Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review
Genre: First Person Shooter, Action
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software, High Moon Studios
We lay in ruins. A once proud army who fought with the ferocity of wild animals and unrivaled loyalty is no more. Somehow remnants of our forces still remain, with the a spark of hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. No, I’m not quoting or referencing a Call of Duty game or character, I’m talking about the Call of Duty community itself. A gradual decline in the quality of the franchise as well as the embarrassingly bad Call of Duty: Ghosts has significantly reduced the amount of gamers that call themselves “Call of Duty fans”.
When Ghosts was released Call of Duty fans and press knew that a better CoD was just on the horizon. With a veritable super group of developers working on the next game for 3 years, this would be a far cry from the rushed and decidedly deplorable Call of Duty: Ghosts. ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘ is finally upon us, complete with an amazing performance from Kevin Spacey and the biggest tweaks to the Call of Duty formula since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but is it enough to win back fans? Is this a return to Call of Duty‘s glory period or yet another sub-par entry in the series?
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare truly benefits, quite obviously, from its three year development cycle. The game’s characters, cut scenes, environments and lighting is the best the series has ever seen. In fact, so much so that comparing it to previous CoDs is a disservice to the game. Advanced Warfare looks amazing and is a huge leap forward for the series from a visual standpoint. The cut scenes move away from simply showing a tactical map with generic voiceovers too a more cinematic approach – no doubt a decision made when Kevin Spacey came on board. Speaking of Mr Spacey, he truly delivers a performance on par with anything else we have ever seen from him. There is an unfortunate trend of TV and film actors delivering sub-par voice acting performances in video games (Peter Dinklage in Destiny springs to mind) but Kevin Spacey absolutely nails his performance – and the game itself sets a new benchmark for cut scenes and motion-captured performances. The two coming together make for the best delivery of a story we’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game. The campaign’s climax is especially gorgeous (visually), very memorable and will be hard to top with the next Call of Duty game.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare casts players as Private Jack Mitchell of the United States Marine Corps in the year 2054. The game is called Advanced Warfare for a reason, and the setting of the near future allows for some mind blowing weaponry and action sequences. This isn’t pure fantasy however; as Activision are insisting that every piece of futuristic tech in this game is currently being researched or developed (check out the T.A.L.O.S. Suit being developed by SOCOM). Soldiers have mobility-boosting exoskeletons (simply referred to as Exo Suits), Predator style cloaking abilities, hover tanks and energy weapons, just to name a few of the military technological advancements found in-game.
Mitchell fights alongside Will Irons (who is also his best friend) and Sergeant Cormack in an operation in Seoul in which Irons is killed in action and Mitchell loses his left arm. Due to his injury, Mitchell is discharged from the service though he is later recruited by Will’s father, Jonathan Irons. Irons is the CEO of Atlas, the world’s most powerful PMC (private military company) which has equipment decades ahead of the US government’s defense forces. Mitchell joins Atlas, gets his arm replaced with a cutting-edge prosthetic and is soon back in action.
Meanwhile, the world is under threat by the KVA and its charismatic leader, “Hades”. After numerous KVA attacks, it is Atlas, not the US government that comes to the world’s aid. It is not long before Atlas are thwarting the KVA around the world and gaining influence and power with each victory. After being the first non-government representative to be elected to the global security council, Irons begins to question and disagree with the response to terrorism from the world’s leaders, citing his own methods as being much more effective. Tensions between Atlas and the world’s leaders rise as the threat of the KVA looms over the world. Can Atlas gain world peace through force? Can the KVA be stopped?
I won’t go into more detail with Advanced Warfare‘s story but I will say that in more than makes up for the weak storylines of previous Call of Duty titles. The talents of each development studio were utilised brilliantly for Advanced Warfare‘s campaign, and whereas previous Call of Duty titles had one or two outstanding levels that served as the highlight of their game, Advanced Warfare manages to have an entire campaign of memorable levels, each one offering a unique experience to the game but also complementing each other. You’ll take flight in a ultra-fast jet flying through an intense desert canyon shootout, you’ll fight the KVA whilst jumping from moving vehicle to moving vehicle on a highway, and you’ll stalk the shadows, snapping necks and grappling from building to building like a ninja in another. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s campaign is game of the year material, filled with countless “whoa” moments! The actual narrative of the story becomes predictable fairly quickly, but I didn’t find that is was too detrimental to the campaign overall. Yes, there are no surprises when it comes to the story but it is delivered with panache and ability that few game developers can achieve.
Now onto the multiplayer, which is the truly the core of the Call of Duty experience. You might think that the Exo suits from the game’s single-player campaign would make for revolutionary multiplayer gameplay but the reality is this is still Call of Duty as we know it. Yes you can boost in mid-air, sideways, backwards and even down to ground at break-neck speed (you can even stomp on your enemies to kill them) but if you run into battle boosting without thinking you will find yourself less a futuristic super-soldier and more a futuristic clay pigeon.
There are also Exo abilities that can also be used for a few slick advantages on the field (you can cloak, temporarily boost your health and mute your footsteps) but these aren’t so over-the-top that players will have an unfair advantage. This is both a good and bad thing, as the game’s multiplayer is fairly balanced, but the abilities become second nature fairly quickly and probably won’t have the impact with fans that the developers probably would have hoped for. I will say that the multiplayer is the best we’ve seen in a Call of Duty game for years, I just would have liked a bit more of a shake up to the formula. There is only so much tweaking you can do to Call of Duty‘s solid shooting mechanics before it becomes something completely different, so it’s probably for the best that Advanced Warfare plays to its strengths while sprinkling in some new and nifty features.
While Call of Duty: Ghosts was deserving of its harsh criticism from fans and critics alike, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare more than makes up for it. If you’re on the fence about picking up Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, don’t be – just pick it up. The campaign is unparalleled by its consistently exhilarating action and the multiplayer is as reliable as ever while offering a few fresh tweaks and features.
Note: Call of Duty’s iconic Zombies mode is on the way in the form of downloadable content. No other details are presently available but it’s important for Call of Duty fans to know that Advanced Warfare does not come with a Zombies mode already included, counter to some internet rumours.