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Latest ‘Call of Duty’ a breathtaking, painfully predictable look at space pirates

Video game review: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

This is Zombies in Spaceland, a very good mode in "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare." The game was released on November 4. Columnist Rory Appleton plays this mode and gives commentary on the game.
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This is Zombies in Spaceland, a very good mode in "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare." The game was released on November 4. Columnist Rory Appleton plays this mode and gives commentary on the game.

“Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” is packed with breathtakingly beautiful visuals and space pirate action. It’s also so painfully predictable that it very nearly turned my brain into mashed potatoes.

The story follows the typical narrative formula. Like Shakespeare, it starts off with a bang or 28 – something to get the droolers interested. Then there’s a lot of talking to give us the pointless backstory, followed by more explosions.

The plot is the same as the last two “Call of Duty” games, which is basically this interaction:

Military people: “Look at this marvelous technology we have created. The world will almost certainly unite in peace because of this.”

Bad military people: “Not so fast! We have taken over and will use your technology to advance some crazy ideological scheme.”

Military people: “Oh no! If only we had not been so reliant on technology!”

Bad military people: “Ha ha! Millions of innocent people will surely die!”

Military people: “I know what we can do. Let’s send a small team of elite operatives with even more technology to put a stop to this, killing thousands and causing untold destruction along the way.”

At least the “Infinite Warfare” bad guy is played by Kit Harrington. It allowed me to scream “you know nothing Jon Snow” at the screen every time he appeared.

When the franchise first announced it would move to a staggered development cycle, I was on board with the idea. It gives the developers – Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games – three years to create a great game, and it keeps the hungry masses who expect a new title every November happy.

And then all three went and made the same game. Each of the last three takes place in an alternate versions of the future. Couldn’t one of them taken the franchise back to World War II, or Vietnam, or – anything remotely more original than “explosions in space” every year? I would even take a Civil War or Revolutionary War “Call of Duty.” It may fail, but something to break up the monotony.

The “Call of Duty” franchise began in 2003.

It’s a shame the narratives aren’t more original, because my God this game is beautiful. “Call of Duty” is eons ahead of nearly all other franchises in terms of motion capture and overall graphics quality. I played a few hours on a 10 feet x 10 feet projector in The Bee conference room, and I audibly gasped every 30 minutes or so. My senses were tingling, but the game didn’t give me any compelling reason to push forward in the campaign.

And please, please merciful gaming gods, tell someone at Activision HQ to simplify the multiplayer and stop simplifying the campaign mode. When I load up a multiplayer shooter, I want to make the other people dead. Don’t bog me down with crazy robot loadouts that have 40 gadgets attached. On the other side of the spectrum, you don’t need to give me step-by-step instructions on how to progress through each campaign level. I am a big boy. I have been dying and learning from my mistake for decades. We all have. Dial it back.

It would appear that I totally hated “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” right? That’s not completely true, and it’s for one major reason: Zombies in Spaceland.

Infinity Ward chose to mash the “Call of Duty” zombie mode with “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon,” the impeccably Neon’d 80s-style space shooter. The name explains it all: Players control four actors trapped in a space theme park infested with zombies. It sounds ridiculous, and it is. But it embraces its ridiculousness, and that’s key. David Hasselhoff plays a helpful DJ. I murdered zombies to “The Final Countdown” by Europe. When I died, I played arcade games to gain an extra life. It’s all amazing.

Once I found the zombies mode, I found it impossible to go back to the campaign or multiplayer modes. Spaceland is massive and packed with various nooks and crannies, so it does not get repetitive as quickly as I expected a one-map mode would.

“Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” isn’t a bad game on the surface. It plays well. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Kit Harrington is like, really pretty. But the franchise is exhausted. It needs new life in the worst way, and I am not sure more space explosions is the way to go.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Video Game Review

▪ Rated mature for violence, blood and gore, strong language, drug references and suggestive themes

▪ Developer: Infinity Ward

▪ Publisher: Activision

▪ Out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC

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