12-7-2016_2-25-55_PM

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review

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The Call of Duty series has taken gamers to battlefields across the globe, but the latest entry, Infinite Warfare, goes one step further. Infinity Ward have taken the series all the way to space, to battles fought with flying ships, energy rifles, and robots. It looks like a big change on the surface, but this is still  a Call of Duty game, and series fans should feel right at home. There are just enough new ideas here to avoid the charge of total unoriginality that has often dogged the series, but if you were hoping for something revolutionary, this isn’t the game for you.

Obviously, the first thing any shooter needs is an excuse for you to shoot a whole lot of bad guys, and Infinite Warfare delivers with a competently told, if unimaginative, tale of futuristic war. The year is 2080, and the Earth’s resources have long since run dry. Mankind has expanded into space to feed its voracious appetite for raw materials, forming colonies on other planets. All Is not well in the colonies, however, as many have fallen under the control of the Settlement Defence Front, a militaristic and imperialist faction with it’s eyes on rulership of the entire Solar System.  When the SDF cripples the Earth’s fleet in a surprise attack, it’s up to a team of generic military guys to put aside their personal differences and save humanity by shooting another bunch of generic military guys in different uniforms.

As you’ve probably realised by now, the plot isn’t very original. It hits all the appropriate beats, with heroic sacrifices, last stands, and good guys overcoming their personal animosities and working together for the greater good, but it’s hard not to feel like you’ve seen all this before. It holds together well enough while you’re playing it, but ultimately the characters, the world, and the story just aren’t interesting enough to stick with you for long once it’s over. The one exception is the SDF commander, Rear Admiral Salen Kotch, whose over-the-top speeches about burning cities and slaughtering the enemies of the Front are a high point in a sea of blandness.

Fortunately, all this bland military drama is really just an occasional distraction from the more important business of mowing down bad guys. The core of the game-play is your standard military shooter. Run from point to point through a series of linear missions, making use of cover to avoid getting wiped out by numerically superior enemies. Call of Duty has this stuff down to a science by now, and missions are constructed with just the right pacing and challenge level to ensure a reliably entertaining experience. As always though, the extreme linearity feels rather constricting. You have very little health and the enemies are competent marksman, so trying anything unusual, like a daring charge at the enemy position, is a good way to get killed. The way to succeed is to crouch behind the cover points the game has provided you with, and pick off the enemy one at a time. It often feels less like like you’re playing the game than like the game is generously allowing you to participate in a carefully crafted cinematic experience.

This problem is alleviated somewhat by Infinite Warfare’s arsenal of high tech gadgets. This being the future, you naturally have access to all sorts of toys modern armies can only dream of, of which the most significant are undoubtedly the jump pack, which allows you to double jump, and the magnet boots, which let you wall run. These assets greatly increase your mobility, and clever players can use them to get the drop on unsuspecting enemies. The creativity they allow is often sharply limited by the level design though, and outside of a few big set-piece battles, you’ll mostly be doing the usual CoD corridor fighting, with an occasional double-jump thrown in.  The rest of your futuristic arsenal, which includes enemy seeking drones, gravity nullifying grenades, and a device that can hack enemy robots, are fun to play around with, but don’t substantially change the basic game-play.

One thing that does shake things up a bit is the inclusion of space dog-fighting missions, which see you piloting a space fighter into battle against enemy fighters and battleships. These are fairly basic, with only a handful of weapon choices and enemy types, but they do add some variety to the proceedings. Fast pacing and simple controls make these sections both fun and accessible, though by the end of the game the lack of depth really begins to get old. Hopefully, future games in the series will develop these sections further, but for the moment they remain an entertaining, if shallow, addition to the main game.

Dogfighting isn’t the only thing you’ll be doing in space. At several points throughout the game, you’ll be involved in zero-gravity shoot-outs while boarding enemy vessels. In theory, these should be really cool, granting you free movement in a 3 dimensional environment and presenting a whole world of new and exciting possibilities for combat. In reality though, these are  the game’s weakest sections. The controls feel floaty and unresponsive, and it’s difficult to find good cover when the enemy can attack from all directions. Winning in zero-G combat is mostly a matter of staying as far away from the enemy as possible and hoping you can kill them before they notice you. These battles are mercifully short, but they’re just about the only part of the game that isn’t even remotely fun.

If all this sci fi business isn’t appealing to you, you’ll be pleased to hear that Infinite Warfare also features the series’s famous Zombies Mode. This mode, which can be played solo or cooperatively, dumps you in a zombie-infested theme park and forces you to fight off wave after wave of undead foes while searching for weapons, power-ups, and bonus items. The zombies grow faster, stronger, and more numerous as the game progresses, making this mode seriously tough, so you’ll want to bring along some friends if you’re really determined to beat it. While it can be fun, shooting the same old zombies again and again gets repetitive fast, and the difficulty is often frustrating, so it’s hard to recommend zombies as anything but a brief diversion.

Players who grow tired of shooting zombies and SDF soldiers can instead pass their time by shooting their friends. Infinite Warfare features both online and local multiplayer, with the usual assortment of game modes (Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Capture The Flag, etc.) and the usual elaborate progression system to unlock new stuff. It’s standard FPS multiplayer, and if you liked it before, you’ll still like it now. It should be noted that local multiplayer is restricted to only two players, but you can fill out matches with AI bots if you want something a little larger in scale.

 

Whether you’re fighting your friends, your enemies, or the relentless hordes of the undead, Infinite Warfare looks great. The environments cover everything you could want in a sci-fi shooter, as the war takes you from the cities of earth to the cramped interiors of SDF spaceships and all the way to the barren surface of Mars. Everything, from the weapons to the walls looks futuristic, but still grounded enough to feel real and immersive. There’s one recurring problem though: Since everyone’s wearing generic looking future military outfits, it can be hard to tell apart enemies and allies at a glance, particularly in the game’s darker sections, and it’s easy to reflexively shoot your allies by accident. They don’t seem to mind the friendly fire too much, but it kind of kills the mood when you realise your lightning fast from-the-hip head-shot was actually aimed at your own backup.

Compared to the visuals, the soundtrack is a bit of a disappointment. Most of it feels really generic, a faintly sci-fi flavoured mix of the same “drama”, “tension”, and “action” themes you’ve heard in every FPS ever made. The voice acting is solid though. It’s not exactly brimming with energy (with the honourable exception of Salen Kotch), but it feels like a professional acting job and not the monotone script reading that passes for voice acting in too many games. The gun sounds and explosions are also rather  satisfying, particularly for the heavier weapons.

Overall, Infinite Warfare is a solid Call of Duty game. If you’re a fan of the series, this is a good iteration of it, with great graphics, strong level design, and some cool new ideas to explore. If you’re on the fence about CoD, or tired out by it’s many, many games, you might well decide that the new setting, new gadgets, and space combat mode justify giving it a shot. On the other hand, it suffers from the same flaws of linearity, repetitiveness, and uninspired storytelling as most other games in the series, so if you’ve already tried one and hated it, Infinite Warfare probably won’t change your mind.

 

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was played on Xbox One



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