Review Note: We were provided with a retail copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition for review by Activision. This review specifically covers the Legacy edition, which includes a downloadable remaster of the original Modern Warfare.
I never thought I’d be saying this about a COD title, but Infinite Warfare’s most exciting element is its well-paced, albeit horribly narrated, campaign. While the cringe-worthy writing continues to devolve with each iteration, the overall mission structure and variety are standouts next to the lukewarm and, dare I say, humdrum Multiplayer and Zombies modes.
The shift to outer space delivers a welcoming change in scenery, and the newly introduced space combat offers some of the most memorable moments during the seven-hour campaign. Gamers who’ve traditionally bought COD for the campaign are going to get most out of this release, but sadly, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare fails where it usually succeeded the most: Multiplayer.
Considering that 2016 has been one of the best years for the FPS genre in recent memory, Infinite Warfare stands as a relic when set side by side with the recently released Titanfall 2. From unimaginative map designs to a complete lack of gameplay innovation, Infinite Warfare’s Multiplayer mode feels old-fashioned and sluggish. I imagine even veteran COD fans are scratching their heads this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Titanfall absorb the fanbase in no time.
"Fortunately, I’ve learned to completely disregard writing in COD games because, let’s face it, COD writers are to storytelling what Rob Liefield is to comic book illustration: a tragedy."
The campaign follows generic male #678, or as Infinity Ward calls him Captain Reyes, who sets out to defeat evil, outer-space John Snow. Kit Harrington, for whom I have great admiration for as an actor, is yet another wasted celebrity figure that serves no purpose but to give us a familiar face. His motivations for blowing shit up are never explained, and he may very well be the least memorable villain in the entire Call of Duty franchise. Fortunately, I’ve learned to completely disregard writing in COD games because, let’s face it, COD writers are to storytelling what Rob Liefield is to comic book illustration: a tragedy.
Once you can mentally separate yourself from the callow writing, you’ll find that Infinite Warfare’s campaign is structurally more liberal than its predecessors. After a few introductory missions, you’re greeted to a Mass Effect-style HUB on your spaceship where you can choose from a handful of side-missions, most of which revolve around exuberant space combat scenarios that Infinite Warfare mysteriously excluded from the Multiplayer.
Infinite Warfare still pales in comparison to most other modern FPS campaigns, but at least I didn't feel like the game was playing itself—although you’re still following brainless NPCs who are telling you what to do nearly every step of the way. In a way, Infinity Ward reminds me of Polyphony Digital. Once responsible for revolutionizing a genre, they’ve since remained stuck in the past and completely out of touch with reality. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing Infinity Ward is good at, it’s making Michael Bay seem like a little boy who plays with matchsticks. Infinite Warfare’s space combat is filled with flash and pizzaz. It’s over the top in typical COD fashion, but it works much better with a heavy sci-fi backdrop. It’s all superficial stuff for the most part, but at least you can walk away from a COD campaign feeling somewhat satisfied.
"Aside from the more modern weapons and perks, you still feel like a headless chicken zigzagging through a minefield—only now, issues I haven’t noticed before are starting to become more problematic."
The same can’t be said for the Zombies and Multiplayer modes. I should also confess that I’ve never been a fan of the repetitive Zombies mode, and I still don’t understand the appeal. You’re still presented with simplistic levels with a few window openings where you get to shoot predictable, slow-moving zombies...and well, little else. Aside from a different setting, and a rather impressive animation intro, this is the exact same Zombies mode we’ve all seen before.
It’s the Multilayer, however, where all of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare falls apart. It’s been nine years since Modern Warfare catapulted COD to global acclaim, and honestly, little has changed since then. Aside from the more modern weapons and perks, you still feel like a headless chicken zigzagging through a minefield—only now, issues I haven’t noticed before are starting to become more problematic. For one, there’s too much shit on the screen. You can barely make out the generic characters as they blend in with the backgrounds, and all the matches revolve around the same set of strategies.
Secondly, all the futuristic additions to COD are actually making the already simplistic gameplay even more imbalanced. The wall running is a joke, and rarely serves a purpose considering that none of the map levels are properly designed to benefit from the added skill. Aside from a few choke points where the extra traversal flexibility offers a brief escape, it’s a terribly implemented element that’s even more useless than before.
"Every level, every match and every single aspect of the COD franchise now feels like an oversized basket of busted eggs, and Infinity Warfare is the result of all the yolk turning into a giant scrambled egg omelet with high calories and cholesterol, but little nutritional value."
Even with the introduction of different combat rigs that are supposed to offer individually unique experiences based on play-style, there’s literally no substantial difference between these rigs aside from minor mobility and attack/defense tweaks. It also doesn’t help that the COD online community is at its most toxic, and I can honestly say that I haven’t walked away satisfied from a single online match, even when ranking on the top. Most of the issues are due to the developer's’ inability to design proper maps. Every map is full of annoying hiding spots that encourage camping and cheating. As a result, every player on the map moves around like a seizure victim to avoid the inevitable death that can come from any angle. I never thought of COD as especially archaic, but this year, there’s simply no more place for this franchise. The alternatives are unquestionably superior in just about every way.
This bring us to the Modern Warfare Remaster, which is only available if you purchase the more expensive Legacy Edition. As if things weren’t bad enough, the inclusion of Modern Warfare is somewhat ironic. It only serves to highlight how little the series has grown. Every level, every match and every single aspect of the COD franchise now feels like an oversized basket of busted eggs, and Infinity Warfare is the result of all the yolk turning into a giant scrambled egg omelet with high calories and cholesterol, but little nutritional value. The added visual touches to Modern Warfare are nice, and the game does look lightyears better than the original, but the question is: what is the point? The campaign, while still solid, feels archaic compared to basically every other modern shooter, and the Multiplayer currently only offers a handful of maps. I don’t even see the point in covering the Remaster separately as it provides the same damn experience we’ve had for nearly a decade...but I guess it’s what gamers wanted? Right? Right? RIGHT??
In the end, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition disappoints despite offering a pretty solid campaign. While rich in content, Activision’s quantity-over-quality approach is no longer working. With Battlefield 1, Overwatch, Doom and now Titanfall 2, there’s simply no room left for COD. I shouldn’t feel exhausted from playing a game, but that’s exactly how I feel every time I step away from an Infinite Warfare match. I feel exhausted from doing the exact same thing a decade later. I think Activision can learn a thing or two from Ubisoft and embark on a long-term sabbatical before beating us over the head with the same product.