Call of Duty is one of the biggest franchises ever to hit the sphere of gaming, even though there is a new game every single year, it continues to sell by the shed load. Despite its fantastic commercial success, it has still churned out entries that both fans and critics found disappointing. One of the biggest offenders and whipping boys of the franchise is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, but is it really as bad as the world would have you believe?
Initially, when Infinite Warfare released I was put off by the negative reaction by my friends, other fans and the community. It was yet another Call of Duty set in the “near” future and took players the furthest away from the franchises’ roots by sending them into space. Gone were the gritty trenches of WW2, and the realism of fighting terrorists in a modern age that mirrored what we saw daily on the news. Instead, we were fighting robots with made-up guns on distant planets, flying spaceships and fighting in outer space. At first glance, Infinite Warfare had more in common with Halo that it did its previous entries.
In Call of Duty terms, Infinite Warfare didn’t do that well. The game sits at a very respectable 77/100 on Metacritic, but with only a user score of 3.8 out of 10. It sold 13.6 million units, which is the lowest in the franchise since Call of Duty 4 was released. After numerous entries in the future and near future, there was a general consensus that the fan base was burnt out on fighting in this era. There were loud calls for the series to return to its roots, the fans and critics wanted Call of Duty to go back to basics and back to WW2. Activision eventually listened, releasing WWII and announcing a reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-franchise. This fatigue and the player’s lack of interest in playing in the future seem to be the biggest reasons this game didn’t do well and isn’t remembered fondly. However, player fatigue is contextual, and when you take the game out of the time it was released, is it still a poor game?
After working for a year in China, when I returned Infinite Warfare was dirt cheap, I picked it up along with the Modern Warfare remaster at a bargain price and decided to take the plunge. Even if I didn’t like it, I spent next to nothing on it; it was the very definition of a win-win situation. When I was installing the game, the fan reactions were playing on my mind, I was still very aware of how poorly this game was received. My expectations were understandably low. What I found to my surprise, was a game that had all the hallmarks and quality of a Call of Duty game but actually tried and experimented with new things on top of an old formula.
I realized as I traversed planets, shooting robots, that previously when I had played other FPS games set in space, I had wished it had been Call of Duty. I had wanted that experience but with the tight, twitchy controls that I knew and loved from COD, I now had my very wish. By setting the game in the future it also had room to do new things, like space flight. The starship that you captain is reminiscent of Mass Effect, it displays a map to you and you can choose a point to go to. This creates a semi-linear experience where you can choose your missions and creates the chance for optional side-missions. The latter had a most-wanted list, that saw you hunt down enemy generals and cross them off. It was a fun and rewarding experience that I would actually love to see return in some form.
Then there was the actual space flight, who would have thought that they would be engaged in dogfights in outer space in a Call of Duty game? Whilst these sections may have not been what fans wanted, their inclusion was a complete change for the series, and the developers should be given credit for trying to shake up a formula that stays the same year upon year. I can confidently say that Infinite Warfare is not the best Call of Duty game whether you played it in 2016 or 3 years later. I can say, however, with just as much confidence, that the game is a lot better than the stigmas that are attached to it would have you believe. It is a solid game that actually tried new things, in a series that was going stale, some of the mechanics might not win you over but for the price that the game can be bought at, it is definitely worth the gamble.