Over the course of twelve main entries, Call of Duty has gone from World War 2 to the modern day and into the near future, but the FPS juggernaut has never truly explored space and the realm of science fiction. That is until now.
Infinite Warfare brings Call of Duty's trifecta of beloved modes – its single-player campaign, multiplayer and Zombies modes – into the space age, building on the gameplay foundations established by Sledgehammer and Treyarch with Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3.
In some areas this sci-fi influence works a treat, but in others it proves disappointing. What remains constant throughout however, is the feeling that this space setting comes as a welcome change, even if its influence is sometimes minimal.
Easily the standout mode in Infinite Warfare is the campaign. The people of Earth have branched out into the galaxy, using nearby planets and asteroids to gain resources and expand the human race's galactic reach. While most of the human race is on the same page, one group, known as the SDF, has decided it doesn't want to play nice with the rest of the world. Lead by Game of Thrones' Kit Harington, who does a serviceable job, the SDF is on a mission to take or destroy all the strategic and military resources of the United Nations Space Alliance (the good guys) and its allies.
Players are cast as Nick Reyes, who quickly finds himself in charge of one of the Earth's biggest ships. The crew of your ship quickly become the stars of the show, with standouts including AI robot companion Ethan and hardass soldier Sgt Omar. Even the bridge crew and support staff become vital parts of your team, and many short interactions create a bond with more than a few. Without venturing into spoiler territory these bonds really do have some emotional pay offs as the story progresses, despite only clocking in at around six hours or so hours.
For the most part this campaign is standard Call of Duty fair: you go to a location, shoot some guys and continue moving to the next point. But fortunately this is broken up with both flight missions and the space combat. Some levels are partly set in the anti-gravity environment of space which, while only a small change, does break up the gameplay. A grappling hook helps you get around and staying behind cover is near impossible, forcing you to change the way you play.
The real shake-up to the formula is the space flight missions, in which players take control of their speedy and heavily-armed ship, usually with orders to take down larger opponents. The controls are simple and an assisted lock on system alleviates some of the difficulty in targeting there may have been. These missions only pop up a few times in the main campaign, with more to be found as optional side missions.
With an alright bad guy, some spectacular set pieces, top quality cinematics and a ton of great characters, Infinite Warfare's single player campaign is worthy of occupying the same space as instant classics like those of Doom and Titanfall 2. There are issues, and a few characters that don't hit the mark, but this is the first story in a while that has really impressed and at times can be surprisingly heartfelt.
The campaign has a somewhat sombre tone, often making a point of the horrors of war and the lengths that people will go to in order to hurt their foes, but Infinite Warfare's zombies mode throws that out of the window in favour of good old fashioned fun. Zombies in Spaceland sees four 80's movie archetypes run around a zombie-infested theme park setting up barricades and slaughtering waves of undead in the traditional Zombies style. There's humour, a ton of character and very little in the way of serious messages.
Unfortunately this offering probably won't please Zombies veterans. There isn't much in the way of complex secrets to uncover and the challenge doesn't seem quite as steep as last year's effort. This is perhaps a good thing; as the more complex Zombies modes have become very hard for new players to get into, but for those of us who put more than a few hours in every year it certainly feels a little underwhelming. It's good, and many will surely love it, but it feels like a bit of a step backwards.
Amazingly the multiplayer, the mode that Call of Duty is perhaps best known for, is where Infinite Warfare feels stale. The stellar campaign and the good Zombies experience are let down by a multiplayer offering that honestly feels like little more than a DLC expansion for Black Ops 3. The movement abilities are identical to last years offering, and while the campaign can make this mitigate this with variety and set pieces, the multiplayer really shines a spotlight on it. .
The new combat rigs sound great on paper, offering up special abilities and unique bonuses, but they feel like a rehash of last years specialists, just with an extra perk to play with. The new flagship mode, Defender, sees you try and hold onto a drone to score points, but ultimately ends up being a less exciting version of Uplink, with teams trying to hide from each other instead of being forced to run into the action. There is also little to write home about in regard to new maps, they are all very good, with some interesting locations but they wouldn't look out of place in Black Ops 3 – even those set in space, that only seem to have zero gravity when you die.
Infinity Ward tried to shake things up with the weapons, by introducing rare weapon upgrades that basically add perks to guns. It's a way to keep people playing for longer, but it creates issues. Usually if I come up against someone with the same gun as me in a 1v1 battle I fancy my chances, but against these permanent weapon upgrades dished out by pure chance I don't stand a chance. It makes things feel a little unfair at times, and these upgrades definitely aren't easy to unlock.
Multiplayer proves disappointing because of the lack of meaningful changes over previous years, but it is still one of the most consistent and quality online shooters available. The action is fast, the game modes varied and the actual act of shooting is still satisfying. It just feels like too much of the same, which will be a bigger problem for some than others.
The best single player campaign Call of Duty has produced in years provides a decent story with some really impactful moments. The set pieces are as good as ever and the cinematics look phenomenal. Zombies in Space is a nice idea and well-implemented, but will be a disappointment to hardcore fans of the mode due to its relative simplicity. Unfortunately the multiplayer is a bit of a let down. Too few changes make this feel like a rehash of Black Ops 3 and the new ideas fail to hit the mark. That beings said this is still one of the best multiplayer shooters available, and by no means is it a bad game.