Since the Call Of Duty games moved from World War II to modern times with 2007’s Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I’ve been hoping that this first-person shooter series would go full-on science fiction (as opposed to the cyberpunk but still near future sci-fi of Call Of Duty: Black Ops III). Well, that time has finally come, and that game is…Titanfall 2. But it’s also Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), which takes this series’ patented fluid controls, frantic firefights, explosively cinematic action, and addictive multiplayer where no Call Of Duty has gone before.
Set many years in the future, both the campaign and multiplayer modes in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare take place during a violent conflict between human Martians and their Earth-born counterparts (I’ll get to the co-op zombie mode in a moment). As a result, you not only use futuristic versions of assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns, but also such sci-fi-flavored weaponry as the Gravity Grenade, which temporarily repeals the Law Of Gravity in a specific area.
Regardless of which mode you play, though — and this includes co-op — Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare still has the same effortlessly intuitive controls that has been the benchmark for first-person shooters since Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
But those controls are sometimes used to do different things in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare. In multiplayer and, on occasion, in the campaign, you have the ability to double jump like in the new Doom (though you can fly further here), run along walls like in Prince Of Persia, and slide along the floor like in MLB 17: The Show. Yeah, the baseball game. Except that unlike in baseball, you can shoot while double-jumping, wall-running, and sliding. All of which sometimes makes this feel like Titanfall 2, save for the lack of any creative platforming. And the alien jungle planet setting. And the drivable giant robot pal following you around like a trigger-happy puppy. But I digress.
As for how the three different modes of Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare stack up, let’s start with multiplayer. Which is what a lot of this game’s players are going to do.
At its core, the multiplayer modes in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare play as they have for years. You just now have futuristic weapons as well as new perks and such unique score streak awards as the T.H.O.R. missile system and the R-C8, which is basically a T-800 from The Terminator.
Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare also adds two new modes, though neither are especially futuristic. In “Defender,” a variation on “Uplink,” you have to grab and hold a drone longer than the other team. Except that you can’t hold the drone and a gun at the same time, and even then you can only hold the drone for a minute in a row. Which makes this mode a little silly, but also a nice respite from this game’s more serious multiplayer modes.
Sadly, things don’t work as well in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare‘s other new multiplayer mode, “Frontline,” which is “Team Deathmatch” with each team always spawning in an area of the map designated as their base. The problem being that always spawning in the same spot prompts people on the opposing team to camp nearby or even inside your spawn spot. Sure, you have extra armor while in your base, but if I had a dollar for every time I got killed before I took more than a few steps after spawning, I’d be able to afford a more protected base.
There’s also new macro aspects to multiplayer in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare. The first is called “Mission Teams,” which give you rewards for completing objectives over multiple matches based on what team you’ve joined. Initially, you’re a JTF Wolverine, and you get experience points for earning five kills in a match or killing someone with your sidearm or a launcher. Later, after you level up, you can join a different group with different objectives, such as The Orion Initiative, which cares about your effectiveness in objective-based modes. It’s a nice idea, though it seems like it would’ve been better to have all four teams available at the start, especially for people who, say, prefer completing objectives to just racking up kills.
Then there are the Supply Drops. These are boxes you can buy, either with real money or in-game currency, that give you better weapons. Which does, admittedly, give someone an advantage if they’re willing to spend real money, though you still have to wield those weapons effectively. Having the best gun in the game isn’t going to help if you’re a crap shot.
Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare also adds Combat Rigs, which are like the Specialists character class system from Call Of Duty: Black Ops III, but based on how you like to play. Synaptics, for instance, are for people who want to be fast and use close quarters combat, while Mercs are partial on heavy weapons and armor. Each Rig also comes with its own skills, as well as special weapons that have to recharge over time. Warfighters, for example, get a Payload, which shoots ricocheting rounds, as well as an active device called a Ping, which puts a mark on your map wherever someone is killed or helped a teammate kill someone.
The problem with the Combat Rigs system in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is that while your normal foot speed is determined by your choice of Rig, some make you frustratingly slow, especially compared to such similar shooters as Battlefield 1 and, yeah, Titanfall 2. It also doesn’t make sense in a game where you can run along walls. Sure, Mercs should be somewhat slow, given their heavy armor, but Warfighters, which are supposed to be an all-purpose class, are just as sluggish, while Synaptics, who are supposed to be quick, are only slightly faster.
Thankfully, this problem doesn’t impact the campaign in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare. There, your basic foot speed is a peppy one. Which is good, because there’s a lot of people shooting at you.
In the campaign for Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare, you have to stop Admiral Salen Kotch (Kit Harington from Game Of Thrones), a human from Mars who hates humans from Earth. His racist agenda has led him to command his fleet to sneak attack Earth’s defenses, sparking an all-out war between our worlds. As an Earth soldier, it’s up to you to stop Kotch and bring this conflict to an end.
Or, to put it another way, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is a first-person shooter version of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novels (especially the latter ones) if it was scripted by Battlestar Galactica‘s writing staff after they watched the movies Aliens, Black Hawk Down, and Edge Of Tomorrow.
As with multiplayer, the campaign in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare feels very much like the ones in previous games, just with more futuristic tech. It has numerous harrowing gun battles in a variety of locations, other bits to keep this from just being one long shootout, and explosive scenes worthy of an action movie. But it also adds some new mechanics as well. Well, new to this series, anyway.
For starters, when not fighting on the ground, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare has you getting into gunfights in zero gravity like you did in Call Of Duty: Ghosts, and dogfighting in space like in Star Wars Battlefront and Halo 3. You can also, when in a space base, shoot out the windows and then watch nearby enemies get sucked out like when you pulled that trick in Dead Space. Even opening a door is different, as you sometimes have the option of doing it quietly and catching your enemies off-guard, or you can kick it open, which prompts the kind of slow-mo breach mechanic of earlier games.
Despite adding some cool new mechanics, an interesting setting, and the usual tenets that have made this series so consistently solid over the years, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare‘s campaign is far from perfect. For starters, it suffers from a problem that’s plagued this franchise for a while: some missions are too tightly scripted. While there are moments when you can choose between being sneaky or going loud — or, in my case, being sneaky until I screw up and make everyone aware of my presence, at which point I have to go loud — what happens in some of your mission is so planned out that it feels a bit stifled. Far less than previous installments, admittedly, but still too often.
The campaign in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is also more scattershot and less cohesive than ones in previous games. Though I’m actually bothered more by how actor Jeffrey Nordling (Tron Legacy), the voice of your CHAPPiE-looking mechanical sidekick Ethan — as in ETH.3n, Enhanced Tactical Humanoid 3rd Revision — awkwardly sounds too human and not robotic enough. Y’know, like the stainless steel refrigerator-looking ‘bot TARS in Interstellar.
It also doesn’t last that long. While the single-player modes in Call Of Duty games are usually too short — save for Call Of Duty: Black Ops III — the one in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is exceptionally brief. Though far less so if you play all of the optional missions, which you undoubtedly will since they’re on the same nav system as the main ones, and they’re nicely varied.
Even with these issues, though, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare‘s single-player story mode is still epic, engaging, and exciting. Granted, it doesn’t have anything as emotionally impactful as when you stepped out of a bunker onto the lawn of an occupied White House like in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but it does have a lot of frenetic firefights, some great space dogfighting, and a compelling story that does a good job of setting up the action. Which is why, even though it’s not the best campaign this series has seen (though it’s not the worst either), you’ll probably play it two or three times before moving on to whatever Call Of Duty comes out next year.
Finally, mode-wise, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare has “Zombies,” a co-op option that’s fun for the whole family. Assuming, of course, everyone’s grown up enough to play a game where you’re shooting zombies from the first-person perspective.
For those who haven’t played “Zombies” in Call Of Duty before, it’s basically like “Horde” from Gears Of War 4, except that in addition to trying to kill waves of zombies, you also have to complete objectives so you can open up other area of the world. At the beginning of this one, for instance, you have to find the switch to the generator so you can open the doors.
“Zombies” in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is also different from “Horde” and similar survival modes in that everything you do — be it grabbing a new gun or just opening a door you just powered up — costs you money. Money you earn by, obviously, killing zombies.
What makes “Zombies” in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare especially fun is that it’s set in an amusement park during the 1980s, and boasts a cast of comedians that includes Seth Green (Robot Chicken), Saturday Night Live stars Jay Pharaoh and Sasheer Zamata, as well as Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens. All of which, oddly, basically makes this feel like a video game version of the movie Zombieland. And yes, it is as much fun as that sounds, even if you don’t get to be or hang out with Emma Stone. It never gets as frantic as the campaign, but it’s still challenging, especially when you’ve run out of ammo, zombies are coming at you from all directions, and you can’t find that stupid switch. Oh, wait, there it is.
That said, while “Zombies” in Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare is made to be played with friends, it can be enjoyed solo…if you temper your expectations. It’s not a second campaign, after all (unfortunately). For starters, there’s no checkpoints or way to revive yourself, so you always start over from the beginning. There’s also no options when it comes to difficulty, which is a problem because it’s clearly not balanced for single players. Again, not a big deal, but given how I’ve wanted a zombie campaign from Call Of Duty almost as long as I’ve wanted a sci-fi version of Call Of Duty, well…
Then there’s the issue that afflicts every mode of Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare. And, sadly, so many games these days that I cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review I write: some of the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your television — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the menus, the heads-up messages, the weapon descriptions, and the captions.
Despite my problems with all three modes, Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare still ranks among one of the year’s best shooters and one of the year’s better all-around games. Sure, it’s similar but not as good as you-know-what (though not in a way that would suggest you shouldn’t play both), but thanks to its epic campaign, addictive multiplayer, and a co-op mode that’s as funny as it is fun, this is the sci-fi Call Of Duty game I’ve been hoping for.