Every year we see a new iteration of the military first person shooter: Call of Duty. Each with a new sheen of paint, and a very slight spin on a tried and true formula. However for many this has become simply not enough, as Ghosts and several before it are frequently considered weaker than their predecessors. This is where Advanced Warfare comes with claims to offer more than skin-deep changes. With this iteration Sledgehammer games hope to provide a much needed renovation through a more, futuristic approach stemming through both the games aesthetic, and gameplay design.
The games opening sequence sets the tone for a renovated Call of Duty experience, with a story told through incredibly high quality CGI cutscenes, the games characters come to life with remarkable detail. It certainly adds to the a sense of immersion, and the games cutscenes are consistently pleasurable to view. Kevin Spacy himself plays his role admirably, even if the games cast are a little one dimensional. While the games narrative could be described as uninspired, it comes across as vastly more coherent, and considered than that of Call of Duty experiences prior, unlike that of Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops or Ghosts, the games feels consistently focused and in turn it comes across as easier to follow than its predecessors.
Gameplay in these this campaign is a blend of tried and true, and something new. For the most part the game features a similar corridor shooting gallery approach that fans will have come to expect from the series. It’s enjoyable, if shallow; however the introduction of new futuristic gadgets and features interjects a little life, spicing the formula up from time to time. These additions come in particular through the inclusion of exoskeletons, armour systems that provide physical enhancements allowing you to jump higher, dash incredibly quickly and generally feel like a highly advanced super soldier.
These tools are integrated moderately into the campaign, and are very apparent in the games design and cutscenes which often task your soldier to complete tasks you wouldn’t ordinarily be capable of without the exoskeletal advancements. Unfortunately many of the sequences that showcase these new abilities are cutscenes and quick time events, while the gameplay remains relatively grounded in a traditional experience. Although you can utilize features like the extended jump and dashing it’s rarely a requirement to pass a section, and the games level design is often fails to accommodation the scale that would these additional mobility tools worthwhile. One questions the purpose of features like extended jump when a good portion of the game takes place indoors, or presents no where useful to jump to.
Advanced Warfare’s focus on technology extends to more than just the exo however. Aspects of the HUD are now represented seemingly holographically on your firearm, and new grenades make gameplay sequences drastically distinct from iterations prior. I found the threat detector features from grenades and sights especially influential in how I played the campaign, as these mark enemies through walls it eliminates elements of luck where enemies get the better on you through the element of surprise and I found this contributed to making the game feel distinct from other titles in the series that I’ve played previously.
Cinematic set pieces have always been a staple of the Call of Duty franchise and this is no different in Advanced Warfare. Some of these sequences are fun, while others place more emphasis on the spectacle than giving you control. It can be frustrating at times when you get onto a hover bike only to have it driven for you for a minute or two while you only get moderate control of the camera. However, despite this the game is aesthetically pleasant and shows a marked improvement in fidelity over past iterations, so all of these sequences are at least entertaining to spectate. Furthermore some of the more interactive sequences are remarkably fun, for instance there’s an Afterburner-esque flight sequence in the last quarter of the game, and it does a remarkable job of providing entertainment while breaking up the monotony of traditional gunplay sequences.
Unfortunately this campaign ends up culminating a disappointing end-game sequence, where the the moral underpinnings of the villains actions aren’t fully explored. This is a shame, and indeed the same could be said for most of the games cast. Their personalities are purely one dimensional and beyond one plot twist, the game offers nothing beyond the predictable. This is a shame because there was a lot of potential to craft a brilliant and thought provoking campaign, yet the games narrative takes the simplest possible resolution while leaving enough unanswered to lend itself to a sequel. In turn the games credit sequence leaves a somewhat bitter taste as it abruptly kills the games narrative potential. Despite this, Advanced Warfare’s dry narrative is offset with predominantly fun – if largely derivative – gameplay, and its this that makes it viable for a good five or six hours of entertainment. You’ll enjoy it so long as you go in expecting an experience akin to a Michael Bay’s Transformers of the video game industry.
Beyond the campaign of course, and what Call of Duty has established itself on, is the games multiplayer component. Naturally this returns with Advanced Warfare and indeed composes the games highlight. While the Exo mobility isn’t fully utilized in the games campaign, this is in stark contrast to the games multiplayer as you’ll find an entirely distinct Call of Duty experience here. No longer does it take large amounts of time to get up to a camper on a roof, or close down on an enemy you can spot on your mini-map. Advanced Warfare is incredibly fast paced in comparison to its processors and these added mobility tools make it feel like an entirely different game, that’s underpinned by different strategies and tactics that players can adopt into their gameplay.
Gameplay itself of course shares similarities to its predecessors, the game feels the same as it always has. Running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second Advanced Warfare feels very natural to control, and even if it doesn’t feel particularly realistic as your super soldier darts around the screen at an erratic pace its certainly entertaining. Of course, there are moments that are entirely unique to this game, and the sense of satisfaction you can get by weaving away from gunfire with your exoabilities only to kill and outplay your enemy is both satisfying and unique. Moments like these are only achievable thanks to the games new and futuristic additions, and certainly many veterans of the series will enjoy having new strategies to integrate into their repertoire while online.
Unlockables return of course, as your tasked to create your loadout from a ‘pick 13’ system, where each selectable item has a token value, and your loadout is limited to 13 of these tokens. It’s a great system as you can ditch items you don’t use in favour of extras you will; for instance if you don’t use a pistol often you can remove this secondary to grant yourself an extra token to use on an additional attachment or perk. Newcomers may find all of these options overwhelming at first, however it adds an incredible amount of flexibility to the create a class system, providing room for everyone to find a distinct playstyle that they can claim as their own.
Modes are in abundance too, with the game catering to everything players expect. These range from Team Deathmatch, to an entirely new capture the flag-esque mode where you have to capture and throw a ball into your teams goal. Each mode offers distinct variations in gameplay dynamics, so there should be something for everyone. Split screen of course returns, so those that wish to can play locally find their needs facilitated. It would be a lie to say that it doesn’t feel like a disadvantage to play with a half-screen on such a reactionary, and fast paced game but it’s still great that the option is there for those that want to play together without the use of multiple consoles. LAN and custom games are also fully supported and you’re granted a good deal of control over match settings, in turn players who enjoyed creating unique custom games within previous Call of Duty titles should find themselves at home here.
In regards to map design Advanced Warfare feels incredibly polished, with each feeling uniquely and carefully crafted for the games multiplayer. with each offering varied themes and structure, yet adhering to consistent design principles. For instance for the most part everything is interconnected, while camping can be viable it’s not a strategy that can be capitalised on without tact. Thanks to carefully considered map design and exo-abilities there’s always more than one approach to where someone might be camping out, this keeps gameplay dynamic as everyone is forced to keep on their toes if they wish to survive.
Scorestreaks return, however these tend to be less intrusive to the gunplay experience than in iterations prior. Many of the better scorestreaks are manually controlled and even then they’re quite limited in duration so that you can only acquire a relatively small number of kills. Streaks such as like drones feel avoidable from the perspective of the person being shot, as most of which don’t appear to offer instant-killing properties like the missile spewing abominations of Modern Warfare 2.This may come across as a disadvantage over its predecessors but its certainly a merit for those looking for a more balanced and fair competitive multiplayer environment to invest their time into.
Despite this praise, multiplayer is only as good as its netcode, and Advanced Warfare’s peer to peer matches can be a little problematic at times. It’s not much fun to see yourself land 4 hitmarkers only to watch a killcam where the player killed you before you even let off a round. Indeed dedicated servers would most likely resolve this problem, giving everyone equal opportunities to connect a nearby server would mediate any potential advantages for players with lower latencies. However Activision haven’t provided and such service, so despite quantity and quality of content on offer its undermined by networking inconsistencies.
In addition to the core multiplayer component there’s also a new co-operative component titled exo-survival. This follows a simple principle: survive against endless waves of enemy exo-soldiers. Difficulty increases as new, tougher enemies are continually introduced and equally you get stronger by spending tokens upgrading your character class or buying weapons. This mode is playable on all of the games 12 maps and its genuinely entertaining to see how far you can get with a group of friends. Occasionally objectives are introduced for you to complete or else the game punishes you with a disadvantage across the next wave. These objectives don’t offer much variation but keep you on your toes as they task you to work together to complete a task in a different portion of the map. It breaks up the pacing as it forces you to move from a single room from time to time, reducing any potential monotony.
Despite its merits, exo-survival isn’t quite what Nazi Zombie’s was for World At War. It’s varied and forces you to work as a team in order to survive, yet matches feel little different from one round to the next. Enemies get progressively tougher in regards to numbers, or the equipment they have, but rarely does it require you change your strategy significantly. This is particularly because you select your loadout yourself through in-game tokens, so once you have something you like then you can select that every time you play. There’s a lot of variability if you choose to play a different class each time, but it’s not naturally integrated as it is with zombies in previous iterations and their respective RNG elements that force you to adapt and survive with different weapons and equipment. However exo-survival mode remains a thoughtful addition that fans looking for a co-operative offering will certainly appreciate.
- Exo-movement makes multiplayer feel like an entirely new experience
- 12 thoughtfully designed multiplayer maps
- Wide variety of multiplayer game types
- Bounty of content and customisation options help craft your own unique playstyle
- Entertaining if derivative singleplayer gameplay
- High quality voice work and CGI cutscenes
- Spectacular set pieces
- Exo-survival is fun and teamwork orientated
- Smooth controls and technical performance
- Simple and predictable narrative
- Singleplayer doesn’t integrate exo-abilities as well as it could
- One dimensional characters
- Peer to peer online connectivity can cause occasional problems
When considered in regards to its component parts, Advanced Warfare has quite defined strengths and weaknesses; its highlight is always going to be the breadth of its competitive multiplayer, yet aspects like its singleplayer narrative, and netcode netcode leave something to be desired. Despite this when considering the game as a whole, Advanced Warfare is one of the more compelling iterations in the franchise that we’ve seen in the past five years. This is facilitated in largest part by the introduction of new exo abilities and the mobility that this in turn provides. Advanced Warfare comes as a refreshing take on a tried and true formula, providing just enough variation to offer an experience that you won’t be able to say you’ve had before, all the while retaining the merits that fans have come to enjoy from the franchise over the past 10 years.