I’d say my love of CoD peaked with Modern Warfare 2. It should almost be expected, really; this franchise, like many before it – many of Activision’s too, I might add – is a yearly one. We get title after title, Guitar Hero-style, and eventually, they either go stale or just plain ol’ jump the shark. The last Call of Duty before this, Ghosts, wasn’t bad… it just wasn’t great.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is. I haven’t had this much fun with Call of Duty in a long, long time. And quite honestly? I didn’t think I’d be able to say that.
Before the purists freak out, Advanced Warfare is still Call of Duty. But it’s fresh and futuristic, and more importantly, clearly loved by developer Sledgehammer Games. You’re going to engage in a campaign full of Hollywood movie-style action alongside twists and turns expected in a political thriller… though not as over-the-top as in Modern Warfare.
Best yet, you get a campaign full of supposedly upcoming tech that you just get to play around with. While I might believe the game’s exo suits might soon be reality, some weapons like laser rifles feel better suited for Wolfenstein: The New Order. Regardless, I liked shooting said rifle. I liked doing exo dodges, and boost slams, and double jumps. I liked it all.
The campaign itself is extremely CoD, with quicktime events trying to better connect you to the game’s main character, Jack Mitchell (yes, press X to pay respects) or boost the action in a level itself (yes, press X to hit that dude or insta-death). Most levels are predictable; you end up playing ‘spot the chokepoint’ and prepare yourself to slay wave upon wave of baddies. Still, that’s why some people like Call of Duty, right?
Besides, I haven’t even mentioned Kevin Spacey yet.
Kevin Spacey is wonderful. He’s a legend of the big screen, and seeing him inside of a Call of Duty game made me squeal with glee. His in-game model looks like him. Sounds like him. It also sure as hell emotes like him. You can tell Sledgehammer pulled Spacey into as many set-pieces and sequences as they possibly could, and that’s because it works so well. While we learn a lot about his character, Jonathan Irons, over the course of the campaign — please take note, Bungie — but I’d love to go even deeper into his backstory with future (admittedly unheard of for the franchise) single-player DLC.
Playing on the Xbox One, I’m aware Spacey would look even better on a souped-up PC, but he still looked damn good, nonetheless. When watching rendered cutscenes, saying they’re life-like doesn’t even do them justice. Without ruining too much — but come on, you’ve seen this at E3 — Mitchell loses an arm to have it replaced with a mechanical one; I occasionally stopped just to look at the protruding seams in the almost-skinlike prosthetic. It’s hard to describe how real this imaginary tech actually looked. I have no idea if this would hold up in the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions of the game, but it’s hard to complain to people who buy ’em — you get a free download of the game on Xbox One or PS4 if you purchase last-gen copies digitally.
The game’s Exo Survival co-op mode is Zombies without zombies, really. Wave upon wave of exo-ed baddies swarm upon you, and it’s up to you and your buddy to clear ’em out. I didn’t find the mode all that engaging or fun, but it’s in there for you to try.
I thought that multiplayer might feel a bit like Titanfall, but it doesn’t. It instead feels – and excuse how obvious I’m about to be – like an advanced version of CoD. Instead of running paths along the ground, shooting anything that you see, you now get to use a double jump to fly through windows or up onto roofs, all the while using boost dash to get to harder-to-reach places or evade enemy gunfire.
In fact, the only point in which the multiplayer reminded me of Titanfall was when I realised I was rubbish at it to begin with. Advanced Warfare has the highest learning curve of any Call of Duty multiplayer to date, but once you get it, you get it. It’s worth spending some time with to understand, too. Pick 10 makes a reappearance, this time as Pick 13, so the better you get at the 12 multiplayer modes on offer, the better those scorestreak perks get too.
After spending some time with vehicles in the game’s main campaign, I wanted to see that carry over into multiplayer. Didn’t happen. This is perhaps where multiplayer is the most CoD-like; get used to playing on small, boxy-maps with a ton of chokepoints throughout.
Long story short, Advanced Warfare is a breath of fresh air in a franchise that desperately needed it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a vast improvement when compared to recent entries. A decent game for anyone with a current-gen console, and an innovative, yet true-to-form adventure for franchise fans. I’m quite happy with the direction Sledgehammer is taking Call of Duty – that Dead Space influence can actually be felt in various places throughout the game’s campaign – but I’m also cautious for what’s to come. With three major studios handling the franchise on a year-to-year basis, burnout is still a very distinct possibility. I surely can’t be the only person who thinks a biennial release strategy would benefit not only Activision’s bottom line, but gamers alike.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was reviewed using a promotional copy of the game on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare