It's been rough journey through space for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. After a reveal trailer that became the most-disliked video in YouTube history, it started to seem like the shooter series' push into outer space was a push too far. Activision eventually called it "the wrong game at the wrong moment."
One year later, and with World War II just around the corner, let's take a look back at how it fared.
By far the weakest aspect of Infinite Warfare was its campaign, which took the humans fight into space with super-advanced technology, robots, and the most generic space fights you could possibly imagine. The characters were mostly void of any personality, with the exception of the tactical soldier robot Ethan, who had all the witty lines and showed the most heart. Seriously, you're trying to save the human race from a space colonist threat, but the only character the game makes you give a damn about is the robot.
After the campaign's unimaginative tale of survival and space travel, perhaps it's no surprise that there was no story DLC at all. We'll just have to pick up the pieces and move on from the fact that Infinity Ward wasted the use of Game of Thrones' Kit Harington on a lame villain in an interstellar snoozefest.
Multiplayer has always been Call of Duty's bread and butter, and Infinite Warfare's focus on fast, futuristic warfare with advanced movement was met with mixed reaction.
There are some players in the community who wear the title of "jetpacker" with pride, but others were not as pleased with the continued trend of boosting around maps with energy weapons, as introduced by Sledgehammer Games' Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in 2014.
It's certainly true that Infinity Ward put a lot of post-launch effort into trying to keep multiplayer fresh by testing out a plethora of creative play modes. Limited-time "Weekend Warfare" modes rotated all year with new ways to play multiplayer and earn experience points.
Gesture Warfare gave players the opportunity to kill their opponents with outlandish hand gestures such as the finger gun.
Hyper Team Deathmatch sped up the recharge on the special weapon and ability "Payloads" for each character type. While the chaos was surprisingly more fun than I expected, I still prefer my Call of Duty without all the crazy special weapons and effects.
That said, the overall multiplayer experience felt, and still feels, quite frustrating because Infinity Ward never really found a way to properly address the issues with the game's balance. The Tactical mode limits the boosting to a minimum, but the game could never support a completely boots-on-the-ground mode because the maps are made for advanced movement. Some areas would be difficult or impossible to traverse without wall-running.
Jetpacking works for Uplink, where players move a ball-shaped drone across the map to throw or dunk into a portal like a futuristic game of basketball, but boosting and wall-running adds total frustration to classic objective modes, such as Search and Destroy and Domination.
The weapon variants are also a major hindrance. While many will argue how much they actually impact the game, you can't have fully-balanced multiplayer if everyone doesn't have access to the exact same arsenal of guns.
Yes, some weapon variants have less impact and more gimmicky stats, but some guns melt with insane fire rate or possess extended range and shouldn't be made available by the sheer luck of loot boxes.
Infinite Warfare also received great criticism from fans for not including staple features like Leaderboards or the Combat Record at launch. These were added in early 2017, but really should have been there from the beginning.
One common feature that never showed up at all was the ability to see how many players are actively playing in each playlist. Almost as if Activision is hiding something. It's frustrating to search for a match in a particular game mode without getting a heads up as to whether enough people are even playing it to make the search worthwhile.
The plain old Team Deathmatch is one of the most common and populated modes, but night owls might have a wait time if searching for a game in the Demolition or Tactical Moshpit playlists.
The difficulty finding matches in certain modes could also be due to the fact that the Call of Duty player base is more fractured than it's ever been. Not only because some players chose to stick with Treyarch's superior Black Ops III, but also since the Infinite Warfare special editions included Modern Warfare Remastered, which has its own multiplayer (and the brilliant Prop Hunt mode). It's now available as a standalone release.
I never fell in love with any of the core maps, but Infinite Warfare's Season Pass contained several multiplayer DLC maps that were more visually appealing and fun to play than the initial offerings. I especially loved some of the throwback maps, like the reimagining of Terminal and Afghan from Modern Warfare 2 and Warhawk from Ghosts. Call of Duty games often rework old maps, but Infinite Warfare has some of the best ones.
Unfortunately, Season Pass buyers got a really raw deal by dropping $US50 ($65) on extra content that's so hard to play after a short time. Earlier in the year I complained about the lack of DLC in the map rotation, and this is still an ongoing issue. Retribution has a DLC playlist because it's a new map pack, but many of the previous DLC maps still only exist as rare unicorns.
I've been purchasing the DLC for Call of Duty titles since 2008, and this is the worst time I've ever had getting maps to show up in rotation. Infinity Ward needs to give pass holders a playlist filled with all the map packs, otherwise we're not getting much value beyond the initial launch of each pack.
The Zombies mode is the one component of Infinite Warfare that I feel Infinity Ward got one hundred per cent right. It's a less difficult and goofier take on Treyarch's more serious Zombies, a co-op experience filled with wacky fun.
Zombies in Spaceland's 80s theme park layout is a great map for beginners to learn, while still providing a decent Easter Egg quest for the more seasoned players.
The four Zombies DLC maps that followed vary in terms of fun and difficulty, but I don't think any maps are bad. Shaolin Shuffle is my personal favourite for the mix of Kung Fu melee attacks and the gritty New York City theme, but some players might enjoy Attack of the Radioactive Thing for having lots of large, open areas to train the hordes of zombies.
Horror fans might like the 90's slasher theme of Rave in the Redwoods, but the layout of the map provides more difficulty with navigating the narrow trails of the old, summer camp. The final Zombies chapter, The Beast From Beyond, has a frustrating starting room, but the map is pretty enjoyable once you have all the areas unlocked to roam freely.
Having three years of consecutive Zombies modes could've made it stale, but Infinite Warfare's silly approach keeps the undead interesting.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is definitely a playable game with some high notes, but it never hit quite enough of them to win fans over after the futuristic trailer that so many people wanted to hate.
With any luck, Sledgehammer Games will steer the franchise back on course with this week's release of Call of Duty: WWII.