STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Xbox One)

Thursday, November 3, 2016.
by Kirby Yablonski

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Box art There is no doubt that the Call of Duty series has taken its fair share of criticisms in the past and present. Most recently you can see it from the number of ‘dislikes’ recorded on YouTube for the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s announcement trailer and the some of the fan base criticizing Activision and Infinity Ward for making COD: Modern Warfare Remastered a bundle only option with the newest game. It’s amazing to see such a vocal crowd say so much about a game they haven’t played. Well we here at XBA have had a chance to play the game and are here to tell you as much as we can about it.

First off I need to get the ‘elephant in the room” out of the room. This game is not Battlefield. There, I said it. I know so many people are planning to compare this game to EA’s annual franchise, and in reality you shouldn’t as they are two different games. I know many will not agree with me, and that’s fine, but the truth is that COD is its own beast, and EA’s game is its own beast as well, and they are two very separate games, so stop trying to compare them. They offer up their own experiences, story, and gameplay features. Ok, I think I ranted enough about this.

This review will be covering the gameplay experience with Infinite Warfare, given that Modern Warfare is the same game of 2007, but remastered in both visuals and sound. We will be focusing on the single player aspect, the multiplayer experience, and of course the cooperative gameplay of the new Zombies mode of Infinite Warfare.

Single Player (Story) Campaign

After playing through the Infinite Warfare’s campaign story I must say that I am quite satisfied with the single player experience. COD games have been known to come up short in this area in the past. I have played through every campaign in a COD game since COD 2 debuted on the Xbox 360, except for Black Ops III. Last year’s game just didn’t grab my attention in the single player area. Much has been discussed by Infinity Ward about trying to make this year’s single player campaign one you want to play and pay attention to, and after playing it I believe I can say they did a good job here.

As far as the campaign’s story goes, and without giving up too much information, you are part USNA. Your enemy is the Settlement Defense Front (SDF who splintered off and started their own fleet/army. They are a war machine ruled by its military and they are viewed as the enemy to the rest of Earth. They are “revolutionists” given how they want nothing to do with Earth in any manner. You take on the role of Nick Reyes, starting off as a Lieutenant and who is unsuspectingly promoted to Commander and Acting Captain of the Spaceship Retribution. This happens after the Earth is attacked by the SDF when they did not expect it.

I’d go into further detail, but I won’t, as you need to experience narrative yourself. But what I can tell you is that the story that plays out, from the cutscenes or actual gameplay, is one you’ll want to pay attention to. You can tell that this is not your typical single player COD campaign, as there is a wide collection of characters to follow, and you’ll want to listen to the dialogue that occurs as it all has relevance during the game. As for Nick Reyes, you’ll see how he adapts and changes who he is throughout the story making decisions he never thought he’d make. You get invested in what goes on. In a nutshell, given the surprises that occur during the story you never know where the plot is going to take you.

One of the big complaints that fans already have about Infinite Warfare is that it was announced that it would take place in the in space. Well, let me say that even though this is the case, the game feels “grounded” and you feel like you are truly in a battle no matter where you are. There is no reliance on overly fancy or over-the-top futuristic weapons. The game plays like a COD game. You’ll find that any weapons of the future are based on the guns of the ‘past’. Energy and ballistic weapons must be reloaded and the guns feel solid. I was quite surprised with how they didn’t feel exceedingly sci-fi like.

Infinity Ward has tried to mix things up with this year’s story campaign and you’ll find yourself involved in battles on planets, battles on enemy ships, and you’ll even battle in space outside enemy ships as you try to board the enemy craft. In terms of the latter, think of these aspects like the space battle in Moonraker (James Bond film) but it’s not cheesy and there is some strategy as you use your grapple cable to go from cover to cover. You can also use the same cable to kill your enemies in a few different ways. There are also new battles where you are flying a fighter jet called a Jackal. The Jackal battles are intense, and once you learn how to pilot the fighter in space it becomes an entertaining part of the game as it’s a gameplay mechanic that is implemented well and adds a change of pace in the battles you partake in.

There are side missions in the game, called “Targets of Opportunity” but these missions are not ‘tacked-on’ as they have relevance to the story. They open early on in the game and the missions entail boarding enemy ships (ship assault) and killing “most wanted” SDF officers, destroying certain items on an enemy ship, and/or flying Jackal missions destroying enemy ships or outposts. When you explore what targets are available you can see what rewards are offered for completing the mission and you can decide accordingly on what to do. More “Targets of Opportunity” become available as you progress too.

There are also little touches that make the story mode even more unique. For example, as you progress you can watch ‘news’ snippets that are based on some key moments of the story, as well as the “Targets of Opportunity”, that you complete. Usually you can view them in the staff area where other staff will comment on the news that is being played on the ‘screen’. It’s very cheesy news video, but it’s a small, and nice little touch. These are optional and you don’t have to watch them if you don’t want to. You’ll also see that your ship gets slowly repaired after battle too, so it is never the same inside given the repairs that occur. Also, as you go on missions you can find areas on enemy ships or mission installations where you can access new weapons, new attachments, or improvements to other weapons and they become accessible in your armory (e.g. you can upgrade your hacking grenade to take over bigger shielded robots).

It took me 8 – 9 hours to complete the story mode, and that includes all the “Targets of Opportunities”. Oh, you may want to watch the credits too, just sayin’. There is a total of 31 missions, when all the individual story chapters and all the “Targets of Opportunities” are counted together. Some parts of story seem like one long mission, but they are broken up behind the scenes into several missions that just stream together. The reason you’re unaware of how many actual missions there are is that there are no loading screens as the story plays out seamlessly even with your breaks of gameplay. There are some LONG (caps added for emphasis) gameplay sections, especially in the last ‘chapter’ and you’ll feel like it goes on forever (in a good way though). Just when you think you’re done, you suddenly realize you’re not and you keep going as the story plays out further. And for those looking for some hardcore challenge, try playing the game on Specialist (more damage, no regenerating health, need to find and use replacement helmets and nanopacks to heal yourself) or YOLO (You Only Live Once) mode.

Although the story mode is a much-improved narrative, there are going to be pundits out there who will slam it no matter what it does. And sure, you’ll find that there are some staple COD gameplay elements such as choke points, the need to fight an insurmountable number of enemies at one time and the prerequisite to cross some invisible line/barrier at times before enemies will stop respawning. In terms of the latter, it’s not as bad as in past COD games that I have played, so there is a bit of silver lining there.

The visuals are in Infinite Warfare are fairly solid. What you’ll notice though is that there is a film like quality to the cutscenes and that the gameplay has that “Call of Duty” look which is clean, sharp, and quite bright. The environments are quite varied (including competitive multiplayer). Planets look different from each other (e.g. ice versus rocky with pockets of gas) and ship interiors vary depending on where you are (e.g. weapons area, captains deck or the engine room). Flying the Jackals is also impressive visually, including battling large enemy battleships and then flying through the debris of the ship you destroyed taking out the SDF’s Jackal like fighters. And we cannot forget the weapons either. They are very detailed and if you look closely at some of them you can see how they are based on weapons that are current today. This was something that Infinity Ward worked with military advisors on as they wanted to stay within the realm of how weapons may develop in the future.

Nary a hiccup was found when playing, as the framerate seemed steady most of the time and I didn’t notice any technical issues. I was impressed with the lighting effects, especially the level where you are on a mining asteroid and you need to dart in the shade from building to building before the sun starts to shine down and literally burn you alive. Although there is nothing particularly wrong with the games visuals, there are critics, and I can see why as the look of all COD games has kept pretty much the same, just improvements in level design, special effects, and general wizardry for getting things looking good.

The audio is a very strong point of the game too. From the voice acting, the special effect sounds (in surround sound of course) and the weapons. The fact that the guns are supposed to be in the future, but they still sound, what I can best describe as, plausible. From ballistic based weapons to energy based weapons, they sound somewhat realistic, if I can say that for weapons that don’t even exist. When you change the mag of your gun and then pull the trigger you’ll understand what I am saying. Guns sound different from one another too, so an LMG is distinctly different from an SMG or Assault rifle and the ballistic weapons sound different from the energy based ones. In terms of the voice acting, although it’s not Oscar material, it’s quite decent, and you can hear that the voice actors played their roles well. One of the highlights is a new robot soldier, Ethan, who is part of your assault team. His voice work is terrific (for a robot) and there are some very well timed comical moments that make his role in the game so interesting. He has his own personality, as evidenced by his lines, and he added to many of the missions he played a part in.

In general, the rest of sound does its job well, from walking on ice, rock or dirt, the sounds of your own troops, or enemy troops, as they scream and yell in battle to those times when you find you and your assault team crawling through the maintenance ducts of a ship, you’ll hear it all. You’ll also notice the little details such as the sounds of putting on your helmet when going out in space, the sound of weapons in the vacuum of space, the sound of hyperspace drives igniting as you travel from planet to planet, and the sound of your ship as you walk through it with all the chatter, the sound of repairs, and the Zero G world outside putting pressure on it your ship’s hull.

Multiplayer (Adversarial)

If you have played any COD games over the past few years, then multiplayer should be rather self-explanatory. There are your usual modes in Infinite Warfare such as kill confirmed, free-for-all and team deathmatch (TDM) as well as some core eSports modes such as hardpoint, CTF and uplink. It’s all standard for COD fans nowadays and Infinite Warfare continues the heritage of such. You can even create custom games and be a ‘codcaster’ should you be streaming on Twitch or YouTube.

There are a few new additions to multiplayer in Infinite Warfare. The first, and most notable, is the fact that you equip your soldier with what is known as a Rig. Each Rig has a specific set of abilities that are tailored for a specific type of play style. Each of the Rigs comes with different payload options for you to think about (1 weapon & 2 abilities). Three Rigs are available when you first start your online experience (Warfighter, Merc, Synaptic). The other three open as you level up (FTL - level 15, Stryker -level 31 and Phantom - level 36).

The Warfighter is considered your typical ‘soldier’ in a COD game; the Merc plays a defensive role as they provide cover fire and defensive items for teammates; finally, the Synaptic is a robotic soldier which is adept at speedy close quarters combat. The three Rig classes that open as you level up also have their specialties. The FTL Rig uses experimental tech and is adept at guerilla warfare; Stryker is a support role for all other team players on the map; and Phantom is a Sniper/Marksman role. You’ll find that as you level up, open new perks, and items for your guns, that the Rig you choose will be one that suits your gameplay style.

Another new addition to the multiplayer experience is Mission Teams. There are four different teams that have you adapting to different objectives depending on what team you pick. Only one team is open from the start (JTF Wolverine) and they are just concerned with killing the enemy. The other teams become available at level 15 (Orion – strategy is their key to their gameplay and missions), level 30 (Sabre Team Seven – Equipment plays a key role in their missions) and at level 45 (Wraith – Specializes in assassination and covert ops). The Mission Teams, and their objectives, add a bit of variety in what you are doing as there are specific goals, and as you rank up in your team you are rewarded with items for customization and prototype weapons.

The other, and final, noteworthy addition is crafting of weapons. You can start crafting weapons in the “prototype lab”, which is found at the Quartermaster, and if you are at the level the weapon you want, and you have the salvage parts, you can ‘make’ that weapon. Salvage parts can be found in either the “regular” or “rare” supply boxes, cards from the supply boxes that are duplicates break down into salvage, and levelling up mission teams can reward you too. Once you have enough salvage you can then start your crafting experience. If you are lucky you can also find a “rare” card in a chest that will open one of the higher prototype guns and you won’t have to “chain” your way through crafting to get to that particular gun.

When talking about the crafting and prototype system, I spoke to Infinity Ward about the possibility of it giving players unfair advantages. It was noted that the rarities and differences in the guns aim at playstyles and traits, not making one gun overpowered (OP’d) that someone will run amok with and make the game experience miserable. You should, in theory, be able to find a gun that is lower in ‘rarity’ (e.g. rare or legendary) and match up with someone using a gun that is higher (e.g. epic).

Two new modes have been added this year as well, defender and frontline. In defender you rush to the middle of the map and try to gain control of a drone. You basically play keep away and can pass it to your teammates to help you do so. A bit of strategy is involved as you pick your Combat Rigs to match how you play (e.g. keep the drone or protect the drone carrier). After holding the drone for a minute the drone resets and it’s a mad dash to get the drone once again. I found that this is pretty enjoyable new mode and I had a lot of fun playing it. Frontline is more of a TDM based mode. Each team’s spawns are clearly laid out and you want to kill your enemy outside the spawn points, as that is where the points count. It’s a nice change up from regular TDM as being killed when I spawn has always been a complaint of mine.

You’ll find some variety in the maps, environment wise, as they take place on different planets with very different areas highlighted, and you’ll even get to fight in a space station. The maps are quite detailed as well. I hear time in and time out that COD devs use an old graphics engine, well, by the looks of the maps the graphic engine is highly refined and does a great job of looking good. From the cold steel of the innerwalls of a space station, the pod-like structures in Frontier, to the reimagined Terminal, fans should find a lot to enjoy when looking at the visuals in this game. In terms of their gameplay design, many will recognize how they are designed, with choke points, sniping alleys, and areas meant for close quarter weapons versus medium sized areas for assault rifles.

In the end COD multiplayer is COD multiplayer, it’s fast, twitchy and has a gameplay style and tactics that work. People who play it come back because they enjoy it, so if you are not a fan of previous multiplayer, that is ok, you don’t have to like this, but there are people who do, and I can see why. If anything, Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer gives new maps, new weapons, and some new features that help make it a somewhat better experience, but there is also a lot of familiarity with it, which has brought back many COD fans in the first place.

Cooperative Play (Zombies Mode)

Zombies mode has become a staple with any COD game since it debuted a few years ago. It has garnered quite the following and this year’s version looks to change things up. Zombies in Spaceland takes place in the 1980s, and in a theme park nonetheless. You are part of a group of four kids (prom queen, jock, nerd/geek and rapper) who have been asked to come to a mysterious theater where you expect to audition for a role in a movie; however, you are magically whisked off to another world, which turns out to be the theme park where this Zombies mode takes place. Of course you have to fight for your life as you battle wave after wave of the undead.

One thing is very clear, and that is there is a warped sense of humour in Zombies in Spaceland. From having to battle exploding Killer Clowns, using interesting weapons to kill zombies (exploding 80’s ‘ghetto-blasters’) to following the directions of the theme park’s DJ, who is played by David Hasselhoff. For the motivated zombie killer, you can even use the rides and ‘attractions’ as weapons. For example, there is a dance floor found in the theme park that, when there is power and activated, the zombies will go onto the flashing dance floor and dance, and once there is enough of them, the disco ball will start firing lasers and kill them all. You can use a variety of the rides and attractions to do this kind of stuff and it’s pretty neat to watch it unfold.

You’ll find the level design choices just as interesting, from battling zombies in the park’s souvenir store to being able to ride a roller coaster and shoot carnival targets, and zombies, while doing so. Even death is handled differently, as you find yourself in the ‘Afterlife Arcade’ and you can try to earn the chance to come back to life by playing theme park arcade games such as throwing basketballs through hoops, playing skee-ball or putting a coin in an arcade machine to play some very early Activision published games (think Pitfall people).

As long as you stay alive as a team you can discover what a large theme park you are battling zombies in. You haven’t felt panic and urgency in a game until you run out of ammo in this mode and you run for your life with a horde of zombies chasing you. Hearing the footsteps and growls get closer as you frantically search for ammo, or a new weapon you can afford, will keep you on the edge of your seat. In all Zombies in Spaceland is truly a great take on the Zombies mode and something fans, and non-fans alike, should enjoy.

So, we come to the end of this long review. With Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare developer Infinity Ward has managed to do a lot with this year’s COD entry. It has a story mode that makes you want to play the single player campaign as it keeps you engrossed, and as there are no loading screens the story keeps on playing out in front keeping you involved in the narrative all game. In regards to the multiplayer, although there is no ‘ground breaking’ feature, what Infinity Ward has added, from the Rigs, the Mission Teams to the crafting, makes for enough new additions that add to the familiarity of what already exists making this area one that fans will enjoy. And finally, the cooperative Zombies mode is a fresh take on what has become an exciting mode and the fact that it’s such a different setting from past zombie modes before make it refreshing and enjoyable. As a whole Infinite Warfare is not perfect game, but that doesn't make it a bad game as all three gameplay elements (story, multiplayer, cooperative) combine to make a solid game that fans, and even non-fans, can enjoy and one that shouldn’t be overlooked this year.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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