Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare First Impressions

Posted on November 4, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Xbox One with 11 Comments

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare First Impressions

To my surprise and delight, the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare single player campaign starts off with a bang and settles into the most satisfying storyline in the series since … Since I don’t remember when.

This is amazing on a number of levels, the most obvious being that this game has been widely panned online for its outer space settings. And because many felt that Activision was only bundling the classic Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered with all but the cheapest version of Infinite Warfare in order to boost sales.

Well, the joke is on the critics, at least based on my initial gameplay. The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare single player campaign, unlike that of its predecessor, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and unlike that of the mostly-terrible Gears of War 4, is excellent. It has memorable characters, incredible action sequences that manage to harken back to the series’ World War II beginnings despite taking place in the future, and offers an incredible, immersive experience.

Yes, there are derivative bits. A cyborg partner named Ethan borrows the mannerisms and speaking style of the robot TARS from the movie Interstellar. Semi-famous actors like Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) and David Harewood (Homeland and so much more) are just distracting, like Kevin Spacey was in Advanced Warfare, because their characters look just like them. And it’s still basically a rail game where you move from checkpoint to checkpoint.

But Infinite Warfare succeeds where Gears of War 4 so thoroughly fails because the plot is excellent, and makes sense. Because the tension and fear works. And because the characters are believable human beings under stress, and not quip-making caricatures. Where the sci-fi setting of Gears 4 is fake and derivative, that of Infinite Warfare is gritty, real, and meaningful.

Again, this is amazing.

If you do play this game, don’t judge it by its first sequence, a jump-the-shark moment that unfolds on Jupiter’s moon Europa. As soon as that ends, the real story begins, on an earth of the future, complete with Halo-style spaceships. But it’s a more realistically-rendered and researched world of the future than what we see in Halo, and the enemy is us, other humans, and not cartoonish aliens.

Moving house to house in an early sequence in the game, I was struck by how much this reminded me of the better bits in Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, andCall of Duty: World at War: The bombed out buildings, the ash falling from the sky, the frightened civilians, all of it recalls but does not rehash the best of the World War II settings from those earlier games. Of course, you’re running down the street with futuristic weapons and accompanied by a calm robot death-bringer named Ethan. So it’s not a perfect comparison.

This, too, was the central strength of the Modern Warfare games, which, despite their name, was in fact just “World War II-style fighting in a modern setting.” And so it is with Infinite Warfare: Take what works, improve on it, and add new stuff that is truly interesting and engaging. Not to beat this to death, but I hope the team behind the Gears franchise is taking notes. (The teams behind COD: Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III could likewise learn a few things from this game.)

OK, it’s early yet. And I am only a tiny way through the single player campaign. There is the chance that this game will really go south, much like Gears of War 4 finally and inexplicably woke and turned into a good game in its fifth and final act. But so far, I am impressed. And it’s not just because the bar was low. The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare single player campaign is really good. So far.

And there’s so much more to test. The multiplayer, of course. And Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered multiplayer too.

It’s going to be a great weekend.


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