Microtransactions. Bleh. If there's one word that can put a foul taste in people's mouths, it's that. Disappointingly, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has them, and the game is much worse off for it. Whereas in previous entries you could spend money simply to get gun skins and cosmetic items in loot boxes, now you need to spend money on Salvage and Keys – sure, you can earn it, but you'll get a pittance – allowing you to open more supply drops, craft better weapon variants, and essentially have the upper hand.
So yeah, Infinite Warfare's multiplayer is pay to win.
You could say that there's still an element of skill involved – making use of your jumpsuit properly in order to outmanoeuvre enemies, playing well enough to earn scorestreaks and special abilities, and using new gadgets skillfully in order to locate your foes and neutralise them – but at the end of the day, the team that wins is often the team with the better guns. Ergo, the team that wins is now the team that pays the most.
Still, it's not like these microtransactions have ruined a stellar online experience. If you've played Call of Duty: Black Ops III, there's nothing to see here; you still have jump-packs, and bar all of the new guns and gadgets, the gameplay is almost exactly the same – at times feeling like an older game with a new lick of paint. Don't get us wrong, there's nothing much wrong with the multiplayer gameplay, but some progress here and there wouldn't have gone amiss, as the action does get stale quite quickly.
To be fair, there are a few changes: the new Defender mode tasks teams with holding onto a ball as long as possible in order to gain points, and is a fun jaunt, while the fact that Infinite Warfare's futuristic setting allows for maps set on other planets makes things a little more interesting. Frost, for example, is set on a research facility on Jupiter's icy moon, while Frontier takes place on a space station orbiting Neptune. There have been attempts to break from the boring three-lane map system, but while a few maps (Frontier among them) are much more interesting in terms of verticality and secret passageways, many of the other arenas are forgettable.
For the most part, though, it feels like the bulk of the changes in Infinite Warfare are cosmetic; Black Ops 3's Specialists are now 'Combat Rigs' that grant the user special equipment and gadgets when they've scored enough points.
The multiplayer's mediocrity is a shame, then, because Infinite Warfare's single player is excellent. Real effort has been put into this portion of the game, from the news broadcasts that occur after each mission to the depth of the lore.
Infinite Warfare's story feels so much more complete than previous Call of Duty instalments in that it's so much more than a linear corridor-shooter. Each mission feels different, not least thanks to the different planets that you fight on, from the caustic moon Titan to the futuristic Earth. The introduction of space combat, which sees you and your squadmates fly about in Jackal space-fighters and engage in dogfights, is awesome – controlling your Jackal is neither finicky nor fiddly, and the enemy types are varied enough to keep things interesting.
Add that to Zero-G space combat (in which you can use a grappling hook to attach to debris for cover) as well as the usual ground combat and you have some very interesting missions that often utilise all three types of play. Factor in side-missions that can all be undertaken in a non-linear fashion and you have an enthralling, bombastic campaign mode that's probably the best in years.
What's more, the narrative isn't half bad either. Sure, it may have a flurry of initialisms and acronyms to remember – the UNSA (United Nations Space Alliance) and SATO (Solar Associated Treaty Organisation) are the good guys, and the SDF (Settlement Defense Front)are the bad guys – but the writing and chemistry between the characters is decent.
Equally charismatic (although a bit lacking in the gameplay department) is Zombies in Spaceland, Infinity Ward's first whack at the ever-popular Zombies mode. It does feel a bit lazy that Zombies has been included in Infinite Warfare considering it's more of a Black Ops thing, but it's hard not to be swayed by Zombies in Spaceland's terrific character. Essentially, four actors hoping to star in a film directed by horror director Willard Wyler (played by Paul Reubens of Pee-Wee fame, no less) are sucked into a zombified theme park and forced to fight for their lives playing as four 80s stereotypes: the nerd, the jock, the rapper, and the valley girl. David Hasselhoff also makes an appearance as a DJ, playing licensed 80s tunes like Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 'Relax'.
While the theme park is fun and colourful, full of secrets, Easter eggs, and jokes, the gameplay is still very much like Black Ops 3's, despite a big cosmetic overhaul. Admittedly, it's still a fun romp with friends and the sheer charisma that oozes out of the map will keep you playing it.
If there's ever been a polarising game, then it's Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The campaign is a whopping amount of fun, and the addition of space combat is a large part of that. Still, there's a distinct lack of progress in both Zombies (as fun as it can be) and Multiplayer that damages the game's replay value, and then there's the unacceptable implementation of microtransactions. The single player may be stellar, but the multiplayer has come crashing down.