30 March 2018

Video Game Review: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)

Like it or not, Call of Duty has altered the face of the video game industry, injected itself into popular society, and even into politics. Over the course of the current lifespan of COD, it has gone from the battlefields of World War II, the Cold War, an alternate reality Zombie Apocalypse future, near-future, and now with COD: IW, it has gone into the final frontier...with mixed results. There has been no other game that I've asked more about or to review than Infinite Warfare and it is finally time to see the truth of the game. Is COD: IW worthy of its hatred by the COD community or was it a solid Military SF shooter? With all of the events around my life, I could not play IW until recently, but I decided to abandon Mass Effect Andromeda for awhile and give this one a try. Let us dive into the campaign of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

Why the Hate for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare?
When the reveal trailer was released for COD: IW, it earned an honor of being the second most unliked video of all time on YouTube (the first being "Baby" by Justin Bieber that replaced "Friday" by Rebecca Black). Over two million dislikes were ranked up on the reveal trailer in short order in 2016 and today in 2018, it stands at 3.6 million dislikes with only about 600,000 likes. Sales were down overall from other COD games, but it still racked nearly 2 million sales its first week. So, why the hate for this military sci-fi shooter? One major source of the hate is the direction of Call of Duty going despite protest and requests by the fans. For the last four years when Infinite Warfare was released in 2016, the direction of the entire COD franchise was set in the future and each game explored future conflicts deeper and deeper into the future.  IW was set the furthest into the future than any other COD game prior and likely ever with the release of COD: WWII.
To provide some historical context, there were fans that protested the move into the future since the release of Modern Warfare in 2007. It seemed to die down around the time of COD: Black Ops II due to the excellent online gameplay (it is my favorite multiplayer COD experience), but it ramped up around when COD: Advanced Warfare was released. It reached a fever pitch with the announcement of Infinite Warfare. One symbol of the level of hatred by the COD fans over the far future setting of IW came with COD Youtube Drift0r decided not to embark on his iconic in-depth series for IW that he's done for most of the COD games for years now....a decision that cost him heavily in viewers and income.
Some fans believe that Activision outright ignored their requests for the series returning to "boots on the ground" feel with World War II settings rather than interplanetary combat and decided to keep to the far-future setting generating hurt feelings among the fan community. IW became the symbol of that wrong direction. Another reason was a douchebag move on the part of the Infinity Ward and Activision: packing the remaster of Modern Warfare with the more expensive edition of IW. This was seen by the fans and the video game industry has a move to generate sales of a game that may not live up to sales expectations. This gave the endeavor of IW a black eye on the PR level and resulted in Infinity Ward releasing the remastered Modern Warfare as a standalone product.
Of course, another reason is that haters love to hate. It became popular and cool to hate IW in the gaming world, and people piled on like it was the deeply tragic Cabbage Patch Kids riot of 1983. Never forget. That group-think mentality spawned over three million dislikes that entered into the Danger Zone of Rebecca Black’s "Friday" (the horror, the horror…). With the COD fans seemingly want a return to the World War II or the current warfare format; it did not help matters when the rival Battlefield franchise finally gave us a World War One shooter, something rumored to be in development for the COD realm for years. When COD fans saw this back-to-formula shooter, some jumped ship saying that their beloved COD had jumped the shark and it was time to enlist with Battlefield

The GOOD
Call of Duty has been teasing taking the shooter games into outer space since the abandoned ISS mission in MW2 and there has been a debate if this would fit within the COD model. To my surprise, the interplanetary warfare aspect of COD: IW was one of the most enjoyable and it really set this game apart from the other titles of COD, creating a” unique” identity, over even other space-based shooter games. What makes IW so compelling is that it is a space shooter infused with the COD DNA, Elysium, BSG, B5, and real-world naval operations, making for a dynamic, quality military sci-fi experience.
Fighting off-world in some exotic locations was one of the best parts and it was not like HALO, especially the mission where you snipe from an asteroid! That is pretty fucking (space) ninja!What is good about COD games is on full display here in IW and I enjoyed myself on the main story missions and the side missions as well. There are some good characters in the mix with Reyes, Salter, and of course, Ethan, that make desperation of the events day seem more realistic as reflected in the actions and faces of these characters.
Adding to this realism is the design of the military hardware and the space carrier Retribution that feels like a current carrier and the Saratoga from SAAB all at the same time. There is also the smooth transition between infantry combat scenarios and jumping into your space fighter for some sweet ACM with Settlement space fighters and gunships. While that trope is common in sci-fi, where our intrepid starfighter pilot is so a ground pounder of equal skill, at least COD: IW attempts to give a concrete in-universe validation with the concept of the SCAR unit. One element I especially enjoyed was the VR gun range that allowed you to test out the outfitted and selection of your weapons. Bottom line: COD: IW is a very enjoyable campaign that, for me, was an oasis in a desert of disappointing and lackluster campaigns in previous COD titles.

The BAD
If you hate most of the other futuristic COD games, then you should move along, because Infinite Warfare has COD DNA and there is nothing new in the basic foundations of the core gameplay that will make you a new convert to the faith. That is part of the issue with the game, it is too COD for fans of military sci-fi shooters and for fans of COD, it is too deep into the future with FTL starships and space fighters. Infinity Ward was damned from both sides with this title and maybe it would have been better if the label of Call of Duty was left off of this title.
Sawn into the fabric of IW is one of the most tiresome and overused tropes of the modern COD games: every game has a September 11th or December 8th level event in the campaign storyline. While the developer is attempting to invoke an emotional response I doubt it is boredom coupled with an eye-roll was the one they were hoping for. COD: IW could have moved away from this trend in the COD games and established the game storyline within the Succession Wars events (Seriously?! These guys must be BattleTech fans!)
While I praised the characters above, one of the core characters of the game, SDF invasion taskforce leader Salen Kotch who is played by Kit Harington, is the worst. Speaking in only forceful boastful militant slogans, he is tiresome, badly written, and just badly performed. I could not wait for him to die just so he would shut up! Another element with the characters I wished had been undertaken would have to several playable characters rather than just two. Once Reyes took command of the SATO carrier, the main character should have switched to Salter. Then come back to Reyes for the final mission.
 The bread-and-butter of any shooters is the weapons, and COD has a history of making games with great realistic and invented guns…but, they have a history of making games with poor realistic and invented guns. Unfortunately, IW is not Black Ops II, and there are only a few great guns in IW in my experience in both the campaign and local bot play. With IW borrowing weapon ideas from films like Elysium with the Volk DE assault rifle, you would think the weapons would be better, but they just are not in terms of performance and time-to-kill. I could only count on a few guns that were used during both the campaign and local bot play (my favorite being the M1 Garand retrofitted to the 23rd century!) and none of them were in the shotgun categories and there was only one in the pistols (the Hailstorm).
The worst element of the weapons found in IW is the inclusion of the Colt M4 assault carbine. Seriously, what the fucking deal with COD games and the M4 carbine? In the IW, the SATO forces of the Earth are using the NV-4 “ballistic” KW assault carbine that is the from-the-future ancestor of the current Colt M4. Now, I know that the brainchild of Eugene Stoner, the Armalite Rifle, has been the longest US military service rifle and it seems that the US military is dragging its feet in fielding a new assault rifle, but somehow I doubt that the M4 is still in service in the 23rd century! This also goes for the directed energy AKM, the Volk, which is the in the 23rd century! This also goes for the directed energy AKM, the Volk, which is directly borrowed from Elysium. There has been an AKM in nearly every modern or futuristic COD games serving alongside the M4 and while the case could be made for the iconic AK platform lasting for some time, I doubt that includes the 23rd century and retrofitting the AK platform into a laser blaster! The weapons of IW make me miss my Peacekeeper from Black Ops: II.

The UGLY
The crack in the foundation of the domination of COD franchise was Ghosts, and since then, COD has struggled to maintain its lofty place in the video game industry. For some, Infinite Warfare was the saving grace of the futuristic COD games, while other pronounced it the prime example of the failure of futuristic COD games. With the emergence of COD: WWII, we can see that it is highly likely that COD: IW may be the last futuristic game of the mighty franchise until we get hard intel on Black Ops: IV. To me, that is the “ugly” of COD: IW; it legacy. If you love or hate Infinite Warfare, it is a game that was thrown deep into the mud and it has been unable to get completely clean. Adding insult to injury, T\the attempt by Infinity Ward to develop another sub-franchise in the vein of Modern Warfare or Black Ops with Infinite Warfare…but like Ghosts and Advanced Warfare, the 2016 game failed to strike a fire with fans and burned out at one entry. While Ghosts was fatally flawed, I think IW was much stronger that could have been fully developed in several other games. However, it is likely that venture has disappeared forever.

The FWS Bottomline on COD: IW
In the final assessment of this bold experiment in the COD futuristic shooters, it is not deserving of the extreme hatred that it attracted and the death of the planned trilogy. This is a solid military science fiction shooter with COD DNA that allows for all of the good and all the bad of that injection brings. This campaign and setting along with the typical COD intense gameplay makes Infinite Warfare to be one of most enjoyable Military SF shooter campaigns on the 8th console generation and its campaign, despite its flaws, is easily better and more fun than that soul-sucking HALO 5! Let that sink in. Infinity Ward developed a better MSF space shooter than an entity in the hallowed HALO franchise. Frak me.  I also plan on playing the campaign again soon and I can see myself playing IW from time-to-time, this is in deep contrast to HALO 5: Guardians; which I deleted off of my Xbox One hard drive to make room for COD: IW.   


9 comments:

  1. it pisses me off that it is cool to hate on cod whatever they make, for me this cod was very good and if they had a better villain like in advanced warfare it would have been so much better, i enjoyed it far more than black ops 3 which i hated and mass effect andromeda, it was so boring, it's sad we won't see any more of infinite warfare, there aren't any games like halo or this on pc

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is the mot enjoyable call of duty game I ever played. Sure it has its flaws (and they are many) but its one of the few military sci fi shooters there is that feels ( but is not ) realistic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. SMP:
    rally good game, not the best COD but defenetly with the most awesome campain in the last years and with the sci-fi factor treated as it was neaded:
    Galactica mini-series attetude and (even with the FTL tech) realistic aproatche.
    Its ashame it everybody ride the hate train-when the flawted BF1 was rediculus on its historical aspects and on its physics/mechanic.
    For me the 2016 was about 2 mil/sci-fi games: Infinite Warefare and Titanfall 2.
    Great to see you make a... after action report on this game William, cudos

    ReplyDelete
  4. Think your right on the money about the name. If Infinity Ward called it anything but Call of Duty, they might have gotten a better reaction from the gaming community in general. The CoD franchise was already suffering from being stretched really thin, lunching the title into space just seemingly divorce the game from it's historical roots. Just calling it Infinity War would have saved everyone allot of grief... not that the story deserves much of a break. Space Nato vs space terrorist with space M-4s, someone could have tried a 'little' harder.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for reviewing this. I've been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it, and now that itch has been scratched.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Filthy console peasant! I'll probably have to check this out, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I forgot you got around to playing the game. I have not played it myself but after seeing Noah Gervais's over-view of the recent COD games I was impressed. I would not mind playing IW's campaign. Although the antagonist and the reasons they are fighting is so cliched.

    It does not deserve the hate.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't played a CoD for probably a decade. Well, after reading this I bought IW. I was very impressed. I can't believe people didn't like this and I'm sad to see that there probably won't be another one in the same line. The detail was spectacular.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yeah, it was much better than I believed...this is why we cant't have nice things

    ReplyDelete