Call of Duty 2016: A failed future and a nostalgic past

Logan Ansteatt

As an annual franchise, Call of Duty developers and Activision must do more every year to satiate the appetites of their fans and shareholders. The result this year is two games: one is a brand new adventure set in the far future, and the other is a grounded experience remastered for a new generation of players. This review represents the individual experiences supplied by each title.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: Infinite Monotony  

When Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was first revealed, fan backlash was catastrophic. The reveal trailer became the second-most disliked video on Youtube. Pre-order numbers of the game were well below Activision’s expectations and for a multitude of reasons the gaming community didn’t want anything to do with this year’s Call of Duty.

After all the backlash, the developers at Infinity Ward doubled down on their vision, and made it clear to fans that their three year project would be worth the wait. After sinking significant time into the campaign, multiplayer and co-op zombies modes of Infinite Warfare, I believe the game is too safe for its own good and falters in nearly every aspect that the franchise has been criticized for in the past.

Campaign

Infinite Warfare’s campaign starts like every other game before it. You’re an everyday soldier with a backstory that propels you to a world-saving position when s— happens to hit the fan. The first two hours of the campaign were forgettable. I found no reason to care for the characters in peril, and the only moments of note came from the uniquely human-like, robot soldier known as Ethan. It was refreshing to see a robot not cast in a role clueless to human sarcasm. At times, Ethan’s personality even made the human characters seem robotic.  

Celebrity cameos seemed to be thrown into Infinite Warfare as nothing more than a marketing move. Conor Mcgregor plays himself by punching some dude to death and Kit Harington plays a noisy, hollow antagonist. He doesn’t seem to have any real motivations behind his cliched destructive actions and killing his own men for the fun of it.

The remainder of the campaign eventually made me feel some emotion, not because characters died or cities were destroyed, but because I realized that someone had probably worked extensively on trying to elicit emotion from the player during cutscenes and set pieces, to no avail.

The only time the campaign truly achieved emotional weight was during the credits, when the few characters you were supposed to connect with read their letters to their families. An opportunity was clearly missed here, as these characters have amazing backstories that we only learn of once the story has ended.   

The shining moments of the campaign came from the musical score and cutscene direction. Instrumentals play at just the right time and cutscenes, although lacking in any notable actor performances, are a sight to behold. It’s a shame that as soon as the cutscene ends, the outdated and janky Call of Duty game engine crushes any sense of immersion.    

Call of Duty®: Infinite Warfare_20161104150040

Multiplayer  

The largest problem with Infinite Warfare’s PvP offering is its lack of innovation. The game feels like a copy and paste job from the past two releases. The movement and RIGS combat systems are ripped straight from last year’s Black Ops 3 and its horrendous supply drop and variant weapons takes from Advanced Warfare. Somehow made worse by Infinity Ward, these already unpopular inclusions are given the overpowered seal of approval by breaking all of the game’s rules in the worst ways.

 The movement system in Infinite Warfare leads to gunfights where the winner isn’t who shot first, but whoever can move, boost jump, wallrun or generally fly around like an idiot the most. I don’t find looking straight up for threats a fun experience, and the 3D movement is a gimmick that the series as a whole would be better without.

RIGS have no personality and are indistinguishable on the battlefield, unlike the lively and individual specialist soldiers of Black Ops 3. Their “payloads” or unique weapon systems and abilities shatter any sense of balance by allowing manipulations of the set game rules. One RIG can warp forward or backward in time, while another becomes an instant-kill robot jaguar that can still wallrun and boost jump for some reason.    

Weapon variants in supply drops are back and unfair as ever. In Advanced Warfare, no matter the added benefits a weapon variant included, there was always a negative trait associated with its use. This is not the case in Infinite Warfare, as weapon variants have no detracting features and only represent an unfair advantage for players lucky enough to receive they through supply drops, or spend enough money for access to them. The system is no longer a flaw, but an insult to the $60 players already spent on the title. The truth is, you could play for an infinite amount of hours and still never experience all the warfare the game has to offer due to this intrusive microtransaction scheme.  

These “features” add up to the first Call of Duty to give me franchise fatigue. Small customization inclusions and future content promises won’t keep me engaged with Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer any longer than a free-to-play Candy Crush knock-off would.

Zombies

The cooperative zombies experience was the highlight of my Infinite Warfare experience. Past mechanics of the series are here, but with fresh inclusions that streamline the experience.  

The “Zombies in Spaceland” map is a colorful neon acid-trip of fun that lends itself to a more light-hearted play style than Treyarch’s zombies mode. You’ll play as a jock, rapper, valley girl or nerd, each with a unique melee and all trying to survive being sucked into an 80’s horror film. While not the most unique set-up, the background story gets the job done while also setting up an explanation for why David Hasselhoff is playing the dj, serenading you with the musical hits of the decade.

Secrets and mini-games litter the map, allowing for great replayability. Even during death, where previous zombies experiences would leave you with nothing to do, “Zombies in Spaceland” allows you to play a combination of Activision classics and standard arcade games for credits that can get you back into the action quicker. It’s small details like this that make Infinity Ward’s take on zombies a mode worth putting your time into.

Unfortunately, even zombies is ruined by the shared supply drop system of Infinite Warfare. Although the shared leveling of guns between multiplayer and zombies is a welcome feature, weapon variants and the microtransactions associated with them are not. Once again, an unfair advantage is given to players with luck or excess cash to spend.

The Verdict: A Microtransaction Fueled Misstep

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a game set in the future that could learn from the past. A lackluster campaign designed to enthrall only disappoints, a multiplayer that doubles down on the worst additions to the franchise, and a zombies mode that barely rises above the game’s dead weight combine for an experience that can’t live up to the series’ legacy.  

2.5

 


Modern Warfare Remastered: A Blast from the Past

The addition of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered in select versions of Infinite Warfare is controversial. A minimum of $80 before taxes is required as an entry fee for the downloadable remaster, one that is rendered unplayable without the physical copy or digital purchase of  Infinite Warfare. This steep asking price makes buying this year’s Call of Duty solely for a remaster of a nine year-old game a tough recommendation when titles like Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 exist.  

But if you were planning on buying Infinite Warfare anyway, I can assure you that this is the best digital content bonus ever featured in a collector’s edition, and definitively the best Call of Duty on current-gen platforms.

Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® Remastered_20161104150620

Campaign

Long-time fans of the Modern Warfare franchise will be welcomed with beautifully rendered set pieces and the familiar faces of Captain John Price, Soap MacTavish, Imran Zakhaev and so many more. The nostalgia of the campaign story will slap you in the face before wrapping you in the most comfortable nerd blanket ever crafted.

Instead of feeling dated and clunky like so many remasters of this age, the gameplay of Modern Warfare Remastered has aged marvelously, maintaining the mechanics of the 2007 release. The Call of Duty staple 60 frames-per-second gameplay remains here, as every gunfight feels fluent and quick. The game is justifiably a classic, as it set the precedent for every Call of Duty sequel following it.

But Raven Software wasn’t satisfied with a simple graphical upgrade. Clever easter eggs have been included throughout the campaign. Most notably, one mission allows you to create a time paradox by killing the main antagonist in Modern Warfare 2 and 3, a welcome addition the original game lacked.  

Multiplayer

Modern Warfare Remastered ‘s multiplayer offering is the equivalent of an incredibly addictive drug no one will judge you for trying in the first place. Here too, the gameplay has aged like a fine wine, with the occasional bitter after taste.  

Call of Duty as we know it today was founded on simplicity. The concept that anyone could pick up a controller and have fun remains. Seasoned players will remember their favorite jump spots and spawn traps, while new players will be greeted with their first taste of what many (myself included) wish the series would return to.

There are no jetpacks, laser guns, crazy outfits, black hole grenades, or intrusive microtransaction system here. What is here is purely fun experience one that received almost no mechanical alterations from its original counterpart. The new user interface, medals, challenges, game modes, customization options and 10 additional prestiges will keep me engaged for months, if not years.

The only faults in this nearly perfect package stem from some abused perks and weapons. Last Stand, Martyrdom and Juggernaut perks feel as unfair as ever and Grenade Launcher deaths will have you wondering why the attachment was that powerful in the first place. Still, these minor grievances are miniscule when analyzed against the full experience of Modern Warfare Remastered ‘s multiplayer. In fact, I often found their continued inclusion endearing at times.

The Verdict: Faster Than Reloading

Released nearly a decade ago, Modern Warfare was an incredible experience . With its new inclusions and updated graphics, Modern Warfare Remastered isn’t only one of the best remasters ever made, but one of the best multiplayer experiences available today. Raven Software should be commended for its efforts. I hope to see new maps, gun camos and game modes added in the future to this masterpiece of modern gaming.

4.5

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