Review: Call of Duty Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty over the years, has been one of those abused licenses. Yearly releases, not much changes, but this year, Sledgehammer Team, Activision’s 3rd Call of Duty developer, understood that their license have lost interest to some point. In all respect to the saga, Advanced Warfare claims to offer innovative ways that pays homage its elders, yet staying true to their roots, infused by the inevitable verticality of the title. The result is striking, addictive and incredibly fun, and you always find something fun, regardless of the over-consumption of first person shooters in the industry.
Do bear with me that I will not go through all the details of this title, because there are simply too many. As it is impossible to give credit to this work without detailing mechanisms, we will focus on some key features and leave the rest for you to be surprised.
Where the singleplayer component takes you into the usual 12-hour story (on Veteran at least), Advanced Warfare puts twice the effort with arch-split content, with the addition of multiplayer and a nice co-op mode. Each of these three sections have a revamped gameplay, like its competitor Titanfall, is devilishly effective and dynamic, but also adds RPG elements, while keeping its roots into eSports and its very accessible side enriched by atypical features.
Let us start with the solo campaign, since this is the one area where Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was expected to shine, especially after the sad Call of Duty: Ghosts campaign we lived last year. While I enjoyed my 7 or 8 hours of campaign (on normal) as I enjoy a good action espionage movie, it is not hard to make the parallel with Mission Impossible, a very fair comment since we spend our time in jumping through different styled missions, environments and destinations.
The variety of the 15 chapters are one of the invaluable strengths of the game, since it allows us to experience all the good ideas added to the ever-classic formula of Call of Duty. Add to that a more open world feel, especially towards the end, some driving sequences, and you have pure pleasurable shooter game with some Hollywood gravy on top.
The developers have also put in some heavy guns to the storyline with the presence of two familiar faces: Troy Baker (the Bruce Willis of gaming voice overs), and the inevitable Kevin Spacey, which logically fits in this game, considering his sublime acting skills as Francis Underwood in House of Cards. This is also where the graphics get to shine, although some looks are not necessarily very “human”, the level of details in Spacey’s character model, as well as the scenery, explosions and high detailed weapon are fabulous. While it is at most time really beautiful, and flows smoothly, the game, staying true to the Call of Duty palette is not homogeneous throughout the missions.
it is not hard to make the parallel with Mission Impossible
For this campaign, Sledgehammer decided to drop the confusing “Tom Clancy” flavor, which was sometimes criticized on the former productions, to focus on a simple, efficient and in line with the contemporary world story. Even if the title takes place around 2050, thematic issues are relevant: war, energy, politics, private mercenaries, military technology and terrorism.
An adventure that spread over seven years filled with incredible quality CGI cinematics, will help you immerge into the title’s slogan “Power Changes Everything”. As cliché as it gets, the story puts us in the shoes of a soldier, Mitchell, during his first mission for the US military to face the KVA, an anti-western terrorist organization which sole goal is punishing humanity for their dependence on technology.
As usual, America is at the heart of the conflict, and given the special circumstances, a private military company – kind of – rise up to the rescue. These private military companies, which in real life had a growing importance since the 1990s and have been more present in the US marines troops, especially in Afghanistan during the 2011 operations, these entities are barely used in the video game world, except perhaps in Metal Gear Solid. This time, the PMC in question is Atlas, founded by Jonathan Irons, AKA Kevin Spacey. An entrepreneur, but a man with deep paternalistic value first, he sends its mercenaries around the world and does not hesitate to establish economic ties with Aboriginal to help the development of countries affected by military unrest, well aware that it is the only way “to bring democracy” in a political chaos, and pacify economic interference, and the rise of ideological extremes. Its men have faith in him, and operate without much respect to boundaries and mandates, taking advantage of technology enhanced guns and gear. And this is how my friends, that we are presented to fast futuristic tools such as military exoskeleton, called EXO, which will serve as a base for an ultra-dynamic gameplay, which overlaps in multiplayer.
Advanced Warfare proposes a vertical vision of a shooters, thanks to the many capabilities of the EXO, recalling EA’s vision for Titanfall. Boosted double jumps, side and rear dashes, vertical boost, and an air-to-ground smash; everything is done so that the player is comfortable – disregarding the finger cramping, but that is a different story – in the air and can intelligently use the level design.
During the singleplayer mission, these tools are given in batches, to prevent abusing some, in a much-scripted way. It is not until I jump into multiplayer that the EXO makes sense and greatly boosts the fight, in comparison to older versions of Call of Duty. A heavily equipped soldier who makes good use of the of its high-tech capabilities, needs to also know how to customize it to fit its needs. Therefore, you can choose according to your wishes for a more defensive EXO, or even a stealthy setup, better yet, a full offensive one. Paired with these new futuristic grenades, nicknamed Smart Grenades, and you are set: turn them into drones and detect enemies in the area, in flashbangs, proximity mines, EMP to neutralize the drones and electronics and so on.
Not resting on the laurels of the franchise and its popularity, Sledgehammer envisioned this Call of Duty to bring the best of both an accessible and complete experience to all audience. For example, they built an introduction to multiplayer called Combat Readiness Program: a mode for beginners that pits you against bots with no killcam, and no real impact on your score progression. This formula also allows very amateur shooter players to try multiplayer without feeling dominated by players with advanced loadouts, without worrying too much about Score Streaks and the disadvantage of levels. But that’s not it. Call of Duty purist can also test their might in the Classic mode, which removes all of the EXO technological additions and ability. In the same spirit of openness and accessibility, it is interesting to notice that each class customization can be tested for effectiveness in a virtual shooting range.
It is also worthy to note that Advanced Warfare comes back to the famous Pick 10 system, turning it into Pick 13, allowing us to spend up to 13 points for our equipment and gear, which includes a main weapon (and its enhancements), a secondary weapon, but also the EXO abilities, grenades, or even Score Streaks. Speaking of the latter, they have become more efficient and especially since we can now customize them.
Another new emphasis was clearly on the loot drop, via a smartly named Supply Drops. Sledgehammer decided to ride the “FPS loot” wave, as did Borderlands, and the other Activision shooter: Destiny (read the review of Destiny here). The game offers us basic weapons (35 in total, each with their unlockable additions such as sights or handles), but also features 350 unique variants that influence the characteristics of the weapon. These variants can be recovered as gifts according to your progress and the completed challenges , which will result in rewarding all types of players and in a fairly regular way.
To balance all development, the team offers unique creations, with their advantages and disadvantages. It is therefore quite difficult to find an overpowered weapon, even though three levels of rarity of loot. You also regularly gain new cosmetic equipment that will forge a new appearance for you soldier. For example, during my review, I quickly realized that 5 headshots allowed me to unlock a red helmet, and that thirty headshots in a game unlocked a matching set to go along with that helmet; a fairly simple way to stimulation player motivations to differentiate themselves from others in the multiplayer lobby. It is not new, and has been done mainly in the MMO industry, but typical Call of Duty players are now experiencing the excitement to stand out visually as well.
Sledgehammer decided to ride the “FPS loot” wave
Sledgehammer decided to ride the “FPS loot” wave
Regarding the multiplayer modes, there is your typical classic ones, with a dozen of variants, plus two newcomers: Uplink and Momentum. Uplink is a fun mode that reminds me of Oddball mode from the Halo franchise but with a twist. Each team has a goal, and the two factions must act as a group to retrieve a round drone on the map, becoming vulnerable (since you can hold a gun while holding the ball) and shoot it through the “goal” as if it is a basketball game on steroid. It is also possible to pass, or even pass it to an enemy abruptly, recovering the use of your arms and the ability to shoot. Ultra-fast and fully utilizing the EXO mechanics, this mode is an excellent pick, which promises great online games, numerous strategies, and mainly lots of childish fun.
The second one, similar to Battlefield 4: Dragon’s Teeth expansion Chainlink mode, offers a new take to the standard Domination mode. Your team must rush to the points and capture them in a row, and the opponent must do the same, which generates localized clashes both intense and control, while providing opportunities for turnaround. If you ever played Call of Duty 3 or World at War, it is the return of the very popular “War” mode.
The studio, as mentioned in the beginning of this review, has a very deep reach to the competitive scene and provides now more powerful tools for its eSports community, such as a redesigned Broadcaster Mode with expanded Oracle options and Ranked Playlists. Everything is done so that players keep coming back, and make use of the new content provided in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare.
Finally, the maps, which are 13 in total (14 if you bought the very expensive Season), are intended to be open and designed for verticality. As much as I like to claim that it is true, I still realized during my play time that most of the clashes happen on the ground, and very few people are exploiting the true potential of the environment, with the exception of the forced shift of battlegrounds during some of the maps’ dynamic events, such as the tsunami that swamp a part of the coastal Defender map. But the only problem I have with this title is the poor design of these maps, which can be too overdone, filled with pointless props and elements, that overcrowd the experience.
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare was reviewed using an Xbox One review copy from Activision. The game is also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• New gameplay brought to you by Exo suit
• The intense single player campaign
• The multiplayer modes
• The hunt for loot
• Uplink mode
• The Exo Survival could use a change
• That darn dumb AI in singleplayer
• Lots of verticality except in the story arc