When Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare first launched and brought new life to the franchise, especially in multiplayer, most fans wondered what the series' future might look like. Could developer Treyarch be able to build off what Sledgehammer did with their game? Or would the eventual-Black Ops 3 exist in its own realm? As it turns out, Treyarch borrowed some ideas from AW, but the title still charted its own path with Specialists, a type of hero loadout where players select specific characters with unique ‘Super’ abilities, in addition to the usual perks, tactical equipment, and weapons.
It depends on whom you ask, but by and large Black Ops 3 was met with mixed reactions. Some enjoyed the change of pace that the Specialists offered, while others felt it didn’t innovate enough. But for the Call of Duty brand as a whole, Black Ops 3 made one thing clear: there needs to be some form of synergy between the three development teams.
It should come as no shock, then, that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare multiplayer feels like a refinement of the Black Ops 3 formula. The online variant borrows some from Treyarch, a little from Sledgehammer, and puts a few of its own twists into the mix as well. In a lot of ways, Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer takes the compelling ideas of Black Ops 3 and mixes them with some future warfare flair.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Combat Rig feature. Combat rigs are basically a different name for Specialists, or hero characters – offering players a representative for their specific play style. However, in Infinite Warfare the customization options are much more diverse for the 6 Combat Rigs. Yes, each favors a specific style of play – mid-range combat, close range, long range, etc. – but the subtle changes within a Combat Rig’s loadout can help a specific player’s style come to life.
First and foremost, each Combat Rig has a choice between three Payloads, which is a different name for the character’s ‘Super’ ability. Some might let the players use a shield to charge at enemies, while others may give them new weapons with increased damage abilities. The Stryker Combat Rig, for example, has a micro turret Payload that helps support the team while also dealing damage. On the other hand the Phantom Combat Rig, which favors long-range combat, offers a choice between active camo or a high-powered rifle that can shoot through combatants and even pin enemies.
Based on what we played, the Payloads all felt viable in battle and could either turn the tide in terms of generating more kills for the player, or they could give players a boost while they try to complete an objective. All were fun to play around with, but there were some clear favorites.
Alongside the Payloads, each Combat Rig also offers the choice between one of three passive Traits that further add to the customization. In most cases these Traits didn’t make the Combat Rig any more deadly, but they did offer some slight advantages in battle. One Trait, for example, let the Warfighter Rig – a mobile mid-range option – keep their Scorestreak tally going even after death, but at a higher cost. Another helped the Merc Rig – the defense focused build – regenerate health a little faster than normal.
While the Combat Rigs were said to favor a variety of play styles, the maps on display certainly focused on close combat. According to Infinity Ward, the team wanted to deliver a multiplayer experience that has a fast time to combat and that forces head-to-head engagements. Each of the maps we played, including a futuristic version of fan-favorite Terminal, supported those claims, because an enemy was never too far away.
The maps also featured plenty of cover to jump over and wall real estate to run across, making sure that the traditional three lane structure could be a bit more dynamic. Visually, we wouldn't say that any of the maps stood out as particularly striking, although the sky boxes were nice to look at, but their design had a nice flow in terms of getting players quickly into and out of the action. Call of Duty has always been the faster paced of the multiplayer shooters out there, and Infinite Warfare continues that trend.
Overall, the multiplayer in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare feels like a step up from Black Ops 3 while still borrowing some of its predecessors’ core ideals. The movement is almost exactly out of BO3, the pick-10 perk system offers the usual bevy of choices (typical gun classes, tactical equipment, attachments, and perks), and the design aesthetic has all the necessary futuristic flair. The introduction of Combat Rigs is sure to be polarizing, but we had a lot of fun playing around with each of them and experimenting with the different Payload and Trait combinations. At the end of the day it may still be Call of Duty, but sticking to the tried and true and only slightly tweaking may be what keeps the loyal fans happy.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare releases November 4, 2016 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.