Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review – Great Wing Commander game, so-so COD

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Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare may surprise a lot of players this year. As a package Infinity Ward’s latest turn with Activision’s premier military shooter franchise is drool-worthy.

It comes armed with a very decent single player campaign, a remaster of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (one of the greatest shooters ever made,  a co-op zombies mode that pokes fun at 1980s horror) and multiplayer that, while not amazing, delivers the COD goods (even if that recipe is getting a little stale by now).

That’s four helpings of Call of Duty in one package, and as much as some may have a couple of issues with Activision for what seems to be a continued attempt to bleed the Call of Duty community by raising prices every year to ridiculous levels, even they have to admit that Infinite Warfare’s Legacy Edition is actually a pretty good value for money – which at R1 299 it really has to be.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review: Campaign

I’m a single-player guy, so I jumped right into Infinite Warfare’s campaign the second the game’s 70GB (!!) download completed.

Right away, it was clear that while this year’s game would feature the same engine (boo) and a lot of the same shooting mechanics (meh), it would also take the franchise’s concept of future warfare so far into the future that it would feel fresh and new (hooray!).

For the nine or so hours it took me to finish, I felt like I was playing a space opera in the COD universe that took a lot of inspiration from the likes of Mass Effect and Wing Commander, while staying true to the franchise’s roots with a good dose of the frantic ground combat it’s become known for. It proved to be a good mix.

What makes this year’s single-player campaign so good is the sheer variety it serves up. Infinite Warfare put players through ground missions with advanced weapons and armour where they’ll fight alongside futuristic robots. Then, it chucks them into a Jackal – a highly manoeuvrable spaceship – in which they’ll engage in  dogfights against enemy pilots. It even dumps them on a massive battleship and allows them to choose between missions. Finally, it wraps everything up in a final act that’s as spectacular as you’re likely to see outside of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster.

Pictured: Spectacle.

Yes, you read that correctly – players can choose which missions to go on, and in what order. That’s because the protagonist, Nick Reyes, ends up as the accidental captain of a massive capital ship called the Retribution, and it’s his call whether this means to pursuing an important installation on Mars, or attacking an enemy refinery on Saturn with a squadron of fighter ships.

You get to fly against enemy Aces, too.

Not all missions are required – players can stick with main missions if they like – but there are rewards for completing these side missions, like upgraded weaponry, new armour and new perks. So it’s worth taking the time to do them, but the developers don’t force them on the player.

Side mission, with rewards outlined and chance of success.

First person controls are as tight as ever, and flying your Jackal is smooth and easy; it handles like are arcade shooter so players will more likely be focusing more on the sheer joy of blowing stuff out the sky than accurately simulating what it would be like to fly a spaceship. The main aim here is to have fun and the control setup never gets in the way of that.

As I dropped into combat zones on dropships, jumped long distances with my capital ship, fought land battles alongside my shipmates and flew sorties against enemy fighters, I couldn’t help but think that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare played like the Wing Commander game I’ve always wanted.

Nothin’ quite like dropping in to almost certain death with buddies.

My enjoyment of the game was helped along by really good voice acting and characters I couldn’t help but like, and a conclusion that left me surprisingly choked up, if only at the stupidity and futility of war and the insane sacrifices made by good people in service of its hunger.

This year’s game features some very likeable characters, like Sergeant Omar here.

There were a few mis-steps, story-wise, like the criminal under-use of Kit Harington (Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow) as the game’s main bad guy Salen Kotch, and his awful, cliche-ridden dialogue for the few minutes he was on screen.

And I just couldn’t buy into the paper-thin premise for the game’s conflict, which I won’t spoil – see if you can spot it when (if) you play.

But then, it could be argued that real war is waged on the slightest of pretenses, and not really buying into what you’re doing but doing it anyway because you’re trained to follow orders is part and parcel of a soldier’s life, and Reyes and his cohorts are no different. The fact remains, good reasons or no Salen Kotch and gang shoot at Reyes and co., and what more do you really need before you return fire with intent to kill? Things to ponder, dear readers. Things to ponder.

Despite some overall story-related weaknesses, when the credits rolled on the single player portion of the game I was left feeling like this was the very best Call of Duty campaign I’d played through in years thanks to the cool new-ish sci-fi setting and spectacular set pieces. Score one for Infinity Ward and Activision’s three-year development cycle.

Yup, that’s Lewis Hamilton all right.

As much as I enjoyed the game, I still have a few gripes about its presentation. No, this year’s COD doesn’t look terrible, but it’s also looking very tired, with little to no improvements over last year’s looks. Draw distances are still not great (I played on console), a lot of textures are muddier than I’d like, and character models for NPCs clearly didn’t get nearly as much attention as the main characters did. I suppose the trade-off is Activision was able to keep the game playing at a solid 60fps, and that’s what a fast game like Call of Duty needs.

It makes up for these issues somewhat with incredible set-pieces that make good use of the limited engine tech on offer, but I still wish the game had tried a little harder on the looks front.

Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare Review: Zombies

As was mentioned, the zombie co-op mode is back and this time the developers have gone with an 80-themed veneer. There’s some seriously good writing at work here, containing as many laughs-a-minute as bullets.  The players can take control of four 80s stereotypes; the jock, the nerd, the cheerleader and the “token black guy” (their words, not ours).

Infinity Ward went all out with this year’s Zombie mode – the single level (“Zombies in Spaceland”) is absolutely huge, and it’s quite a task to unlock all of the areas, find all the weapons and survive long enough to upgrade weapons sufficiently to feel like you’re dominating the zombie hordes.

But it’s a lot of fun – the characters are always slinging typical 80s quips and the waves of zombies give you and your mates plenty to shoot at, plus the new Fate & Fortune card system lets you kit your character out with various buffs to help you out.

Buff cards to help you out when the going gets tough.

There’s even an appearance by a certain 1980s icon, who stars as the crazy DJ who spins awesome 80s tunes to accompany your zombie-slaying. Hint: there’s a song called Knight Rider in the game’s credits.

The mode doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the 80s cheese is hilariously awful but in a cool, self-deprecating kind of way that’ll have you chuckling along despite yourself. You might even have more fun with this than the main game’s multiplayer.

No doubt there will be additional Zombie maps as Activision ramps up the game’s DLC, but this one map is big enough that it’ll keep you playing for a while at least.

Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare: COD 4 MW Remaster

The Modern Warfare Remaster is just beautiful to re-play. While yes, I have gripes with the main game’s overall presentation, I couldn’t really fault Modern Warfare’s looks – the overhaul it underwent appears complete, with far sharper textures, tweaks to 3D models and levels, enhanced audio and better lighting that have it looking like a modern FPS.

That’s a lot prettier than I remember… and it’s only the beginning.

The end result is the game that catapulted the series into the stratosphere looks better than it ever has. If you think the nuclear explosion in the original was intense… you ain’t seen nothing. Perhaps the best part of the remaster is the fact that it’s its own standalone game, complete with another 1000 Gamerscore/full trophy list and classic multiplayer map lineup.

The multiplayer is as good as I remember it from back in the day, far more “pure” than the modern FPS online experience is these days. There’s no wall-running, double-jumping or robots, it’s just plain old run ‘n gun run-shoot-run-duck-shoot plus the game’s original progression system and perks, and it’s glorious, if a bit slower than what you’re used to these days.

Which probably explains why the Infinite Warfare multiplayer servers are so dead – MW MP is COD at its purest. Ten classic maps shipped with the game, with another six coming as free DLC before 31 December, so there’s plenty to keep people occupied.

There’s a strong argument for the Modern Warfare Remaster being the best part of this whole package; for those who think the COD series has lost its way somewhat, that’s no maybe. For me, I was just ecstatic to re-play one of the best COD games ever and seeing it dressed to the nines for the occasion was just icing.

For those of you not interested in plunking down R1299 just so you can also play Modern Warfare’s remaster, it’s probably going to be made available as a standalone game in the coming months, so hang in there. Don’t quote me on that, though – this is just what I’ve heard around the industry.

Call Of Duty: Inifinte Warfare: Multiplayer

Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer mode rounds out the package. While it’s just as solid as previous years’ efforts, this year that’s not enough for COD to hang on to its “King of the online FPS” crown. Sure, there are refinements to the weapons, the perks, the maps, the progression system, and there are “rigs” now , different combat suits that double as class distinctions, but ultimately it’s all very much “been there, done that”.

And in a year where the likes of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 have drawn in crowds of gamers with genuine improvements and innovations, COD’s by-the-numbers multiplayer doesn’t impress. Which is a shame, because Infinity Ward’s map design has come a long way – there are some genuinely fun levels here thanks to the space setting.

The popularity of Modern Warfare Remaster and the purity of its multiplayer could explain why I struggled to find games in my time with Infinite Warfare. It could also be the absence of local servers, but whatever the case, I couldn’t just jump in and play right away – there was always a large delay before enough gamers presented themselves for a match.

Still, if you’ve enjoyed COD’s multiplayer recently, you’ll likely enjoy your time with IW’s. It just won’t blow you away with any new features.

Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare: Verdict

Ultimately, I have to give Infinite Warfare the thumbs up, especially the Legacy Edition that comes with the Modern Warfare remaster. There is a hell of a lot of game here, and as cheap as I am and as much as I hate games costing over a thousand bucks, the R1299 price tag is actually backed up what you get for your money.

Infinite Warfare’s single player is thoroughly enjoyable, its multiplayer is only so-so, Zombies is stellar, the Modern Warfare Remaster is a joy to play for veterans and newbies alike, and the fact that there’s remastered MW multiplayer in there too (and it’s so good) is just gravy.

This year’s Call of Duty was reviewed on Xbox One, and a code was supplied by the local distributor. Infinite Warfare retails from R878 for the base game on PC (campaign, multiplayer, Zombies) and starts at R1170 on console. R1299 gets you all of that and the Modern Warfare remaster on PC in the Legacy Edition, which goes for R1560 on console (PS4 and Xbox One).

If you want the whole package – everything mentioned above AND all of the DLC that’s inevitably going to come out, that’ll cost you R1899 on console (yes, really) and R1499 on PC. Sjoe. Hope you’ve been saving all year.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.



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