Ever since 2005, we have been getting a new Call of Duty game every year, and 2016 was no exception.  This year, the newest CoD game – Infinite Warfare, received massive amounts of early hate, with its trailer reaching the second highest spot in the most disliked YouTube videos ever.  This didn’t exactly put Infinite Warfare in a great position, and it shows in the number of players; 15,312 is the all-time peak so far.  Considering that includes launch day and the day after… it isn’t looking good.  But is this amount of hate deserved?  We don’t believe so.

Multiplayer

call of duty infinite warfare multiplayerLet’s start off with the part of the game that the majority buys it for; the multiplayer.  We had already gotten a look at Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer before release with the Beta, but people were having doubts as to whether it was really a ‘Beta,’ or just a demo.  After playing the full game’s multiplayer for about the same amount of time that we played the Beta, we think it’s pretty safe to say that not much has changed.  There are some minor changes, such as everything now obviously being unlockable, but it mostly remains the same – some weapons are clearly more viable options than others, supply drops or simple purchases with in-game salvage gives players a distinct advantage and the spawning system cannot keep up with the fast-paced action.

For a more in-depth look at the multiplayer’s flaws, you can read the original analysis here.  But in a more compressed, basic form;

No matter the map, the spawning never seems to make sense.  There are times when you will be on a great streak, only to be killed by someone who spawned ten meters behind you, just around a corner.  It’s extremely frustrating and there doesn’t seem to be a way to really get around it with such a fast-paced game.

It doesn’t help that you can’t really tell what weapons people have until they have killed you either.  It’s easy enough to say “Oh that’s this weapon,” but you have absolutely no idea which variant of said weapon they are using.  For all you know they are regaining health which each kill, or automatically reloading for each headshot.  There’s no way that this sort of thing is able to be balanced, as weapon variants give a blatant advantage to those using them.  It is a very obvious pay-to-win model… you can earn all of the variants without spending a dollar, but the amount of in-game time and/or luck needed to get them all is absolutely absurd.  There’s no way to fairly compete this way with people who do choose to pay – you just have to suck it up and play at a disadvantage.

call of duty infinite warfare multiplayerAnother point to touch on regarding the multiplayer is the odd framerate dips while in the menus.  For some unexplainable reason, framerates in the multiplayer-specific menus sometimes drop all the way from 60fps territory to the 15-20fps ballpark.  There never seems to be a reason for this, and while it doesn’t necessarily affect your experience, it is an odd phenomenon to watch if you have an fps counter running. There also seems to be a problem when you play with a high FOV (Field of View) in-game.  When loading a map, you are able to see sections which are not rendered yet.  It gives a very disturbing look into the abyss beyond what you usually see while playing, but it isn’t anything game-breaking, and evens out once you gain control.

One of the things done right in the multiplayer is the progression system.  The mode is addicting simply to see the unlocks pile up.  Apart from advantageous weapons, it’s an extremely satisfying system.

READ MORE: Titanfall 2: Review

Menus

call of duty infinite warfare menuFor the first time in a long time, the menu to a Call of Duty game caught our attention and held it.  After getting past all the splash-screens and finally making it to the actual menu, the music that greets you is surprisingly dramatic.  It doesn’t sound anything like what was expected from a Call of Duty game, and it was certainly a welcome change.

Sadly, after the initial great impressions, the next thing we noticed is the lack of an options menu – there does not appear to be a way to access the game’s options from the main menu, at all.  The cons continue as the next thing that pops up is a “preloading shadesrs” text box.  This stays up for a good ten minutes or so the first time around. This, however, does not seem to return after the first few launches of the game, luckily enough.

The multiplayer and zombies menus are much the same as they have been in previous Call of Duty’s, and to our delight, they actually include options menus.  They are functional and don’t look particularly bad.  Our only real complaint is that the multiplayer menu specifically, can get a little cluttered and confusing at times, with way too many different submenus popping up.

All in all the menus work.  They (for the most part) aren’t too in your face, and it’s generally pretty clear what each selection will do.

Zombies

For the first time in an Infinity Ward Call of Duty, the fan-loved Zombies mode has made its way into the game.  This new take on the mode takes players to a 1980’s themed amusement park and lets them star in their own zombie movie – surviving the endless hordes of undead.
call of duty infinite warfare zombiesAt first glance, this seems like a totally new take on the Zombies mode, however, after playing for some time, it becomes apparent that it is mostly a reskin of Treyarch’s version of the mode.  There are certainly extra things added, such as the Fate and Fortune cards, but as a whole, it plays basically the same.  It is also a shame that only the one map comes with the game.  It is, however, a very decent size with a fair amount of variety.

This mode is best played with friends, and it shows that it was designed with this in mind.  However, it is still some good fun by yourself or with a few random people online.  The problem with playing with other people is that they always seem to leave.  The matchmaking system works decently, especially considering the low player count… but once everyone leaves and it’s just you left, it ruins the fun.

Visuals

There is absolutely no denying that Infinite Warfare looks amazing, especially in its cutscenes. The cutscenes, despite a few skipped/torn frames and odd amounts of motion blur, are some of the most impressively put together cinematics that we’ve seen in recent games.  They become even better when you realise that there is essentially no loading times between cinematics and gameplay – they merge together flawlessly, just like a change of camera angle.

call of duty infinite warfare visualsInfinite Warfare also runs surprisingly well.  In the multiplayer and zombies modes, we maintained a locked 90fps with the settings maxed out at 1080p.  In the campaign, where there’s a bit more going on, the average framerate is a fair bit lower, sitting at anywhere from 60-80fps with the settings toned down very slightly.  However, considering some of the crazy, explosion-packed scenes, it is still a fairly impressive performance.

The most impressive part of the visuals is easily the landscapes you fight in. They all have a unique feeling to them, and you’d be hard pressed to find a level that isn’t beautifully designed in the campaign.

PC Specs:

CPU: i5 4670k
GPU: GTX 780ti
RAM: 16GB
HDD: 7200rpm

READ MORE: Battlefield 1: Review

Audio

There are some titles which simply deserve a good pair of headphones and some quality listening time.  To our delight, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is one of these titles.  A frame of reference for any audio junkies out there; we played Infinite Warfare with the Sennheiser HD598s, and it sounded amazing.  There is an issue with the master volume which causes the bass to peak, but it is easily fixable by turning down the master volume and turning up your PC’s/AMP’s volume.

You could argue that in space, there is no sound, but honestly, after playing for an hour or so, you completely forget this. You can’t have a silent game after all.

There is also an issue with unplugging your audio device; for whatever reason, the game can’t deal with this and it freezes then crashes… every time.  It doesn’t prove to be too much of an issue, but if you plan to change audio sources a lot, this could be a major problem for you until it’s fixed.  Additionally, there are very rare moments when the audio completely disappears for a second or two.  It never proved to get in the way of anything, however, and only happened a few times.

While the audio is working, however, things are crisp and clear.  Explosions are boomy and powerful but don’t completely drown out the dialogue.  Characters are still audible over the sounds of war, but they don’t unrealistically somehow talk over it – when there is something else going on, characters yell to be heard, just as they should.

A great sense of scale is also achieved with the audio.  Supersized structures and ships not only look huge but sound it as well.  This also carries over to cities, which have distant and near sounds.  While inside your Jackal you also gain a sense of speed based on sounds, so in times when you have no visual point of reference, you are able to rely on what you can hear.

Campaign

If we had to choose one part of Infinite Warfare that really stood out, it would be the campaign.  So many of the small changes and additions made this time around seem to just… work.

call of duty infinite warfare reyesYou play as Lieutenant (soon to be Commander) Reyes, and for the first time in quite a while, this year’s Call of Duty actually makes you care about characters and the relationships they have.  You are swiftly and masterfully briefed on where your character fits into the story as well as the adversary you will be facing.

While the cutscene quality quickly steals the show, the actors and their lines swiftly follow up.  Each character is believable and unique… and while it is a little bit messy at first with the stream of characters being introduced getting longer and longer, once that settles down you feel as though you really can trust the team that has gathered together in a time of desperation.

There are admittedly a few awkward moments with the animation and the actor’s lines, however, these are few and far between.  Even in gameplay at times, each character has their own feel to them, even though the AI tend to all act the same upon closer inspection.

This time around there are also an assortment of ‘side missions.’  It is never explicitly stated that these missions do not need to be completed to beat the game, but completing these ‘extra’ missions is the way you can unlock upgrades for both Reyes and his Jackal.  On the topic of the Jackal – for another first time in a Call of Duty game, there are flying missions that let you go anywhere you want on the huge maps.  You do not ever feel like it’s an on-the-rails shooter like previous titles.  The first time you are let loose into space this way it is a little bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t take long to learn what your Jackal can and can’t do.

Your Jackal is also customisable, not only cosmetically, but you can also change the weapons and upgrade type to better suit your playstyle.  This ends up coming in extremely handy as well, as the later Jackal missions can become quite challenging, even on the ‘Normal’ difficulty, so you really do not want to be feeling held back by the game’s limitations… and luckily, you don’t.

Infinite Warfare’s campaign feels so much more fleshed out than others before it.  You’re dropped onto a world that feels as though it was already living without you and will continue to do so.  The sense of character achieved with Reyes in Infinite Warfare is also far beyond what we have come to expect from a Call of Duty game.  Additionally, the extremely fast load times, beautiful scenery and camera angles to show it all off, only compliment the connected nature of the entire campaign – nothing ever feels disconnected and confusing like previous games of the series.  Everything flows together and stays in one continuous timeline with one character (aside from the opening mission), and the game’s story greatly benefits from this.

call of duty infinite warfare kotchThere are a lot of little touches that really bring everything together.  One of the bigger additions that really caught out attention is the news channel that is always viewable in Retribution (the ship you command throughout the campaign).  After every mission, you are able to see what the people on Earth are hearing about the ongoing war via the media.  It doesn’t stop there, however – the marines aboard Retribution also react to what is being said and have their own opinions on the media.

Another thing that we truly appreciated is the lack of crazy explanations shoving all this futuristic tech down your throat.  All the tech is woven into the gameplay and it feels completely natural whenever something new is introduced to the player, rather than a long exposition scene explaining things to a character who already understands what things do.  This goes hand-in-hand with Infinite Warfare’s world feeling like it lives without you.

Verdict

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare innovates a great deal in the campaign, bringing believable characters to life and providing small but effective touches to the gameplay.  However, the multiplayer is the same old mode that we’ve come to know, with hardly any changes to the movement system, and a pay to win structure.  The menus are clean and the game looks/sounds great… and the Zombies mode is some good mindless fun for a while but loses its novelty after some time.

This is a Call of Duty game that will give you a great experience story-wise, but the low player count and unbalanced multiplayer isn’t anything special.

READ MORE: Hide and Shriek: Review

All screenshots captured by author.  This review was performed using a PC version of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Your experience may vary per platform.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

AUD $80
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
7.8

Enjoyment

7/10

    Gameplay

    7/10

      Visual

      9/10

        Audio

        8/10

          Story

          8/10

            Pros

            • Great characters
            • Beautiful visuals
            • Well balanced audio

            Cons

            • Unbalanced multiplayer
            • Low player count
            • Audio drop-outs
            • Bass peaking