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HomeArts & CultureGame review: No major upgrades in latest Call of Duty

Game review: No major upgrades in latest Call of Duty

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Activision

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Three stars

Sticking with tradition despite a planet-hopping sci-fi setting, the latest Call of Duty is a rather conservative addition to the annual first-person shooter franchise, offering safe, market-tested upgrades, including a wisecracking robot, spaceship dogfights, ray guns – and a scarred Kit Harington.

While Call of Duty: Infinite ­Warfare includes moments of gaming grandeur, it fails to surprise, shock, or deliver any major new ideas in a year that has delivered heavy competition in this ever-popular genre, including new versions of Titanfall, Doom and Battlefield.

You play as captain Nick Reye who leads a UN Space Alliance team into battle against the Mars-based Settlement ­Defense Front.

The straightforward war ­narrative hits you over the space helmet with its ­message of military sacrifice, but is ­elevated by sharp – even heartfelt, sometimes – ­dialogue and strong acting from Homeland’s David Harewood, among ­others.

However, a jokey robot companion makes more of a lasting impression than Game of Thrones star Harington’s character, an evil space admiral.

As usual in CoD, several set pieces shine. A giddy firefight outside a space warship sends players spinning upside down and sideways, while a confrontation with solar-powered robo-warriors on a rapidly spinning asteroid is grimly intense.

Gestures toward player choice – perks, side missions, a more realistic and challenging “specialist mode” – offer minor variations from the familiar on-rails gameplay. Also helping to shake up the shooting-gallery monotony are creepy-crawly ­exploding “seeker bots” and zero-­gravity grenades that send enemies floating up into your ­crosshairs.

Multiplayer matches, where most players will spend their time, have been tweaked, with a rudimentary weapon-­crafting system and “combat rigs”, ­featuring perks that replace last year’s “specialist” characters. Boost jumping and wall-­running allow for innovative map design, and the overall gameplay is slightly less frantic than last year’s Black Ops III.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the “zombies” mode, which blends puzzle elements with survival-type combat. But an aggressively silly 1980s ­amusement-park setting – with David Hasselhoff playing a DJ – is worth repeat visits to ­uncover its loopy secrets.

For longtime CoD fans, though, a sense of “been there, shot that” lingers. Infinite Warfare is polished and shiny – but doesn’t justify its existence in the way 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 or 2012’s Black Ops 2 did. Perhaps a hard reboot is in order. Here’s hoping Activision stops promising CoD sequels every year so its developers have time to innovate and make the franchise feel vital again.

* Associated Press

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