To word it honestly, I dislike the Call of Duty franchise. Every year it graces our shelves and invades are TVs hyping up to be the biggest and greatest game currently on this Earth, and every year it’s just a copy & paste effort from the previous year’s copy & paste effort, which was a copy & paste effort from last year’s copy & paste effort … you get the idea. Thousands, nay millions of players will disagree with me and they have every right to, but I’m still trapped in the old world of gaming, playing games in their most purest form … antisocially. I rarely play online and when I do it’s because the title I’ve bought happens to have a multiplayer option on top of an already bustling single player campaign. Now, the problem I have with the franchise is they’ve realised people buy the game for the online play, so they work extensively to create the most competitive multiplayer experience they can but then crap out a measly 3 hour piss poor campaign alongside it … why is this worth paying £50/£60 for? If your primary focus is creating the most talked about online game in the world, then why not simply make it an online only title? Or at the very least, make sure each entry is considerably different to the previous one, as fundamentally you’ve been buying the same game for the past 6 years. I entered this game with a high level of negativity and cynicism, however I’ve left feeling like I should write to Sledgehammer and apologise, as for the first time since 2007, the series has had a well needed kick up the arse.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is this year’s explosive entry marking the 11th title in the CoD franchise and the first to be developed with a 3 year cycle, contrary to every past title being created within a 2 year window. In a nutshell, AW is set in the year 2055 and every Tom, Dick and Harry in the military is equipped with a mighty fine EXO Skeleton suit to aid them in combat. The biggest and most impressive contribution to this indeed ‘Advanced’ level of warfare is ATLAS, a gigantic global corporation set on always being one step ahead of the enemy and 2 steps ahead of the US military. Playing as Private Jack Mitchell, you begin in Seoul, North Korea fighting terrorists and shooting down drones, however in the midst of battle your best buddy Will Irons sacrifices himself to save the city and thus dies in brutal fashion. At the funeral you bump into Will’s father and CEO of ATLAS, Jonathan Irons and Mitchell realises he has a striking resemblance to the greatest villainous actor of all time, Kevin Spacey, who offers you a job, cheers lad. Now fighting alongside ATLAS, you are alerted to new terrorist group known only as the KVA led by a chap called ‘Hades’ (he sadly doesn’t have blue hair or is voiced by James Woods), who prevails in causing a nuclear meltdown in Seattle, turning global threat on his head. Whiz forward 4 years and ATLAS have stepped up on their game, developing a new breed of warfare to unleash upon the KVA and to save the day, so without unleashing potential spoilers, after a somewhat predictable cliched twist, in true John Cena fashion you are the only one who can save the day, how wonderful.
In a refreshing turn of events for the Call of Duty franchise, believe it or not the campaign is actually worth a play. Sure there’s the usual set of missions, (tank driving, recon, explosive power plant bloodbaths) but it’s done so in the most satisfying and action packed way, causing some scenes to force my blinking pattern to temporarily cease and my eyeballs to dry up. Aside from the brief synopsis of the plot I’ve already written about, I cannot honestly tell you the rest of it, but to be frank that’s OK, it’s fast paced, there’s lots of gunplay and some terrific environments and landscapes that take your attention away from the generic storyline and get you to focus on the actual action unfolding around you. During the course of the campaign you leap across moving traffic, pilot a fighter jet through a rocky canyon and survive a bridge collapsing, all of which are very Michael Bay-esque turn of events that are often overused in FPS’s, but in a real contradicting way I enjoyed what Mitchell and I were experiencing despite the lack of a deep narrative. The Black Ops series had a rather intriguing narrative but were both boring to play, however there’s enough crammed into Advanced Warfare to keep my attention span running at full velocity; I was very surprised to discover that it kept me engaged for 8 hours or so, which is roughly 3 times more expansive than Ghosts, and 3 times more enjoyable than the dreadful Modern Warfare 3.
Cranking warfare to 11 is the nifty new EXO suits which are standard for anyone engaging in battle in the 2050s. The EXO suits come in 2 forms, ‘Assault’, which contains the sonic jump and grapple hook ability, is for nimbly scaling across the battlefield with agility and power, whilst the ‘Specialist’ suit accesses a shield, stim pack and overcharge (bullet time) ability to give you more of a defensive advantage against your enemies. Sadly you can’t choose which suit you’d rather wear in each mission, however clearing challenges during each level lets you upgrade aspects of your mechanised body, making you a truly super soldier by the end of the game. As well as brand new weapons to sink your teeth into, Advanced Warfare brings a few nifty gadgets into your swanky new arsenal. For the first time in history, frag grenades are no longer you’re primary point of call, but new ‘Smart Grenades’ that when thrown target you’re nearest enemy and blows them sky high much like a bite-sized heat seeking missile. On your tactical grenade side you are given the most useful item you’ll grow familiar with, the ‘Threat Grenade’, which when thrown into battle will illuminate all of your enemies, making them easy to target and kill.
The campaign visually is very impressive, if you can look past a few dodgy background objects. The lead characters and anyone you come into contact with look fantastic, sharp and well animated, mouths are in sync with the dialogue and beads of sweat glisten in the hot sun. It won’t be long until you venture around objects and buildings you’re not supposed to and you’ll see that every other soldier or civilian within the map is the exact same person, each casually pulling off the same moves and dialogue script as every other group of people you walk past. The same applies to the environment, where everything going on within the specific mission zone looks brilliant, the explosions, collapsing buildings, enemies jet boosting over traffic, however once again things in the background look a little gash, in particular one mission sees you sprint across a busy dual carriageway in a daunting ‘Frogger’ like manner, yet the traffic looks less realistic and threatening than something you’d pull out of ‘Super Van City’. If you’re an avid fan of the series then you’ll already be familiar with the rude boisterous behaviour of your fellow comrades, and what I mean by that is that if you get in the way of their pre-determined route, then you’ll be shoved out of the way until you do so. Overall the campaign is an enjoyable playthrough if you’re not expecting too much and you ignore everything outside of your HUD. It isn’t bringing along innovation or originality but what it does supply is a fast paced, action packed, cliched american tale of war.
Call of Duty’s primary appeal, if not only appeal, in recent years has been for its online multiplayer, and it’s because of this why CoD has become such a huge successful global brand. Following suit of it’s single player, the online experience hasn’t changed in several years, no matter how much the market teams try and convince us otherwise. Much to my amazement, and no doubt many millions around the planet also, the online experience has also been given a delightful boot up the jacksie and has got this cynical arsehole a tad interested into the series for the first time. Gone are the hot spots for campers, gone are the overly big maps and gone is the ‘who shot first wins’ attitude, and instead we have ourselves a military themed arena shooter. Much like the play style of classic shooter Unreal Tournament, Team Deathmatches seem to follow a more run & gun philosophy as whilst equipped with your EXO Suit alongside your ATLAS or SENTINEL brothers & sisters, you’ll be dodging bullets, jumping over enemies and sliding into your foes emptying a full clip and not caring for the consequences. The speed and tone of the online warfare has been given a well needed surge of power that not only makes it much more fun to play but an easier game to just pick up and play for as little or as long as you want. I’ve never been one to play online, never mind play for hours on end, and when I have done I’ve never been captivated as much as I have been playing Advanced Warfare, and this is due to it’s much better map designs. I hated Battlefield online because of it’s maps being far too big for a casual gamer who doesn’t take online matches seriously, and I disliked CoD online because it’s level designs were too bland, however Advanced Warfare brings together the perfect combination of small scale warfare meets fast arcadey gunplay. Just like Assassins Creed did a few editions ago, AW’s online lobby has had a lovely facelift, where opposed to just sifting through your opponents’ and teammates’ names, you can now browse through everyone and have a gander at what they look like and what they’re packing. Due to the game’s new 3 year development cycle, Sledgehammer was allowed extra time to think creatively about the weapons they’ve created, and in doing so each fire-arm has 10 customisation options to give you an edge on the battlefield, meaning a weapon that others would disregard as pretty shitty, with the right attachments it can dominate any match up. Arguably the most interesting and rewarding feature that has been added to Advanced Warfare is the inclusion of new ‘Supply Drops’, which to some regard turns this FPS into an RPG, where completing objectives within the online mode unlocks randomly generated treasure chests containing new outfits, timed perks and most importantly, customised upgraded weaponry. The in game clothing you unlock doesn’t boost your abilities as you’d expect in a traditional RPG, but transforming your lame pre-set private into a badass veteran will easily boost your moral and street cred. Once again the mulitplayer isn’t blagging originality as you’ll still find that typical ‘radioactive site’ map, the ‘abandoned ruins’ map and my personal favourite the ‘disused warehouse’ map, but in giving you what was proven to be popular and making it better and more accessible is what makes this entry for the franchise the best one yet.
In short, I am incredibly shocked by how much I’ve enjoyed Advanced Warfare and I know I’m not the only one who expected it to be another steaming pile of black ops, and in glorious fashion the franchise has been given a new lease of life. The entire game is focused around the EXO Suits and in doing so it’s now a faster, more frantic and action packed war shooter. It’s difficult to not compare the game to ‘Titanfall’, but other than produce an identical rip off, Advanced Warfare still retains that familiar Call of Duty feel that hardcore fans and cynical noobs will enjoy. Each of Advanced Warfare’s online maps have been redesigned with the suits in mind that turn once troublesome campers into easy prey and large boring maps are now small blood drenched coliseums housing nutters on jetpacks. The campaign can be a little too ‘Michael Bay’ey and it’s not without it’s graphical hitches, but it’s larger and far more enjoyable than any of the poor excuses found in the past 5 years of CoD releases. I’m gonna leave you with a quote from ATLAS’ CEO Jonathan Irons, who not only sums up his own company but gives us perhaps a little glisten of optimism for the future of Call of Duty, he simply says “Progress Is Here” ……. awww Kevin Spacey lad.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.