'Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare' review: Memorable but lacking
Of all the Call of Duty titles, Infinite Warfare may be one of the most controversial. Developers Infinity Ward have definitely pushed the title further, though not in a direction many wanted. Tired of the future and overwhelmed by the abundance of games set in space, people have been clamoring for a Call of Duty title that feels more grounded and modern. From its first trailer to its launch, people have been skeptical about Infinite Warfare. Not even Kit Harrington nor Connor McGregor can silence the negative buzz before the game was even released.
Before it even reached fans’ hands, the game's rating seemed sealed. And this makes it more interesting for me to review this game. Were the dissenters right about this game all along?
After finishing the single-player campaign, I wouldn’t exactly agree with the negative feedback. Infinity Warfare proved that going beyond earth isn’t so bad, but there’s definitely a lot of space for improvement.
Whether it's a mission doomed to fail or you witness an execution, Call of Duty developers love setting everything up with a heavy scene. Call of Duty will almost always use one of the first missions to draw the line: these are the good guys, those are the bad guys. And that’s no exception for Infinite Warfare.
The first mission showed a clear distinction between good and evil. Kit Harrington sporting his evil British accent, followed by the swift and unexpected MMA arms of Connor McGregor did the honors. Though their introduction was brief, it showed that the Settlement Defense Front (SDF) were the bad guys, eager to take down planet Earth.
The difference between Infinite Warfare and many CoD games was that it nailed the first mission AND the missions that followed after.
It thrust players in the thick of the action immediately and kept the tension and pace tight until protagonist Nick Reyes’ ascension to Captain. Checkpoint after checkpoint, Infinite Warfare kept me on my feet.
It also set the theme for the rest of the campaign: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” I will get to the entirety of the narrative later, but for now let’s get to the gameplay.
Boots-on-the-ground and more
As I guided Captain Nick Reyes on his journey, I was on the lookout for one of the main gripes many gamers had for Infinite Warfare: the lack of boots-on-the-ground combat.
While the game had its high-flying escapades and its crazy zero-gravity moments, there was enough boots-on-the-ground combat to keep things familiar. You don’t get to do much of that in Earth though, most of the fighting happens in ships and different planets. But that’s actually a good thing. The different terrains made me more creative when bringing down hordes of enemies.
A favorite of mine had to be a mission in an asteroid near Mercury. Reyes decided it would be a good idea to check if there are civilians that could be saved in a factory. This is despite the fact that the asteroid had a day and night cycle of 30 seconds and it was unbearably close to the sun. Staying under the sun for a second too long would fry you.
Nonetheless, the distance between buildings weren’t too far and it would have been a thrilling cakewalk. With the dangerous environment, it would be impossible for a human SDF army to get in and wreak havoc.
Little did I know that I was actually going against a large battalion of former ally robots hacked by the SDF. I had to survive long enough for the night cycle so I could go full ham during the dark. If I fail, I risk being overwhelmed when they’re powered back on again during the day.
Varied gameplay with too much Jackals
That being said, the addition of dogfighting in space and shooting enemies in zero-gravity definitely gave the game more variety. Floating in space and hiding behind asteroids may have seemed silly and disorienting at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was absolutely exhilarating to glide from one giant rock to another.
I also appreciate that these zero-g moments, though many, were brief. Had they extended the fights in zero-gravity I would imagine it would turn more frustrating than exhilarating. It’s not exactly easy to maneuver your body in space after all.
One of the most enjoyable scenarios in the game were the stealth missions. While I struggled without a mini-map on my HUD, I didn’t think much of it. It upped the difficulty for me and it forced me to get a feel of my surroundings first before identifying my route to take down enemies as quickly and as quietly as possible.
Now for the hard part. One of my main problems with the gameplay was the ridiculous amount of Jackal missions. There were moments where it just felt too much. Flying around and navigating with the Jackal was difficult and it took a lot of getting used to. At times, there was too much going on to keep track of as well. This surprised me because I thoroughly enjoyed the PS VR version. It was also easier to get through the learning curve of the PS VR one. Perhaps because looking at one screen was more disorienting for me than to be fully immersed via VR.
It also didn’t help that there were way too many Jackal side-missions with way too many enemies involved.
Side-missions could use some refining
Speaking of side-missions, this part of the gameplay was a first for the Call of Duty series and I’d appreciate seeing more of it in the next games. Not all of them feel rewarding however but it does give you more content to explore. COD can take a few pages from popular RPGs in the future by providing players with better content, rewards and narrative materials. Perhaps adding brief, compelling cutscenes rather than the boring news bits that Infinite Warfare offers can make the side-missions a little more worth it.
Because the side-missions do not add anything to the narrative of the game it completely breaks the great pacing set by the main route. Though there are side-missions that stand out, some of them are quite slow and frustrating.
Also, keep in mind, some of the missions take place in far off planets, yet if you listen closely to the conversations in the main narrative, everything that’s happening is taking place within a single day.
The strength of the campaign
Now let’s move on to the real strength of the game, the story. Most FPS games have poorly written narratives, but Infinite Warfare successfully veered away from that stereotype. In fact, if you only consider the main missions, it’s a short yet stellar campaign.
While the action and pacing died down after a couple of side-missions, the story picks up immediately when you continue the main mission. Every single situation, there is a problem that needs to be solved and not all solutions are effective. The campaign will teach you over and over again that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Without spoiling too much the thrilling encounters, heart-stopping situations, and painful moments build up to an incredible climax that will strongly remind you of Game of Thrones. I’m still a little bummed yet oddly inspired about the ending until this day.
The story will not be great without the impressive voice acting and character dialogue. Nick Reyes, Nora Salter, and Ethan have superb voice actors and their growth and their relationships were given the most attention in the game.
Despite the setting being far away from Earth most of the internal conflict is relatable and hits close to home. Nick Reyes may be the good guy with strong principles but he isn’t without his faults. For the most part of the second half of the campaign, Reyes is always struggling between completing the mission and caring more for his soldiers or civilians.
The same could be said for Salter who serves as both Reyes’ wingman and confidante.
Meanwhile Ethan is the hilariously endearing robot with unwavering loyalty programmed into his hardware. His need to connect with some of the human soldiers isn’t overbearing and it makes for a nice secondary conflict which is solved overtime.
What weighs the narrative down is actually Kit Harrington and his squad. The game makes it too easy to root for the good guys.
Kit’s character, Salen Kotch is unbelievably one-dimensional. The game made no attempt to justify Kotch’s actions nor did it even give a reason for SDF’s need to destroy Earth. While Kit delivers the lines as best as he can, most of them are pretty weak. His sign-off “Mars aeternum,” – translated to “Mars eternally,” – becomes cringe-worthy after you hear how sad his threats sound.
Decent, memorable, lacks refinement
All in all Infinite Warfare isn’t the terrible game that many gamers were made to believe at first. Though it still needs refinement, the game remains a memorable title of the series because the gameplay makes good and creative use of its controversial setting. The narrative is also generally well written with relatable main characters and emotional plot twists. However, the surprisingly fun and fast-paced campaign, is brought down by a few unnecessary side-missions and a terribly flat antagonist.
Should an FPS fan purchase a copy of Infinite Warfare for its campaign? That depends. It’s not the best FPS title in recent memory but it’s definitely not a waste of your time. Whether or not you’re tired of the space setting, I highly recommend you pick it up if you’re at least a fan of fast-paced action and compelling war stories. – Rappler.com