Death of the Critic

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

COD Infinite Warfare_SP_Operation Burn Water SDF Insurgent

In some ways,
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is the most interesting Call of Duty game to release since Modern Warfare. For once, they have finally nailed down the shooter campaign story in a way that no other game quite has this year. It goes to places that are legitimately surprising to see as a player, and they actually try to say something with the story. But at the same time, the multiplayer experience is subpar. Which is so out of left field for a game like Call of Duty. It is the exact opposite of what you would expect when you pick up one of these games each fall.

Instead of becoming a dumb action movie, which would be ultimately fun, but easily forgettable, this year Infinite Warfare tried to say something about the soldiers you take control of. But you wouldn’t know it from the first hour of the game, which plays out just like the first hour of any modern Call of Duty game. You are on a special op with a group of soldiers trying to retrieve some super weapon, but you are all killed in order to introduce a suitably menacing big bad, letting some sort of experimental weapon fall into the wrong hands.

COD Infinite Warfare_SP_Retribution Bridge_Salter

From there you jump behind the gun of Nick Reyes, a lieutenant in the Navy SCAR teams, which are basically Navy SEALS but with space ships. It is with Nick that you’ll stay for the remainder of the game, letting you concentrate on one character as opposed to a cavalcade of soldiers from around the globe. Nick is good at everything. An ace pilot, an expert marksman, and barely an hour into the game, you are given control of an entire warship that you’ll stay on for the majority of the game.

It was primed to become just another “hoorah, fuck yeah, guns and explosions” game, and while these elements are most certainly present, they also tackle topics like sacrifice, leadership, and expendability in a way that they really haven’t before. By putting you in charge of everyone, the guy giving the orders instead of the soldier taking them, they put the burden of the lives that you are sacrificing on your shoulders. Nick lets his ego get in the way and it has disastrous results.

Like in most Call of Duty games, you take the lead on every single mission, even where it would probably make more sense to leave the commander of the ship back on the ship. You don’t want to sit on the sidelines giving orders, you want to be out there, cracking skulls and running on walls, blowing shit up and getting the job done.

COD Infinite Warfare_SP_Operation Burn Water

But because of your insistence on being the guy on the ground in every mission, you get people hurt and killed. You make bad decisions for your own ego, and it is your fault when you lose people. It can certainly be hamfisted in the delivery of its point, but it is ultimately effective. There are some sequences in the latter half of your campaign to stop the totally evil space nazi-esque colonists that genuinely hit me hard, and it was really surprising for me when all of these pieces started to fall into place.

The story is backed up by a cast of characters that I actually liked and cared about for once. You have your long-time, hot-headed partner, a gruff but reliable Marine Sergeant who's got a distrust of robots and Navy soldiers, and the quick-witted and charming robot sidekick of E3N or “Ethan” who is basically just TARS from Interstellar, but somehow became one of my favorite characters that I’d seen in awhile.

For once, each one of these characters is actually complex. Your partner, Nora, is headstrong and jealous that you got the commander’s position over her, but she is still fiercely loyal, and isn’t afraid to show it. Sergeant Omar has a personal vendetta against the colonists, and is worried that your decisions will get them all killed. Ethan questions who he is, and what his place in the world is. There are actual moments of character growth during the game, and it’s so welcoming to see happen.

The story itself is not super complex. The enemies are fairly one-note; they are evil colonists who hate everything about you and want to rule with an iron fist over the solar system. You’ll hear them executing civilians and asking people to surrender so that they can kill them quickly. They are bad people, and they take every opportunity to remind you of that fact. The death quotes are even back, but this time they are all facts about the SDF and how evil they are, instead of military commanders and philosophers. It sets a darker tone for the campaign than we normally see, and it keeps the game from feeling quite so much like a dumb action movie.

COD Infinite Warfare_SP_Ship Assault Zero G Combat

The main set of campaign missions is rather short, and has you hopping all over the solar system to attack different planets in different ways. They expand the content by adding a series of ten or so side missions that are almost reminiscent of the Strikeforce missions from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Each one of these ten to twenty minute sections has you either hopping behind the sticks of a space fighter or taking control of Nick as he assaults an enemy ship on foot. In a way, they are perfect bites of Call of Duty, allowing mission variety and experimentation without getting too serious. It’s easy to pick one up and play without having to worry about the main campaign.

There is an amazing stealth sequence hidden in these missions that has you assaulting a hangar full of enemy soldiers and hostages. You use security cameras and isolate the soldiers to eliminate them without being seen. If you are, a hostage is killed. You don’t fail the mission if one dies. They just die. It’s a different way to have stealth and it felt great to sneak around and wipe out the enemies. Sneaking up to the last guy guarding the hostages and assassinating him was supremely satisfying.

You access these missions through your command center on board the Retribution. Here you have your own private quarters, an armory, a newsroom, a command table, and your allies scattered about. In between missions you can wander about, watch news coverage of your previous missions, check out the bounties that you are hunting (which are just a set of enemy targets that you will naturally encounter in the missions), listen to logs, and choose your next mission. The command table allows you to choose which side mission you’ll tackle next or if you’d like to go on the next campaign mission.
They missed a mark by not giving you more story options here. Allowing you to choose between even two story levels would have been amazing as opposed to being locked into the railroad tracks of the story. It would have felt more organic, and by allowing me to just putz about and do side missions while I neglected the story, much of the urgency was lost. It is the same problem that
Mass Effect 3 had, balancing a precarious storyline with almost unimportant side missions. It felt more like you were checking off completion boxes sometimes than actually moving the story forward. I liked finding new equipment and weapons, but at a certain point it didn’t affect anything. You would take the recommended loadout or your own choice into the mission, but usually you would have new equipment within a few minutes.

The campaign did an okay job of preparing me to jump into the multiplayer, but honestly, this year the multiplayer is forgettable. It exists, and in many ways it is just Call of Duty multiplayer. It reminds me a lot of Ghosts. The maps don’t feel great, the weapons have an over reliance on gimmicks, and the kill streaks really aren’t compelling. It doesn’t do anything to make it grab a hold of you, and the novelty of the movement wears of quickly. It’s boring. And that is maybe the worst thing that I can say.

The guns are just space versions of your normal loadout. You have your M4, your AK-47, your sniper rifles and pistols. But with the addition of the new energy weapon types, they hoped to add another element into the customization, but in practice they just didn’t feel right to me. Too many of the guns do something weird, like assault rifles turning into pistols, and snipers turning into assault rifles. The supply drops just give gamers an avenue to spend more money by gambling on whether or not they can get a random weapon variant that might change the gun slightly, or might make it massively overpowered (Infinite damage ranges, practically no recoil, etc).

COD Infinite Warfare_MP_Grounded

The maps are too small, and feel like a map from any of the other games, just with giant holes carved out of them for you to fall into. They don’t seem designed to take advantage of the movement. There are so many places you should be able to reach with your jumps and wall running, but that are blocked by invisible walls for some reason.

By far the multiplayer is the worst part of the game, and can honestly be ignored, which is really disappointing. It feels like the multiplayer has stagnated since Black Ops 3, and the new weapon variant systems feel scummy to say the least. It seems like it is caught between generations of Call of Duty games with nowhere to go, and no idea what it should be doing, and it suffers for it.

COD Infinite Warfare_Zombies in Spaceland_Andre in Chromosphere

The zombie mode, the traditional third piece of content, is pretty satisfying. The map seems like more of a return to the old form over the strange complexity of
Black Ops 3. Persistent weapon leveling across multiplayer and zombies is a good addition, and being able to modify the weapons that you’ll find in the map is cool, even though it makes higher level players simply better at the game due to access to attachments like extended mags, laser sights, and more. The player leveling gives you something to work towards, even if it needs some tweaking. The progression is too slow and there is no way to see your progress towards the next level while you are in a match.

It isn’t often that I recommend playing a Call of Duty only for its story, but this year that is all that really deserves going out of the way to see. The multiplayer is functional but unimpressive and is easily overshadowed by the excellent campaign. A great cast of characters and interesting themes power the 6 hour story with a few moments that really hit hard. I hope they take lessons from this game going forward, continuing to focus on the campaign, but removing the free-to-play aspects from the multiplayer that make it feel like a slot machine as opposed to a functional mode.


Review written for the Xbox One version of the game. Your experience may vary on different platforms.

Our review code can be found here for information on how we write and score our reviews. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us at


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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