Space is the final frontier, the place where Silicon Valley billionaires and modest farmers alike dream of exploring, the future of humanity and a bottomless well of scientific discovery and fascinating. You wouldn’t think there would be a way to make that boring, but Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare manages by forgoing the gameplay opportunities going into space provides in favor of sticking to a decade-old formula that is showing its age.
Infinity Ward has indeed made a pretty, well-done game. While it may not be console-demonstration grade, the graphics look good, the actors look like the actors, although admittedly Kit Harrington is kinda stiff playing a bad guy, and it sounds good. None of it is particularly original or terribly inspired, but it is vivid, and up to the usual standards Infinity Ward holds themselves to. The setpieces are suitably cinematic and fun to watch, but, of course, there’s the question of being fun to play.
The big change this year is that there’s a fun, arcadey space dogfight mechanic that the game, not unreasonably, really loves featuring. It’s not terribly complex or challenging, but it is a lot of goofy fun and wisely it’s used to break up the game’s levels. But other than that, and a few sections that use zero gravity and planetary conditions in fun if unimaginative ways, it’s all here, yet again. Vehicle sections, breaches, long corridors full of enemies where you make the men fall down, pressing buttons to have a feeling (yes, that returns, and it’s even worse this time)… it’s Call of Duty, making all the fury over the trailer feel a bit silly. And that’s a problem any year, but it’s a big one when just last week, your former bosses dropped a giant robot on you.
Not to bore you with critical theory, but I personally feel it’s bad form to use a movie, game, or what have you as a club on another. But in this case, where Titanfall 2 came out a week ago, and that it was made by former Infinity Ward team members who left under acrimonious circumstances, it’s going to come, and frankly, Infinity Ward takes a beating here.
The fundamental problem here is that once again, the franchise adheres to formula. It doesn’t matter that we’re breaching doors and having short vehicle sections IN SPAAAAAAACE if they’re not going to use that setting in creative or interesting ways. There is no more painful illustration of this than the fact that the game opens on a vast, beautiful vista of Jupiter’s moon, Europa… and then forces you to gun your way through a bog-standard military base. Or when you see Fleet Week with spaceships, which is amazing… and then have to shoot your way though a bunch of urban corridors.
And, yes, they both have wall-running and double jumping, but in Call Of Duty, it feels, at best, superfluous. Probably the most damning thing I can say about these features is that as I was working through the campaign, a trophy popped: I’d gone two minutes without double-jumping or wall-running when I had the option. Except the level I played wasn’t really designed to use those features, as it was your generic “shoot-through-the-city” sequence.
The same is true of the multiplayer. This is, again, Call of Duty with a light SF coating to the whole thing. The maps are fun, albeit you’ll be murdered by the people who do nothing but play this game all year before buying the next one, but most people will log an hour and decide to return to the campaign. Or to Zombies!
Things perk up a little bit with Zombies, which this go-round has an ’80s cheese vibe and is still as fun as ever as you gun down wave after wave of undead. It’s fairly basic, of course, although Infinity Ward spent the money to bring in the likes of David Hasselhoff and Paul Reubens to voice the characters and to fill the soundtrack with ’80s hits, and the couch co-op makes this the idea game to play with a friend or two. Still, though, gunning down ’80s zombies isn’t exactly the pinnacle of creativity.
Once again, the campaign is short; unless you tackle every side mission, and there are quite a few of them that are worth playing, you’ll be up and out in seven to nine hours. If you’re a multiplayer obsessive, of course, you’ll sink hours into trying to 360 no-scope chumps, and we can see Zombies having some staying power among roommates and people who need a short game they can pick up and play.
You know the drill; four DLC releases, all throughout the year, and fork over for the season pass. You also have to drop $100 if you want both this game and the remastered version of Modern Warfare, so if you were hoping to get two games for the price of one… well, one is $10 off?
Call of Duty has legions of fans that have already put down their money and done nothing but hunt each other all day today. And that’s fine. This game is for them. But if you’re not one of those fans, then at this point, there’s little reason to bother.