Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is Infinite Ward’s most recent crack at Activision’s annual franchise. This game, according to the marketing, is a brand new step for Call of Duty.
The story takes place on Earth, in space and on the surface of heavenly bodies in our Solar System. It is, quite basically, a submarine game in the heavens with lots of over-the-top moments, future tech and absurd engagements.
And yet, here I am in 2016 with a Call of Duty campaign I actually enjoyed. Should we put the game award delivery groups on notice for Infinite Warfare‘s dynamic writing and stunning character development? No.
That said, this game features a story with actual pacing and build up framed around a comparatively unique Call of Duty experience that makes it the best the franchise has seen in years.
Admittedly, its competition hasn’t been all that strong; but Infinite Warfare is, well, good.
This is a review of the game’s single player. We’ll dive into the multiplayer mode in the coming weeks.
A campaign built with downtime
Call of Duty has always been a series of set-pieces. From the moment we stormed the beaches of Normandy in the original to the nearly indistinguishable bombastic moments in the more recent games, this franchise is built on big, booming moments.
The best Call of Duty games, though? They do downtime.
If you walked up to 10 Call of Duty fans and asked them about their favorite Call of Duty moment, I bet at least five would point to “All Ghillied Up” from Modern Warfare. That mission was bloody and violent, but it was also slow and quiet. That showed that Call of Duty didn’t need to move large and loud in order to be good.
Yet, the campaigns since then have been a constant barrage of bullets and screaming with only quick flashes of silence. It’s exhausting.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare takes place largely in space. You serve as the captain of a massive spacecraft that’s designed like a war boat for the stars. You’ll actually select missions from the bridge in this oddly quasi-open approach to the game, something completely new to Call of Duty.
You’ll walk around in silence, fool around in your cabin and eavesdrop on your crew. It isn’t perfect by any stretch. The space is small, you can’t actually interact with anyone and the crew routinely says the same stuff over and over again. It’s almost like walking around in a Disney ride filled with animatronics. It’s neat for a bit before the façade falls.
I like it, though. These moments of quiet and “life” give Infinite Warfare a premise beyond disembodied voices speaking over fast moving map screens with pictures of terrorists. As stupid as it is, Infinite Warfare‘s hub area gives you a sense of agency. It’s little more than a virtual mission selection screen, but it works well to tone down the game’s noise.
This has always been one of my biggest problems with Call of Duty‘s campaigns. If you’ve been on TechnoBuffalo before, you might have read it from me elsewhere. These games run with the volume cranked up to 10 all the time, so we don’t notice when they move it up to 11. Instead of keeping the volume so high and the action so heavy, quiet and pacing make those huge moments even bigger.
That’s true here.
Solid characters, except the dude who plays Jon Snow
Yes. Kit Harrington is this year’s banner star turned villain in Call of Duty. Kit Harrington is the same actor behind Jon Snow, a performance he does exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that he’s long been my favorite character in Game of Thrones.
Here? Harrington is flat and boring. It’s like Infinity Ward tried to make him cold and calculating, and they wound up with a villain that sounds spiritless and removed. Compare that to Kevin Spacey from Advanced Warfare. Spacey did really well in that role, Harrington phones it in.
The good news is that, on the whole, the other characters in this game are really good. The captain, played by you, is a little flat but still worthwhile. His robot brother in arms named Ethan is outstanding, as is the crew around him. Salt, his female peer at the start of the game is great too.
Each character has an actual arch in this game, something that’s been a big blind spot for Call of Duty in year’s past. Even Ethan and the other marines on the ship develop together, something that Infinity Ward totally could have left alone.
The point is that you’ll have a decent story with a set of genuinely likable characters that you’ll enjoy firing next to, and that’s a welcome addition to Call of Duty that deserves some serious love.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s campaign isn’t perfect, but it’s a really great step for the series.
Flat characters, a bad knock-off version of Titanfall‘s parkour and some aging mechanics aren’t enough to dull this experience. Infinite Warfare is just as over-the-top as this series typically is, but Infinity Ward managed to pepper in the right amount of quiet to accentuate all that noise.
The space setting and relatively open mission selection also make this a Call of Duty campaign that will be fresh enough for annual stalwarts.
It won’t win any awards this year, but Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is solid. I hope Sledgehammer and Treyarch are watching.
Buy if you’re a hardcore fan. The rest of us can wait for a sale. Once it drops a touch, you won’t be upset with the 8-ish hour campaign. Stay tuned for my multiplayer review.
Disclaimer: We received a copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from Activision.