PLOT All’s not quiet on the war front.
RATED M for Mature
DETAILS PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows; $59.99
BOTTOM LINE It covers familiar turf.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is arguably the most imaginative and wide-ranging game in the series, yet every new idea it tries feels hamstrung by the conventions that have made the series so successful. There are a few interludes of space dogfights, but these feel strangely similar to on-foot levels, but with fighter ships that can come to a full halt and hover before zipping off again to chase a new enemy vessel.
After finishing the game’s story mode once, which will net you two additional first-person death scenes, a new “Specialist” difficulty mode becomes available, limiting player movement based on specific limb damage and sending players scavenging for a limited number of Nano Shots to heal damage. What seems like a promising complication of the series’ predictable hero fantasies eventually feels incompatible with the cramped corridors and high enemy numbers more suited to sprinting and shooting.
The game’s righteous, split-second violence is most at home in the multiplayer modes, where the pretense of character and plot are stripped away. The final piece, a complete non sequitur called Zombies in Spaceland, has players surviving waves of zombie attackers in a kitschy 1980s theme park while Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Europe play in the background. The push-pull dynamics of attacking, defending, saving money and spending it on new weapons or to unlock other areas of the theme park subverts the fantasy of individual heroics by forcing players to grind though dozens of deaths to learn the park’s layout and build experience with methods of using or preserving resources.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare feels like a game at war with itself. Playing it year after year, it’s hard to tell whether the series’ creative contradictions are a sign of progress or implosion. It’s a game for a culture that wants both at the same time.