You’ve been asking for “change” from the Call of Duty series for quite a while now, and with Advanced Warfare, you’ve finally got it… sort of.
The campaign for Advanced Warfare is pretty much what you’d expect it to be, regarding the pedigree of Call of Duty’s single player campaigns. It’s a lot of running and gunning, quick time events and action heavy set piece moments. The difference here between Advanced Warfare and last year’s Ghosts – it’s actually a pretty darn good campaign.
The story is set during the 2050’s and conflict in the world is ever so prevalent. However, a new force in the world, Atlas, a privately owned military corporation which has super advanced military technology and other special inventions has essentially taken over the world’s security and is run by a man driven by power, Johnathon Irons aka Kevin Spacey.
I’ll stray away from delving into deep story details to avoid spoilers, as I’ll assume that if you’re reading our review on the game, that’s a major reason why you’ll be playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I will say, however, that if you’re looking for a deep narrative, look elsewhere. Advanced Warfare doesn’t stray from the average plotlines that the majority of Call of Duty games follow. It’s not a completely predictable story, but it’s not all that exciting either. If I were to rank it among the best Call of Duty campaigns, it’d fall somewhere in between the Modern Warfare 2 and the original Black Ops.
There’s some character development in Advanced Warfare, but as with the majority of Call of Duty campaigns, nothing that makes me truly care about the characters. The main character in Advanced Warfare does have a face, and Sledgehammer does try to make him more of a real “character” than previous Call of Duty games have, but just fails to create that connection with the player. Another character in the game, Cormack, honestly was a far better developed character in my opinion as compared to Mitchell (the main character) or anybody else. But it’s still not saying much.
Gameplay wise, however, this is one of the best campaigns to play since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and I’m not exaggerating. There are some pretty memorable missions in Advanced Warfare’s 15 mission campaign. One stealth mission, while easy, strays from the far-too-linear formula that Call of Duty follows. In fact, there are two levels that have a bit more open-ended approach that, with enough feedback, could seriously help Call of Duty escape the all-too-familiar linear progression that’s entrapped it for so long. Not to say that linear campaigns are always bad in Call of Duty, but levels like the two I’ve mentioned can offer up more gameplay opportunities for the inevitable future installments.
Of course, I can’t talk about changes in Call of Duty without mentioning the Exo Suit, a first for the Call of Duty series and the series’ biggest change since switching from WW2 era weapons to modern weapons.
Call of Duty has always been about fast gameplay, but the Exo Suit takes that to an all new level (pun intended) by introducing a far greater move set to your character. The Exo Suit has a number of abilities, but its main use is for increased mobility on the battlefield. This increased mobility allows you to essentially double jump to gain higher vantage points, dodge left, right, or even backwards mid-air, boost slide and so on. However, a number of these abilities are limited to multiplayer gameplay, as the campaign missions give you specific suits to meet the needs of the mission.
For those of you who are trying to convince yourselves the Exo Suit copied Titanfall, you can stop now. The way each game plays feels completely different from one another.
Another improvement Advanced Warfare has introduced is in the graphics department. Sledgehammer Games has significantly increased the visual fidelity of the Call of Duty franchise and has managed to maintain the essential 60 FPS the series is known for. The character models are among the best in the industry and there’s actually a quite large amount of detail in the game’s environments that really sell the future world. In all actuality, the world in and of itself is probably a tad bit more interesting to experience than the actual storyline.
The one part of the presentation for Advanced Warfare I’m not so content with is the sound design. The voice actors are great as Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey do a phenomenal job as usual for their roles, and the side characters aren’t too shabby either. When it comes to the weapons though, it’s a pretty mixed bag. The assault rifles range from sounding like a powerful weapon to a pea shooter, and the same goes for the pistols. Explosions and everything else sounds just about right though, and it’s something you’ll notice a lot more online rather than the campaign.
The soundtrack for the game is also quite good as there’s a piece of music to set the tone for just about every segment of the game with action heavy pounders that will put your surround sound to good use. It’s not quite on the level as Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks back in the Modern Warfare series, but it’s up there as one of the better soundtracks in recent Call of Duty games.
Call of Duty has needed a reset button for quite a while now. A reset button that would bring change to the series, but not so much that it would break the outstanding formula that Call of Duty has had for years. One that evolved things to show that the developers care about the franchise and want the fans to know it’s not just a cash cow year in and out. As most of you would agree, its felt that way since the original Black Ops released.
To touch on multiplayer, it’s more or less more of the same. As with the campaign, the tried and true formula is followed, but it’s also a return to form for the Call of Duty series. I’ve played a lot, and I mean a lot of Call of Duty multiplayer, but the last time I really put time into a Call of Duty multiplayer component was with Modern Warfare 2. Black Ops, MW3, and Ghosts were just disappointing in my opinion and did not feel like what Call of Duty multiplayer was supposed to be. Black Ops 2 was on the right track, but still didn’t hook me in like MW2 did.
Advanced Warfare is what I’ve been waiting for since Modern Warfare 2. The online play is fast paced, mildly strategic, and learning how to use the Exo Suit to your advantage is a lot of fun once you’ve had time to adjust to the slightly different play style and controls. Advanced Warfare feels like Call of Duty again, and that’s the best thing that could have happened for the series.
The maps are all well designed and fun to play on save for one or two bad apples in the bunch. Each map is designed to utilize the new tools you have at your disposal and again, once you really learn how to use the Exo Suit, you’ll find there’s a certain flow to the maps that rival the maps from Modern Warfare 2.
The online portion of the game also includes all the customization options you’ve become accustomed to, along with an added level of customization for your character. The one thing multiplayer is lacking in Advanced Warfare though, compared to other Call of Duty titles, is a variety of guns. Supply Drops will give you “new” weapons, but they’re really just variations of the weapons that are already there with a new skin and different variations in statistics. I suppose balance was the key in a much smaller choice of weapons, but Call of Duty is all about variety and there’s a lack of it in the weapons department.
In addition to regular online play, there’s also a cooperative survival mode. It’s fun, but it’s no zombies and I can’t see it sticking around for long once Sledgehammer introduces the full zombies mode into the game via DLC.
| FINAL THOUGHTS
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare isn’t the best Call of Duty ever, but it’s certainly among the better ones that have been released in recent years. The campaign, while not too narratively sound, is fun to play and offers up some variety for the usual run and gun formula the series is known for, and even introduces a few new elements to the mostly linear mission structure. The online portion of the game speaks for itself and is largely enjoyable aside from a few bad maps and less weapons to choose from.
If you’ve been looking for a reason to jump back into Call of Duty after taking a break from the series, now’s the time.
Reviewed on Xbox One, review copy provided by Activision