WW2 #35: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty moves further away from its WW2 roots than it ever has before… and not for the better

june gloom
4 min readMay 14, 2024

This review was originally posted to Twitter on March 3, 2020.

Initial release: October 14, 2016
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, XBox One
Developer: Infinity Ward

And we’re back to games that make me feel like shit.

I’m convinced that if Call of Duty wants to grow as a franchise Infinity Ward shouldn’t be allowed to make any more. It’s clear that for every good idea they have, they can’t help but undercut it with jingoism. Look, let me be clear on this: in terms of gameplay, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is lightyears — pun intended — ahead of most of the previous games. It’s one of the most fun shooters I’ve ever had the joy of playing. It’s full of options, spices things up with space dogfights and zero-g combat, and just feels solid. But the story… well, it’s mostly a lot of jerking off over dead soldiers and “necessary sacrifices.” Two minutes into the game you’re passing a wall with the names of the dead (really the developers’ names;) “peace to the fallen” is repeated so often that it’s almost a mantra. (Interesting to note that none of the Infinity Ward staff who walked out are on this wall, either.) It’s this fixation on self-sacrifice and making daring calls that is the core of a somewhat incoherent story of interplanetary warfare between a resource-starved Earth and the violently fascist regime of a secessionist Mars.

I mean, it’s basically ripping off Killzone.

But even Killzone gave its villains some basic motivation for being villains. The Settlement Defense Front of Infinite Warfare are villains for the sake of being villains. We learn very little about their culture, their rationale, or why they hate Earth. They’re just… there. They’re just more targets on a treadmill, and even though it never really gets old for me, it is frustrating how little Infinity Ward is willing to do any sort of worldbuilding. They coast entirely on vibes. They’ve built what could have been an interesting universe and did absolutely nothing with it.

So what are we left with? Well, Infinity Ward know how to make a game. Everything hits the right notes here. This is a game full of great visuals and fun scenarios (I really liked fighting robots in a ruined research station that’s on an asteroid hurtling towards the sun.) And lest you complain about the franchise’s notorious linearity, Infinity Ward have cribbed the open-ended mission progression of Mass Effect to pad the game out with side missions. They don’t add much to the plot, and it’s hardly an RPG, but they’re fun and all fairly different from each other. At the beginning of each mission you get access to a loadout menu, which lets you pick the weaponry you want to take with you, as well as addons and equipment. Complete side missions and dogfights and you unlock more goodies to pick from — and more perks for your combat suit.

This is the game that Infinity Ward wanted to make all the way back since Call of Duty 2 but Activision wouldn’t let them. And it shows in the level of care in their craft. But I wonder what this game would have been like if Infinity Ward had been allowed to make it in 2005. I feel like this company has really lost a lot of what made it such a great developer. There’s a soullessness to what they do that can’t really be discerned through the high-fidelity explodarama that their games typically have been. Perhaps the mass walkout over the Activision legal case is the cause; certainly, the absence of their most visionary designer, Mohammad Alavi (the mad genius behind “All Ghillied Up” and, infamously, “No Russian”) has been pretty obvious in the years since his 2010 departure.

Whatever the case, it’s telling that his name, as well as all those who walked out, doesn’t appear on that memorial wall. It’s as if they’ve been erased from history, or at least Call of Duty’s history, despite being the ones who made this franchise what it is. And thus lies the real insult of Infinite Warfare: it’s the game that they wanted to make, 11 years later, and yet with none of the vision of the original staff.

I really like this game, but it pisses me off how vapid it is. At least it’s not as nakedly fascist propaganda this time.

-june❤

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june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/her]