Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4, PC)
Genre: FPS
Rated: M
Players: 1-2 (2-18 online)
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 11/04/2016
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward

Infinity Ward forever changed the way shooters are played when they released Modern Warfare back in 2007. Ditching the wars of old for a modern take was a risk that has been paying off ever since; it’s the reason multiplayer-focused shooters have bombastic campaigns and why killstreaks are much more than just a succession of kills. Now that same studio, though significantly different than it was nine years ago, seems posed to once again reinvent the CoD franchise. Or at the very least, try something new…

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare takes place in the distant future, where sentient AI and space travel are considered old hat. Oddly enough, these technological advancements hadn’t superseded that of moral decency; the world isn’t suffering from post-industrial ruin. Life is good. That’s not to say that there aren’t any troubling developments of course. Due to the lack of natural resources, the people of Earth needed to look elsewhere to acquire raw materials. This lead to formation of the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA), an organization made up of the world’s governments with the sole purpose of establishing colonies throughout the solar system. The idea was sound: have people mine other planets and send what they found back to Earth.  Unfortunately, a select group of colonists (who I believe were out in the void a little too long) rebelled against the UNSA.

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The game begins years after this group, now called the Settlement Defense Front (SDF), had seceded from the UNSA. For the most part, the SDF and Earth’s forces had maintained a “cold war” situation. That is until a Special Forces team is killed while investigating a possible SDF attack on a research facility. The game’s protagonist, commander Nick Reyes of UNSA forces, warns that the SDF’s actions are a declaration of war. Of course, no one heeds his warnings and life goes on without incident. A short time later however, during a celebration where the entire UNSA fleet gathers in Geneva, the SDF launched a full scale attack. Thousands of lives were lost in the ensuing chaos and the majority of the UNSA fleet was destroyed; only two major Warships were able to survive the attack. One of which, the Retribution, had lost its commanding officers during the battle. And since Reyes was the highest ranking officer on the ship at the time, he becomes its new captain…

Call of Duty has been known for its action packed campaigns for some time now. From storming the beaches of Normandy to defending a ruined White House from foreign invaders, they’ve always seemed to provide a heroic thrill ride of an experience. Even the quieter segments offered up water cooler moments – “All Ghillied Up” is still one of the best stealth missions of any shooter. Infinite Warfare provides the same explosive set pieces and immersive gameplay fans have come to expect. This can be seen during the attack on Geneva. Large towers rain down debris as rockets collide with them. A tidal wave is produced thanks to a ship crashing into Lake Geneva, sending boats careening onto the streets nearest the water. Dust covered citizens can be seen stumbling about as they try to flee the SDF’s robotic soldiers. All of this is happening as Reyes’ squad fights their way through alleyways and fire scorched store fronts. It’s chaotic in all the right ways!

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Infinity Ward added a twist to the normal shooter proceedings with the inclusion of space battles. Now before you scoff at the idea of flying a spaceship in a CoD game, just hear me out. These portions actually fit in with the rest of the game. For one, going from a firefight on the ground to blasting ships among the stars is seamless. I’m talking zero load time from the Earth to orbit after Reyes jumps into his Jet. Less loading, of course, forgoes an immersion breaking experience and keeps the player in the fight. Another reason they work well is because the fighter jets handle extremely well. Thanks to helping hands behind the scenes, it’s easy to lock onto a target and follow them as they zigzag around asteroids without ramming into things. Heck, as long as the ship doesn’t constantly slam into stuff, the forgiving health system will keep it from exploding. The last reason has to do with the fact that Reyes doesn’t always stay in his jet while in space. Players will often find themselves exiting the cockpit to engage in zero-gravity firefights before boarding a rival warship. Again, the transitions feature no load times.

While I found the space battles to be entertaining, Infinity Ward wisely limited their presence. They knew that not everyone was going to like that sort of thing, so they placed them in side-missions. The good news here, besides them being completely optional, is that the side-missions actually affect the story content. Not so much in a plot-altering way, but in a more incentivized fashion. Weapon unlocks, upgrades, perks and more can be obtained when completing these missions. Most are designed well, some even feature unique scenarios. A certain stealth mission that tasks you with sniping enemies while hiding behind floating debris may defy logic but it offers up a hell of a good time!

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Infinite Warfare’s campaign is full of thrilling moments and crazy environments. I’m talking about fighting robots on an asteroid headed toward a sun with a murderous day/night cycle; every minute or so the sun would rise and scorch anything caught out in the open. It’s also full of endearing characters. Reyes’ robot pal E3N or “Ethan” provides some of the most heartfelt moments found in any Call of Duty game. What sours the campaign a bit for me is the absence of a meaningful story. Though the actually running and gunning is fun, the missions slowly devolve into a means to an end. There’s no rhyme or reason to the fighting beyond needing to stop an enemy. I mean, why are the SDF so fanatically charged against the Earth? Based on the way they talk, you’d think we did something horrible to them. But the why is never expounded upon.

There are multiple most wanted characters, that when dispatched during missions, help to cripple the SDF. For the most part they are just extra NPC’s though. They don’t command a presence, pose a serious threat – most of them don’t even speak. They are just there to be killed (or not given the nature of each mission). Other than being told they are important, there is nothing interesting about them. They’re just there to check off of a list, which is how the narrative is treated. Even the game’s main antagonist is criminally underused. Infinity Ward got Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington to voice the SDF’s leader, Salen Kotch, for what I assume was an attempt to score some hype via a celebrity guest. Why else would they pay to Jon Sn…er…Kit to voice a character that isn’t really needed?

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Though the plot didn’t really resonate with me as a whole, I don’t feel like it was a waste of time. That said, most will look toward the multiplayer offerings given that’s where the majority of their time will be spent. Like the campaign though, it is bit of a mixed bag. The classic match types (Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint and so on) are as entertaining as you’d expect. The new modes offer exciting variants on the normal match types. In Reinforce, two teams will fight over three control points. Whichever team manages to capture and hold all three will win the match. The catch is that there are limited spawns. Once they run out, the only way to resurrect a teammate is by capturing a zone. This creates a fun, tug-of-war like experience to what’s essentially Domination.

New toys are sprinkled into the multiplayer mix to spice up the moment to moment gunplay. Some of which are more “space aged” than others; guns that can literally transform into other guns and energy weapons stand alongside the normal rifles and pistols we’re used to. Certain abilities from Black Ops III make their return in more refined forms (robot hacking, wall-running, the use of drones, etc.) adding to the available arsenal. Regardless of your tastes though, there’s plenty to like here. I especially enjoy using the spider-like seeker grenades. Their ability to track and leap onto panicking enemies is just as amusing to see as their usefulness.  

Now that we got the pro’s out of the way, let’s talk about the cons. For some reason Infinite Warfare seems to have been created for the most diehard CoD fans. This is due, in part, to all of the options being thrusted at new players. Like the previous CoD, there are different classes (called Combat Rigs in this game) each with their own special ability. Unlike the last game however, they also have special perks to further differentiate themselves. Then there are custom weapons that can be earned or crafted. These weapons will have extra perks that either make them more deadly or help to bolster a particular loadout. Layer in all of the normal weapons, perks, abilities, and killstreaks and you have a ton of stuff to keep up with.

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As a seasoned CoD player, I too had trouble figuring out what kept me from winning a given encounter. Was it because my opponent stacked a custom weapon’s perk for quick reloads with Dexterity, the loadout perk that does the same? Most likely it was because he was using the Synaptic Rig’s Rewind ability, allowing them to go back in time and replenished health/ammo like Tracer from Overwatch. When you consider all of the perks, special abilities, counter-abilities, you can start to see how things can get confusing for someone who hasn’t invested a significant amount of time in the past four titles. Again, I struggled here and there, not knowing exactly how someone had killed me after I’d gotten the drop on them.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. The game is still fun, even with the futuristic elements; I found that I did better when I didn’t try to keep up with the players who insisted on wallrunning everywhere. It just isn’t newbie friendly. Vets will utilize every option available, widening the skill gab beyond quick reflexes and the ability to aim. The hit Zombies mode is the exact opposite though. While it’s still difficult to progress through multiple waves, the edge has been taken off thanks to a few tweaks. The main change has to do with how the game treats a death. Before, when a friend went down during a wave, he or she would have to sit out until it was cleared. Here, when you’re character dies, you’ll be taken to an arcade where you can play games for “soul points”. Win enough points before your other teammates bite the dust and you can be resurrected to fight alongside them. Of course, there’s a limit on how many times you can respawn. Still, it’s much more forgiving in nature and gives players something to do other than spectate until the round is over.

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare isn’t what Modern Warfare was. It won’t revolutionize the genre, the campaign isn’t memorable, and the multiplayer options, while entertaining, will frustrate new players. The fans that balked at the futuristic elements will of course have plenty to complain about. While all of that is true, Infinite Warfare isn’t the train wreck that gamers thought it would be. Infinity Ward worked hard to elevate the series (or at the very least tried something new) and it shows. Zero load times once in game, imaginative environments, creative action segments, fun-to-use weapons, space battles, 80’s themed zombie mode featuring David Hasselhoff – there’s a lot to like here. Hopefully, they can grow from this. Learning from what worked and what didn’t. They have three years after all!

Gameplay: 8
Infinity Ward has redeemed themselves after the mess that was Ghosts. Unfortunately, the forgettable campaign and bloated multiplayer elements harm what could have been an amazing title!

Graphics: 10
The game looks awesome. Hands down!

Sound: 9
The voice work is fine (mostly because of Ethan) and the sound effects provide the appropriate bangs and booms.  

Replay Value: 8
If you can get into the competitive multiplayer, it can be really fun. Zombies is always worth checking out!

Final Score:

8.8

A Look Back…

So, yeah. The review copy we got came packaged with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. It features the full campaign, ten of its most popular multiplayer maps, high-definition graphics with enhanced textures and high-dynamic lighting, and upgrades in the sound department. After spending a decent amount of time reliving this classic, I’m surprised to say that it stands the test of time. Even though I’ve played through the campaign multiple times, it’s still provides an engaging experience.

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The multiplayer offerings aren’t as robust as we’ve come to expect, but that’s ok. Being an older title, MW inadvertently proves that less is more, especially when compared to Infinite Warfare’s competitive modes.  When it comes to the enhanced sound effects, it was hard to really hear a difference. You’ll probably have to play both games side by side to really get a sense of how things have changed. That’s not the case when it comes to the graphics though. Visually, it looks better than it ever did; while it certainly show’s its age, I can’t see myself going back to the older version now.

The long and short of it, regardless of how you felt about Activision’s decision to bundle the games together, MW Remastered is a no brainer for CoD fans!

Gameplay: 9
Nearly as fun as it was way back when…

Graphics: 7
Though it’s a bit dated, it isn’t too hard on the eyes.

Sound: 8
I honestly didn’t hear much of a difference between the original game and this one. To be fair, I haven’t played the original game in years so…

Replay Value: 10
The multiplayer is refreshing in its simplicity.

Final Score:

8.5