Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition Review – PC

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Call of Duty is one of those franchises you either love or you love to hate. There is invariably no middle ground here, yet for all the online bashing and down-voted trailers this game continues to set record sales year after year, and this year’s Infinite Warfare is no exception. As has become the norm, Infinite Warfare comes in a variety of versions, the most controversial of which is the Legacy Edition, which includes the new 2016 game as well as a fully remastered version of what is arguably the best Call of Duty in the history of the franchise, 2007’s Modern Warfare. This $80 bundle gets you both games and for the foreseeable future is the only way you can play Modern Warfare Remastered. Obviously, those who have become disenchanted with the franchise over the past decade feel they are being bullied into buying a new game they don’t want in order to play a remastered version of a timeless classic, but the simple truth is that Infinite Warfare isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s very good, and while its science fiction space battle setting might not feel very “Call of Duty”, the single-player campaign stands right up there with the best the franchise has to offer.

Call of Duty has been flirting with futuristic themes for the past several games, admittedly with little success as fans of the franchise have rebuked their efforts at exo-suits and crazy psi-ops and VR infused storylines. Science fiction belongs in space and that’s where we are going in this futuristic battle of good versus evil. Thankfully, the “evil” is just a bunch of restless off-world settlers and not some race of clichéd aliens.

The story opens with a daring mission to raid an enemy weapons facility, which is ultimately revealed to be a video playback of the mission when you find yourself seated back at Navy command with the admiral. You’ll be playing Captain Nick Reyes, a spec-ops navy pilot who is thrust into conflict only moments after exiting HQ and taking in the spectacle of Fleet Week. But before you can say “Pearl Harbor” the SDF (Settlement Defense Force) launches a surprise attack on Earth’s assembled-in-one-place fleet. When things settle down you are left in command of your own carrier, one of two that survived the attack.

The bridge of your ship serves as the hub to the rest of the game’s content comprised of a mix of traditional FPS combat missions as well as equal parts of flight combat using the hybrid Jackal fighter craft. Your hub area includes a rec room with giant screen TV displaying CNN-style new briefs on your past missions, an armory where you can tinker with all your new weapon acquisitions and create custom loadouts for you and your Jackal, and your own personal stateroom where you can read up on pilot dossiers, get updated fleet news, and check out the wall with all the Most Wanted pictures that serves to track your progress through the game. The star map on the bridge allows you to freely choose between any of the side missions or dive straight into the campaign plot in a refreshingly non-linear presentation.

I really enjoyed these side missions. Not only were they a nice break from the story, each one was crafted as an individual mini-adventure with specific characters, objectives, and playstyles. What could have easily become fluff and filler quickly became some of the more memorable moments of the game, often outshining the main story. Of course my personal favorites of all these diversions were any of the Jackal missions.

I’m a huge air-combat fan whether the game is set in space or the stratosphere, and Infinite Warfare has really delivered with their flight-combat missions, mostly due to their unique control scheme that makes the planes control much like the human soldier in a ground mission. Admittedly, there are a few nuances to master, but unlike games like Battlefield where you can be good on the ground and suck at flying, there is virtually no disconnect when switching between ground and space missions.

As expected, there are dozens of weapons to choose from to fill each weapon slot in both your personal and ship inventory. Most of your personal weapons can all be customized with all sorts of additional components not to mention all the perks you can use to bolster your performance. While some might enjoy tinkering with all these options I pretty much just used the recommended loadout for each mission and had no trouble completing the campaign on Hard.

Another reason the campaign mode shines this year is that you have a cast of characters that are relatable and people you really care about – even a prototype robot soldier. There is so much banter and conversations between and during missions that you start to feel like part of a family, just in time to have them picked off one by one in heroic fashion. Between the camaraderie and the excellent overarching storyline, Infinite Warfare is easily one of the top three single-player campaigns in the Call of Duty franchise.

Call of Duty lives or dies by its multiplayer. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of competitive multiplayer. I just don’t have the time to get good enough to stay competitive, so my online experience is usually limited to playing just enough to review the main game and sample the season of maps as they are trickled out over the next year. But I do know enough, both from personal experience and the expert input from our staff military and online gaming guru, Mitch, that Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer is still a tremendous letdown with virtually no improvements to the game design that took a turn for the worse back in Ghosts and continued into Black Ops 3. Read more from Mitch.

Multiplayer Thoughts from Mitch

Call of Duty multiplayer peaked with Black Ops 2 and has plummeted downhill ever since. Between the loss of the Pick 10 system to the unbalanced gameplay, spawn sniping, corner camping, and all the futuristic wall-running and double-jumping bullshit, I’ve just about given up on the franchise. For those who tolerated the Black Ops 3 multiplayer, not much has changed with Infinite Warfare. You now have selectable rigs (exo-suits) that determine your character abilities, and they’ve tweaked killstreaks and perks around just enough to be different…but not better.

The one new element that intrigued me this year was Mission Teams, a new mode where you pick one of three random objectives specific to a team. As you progress through the list of unlockable teams the objectives get more difficult. This had a certain appeal to me much more than the random chaos of DM or TDM modes where people are running around with no direction. Now, like CTF, you have a common goal, and unlike CTF, people actually try to achieve those goals. This mission structure offers direction and takes the pressure off newcomers or people who just aren’t that good at one on one killing.

Another carry over from Black Ops 3 is the nearly-useless Supply Drops that almost never drop what you want or need. Now you can convert those useless or duplicate weapons into Salvage, which acts as a currency of sorts that you can save up to buy those hard-to-find weapons. It might takes weeks or even a month depending on your play time to get your dream weapon, but that only makes you appreciate it that much more. Of course you can always pay more money to accelerate this process, which has the potential to turn this into a pay-to-win scenario if balancing issues aren’t maintained.

Whether you love, hate, or simply don’t care about the online multiplayer, there is no denying the level of commitment Infinity Ward has put into all the systems and pieces that go into it. The sheer magnitude of the arsenal alone is staggering and when you factor in all the visual elements of skins, banners, emblems, and attachments, it’s easy to see why they don’t drastically change this part of the game on a yearly basis. Bottom line – if you enjoyed Black Ops 3 multiplayer then expect more of the same this year, and if you hated the multiplayer in the last two games, there is nothing here to change your mind. – Mongoose out

Zombies has been a significant part of the Call of Duty formula for several releases now with themes that range from George Romero to my personal favorite, Alcatraz. This year we get an 80’s theme zombie adventure that could have easily become a Scooby Doo script if there had been a dog. It’s time for stereotypes to assemble as the Nerd, Valley Girl, Jock, and Rapper – code for token black guy to maintain racial harmony, which only makes me wonder why the Nerd wasn’t Asian – in Zombies in Spaceland.

Aside from characters and setting, the gameplay in Zombies is relatively unchanged from the previous games. You board up windows and build your defenses against countless waves of zombies. Kill the undead to earn cash to buy bigger and better weapons and rinse and repeat until dead. Climb the leaderboards and if you’re lucky you might get a pro-assist from David Hasselhoff. This installment seems a bit more forthcoming with directions on where to go and tips on how to play. One nice perk is that any weapon XP or attachments you’ve already unlocked in regular multiplayer carry over to the purchased weapons in Zombies.

Zombies is always a fun diversion whether you play split-screen locally or assemble friends (or strangers) online for a full four-player experience. Teamwork is essential and new features like sharing points and team buy doors require you to work together if you want to escape this zombie nightmare.

Since we are reviewing the Legacy Edition I’ll comment briefly on the Modern Warfare Remastered game that comes in the bundle. It’s awesome! Everything you loved about the story and the gameplay is back, and it’s all shining bright with ground-up HD visuals that will blow…you…away. There are 10 multiplayer maps included and more on the way so you can enjoy classic flawless 60fps multiplayer the way it used to be before it got all mucked up. So many good memories came flooding back while replaying this masterpiece.

The PC version of Infinite Warfare has its own set of pros and cons.  Perhaps the highest profile of all the controversies is that fact that those who buy the game in the Windows Store cannot play online with those who purchased the game on Steam, and since this is not a PlayAnywhere title you can’t play with Xbox One gamers.  Now, I’m not sure who actually buys games from the Microsoft Store.  I kind of feel you deserve what you get if you do.  While it seems a bit anti-consumer to split the PC audience based on your place of purchase, I just can’t imagine how many people this affects to generate such controversy.

More relevant to the discussion would be the graphics and the sound.  The PC code seems nicely optimized and I was able to run the game at full 4K resolution locked in at 60fps on my 980ti card by tweaking a few settings, but I ultimately settled on super-sampling the game and running at 1080p with everything set to Ultra high quality and the game looked stunning.  Some sequences were photo-real.  The only way this game can look any better is on the PS4 Pro with high resolution and HDR.  PC also offers the added precision of mouse and keyboard controls although the Xbox controller worked just fine and allowed from seamless transition between the foot missions and those set in the Jackal cockpit.  Load times were significantly shorter on the PC,but I noticed a lot of stuttering in the cutscenes that were used to disguise load times – probably due to simultaneously streaming video and loading data.  Installing to an SSD would fix this.

There is no denying Infinite Warfare could have easily existed without the Call of Duty moniker. In fact it might have been better received if it had debuted without the baggage associated with the troubled franchise. There is nothing visual or thematic to tie this in with past Call of Duty games aside from the non-stop blockbuster action presentation, the commitment to solid 60fps gameplay, and a truckload of weapons. It’s sad Activision wasn’t confident enough in their new game so as not to use Modern Warfare Remastered as a hostage, because in my opinion, the single-player campaigns are on virtually equal levels of polish and presentation, even with nine years separating them. The multiplayer still has a long way to go; either back to what it was or evolve into something better, but for those looking for an amazing single (or co-op) campaign experience with a dash of cooperative zombie theme park survival, look no further than Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition.

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