This weekend saw Activision host a celebration of its bestselling first-person shooter franchise in Los Angeles: Call of Duty XP. We went and got to play the upcoming Infinite Warfare, capture plenty of screenshots, and learn lots more about the game.
Call of Duty XP
The first Call of Duty XP took place five years ago. This year's event is the second iteration of the festival, so there was quite a break in between them. In the last year, Activision launched both the Call of Duty World League and a major eSports initiative, so it was time for a second XP.
Call of Duty XP is the culmination of a yearlong season of competitions in which teams of the best Call of Duty players from all over the world are now competing for $2,000,000 in prizes. The winning team gets $800,000 to split between its four members, and all teams walk away with at least $15,000 for having made it this far.
The event caters to more than just eSports competition, though. In addition to Call of Duty-themed activities, attendees can play the upcoming Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer, Infinite Warfare's Zombies cooperative mode, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered multiplayer, a Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare virtual reality experience, and the new Call of Duty: Black Ops III downloadable content.
Activision is truly committed to eSports nowadays. As the Call of Duty World League continues to thrive, future Call of Duty titles will feature strong eSports integration. Hopefully Call of Duty XP becomes a yearly event as well.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer Combat Rigs
We didn't get to play Infinite Warfare's campaign at the event, other than a VR demo of one of the spaceship levels. Activision showed a snippet of campaign footage but wants to keep it mostly a surprise for players. But we did learn a lot about the game's multiplayer mode, in addition to playing it for an hour.
Like previous Call of Duties, Infinite Warfare lets players select from predefined multiplayer classes or create their own custom classes. This one takes place in the future, though, a future in which soldiers wear suits called Combat Rigs. Each Rig provides a different set of abilities to the wearer. Players can also switch to different Combat Rigs and even customize its abilities mid-match, so you're not locked into a single class if you see the current one isn't working out.
Each Combat Rig has comes with three Payload options: one weapon and two abilities. Rigs also have three Traits, which are powerful and persistent perks that don't change when you change your loadout. Traits stay with you and support the Rig's play style.
Infinite Warfare's pre-built Combat Rigs include:
The Generalist, he resembles the classic Call of Duty soldier. Warfighters specialize in mid-range combat.
- Payloads: The Claw, Overdrive, and Combat Focus.
- Traits: Ping, Persistence, and Resupply.
The Claw is a powerful gun that fires shots spread over a wide radius. Its shots ricochet around the map. Persistence makes the player's Scorestreak persist after death at increased cost. Scorestreaks (summonable rewards for kill streaks) can't be wrapped or spammed, though.
He provides combat support and area of denial.
- Payloads: Gravity Vortex, Micro Turret, and Centurion.
- Traits: Relay, Trophy Drone, and Hardened.
The Micro Turret is a throwable turret that can be used for defense or offense. The Trophy Drone follows the player and throws itself in front of a single grenade, neutralizing it.
This marksman excels at concealment and long-range engagements. Of the Combat Rigs I tried, the Phantom was my favorite.
- Payloads: Ballista EM3, Active Camo, and Pulsar.
- Traits: Marked Target, Rearguard, and Heightened Senses.
The Ballista EM3 is a three-shot railgun. Its projectiles impale enemies and pin them to walls. Rearguard gives the Phantom an armored shield on his back upon spawn. The shield can be destroyed, but it gives the player time to react to fire.
Defense and heavy suppressive fire are his specialties.
- Payloads: Steel Dragon, Bull Charge, and Reactive Armor.
- Traits: Infusion Mat-at-Arms, and Shock Wave.
The Steel Dragon is a hip-fired weapon that fires a concentrated beam or beams that latch onto enemies and burn them down. Fusion gives Mercs faster health regeneration.
The FTL wields experimental tech built around guerilla warfare.
- Payloads: Eraser, FTL Jump, and Phase Shift.
- Traits: Supercharge, Perception, and Powerslide.
The FTL Jump allows him to rapidly jump in order to close the gap between an enemy or evade fire. Perception provides increased situational awareness. The edges of the FTL's HUD will light up to alert the player that enemies are looking at him.
The Synaptic is a remotely controlled robot, not a human in a suit. It favors a run-and-gun stye. Speed and close-quarters combat.
- Payloads: Equalizer, Reaper, and Rewind.
- Traits: Rushdown, Propulsion, Combat Burst.
Activating the Reaver causes the Synaptic to squat down on all fours (becoming a lower target), move at higher speed, and deliver lethal melee blows. Combat Burst provides a short speed burst after every kill. Skilled players can use it to chain kills together.
Weapons and Crafting
The weapons of Infinite Warfare are futuristic, but grounded with modern combat elements. They're mostly recognizable evolutions of today's weaponry. All of the standard Call of Duty guns appear, including Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Light Machine Guns, Sub-machine guns, and more. Secondary weapons like pistols make the cut as well.
Directed Energy Weapons take special advantage of Infinite Warfare's futuristic setting. Energy weapons still feel like Call of Duty Weapons, with satisfying kick and sound effects. They support new mechanics, such as the EVR800 multifunctional assault rifle/sniper combo that uses more battery for sniper shots than assault rifle shots. Energy weapons also slowly regenerate ammunition.
For the first time in the series, Infinite Warfare features weapon crafting. Players earn salvage during gameplay that can be used to craft prototype weapons. They come in four rarity levels: Common, Rare, Legendary, and Epic. This applies to secondary weapons as well.
The gun perks of each prototype weapon vary by rarity level, with rarer weapons also having more perks than common ones. Thus Epic weapons (which also look different) will be highly desirable. A few examples of gun perks include Stockpile (increased ammo), Atomizer (gain a Tactical Nuke after 25 kills), and Jackpot (ten percent score boost per kill).
All-New Tech and Equipment
Lethal and Tactical equipment has evolved in Infinite Warfare as well. For instance, players can now deploy these items with their left hands while keeping their guns up. Thus you'll be able to fire and engage enemies while throwing grenades and other items. This reduces the risk when using these tools.
A few examples of Lethals include the Biospike, Seeker Grenade, Hover Drones, Flechete Grenade, Black Hole Projector, and Plasma Grenades. Biospikes not only kill a player who is struck by them, they also explode and cause scatter damage to anyone in the area.
Seeker Grenades track enemies and will stick to enemies if thrown directly onto them. Hover Drones fly forward in a straight line and can be detonated remotely, but they can also be shot down. Black Hole Projectors create a localized black hole, sucking enemies into their doom.
Tactical Equipment includes Adrenaline Drip, Personal Radar, Dome Shield Emitter, Cryomine, and more. The Adrenaline Drip provides a quick heal upon use. The Personal Radar provides soft information about enemy direction and distance, although it doesn't let you see through walls. The Dome Shield creates an electromagnetic shield similar to those of Halo 3.
Scorestreaks are the rewards players get to summon after accomplishing killstreaks. I've never been a fan of these, as they basically reward players who are already doing well while making it harder for struggling players to catch up. Still, Infinite Warfare's Scorestreaks certainly capitalize on the game's science fiction theme. The RC8 is an 8-foot tall robot with three arms. It can be used as an AI drone for protection, or you can hack into his feed and control him directly.
Infinite Warfare allows players to select three perks, with a selection of new perks mixed into Call of Duty classics. For instance, the Pin Point perk will highlight any enemy you damage or who damages you. Thus you can quickly identify who's engaging you, or simply help you to keep on target during engagements.
Maps and modes
Infinite Warfare's maps are designed to get players into combat quickly, force head-to-head engagements, and have varied level designs with high replayability. The different points on a map now have names that appear below the minimap. This improves player communication and map learnability.
Maps come in different shapes, including circular two-lane maps like Frontier, the bent three-lane Throwback, and the linear three-lane breakout. Classic Modern Warfare map Terminal returns, now reimagined for the new game's futuristic setting.
The actual environments are more varied than ever before, taking place on other planets, moons, space stations, and more. These places all look different and feature unique color palettes. That's one of Infinite Warfare's greatest strengths to me – the visual variety of its maps.
Several classic modes return in the new game, plus new eSports modes. Hardpoint is a mode in which players must capture points on the map. These hardpoints have floors that change color to indicate ownership and contention, which is useful from a gameplay perspective and just looks cool.
Defender is a mode that plays like a high-stakes game of keep away. Both teams fight to collect and control a drone. You can pass the drone, which looks like a green orb, among teammates. Defender matches tend to flow all over the map as teams run around with the drone. I never gained possession of the drone myself, but I enjoyed protecting the ball bearer.
Mission Teams provide a new layer of progression in Infinite Warfare. Players still rank up their profiles and weapons, but now they can rank up missions too. Any time you play online, you're playing for a mission team. These missions will change how players play and encourage them to try new game modes.
Mission Teams have different themes that determine what kinds of challenges they assign. The JTF Wolverines provide basic kill and completion missions. The Orion Initiative gives objective-based missions. Every mission team has a Mission Commander. They deliver missions and comment on successes and failures.
Completing missions increases your rank with that team. By ranking up with teams, players will unlock calling cards, camos, rig customization outfits, and prototype weapons. These weapons are exclusive to mission teams and not craftable. There's no chance involved with Mission Team rewards. Once you reach a specific rank, you'll get that item or weapon.
The future looks promising
I'm not a Call of Duty veteran, so I can't compare what I've played of Infinite Warfare much to previous games. Some players have criticized the game's science fiction setting, but I feel the opposite. Taking place in the future allows the game to have interesting classes (Combat Rigs), weapons, abilities, and locations. The fast-paced gameplay (complete with wall runs, double jumps, and sliding) feels really good, and the new Mission Teams could potentially make this the most replayable Call of Duty yet.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare arrives on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on November 4. In addition to campaign and competitive multiplayer, it will also feature a wacky 4-player Zombies mode called Zombies in Spaceland. Stay tuned for our Zombies impressions!