Protagonist Nick Reyes has the personality of Aaron Taylor Johnson’s character from Godzilla (2014): A stoic, faceless military man willing to jump into danger as needed. This isn’t a compliment.
On the flipside, Infinite Warfare’s glitzy futurism surrounds Reyes with plenty of disaster. The tenants of contemporary terrorism remain even into the 2300s (or whatever year this meant to be). Rushing clouds of smoke, large transport ships smashing into buildings, a set of terrorist most wanted cards, and injured citizens covered in dust. Sci-fi becomes an inconspicuous decoration for a familiarly furnished story.
Whatever number of games now make up Call of Duty: The Franchise, the series remains engaged with spectacle, now galaxy-sized. The battlefield comprises the entire Milky Way, one where future people decided Pluto still isn’t a planet. Opening with an attack on Geneva and introducing the thinly veiled North Korean proxy SDF sets up enormous technical high points. Few games show tidal waves, collapse towers, or explode spaceships as well as this one, if it’s too long between them.
It’s dumb. All Call of Dutys were once away from the earnest depictions of World War II. So dumb, Infinite Warfare inhabits the same space as Titanfall 2, with an eerie level of coincidence. The story of planet skipping, resource-hogging SDF, the promoted hero, the robot sidekick, the women dropping orders into a headset, grappling hooks, wall running, double jumping, energy weapons, electrical grenades, electronic enemies; it’s too much.
Also like Titanfall 2, no one reconciles the absurdity of scale or the one-man-army tactics for laughs. Infinite Warfare stays stonefaced, Yet, there’s something compelling under the surface, misplaced or not. Somewhat bravely for a blockbuster, Infinite Warfare invites death, deals with it, and considers consequences. Reyes, so bland and monotone in his service to both the narrative and squad, commits to an arc. Infinite Warfare ends as it should, flushed with explosions, and also unexpected discomfort. Placing Reyes within a future UN deviates from a pro-America spectacle too. Refreshing heroism, without spreading nationalism.
Combined with smartly restrictive space battles, Infinite Warfare engages on the lower level of storytelling maturity, while engulfed by the litany of guilty pleasure thrills. Away from the hokey, dirty CIA tales of Black Ops and anti-capitalist sentiment of Advanced Warfare, Infinity Ward resets into something simpler but cohesive. Graded on a curve of videogame narratives, but oddly genuine despite the resounding goofiness, and the best personification of the game’s title since the originals.