This last weekend, Infinity Ward finally got the chance to give the average gamer some much needed hands-on time with their upcoming title, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. While the response to some of the changes and similarities to previous entries has garnered a bit of backlash, the Infinite Warfare beta showed that Call of Duty‘s futuristic direction isn’t going anywhere this year and that if that’s your thing, it can still be a fair bit of fun.
The very first thing players are greeted with when entering the beta is a first-person cutscene that introduces you to a commander character, who also serves as the announcer during matches. It’s a basic introduction that serves to quickly introduce the player to the new “combat rigs,” but it’s an interesting approach to tying some narrative into the multiplayer as well. After that, players are able to choose from three basic modes, including classics like Domination and Team Deathmatch, as well as an incredibly uninteresting new mode called Defender. After update 1.02 over the weekend , Kill Confirmed was added to the mix as well, rounding out a solid list of modes to explore.
Jumping straight into a match, I instantly had a feeling of familiarity with the movement system, which is very similar to that of Black Ops 3. Weapons felt satisfying and had interesting futuristic designs, and the shooting was as tactile as ever. But what really struck me about the gameplay was the slight changes made that set Infinite Warfare apart from Black Ops 3, and closer in feel to something like Ghosts or Black Ops 2. Jump jets and wall running make a return in Infinite Warfare, but reliance on them is somewhat toned down as you navigate the environments. No longer are players able to wall run from one side of the map to the other, and the double jump doesn’t recharge as fast, meaning more time is spent on the ground than in the air or on the walls. Aiming has also been slightly slowed down since Black Ops 3, making the game feel like a step towards the more classic feeling Call of Duty that some fans have been clamoring for.
Unfortunately, most innovation in the movement is undercut by the map design, which is a mixed bag in the beta. The first map I played, Frost, is a three-lane map set on an icy space outpost. It was my least favorite due to its poor level design which caters rather easily to campers, allowing them to wait around every corner. Frontier was also not very good. Another three-lane map, there was almost no distinction in the environment, making it hard to tell where I was, even after playing it several times. On the more positive side of things were the maps Throwback and Precinct. Throwback made the most use of the toned down movement system, channeling some of the best elements of Black Ops 2‘s map design. Precinct, on the other hand, was a bit more reminiscent of Advanced Warfare with its use of verticality, making use of the double jumping and wall running as evasive maneuvers without ever entering Black Ops 3 territory. The maps, like almost every element of the beta, seem to give the impression that Infinity Ward is doing their best to bring a little bit of the best of each game into Infinite Warfare. But based on map design so far, it hasn’t quite paid off. The biggest complaint I have, however, is just how damn small each map feels. It’s a really minor complaint, but seeing as each map was basically the same size, there wasn’t a lot of spatial variety to experiment with, which is a letdown.
New to Infinite Warfare are the “Combat Rigs,” which essentially replace the specialist classes from Black Ops 3. Each rig comes with a different character design, such as the robotic Synaptic and the bulky Merc, and each has three special attacks that can be equipped and unlocked. It’s another design choice cribbed from Black Ops 3, but for my time with the game, the abilities are much more balanced than in last year’s entry. I personally found myself attached to the Synaptic’s default ability of dual wielding powerful machine guns, but I saw plenty of variety in the other players online as well. Another new interesting, though slight, addition is the new grenades that players carry. Rather than a simple frag grenade that explodes once and has a low chance of killing anyone caught near the explosion, grenades in Infinite Warfare rain down a deluge of fiery death that actually manage to kill your opponent, while still never feeling unfair.
Graphically, the game looks solid, with nice textures and lighting, and an especially smooth framerate tying everything together. As ever, the Infinity Ward engine still won’t be mistaken for a cutting edge piece of processing, but Infinite Warfare is slick enough to pass for what a modern AAA game should look like. Sound design is also on point, with guns being satisfying as ever to shoot, and nice to listen to. My only regret is that they didn’t steal the concussive explosions from Black Ops 3, because those were awesome.
For some people, Infinite Warfare will just be another Call of Duty game for another year. For others, it might be representative of a direction they don’t want the series to go in. But for those willing to see the multiplayer component for what it is, Infinite Warfare is an enjoyable slice of online goodness that still has a ways to go in order to prove itself among its contemporaries. The beta hasn’t impressed me as much as Black Ops 3 last year, but Infinite Warfare‘s emphasis on a more restrained movement system and more balanced abilities still has me intrigued enough to give it a shot when it drops on November 4.