Call of Duty is a giant. Not just within games, where it has vanquished any foe put before it, but rather within the world at large. Shattering entertainment records for any medium and leaving behind an indelible and at times stunning legacy as one of the most consequential and popular series of all-time.
Somewhere along the line though it become more popular to hate the series than to enjoy it. The series came to represent the worst aspects of gaming. An endless cycle of games coming out every single year, changing nothing, growing stale and tired with each new iteration. That's what makes Infinite Warfare so wonderful, it destroys the tired cliche and cheap stereotypes about Call of Duty in spectacular fashion.
No one can play Infinite Warfare and try and pretend it's simply the same as every other Call of Duty game before it. Featuring a breathtaking story that is both laser focused and also open to the players choices. This is the most game-changing installment of the series in at least a generation and one of the finest crafted and surprising games in the first-person shooter genre in years.
The ability to craft your own personal load out for each mission, the creation of side-missions that are both fun and meaningful to the larger story, these are big and much welcome changes to the COD structure. Yet, the true star of Infinite Warfare is how much everyone matters. These characters, these people are flawed, competitive ones who make up a wonderful showcase of the human side of war. Of the consequences of combat and the scars it can leave behind.
Infinite Warfare is unquestionably one of the games with the highest body count of major characters I've ever played. Period. Nearly every single character you are introduced to won't make it through the various conflicts that make up the war. In this way Infinite Warfare is shockingly bold in how real it's story is. You form lightening fast connections and bonds to various characters, all under the pressure cooker of service in a larger conflict.
The game is peppered with tiny quiet moments where characters will just shoot the shit, mourn a lost colleague, watch the games wonderful TV news shows recounting prior moments from the game, or simply stand in silence with one another. This is a Call of Duty, indeed a first-person shooter game, brave enough to give the proceedings some down time, to allow the player a moment to breath and comprehend everything that has just occurred. Just as Wolfenstein: The New Order had entire missions where you did nothing but explore your hideout and talk to others, so to does Infinite Warfare have wonderful periods of downtime. All of this helps to cement the regular lives of all of the characters on board the ship as they hurtle towards an uncertain and likely deadly future.
It's in death though that many characters shine brightest. With over half a dozen Letters of the Fallen exploring a wide swath of how people face their own mortality. These letters written by those who have been killed during the course of the games actions, are quite simply stunning and a powerful examination of why people fight and of what they fight for. But it's so much more, the characters know that these letters will only be read in the case of their death, so they ultimately reveal so much about their soul, about the people who are truly most important to them. They vary widely in length, content, and emotion yet they all drive home the point that these are people. People with complicated and varied lives, who are more then just simply big-budget action heroes.
There is simply a powerful wave of sadness and melancholy to the entire games proceedings. Almost from the opening minutes everyone you meet understands the odds are stacked against them and that their unlikely to make it back home. The only other Call of Duty game that carries the same vibe is the original Black Ops and maybe World at War. This isn't how FPS's are supposed to work. They aren't supposed to show the heroes suffer incredible losses, they aren't supposed to decimate the good guys, leave them with almost nothing and no one. They aren't supposed to have the final shot of the game be a giant memorial to all of the fallen. Yet, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is a game like few others and it's powerful, fast, tragic, brilliantly fun tale is one that should be studied and one that leaves behind a new path for the future of the genre and of the series.