“Rooting for the underdog” is a long-established trope. Watching a contender rise against impossible odds to claim victory is a classic source of warm fuzzies, and we see this apply to film, video games and even politics. Every coin has two sides, of course, and the other side of this one is that “everything popular must be awful;” we see this trope in action when people proudly announce that they don’t like Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray, for instance, or in the chat on any new MMORPG where everyone talks about how much better their game is than World of Warcraft.
That’s nonsense, of course. It’s applying a sort of artificial stratification to media. Twilight as a franchise has generated billions of dollars of revenue. World of Warcraft has been the top MMORPG since its inception over a decade ago, and every MMO since has had to subside on its scraps – though something can be said for the rise of Final Fantasy XIV. Your favorite book or game has almost certainly made less money than these franchises, and a lot of people really don’t like to be reminded of that fact.
More importantly, to raggedly paraphrase blogger carles.buzz: you aren’t on a higher tier of understanding just because you dislike something popular; there’s nothing to understand. Everything is equally great…or equally terrible, which is stating the same thing in a more pessimistic way. All you’re doing is trying to differentiate yourself from the endless gray blob by saying you prefer one flavor of gruel over another.
My point is that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the latest hated foe of Video Game Culture, is actually a really great game , despite vociferous opposition from the “intellectual and proud of it” side of the hobby. I’m sure we all remember the debacle where the game’s reveal trailer became the most-disliked video on YouTube (a service that only allows users to like or dislike videos because a five-star rating system was too much complexity to swallow) and really, who hasn’t seem a comment lambasting someone for being a “cod player?”
The franchise represents the side of video games that we’re not supposed to like anymore – it’s loud, violent and doesn’t have a message, but the cardinal sin might be that it’s accessible to and popular with people who don’t take video games very seriously.
Infinite Warfare’s got solid, responsive gunplay, a plot that drives the game forward while providing the requisite amount of pseudo-emotional connection to its characters, a new setting that provides a fresh take on the series despite some hiccups and fantastic multiplayer. I’d call it a “guilty pleasure” except there would have to be some guilt for me to say that. The game’s high production values and strong pedigree practically ensured it’d be fun, and, shockingly enough, it is.
If you’re not familiar with the concept here, Infinite Warfare is Call of Duty In Space. it’s not a surprising turn for the series given the cyberpunk stylings of Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3; we’d also be remiss not to mention that cash cow Star Citizen’s single-player component, Squadron 42, sounds a lot like Infinite Warfare. Clearly there’s money to be made by taking the military shooter into orbit.
It actually works pretty well, too. Infinite Warfare’s single-player campaign follows Captain Nick Reyes, a standard military type who finds himself on the front line in the war against the Settlement Defense Front. The SDF are basically Space Communists, red aesthetics and all, and Reyes ends up commanding his own capital ship in the battle against their villainous ways. He’s assisted by the hot-headed Lt. Salter and the crew of his ship, the Retribution.
This plays out a lot like recent entries in the series. It’s built on the Call of Duty’s signature highly lethal gunplay, though Infinite Warfare shakes this up a little by differentiating between ballistic and energy weapons; the latter tend to be much more effective at taking out synthetic foes and you’ll find that human enemies can eat quite a bit of punishment from energy weapons. Modern CoD games are all about the scripted cinematic experience, though, so much of the game incorporates gimmicks and tricks to shake up the proceedings.
There’s space combat, for instance, where Reyes takes to the void in a Jackal gunship and dogfights with SDF fighters; this is visually spectacular and an engaging challenge on higher difficulty levels. Ground missions, meanwhile, have their own unique touches, such as a mission where Reyes is able to hack a ship’s gravity and cause enemies to float helplessly as he takes them out. Infinite Warfare is never a very “smart” game, but it’s certainly always interesting and fun, and I’d take that over smart any day of the week. Even being able to choose the order of the missions you take on is a nice touch. Titanfall 2’s campaign edges out Infinite Warfare’s…but it’s a damn close race, and I’d say they’re both worth playing for shooter fans.
Naturally, the series’ signature multiplayer is present and accounted for as well. This is low-time-to-kill shooting at its most fundamental; map knowledge and sharp reflexes will win the day, successful play will earn unlocks like weapons and attachments, and there are a selection of special abilities a la Black Ops 3. The biggest twist is the incorporation of a crafting system, essentially yet another way of fine-tuning your character’s performance in an attempt to squeeze just another tenth of a second out of your time-to-kill. I’m no CoD master by any means, but I had a great time messing around regardless.
Everything about this is gorgeous, of course; this is the Big One, the ur-Video Game, the one that even people who aren’t “into games” know about, and the money is there to make it the best. The campaign missions are beautiful and choreographed, and it’s difficult not to fall in love with all the flavor animations involved in navigating Infinite Warfare’s world – Reyes’ deft manipulation of the Jackal’s controls is a personal favorite. It runs at a nice, smooth framerate on both PS4 and PC. The voice actors put in solid performances as well, with robo-pal E3N stealing the show.
Oh, and if you’re just not feeling the space thing and you’d rather go back to more familiar territory, the $80 Legacy Edition has you covered with a remaster of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. We talked about this earlier, and suffice to say it’s still a great remaster of a great game. I’m not sure if I’d recommend buying Infinite Warfare for this remaster alone, but that’s just because Infinite Warfare’s pretty damn good and you’ll want to play them both.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a great game that offers a lot of value for the money, particularly if you splurge on the Legacy Edition. It’s got fantastic production values, interesting and dynamic gameplay and some intriguing ideas that it toys with throughout an exceptional campaign. Five seconds immersed in Video Game Culture will remind us that we’re not supposed to like this anymore. Sometimes I wonder about Video Game Culture.