The latest instalment of Activision’s perennial shooter franchise packs in a lot — single player campaign, multiplayer, a new Zombies mode, flight missions for PlayStation VR, and even a full-fledged remake of 2007’s Modern Warfare in higher tier packages. Whatever else, you’re definitely getting bang for your buck.
The solo campaign is serviceable, although it does a good job of drawing you into Reyes’ real conflict: whether the mission’s success or your team’s lives are more important in war. Credit for this largely goes to the voice cast, who do a stand-up job of selling characters little removed from the standard ‘band of brothers’ found in other military fables. There are homages galore to established sci-fi properties too, with Reyes’ squad echoing the marines from Aliens, complete with robot soldier E3N serving as a more kill-capable Bishop, while themes of ‘Earth vs Colonies’ feel curiously close to classic anime franchise Gundam. There’s a dash of Avatar in there, too. But the story as a whole is hard to buy into, the SDF being little more than caricatured space fascists, complete with nationalistic slogans and a propaganda machine that only Donald Trump might think low-key.
Thankfully, Infinite Warfare‘s gameplay makes up for narrative blandness. Shooting gallery mechanics are livened up with futuristic weapons and armour that border on super-powered. Encounters are rarely dull, while set pieces dotted around the solar system delight, mixing variable gravity and harsh environments for some genuinely thrilling set pieces. Aerial battles — both in planetary atmosphere and dogfights in space — and story-based side missions (a CoD first) are particularly nice touches, adding more variety to the overall experience.
This all translates rather well into the multiplayer. While functionally similar to Black Ops III, Infinite Warfare‘s future tech abilities make it feel more like Destiny than traditional CoD. This may anger franchise purists, but the wall-runs and boost jumps pair perfectly with combat rigs offering customisable super moves — a favourite being the ability to shift into a savage dog-bot mode to maul opponents. Killstreak bonuses are more spectacular than ever, including laser arrays from orbiting weapons platforms to devastate the maps.
Meanwhile, in the 1980s, Zombies in Spaceland offers an entirely different multiplayer experience utterly divorced from the main game. Trapped in a theme park, with David Hasselhoff as the DJ, teams of four battle endless undead hordes. They’re all predictable ’80s stereotypes (jock, nerd, cheerleader, etc) but there’s no distinction in terms of controls. Spaceland is notably easier than previous Zombies modes though, almost to the point of handholding, and you’ll make it through numerous waves of enemies before breaking a sweat. There’s a balance between challenge and fun to be struck, but it’s not quite found here.
For everything Infinite Warfare does right though, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a whole lot of players will be in this purely for that remastered Modern Warfare, bundled in with the pricier Legacy and Deluxe Editions.
Developed by Raven Software and packing in the full campaign and its own multiplayer (10 maps now, six more as DLC), Moderner Warfare is an unabashed love letter to CoD’s hardcore fans, retaining the original’s storyline, mechanics, and even sense of movement, while jacking the visuals up for 4K screens. It looks fantastic, but playing it highlights how much the series has evolved in the last decade — this feels slower and more punishing than Infinite‘s lightning fast sci-fi shootouts.
And that seems to be the biggest problem with the package as a whole — Infinite Warfare wants to move the series forward, but can’t quite let go of the past.