Review – Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

A deal from GameStop back in October 2017 brought in four PS4 games for $40 (hard to pass up that opportunity), one of which was Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.  I immediately starting playing IW when the games arrived in the mail, and I was met with a very enjoyable single player campaign experience.

Like many in modern gaming, I mostly came to Call of Duty with CoD 4: Modern Warfare.  I spent hours playing through the multiplayer experience, twitching around the battlefield, trying to get those quick kills and lobbing grenades every chance I got.  It was CoD: MW that really introduced me to progression multiplayer gaming, but it was later CoD games that pretty much caused me to avoid them altogether.  I grew tired of grenade spamming, griefers, cheaters with aim bots, and the general level of nonsense that was spewed over chat.  I drifted away from the series, only coming back to it every once in a while when a friend wanted to play a campaign in co-op.  After a very disappointing Call of Duty: Black Ops III experience, I was ready to completely ignore the follow-on games…that is until a friend played IW and said I needed to give it a try.

I started Infinite Warfare ready for both a good first person shooter and for a shorter campaign having just finished inFamous: Second Son.  Starting up the game, I was immediately pulled into the story.  The setting of IW is a far future where humans have colonized the solar system in search of resources no longer available on Earth.  This has created the standard sci-fi conflict between those still on Earth, the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA), and those in the outer colonies, the Settlement Defense Front (SDF).  The game opens with escalating open conflict between the SDF and UNSA starting with an attack on a secret UNSA weapons facility and rising to an epic decimation of the UNSA fleet on Earth during a Fleet Week celebration.  Only two UNSA ships, the aptly named Retribution carrier and the destroyer Tigris.  The shear destruction and total disregard for life portrayed by the SDF in these opening sequences was enough to have me ready to set out against them, to take down those responsible.  The story is very much presented as here are the good guys and here are the bad guys with absolutely no grey area, but that serves well not to muddy the waters on what is a short campaign experience.

The player takes control of Commander Nick Reyes, a member of the Special Operations division and pilot of the Special Combat Air Recon (SCAR) Jackal fighter, during the Fleet Week assault and must make it back to the Retribution.  Reyes quickly finds himself in command of the Retribution and sets off through the solar system fighting the SDF and main antagonist Rear Admiral Salen Kotch.  It is at this point the game is elevated from a corridor linear FPS to one in which choices can be made on how to proceed.  The Retribution becomes a hub for combat and a selection screen presents primary missions and targets of opportunity for the player.  Each target of opportunity carries a perk for completion, usually in the form of Jackal upgrades or certain character improvements.  The ability to select my next mission definitely gave me a greater feeling of control than in any previous Call of Duty game.  Despite not necessarily having any impact on the primary missions, I felt that by completing the side missions I was really sticking it to the SDF and reducing their combat capability.

Missions in IW are a mix of on-foot and in-flight combat.  Often the mission will find Reyes and his fellow Special Ops crew flying in with the Jackals, taking down some fighters, then landing and proceeding on foot.  There are also sequences in zero gravity outside of stations or large vessels.  This variety of combat means that missions rarely feel the same.  Granted, each one is just some combination of these combat variations, but they are used to generate well written and paced conflict.  I found myself easily playing through multiple missions without getting bored, typically having to stop due to the late hour rather than needing to take a break from the game. 

The combat itself in the game felt basic, but satisfying.  There are a number of weapons available to the player, but there was very little difference between most of them.  Perhaps the largest personality given to each weapon came in the scope attachment, which varied from iron sights to red dot sights to various varieties of enhanced vision.  Enemies drop weapons after killed, allowing you to pick up what they leave behind and carry on with a randomized attachment loadout.  A few different grenade types are also available, finding their various uses depending on if fighting human or robotic opponents.  My favorite was definitely the seeker grenade, which hunted down enemies of any type and exploded.  Advanced weapons were also revealed in the game as part of the plot line, giving more firepower when needed against end game opponents.  Finally, no enemies in the game felt like bullet sponges, each one taking a reasonable amount of damage to bring down.

Perhaps the greatest strength in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and what lent the most to the story, is in the characters.  Infinity Ward put together a stellar cast and gave them the tools necessary to perform.  The primary role of Nick Reyes is played by Brian Bloom, who appropriately takes the character through a hard and sometimes emotional journey.  Fellow team members including Lieutenant Nora Salter played by Jamie Gray Hyder and Marine Staff Sergeant Usef Omar played by David Harewood seemed to stick like glue to the plot, boosting the impact of events throughout.  My favorite character was by far the robot sidekick, Ethan, played by Jeffrey Nordling.  Ethan provides the comic relief in the story, but also a staunch dedication to the mission that evokes respect.  Antagonist Admiral Kotch is played by Kit Harington of Game of Thrones fame, and while he is clearly supposed to be the big current name, his character is rather flat as just the “bad guy”. 

The game’s graphics and sound were also very well done.  Character models look good in the cut scenes and walking around the Retribution.  Animations were very much on point as well, never taking away from the realism of those fighting by my side or against me.  Particle effects and lighting were as expected for a modern console game released in late 2016.  Audio was also well done, but I will say that the guns sounds tended to blend together.  Audio was perhaps best used during story sequences to add appropriate drama to the scene.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was certainly a surprise to me given my disappointment in the series as of late.  Combat was varied and good.  Story and characters were well above the bar for the genre.  I would highly recommend a play through the campaign, especially given the availability of inexpensive copies of the game and the relatively short time investment of six to eight hours. 

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