In a year where there are an abundance of great shooters coming out, the team at Infinity Ward really had no choice but to do something different with their particular brand of military shooter. While I will always praise Call of Duty for having some of the more interesting campaigns for any shooter in recent memory, Infinity Ward’s last outing was a bummer and one that definitely required some fine-tuning. Fortunately, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a breath of fresh air that stands as one of the best campaigns the series has ever seen. Unfortunately, where it reinvents in its campaign, it rests too much on its laurels for everything else.
Earth is under attack. No longer can the military operate under the restrictions of a single planet. Instead, colonization has begun happening off of Earth and the military now has a presence in space. Naturally, Mars has been colonized and the Settlement Defense Front (or SetDef) operates from there. Infinite Warfare picks up with SetDef deciding that they deserve to rule the solar system, beginning an attack on Earth that puts most of the military at a disadvantage. As Sergeant Reyes, you are quickly catapulted to Captain and forced into an unenviable position of controlling the entire Solar Associated Treaty Organization (SATO, the armed forces of Earth) and trying to prevent utter destruction from SetDef.
I’m sure this all sounds pretty standard fare to most, but the difference is that Infinite Warfare always keeps its head down and focuses on Reyes and his team. There are many people under his wing, but they all get their own moments of memorability. Very quickly a robot is introduced to your team, nicknamed “Ethan” and he probably winds up being the centerpiece to every theme the game wants to explore. From prejudices to totalitarian governments; from what it means to be human to what it means to be in power; Infinite Warfare explores so much within the series’ typically explosive campaign. Mind you, it all feels a bit familiar.
Being two years out from Advanced Warfare, which was Sledgehammer Games’s debut in the series and moved things forward in the timeline just a tiny bit, Infinite Warfare feels like it can’t help but borrow the best parts of that game. Kit Harington serves as the replacement to Kevin Spacey, and the game still opens with a very similar mission involving navigating alleys and buildings while destruction happens at every corner of the city. It’s not necessarily disappointing, but a bit too familiar to feel as fresh as the rest of the campaign. Which really makes a case for Call of Duty to continue leaning into its wildest fantasies.
Space is the new frontier and with it comes the ability to go crazy with the setpieces. Despite becoming Captain, Reyes isn’t content with sitting on the sidelines of the action. Instead, you’ll get to fly Jackals (fighter jets in space), infiltrate ships and ultimately lead the assault on SetDef. Frequently it’s brought up that a captain should be able to deal with the loss of human life, which makes Reyes an interesting choice as captain because he actually has a very tough time with it. Whereas his partner, Salter, understands that not everyone can be saved and is unwilling to sacrifice her whole team for the sake of one individual. This is but one of the many conflicts which the game centers upon. But most interestingly is its look at humanity as a whole.
Reyes represents something idyllic, which in the face of SetDef, is preposterous. He believes in sticking together and that if you’re willing to fight for the same cause, then it doesn’t matter whether you’re human or robot. There isn’t really anyone on his team that sees things the same way he does, because why should they? You can totally understand why Staff Sergeant Omar isn’t cool with a robot on his team, but when forced to work with him, he finds himself understanding his usefulness and his intent. What is even better is that Infinite Warfare doesn’t force the player to experience others learning to accept others. Omar and Ethan’s alliance forms off-screen, away from all the action. If doesn’t directly involve Reyes: it isn’t the focus. Which is a change of pace for Infinity Ward as they have always loved switching perspectives and taking players down several storylines in one campaign.
I could spend hours discussing the politics and ramifications of Infinite Warfare‘s narrative choices, but there is plenty to discuss regarding its gameplay. For the first time, side missions are present. Jackal Missions and Ship Assaults offer a break from the over-the-top primary missions, but they also don’t skimp on impact and production. These are still missions on a large scale, but they offer a more focused approach. Jackal Missions just involve flying around destroying a bunch of other ships, which is fun because the mechanics are enjoyable. But Ship Assaults are almost always interesting. They can move from stealth missions to all-out assaults in no time. But because they all tend to be just Reyes and Salter, you get more of their relationship and understand why they work so well together.
The campaign is incredible for the most part, and though the familiarity of some aspects is a bit of a bummer, it is less disappointing than the terribly rote multiplayer options available. Sure, the core multiplayer is still fun to play, but it just feels like more of the same. If you’ve played any of the past two MP components in a Call of Duty game, you are not going to miss much here. New technology and guns is cool, but it never really feels like a game changer.
And then there’s Zombies mode, which way more production has gone into than before it seems, but is still the same as before. You kill hordes of zombies, make money, upgrade things, then rinse and repeat. I found absolutely no fun in the mode, even with people, but it’s also a mode that I have never enjoyed. The 1980’s aesthetic that it goes for is neat, I suppose, but it really doesn’t amount to much besides hearing some dumb quips as you progress through the waves of enemies. It’s a shame because I do have fondness for Call of Duty multiplayer, but this is the year where so many other great shooters have come out that I can’t even warrant spending time with a game that isn’t willing to adapt.
But overall, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is one of the best Call of Duty games out there. It’s definitely the best from Infinity Ward since probably the original Modern Warfare. Despite its multiplayer being more of the same, it’s still fun when you get into it – especially with friends. But this year is probably the first year where Infinity Ward’s campaign far surpasses their multiplayer. Which for me is a great thing, and will likely disappoint several regular Call of Duty players. My only hope is that the MP becomes more crazy than it currently is to match the otherworldly campaign. With games like Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty is proving that there is hope in its future to maintain its dominance over other shooters. But it needs to continue leaning into interesting mechanics and incredible storytelling. Something which the infinite vastness of space could offer the series.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
- The campaign is focused but still explosive and over-the-top
- Side missions offer a fun distraction that still feels important
- Ethan is one of the series' best characters
- Multiplayer and Zombies are just more of the same
- Some familiar elements between Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare's campaign