Let’s not beat about the bush, Infinite Warfare has had a very contentious release. From the outset, the extreme negative reactions to the announcement trailer and subsequent follow up trailers, it must have been a shock to both Activision and Infinity Ward just how negative the response was. I mean, it’s not news that sales in the series has been in decline for a few years now and interest in the yearly franchise has been waning also. But to have the announcement of your next game become one of the most disliked videos on YouTube must have been an eye opener to someone. I mean, it’s not often a developer of a AAA franchise resorts to a live stream to chat to fans and try to explain the vision of their game and understand the backlash they’ve received. Was it the poorly considered/timing of using a questionable ‘remix’ of a David Bowie classic as the backing track to the trailer? Was it the fact that it was another shooter set in a future people struggled to relate to? Or was it just franchise fatigue? That’s a Question that’s probably best served for more of an opinion piece. Let’s instead look at what Infinite Warfare is offering us and judge it on it’s merits alone.
If there is one thing I’ve always associated with a COD game, it’s been the enjoyable if, otherwise forgettable single player campaign. I never expect to walk away from a COD campaign thinking I’ve just played something ground breaking. I generally expect a Michael Bay-esque explosathon , big set pieces and a straight forward story that wouldn’t require any real higher brain function to understand. Switch game on, turn brain off type of scenario. So, I went into Infinite Warfare expecting the same kind of experience. By the end of the first mission I found I had unconsciously sat up straight in my seat and I was getting drawn into IW’s story. I actually had a reflective moment of ‘Wait. What?’. This is not what I was expecting at all.
It seems Infinity Ward has upped their story telling game. From the world building, the atmosphere surrounding the player and the characters that populate the universe, there was something cohesive about the whole experience that encouraged me to feel invested enough to pay attention to the campaign. Characters feel grounded and believable, maybe even go as far to say even slightly flawed too. You start to care about them, especially E3n (Ethen), the AI buddy you’re partnered with early on in the game. We aren’t talking fully developed, fleshed out characters here, but they do feel more than the one-dimensional mannequins that traditionally pad out the series cast. As we’ve come to expect, they have a cast of well-known celebrities filling the boots of the main characters. From Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones fame, David Harew and Claudia Black. I also had a personal geeky moment to myself when I realised Claudia Christian (of Babylon 5 fame) was part of the cast and even plays a character not that far removed from her character in the classic SciFi series. Yes, Infinite warfare is so far ticking all the right boxes in the single player department.
The actual story, however, is nothing special. It does apparently play out in the universe established in Modern Warfare 3 but set many years in the future. Although it’s never revealed just how far into the future we are or any real reference to the events that occurred in MW3. But Humanity has taken to the stars and alot of the solar system has been colonised or mining outposts have been established on them. It seems Mars, representing these outer colonies, aren’t happy with Earth’s rule and has decided to end Earths hold on the colonies. In steps rear Admiral ‘Salen Kotch’ (Kit Harrington) to fan the flames of rebellion and spearhead as the main protagonist of the story. The story doesn’t get much more complicated than that. We never really establish their contention points or motivation for the slaughter that follows. Just an acceptance that we are good and they are bad. It’s bothersome, but It’s not bad enough to completely remove you from the narrative.
The actors providing the voice overs do an excellent job, where the tone and emotion matching perfectly with events that are occurring on the screen. Nothing feels phoned in and all the characters do enough to establish themselves as belonging to the world and are a regular part of your character’s life. A strong theme in the story is about command and sacrifice and how both are intrinsic to one another and it was genuinely satisfying to see that particular theme play out to its satisfying end. Even the levels look stunning, in the tried and tested ‘revamped’ cod engine. From the tight confines of enemy capital ships, to the various landscapes of the different words you land on, everything just ties together to give a really solid single player experience.
Infinite Warfare plays exactly like it’s counterparts, with its very familiar, responsive FPS controls. It also brings with it the wall running that was introduced with Advanced Warfare, which didn’t feel right then and still doesn’t quite feel right now. Wall running feels as if you’re glued to the walls you’re running against rather than the impression of true momentum carrying you forward. Infinite Warfare also tries to mix up the traditional by adding a new mechanic to the series – flight controls. When you’re first introduced to flying the Jackal, Infinite Warfare’s equivalent of the F-35 JTF Fighter, the game takes you through the process of taking you off from the earth, breaking through its atmosphere and engage in a huge capital ship battle. All relatively seamless from the ground battle you were in the middle of, literally minutes ago. You engage fighters, try to avoid incoming missiles and ultimately go toe-to-toe with the enemy capital ships as you strafe, up and down their hull. The whole experience was, initially breathtaking, Again, the presentation, sound and background chat giving you the impression you are in amongst a real, hard fought battle is very convincing. But you soon, very quickly begin to see how limited the flight experience is.
You do have full control of the Jackal, with full yaw and pitch controls. Just not all the time. You quickly realise, when you get a lock on an enemy fighter, you lose control over the Jackal until you lose the lock or you destroy your enemy. Control of the Jackal seems to transfer to the game itself as your sped up to an incredible velocity, manoeuvring through super structures, asteroids or any other obstacle that’s in your path in a way you wouldn’t be able to yourself if you had control. It’s an excellent subterfuge that at first convinces you that you could be seeing the beginnings of a worthy successor to wing commander. But very soon the curtains fall, you see the strings controlling your craft and you become more a passenger than a pilot. It’s incredibly disappointing. Especially when controlling the Jackal without a lock on to an enemy ship is slow and ponderous in comparison. As a narrative mechanic, the Jackal works great. Servicing as your transport between your mother ship and your mission destinations. Whether that be in the middle of an asteroid belt, another capital ship or on the surface of a planet, the transition from on-foot combat to in ship travel/combat is seamless and certainly adds to the overall tone of the single player experience.
Length wise, you can rush through the main story in about 4-5 hours. Or you can soak up the universe by carrying out all the optional side missions and taking time to absorb all the back story by heading into your captain’s quarters and reading through all the background information that unlocks as you progress through the story. The side missions essentially double the length of the campaign giving you a decent 7-10 hours’ worth of gameplay. These optional missions range from raiding depots, boarding enemy ships, or jumping into the Jackal and taking on wings of fighters and capital ships in short missions. Each which can take up anything between 10 minutes to 30+ minutes. There isn’t an endless supply of them, and the do dry up unfortunately. But I could see these missions being good templates for adding some procedurally generated content into a future game.
On the multiplayer side of things, things start to take a real turn for the worse. On one hand, the gun play, pace of the game and time to Kill feels mostly the same like any other COD game. So, those familiar with the classic COD mechanics will feel right at home. It also brings with it, the new mobility mechanics introduced in Advanced Warfare and further refined with Black Ops 3. The problem lies in the lack of any real innovation and feels more like a reskin of Black Ops 3’s multiplayer mode rather than something you can say was uniquely introduced with Infinite Warfare.
The other problem is that, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, everything Infinite Warfare tries to do with its multiplayer has already been completely overshadowed by Titanfall 2. Even at its most basic elements, and comparing the mobility mechanics of both games, as mentioned above Infinite Warfare’s mobility just feels off. There is a sluggishness to it compared to Titanfall’s mostly graceful approach to getting across an entire level without ever touching the ground. IW’s class builder feels more complicated than it needs to be, introducing Pay to Win DLC that should never be included with any game, especially a AAA priced game. And we can’t forget the doozey, that Respawn already confirmed that Titanfall 2 won’t have any premium DLC or a season pass and all the new maps will be free for all.
Infinite Warfare has made this strange flip that I never expected to see, where the story mode is stronger than it’s multiplayer offering. Infinity Ward has made an incredible effort to push beyond the normal, terrible story telling trope the series has been known for and introduced us to a world and tale that was genuinely enjoyable enough to see through to its end. While, at the same time, providing a lacklustre multiplayer mode that doesn’t even try to better itself, and is ultimately surpassed by its peers. If you’re looking for a decent single player experience this holiday, you wouldn’t be amiss to consider Infinite Warfare, but maybe not at full price. Just don’t expect to get much life out of the multiplayer mode unless you are a diehard fan of the series.