Earth can no longer sustain its population. We just grew and progressed far too quickly, and the blue planet weíve called home for our entire recorded existence as a species just couldnít keep up. Taking a page from Christopher Nolanís Interstellar
, weíve struck out across the solar system, establishing footholds on any rock with the barest promise of viability for human life. But the further we drifted from home, the less in-touch we became with it. And somehow, that gave rise to a group of people who suddenly decided to become genocidal maniacs for no good reason at all. Enter the Settlement Defense Front, led by the certifiably insane Admiral Salen Kotch (a hilariously joyless Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
). The mission of these Martian psychopaths? Ostensibly, itís total independence from the authority of their home planet. But in practice, itís just an excuse to become terrorists. So they show up on our doorstep, hack our planetary AA guns, and casually begin murdering civilians. You assume control of Lieutenant Nick Reyes as he and fellow Lieutenant (and sister-in-arms) Nora Salter escape their besieged home, taking to the stars to bring the fight to the SDF.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare seeks to make its military science fiction yarn more about its characters than its plot, and while this approach could have been promising, it ultimately results in the series' second major narrative whiff in as many years. The SDF are poor villains; their leadership is exclusively possessed of the kind of deranged sociopathy that would far more likely result in an ill-advised mutiny, the only logical conclusion of which would involve a quick trip to the airlock. On the friendly side, thereís not much beyond the grim determination, the "oorah"s, and the monotonously delivered military jargon. There are some bright spots, including Reyesí bot companion Ethan, who is unlike any robotic character Iíve seen in recent years. Unfortunately, Infinite Warfare's story is sixish hours of mawkish nonsense that desperately tries to manipulate your emotions at every turn without ever earning that right. It takes itself deathly seriously, to its severe detriment. There are a handful of moments that had me cringing, and the end credits... do not get me started.
So it's a total dud on the narrative front. Forgivable, provided the gameplay can make up for it. Thankfully, it does so with aplomb; the core elements of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfareís single player component judiciously continues the progressive trend that began with Advanced Warfare. For starters, Reyes does not remain Lieutenant for long; a notable casualty and an instance of being in the right place at the right time lands our hero at the head of the UNSA Retribution, a warship capable of near-instantaneous travel across our solar system. This opens the door for something that is virtually unheard of for this series: side missions.
All this is well and good, but how does Infinite Warfare play? Well, at the risk of copping out, it mostly plays like Black Ops III. Emphasis is placed on futuristic weaponry and the expanded tactical perspective that new technology offers. There's a bit of jetpacking and sticky wall-running involved, but level design largely sticks to the same old song and dance. While it certainly features its share of boots-on-the-ground waypoint chasing, the single player dedicates a surprising amount of its run time to Reyesí and Salterís bread-and-butter: dogfighting.
Multiplayer lacks the innovative (slight though it may be) spark of the single player, so as far as competitive play goes, it's more or less a continuation of Black Ops III. Emphasis is on lanes, movement, and smartly-customized loadouts. Even the "Specialist" mechanics make the transition. Here, they're simply called Combat Rigs, but they generally take the same angle as the Specialists. Each has their own particular specialty in terms of battlefield effectiveness, as well as a Payload (Special, Ultimate, whichever term you're used to using) and a passive Trait. Unlocks pour in as always, and submerging yourself under that waterfall, while overwhelming at times, is no less involving and engaging.
I've made no secret of my general apathy towards not only zombies, but Zombies, the ever-present pack-in mode we've seen in some form or another in most entries following World at War. And with this year's Zombies de l'annťe, Zombies in Spaceland, it seems eager to capitalize on the ongoing nostalgic revival of the 1980's. It's as good a year for it as any, I suppose, especially with the runaway success of Netflix's Stranger Things. The map is good; given the fact that I personally love anything theme park related, that's not really a surprise. But the ways in which it incorporates its theme are always surprises best left to the player. If there's one virtue I will extol, it's that it features Paul Reubens in a role that can only be described as the bastard love child of Ed Wood and John Waters.