Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review
It’s been a stellar year for first-person shooters with the launch of fresh IPs in Destiny and Titanfall, as well as one of the years’ best campaigns in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Call of Duty has managed to protect its dominance in the shooter space for the last few years; 2014 has provided some of the strongest contenders to challenge the Call of Duty crown, so what Sledgehammer Games brought to the table this year with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in order to compete with an ever-growing crowd?
Activision and Sledgehammer have pushed home the fact that Advanced Warfare’s single player campaign has been given some serious attention. Indeed, the polished production values, interesting set pieces and the technology on show really showcases where the Call of Duty series could really go.
Kevin Spacey plays a stellar role as Jonathon Irons in Advanced Warfare’s story. Visually, the facial animations and aesthetic is absolutely incredible – take one look at any high resolution screenshot of an in-game face and it’s hard for anything else to stack up alongside; the facial animations and attention to detail is on par with, if not superior to, Naughty Dog’s magnum opus The Last of Us. The voice work is, for the most part, on par with the visuals, with the usual amount of cringe worthy, clichéd scripting we’ve come to accept as the standard for shooters.
Advanced Warfare’s campaign improvements don’t stop there either, the overall level design has been designed to an exceptionally high level of detail. Maps are no longer the linear affairs of past Call of Duty titles, with many offering multiple paths through areas or alternative flanks to both approach enemies from, as well as be approached from.
Another of Advanced Warfare’s much touted features is the exo suit – a mechanical frame into which you’re strapped which gives you some super human abilities such as the ability to double jump, extreme strength allowing you to push heavy objects with minimal effort and, in some levels, a grappling hook. For the most part, the exo suit is a welcome addition and can significantly alter gameplay which otherwise could have been extremely vanilla for a first-person shooter.
Unfortunately, the exo suit is much underutilised and restrictive in its nature. While the exo suit can provide players with three or four abilities, the loadout and selected abilities are pre-selected for you at the beginning of each level. It’s frustrating to find an ability such as the double jump being an efficient method of traversing levels, finding tactical uses for it, only to have it taken away on the next level. In context, it makes a little sense why certain abilities would be restricted, but it feels a little too much like the game is holding your hand, or pushing you towards playing in a certain way.
The campaign on the whole focuses on the Atlas Corporation and Spacey as Jonathon Irons, and while mostly predictable it does throw in a few surprises along the way including an unexpectedly enjoyable stealth level within which the player is genuinely afforded a great deal of freedom and some interesting uses for the grappling hook as a stealth takedown tool. The campaign, while being considerably more polished, is still exceptionally short with a runtime of around 6 hours. If you’re looking to pick up Advanced Warfare solely for the single player, you may wish to wait until Advanced Warfare drops to a more reflective price point in relation to game length.
Multiplayer is still very much the bread and butter of the Call of Duty franchise, with Advanced Warfare making no exceptions. While additions like the exo suit and its abilities are welcome and refreshing in Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer modes, they predictably introduce some new improvements as well as issues.
For the most part, it’s standard Call of Duty fare with the usual selection of modes we’ve all come to expect; deathmatch, team deathmatch, hardcore modes, hardpoint defence and so on. The exo suit does offer some new additions both to the gameplay and players’ loadouts with some more useful than others, for example one of the abilities that you can unlock is an instant riot shield; particularly useful for the more defensively minded players or anyone facing a barrage of bullets headed their way. On the flipside, the double jump ability is of little value, with barely any of the new maps designed with this verticality option in mind, even given that similar options in Titanfall offered dramatic and refreshing combat options.
Uplink mode is a refreshing change of pace however; a new team multiplayer mode in which players are effectively tasked with gaining control of a ball and delivering it to a specific area of the map, while the other team tries to do the same. It works like a cross between Quidditch (from Harry Potter) and capture the flag, with the ability to throw the ball between team mates making things a little more interesting. At launch, the mode is a little manic but it does show signs of great potential, suggesting a strong and co-ordinated team could be particularly effective.
Multiplayer player customisation works in a similar vein to Black Ops’ Pick 10 system, with Advanced Warfare’s options being extended to Pick 13. Scorestreak customization is also welcome, as well as a reward system providing supply drops varying in rarity for completing tasks on the battlefield.
Finally, there’s Exo Survival mode, a co-operative team based horde mode style affair, with players tasked with fending off wave after wave of varying enemy types, which vary each time you play to keep thing interesting. It’s a little disappointing to see that the zombie mode is not included at launch, but appears to be DLC/Season Pass content only, although it’s more than fair to say that Advanced Warfare has an extensive selection of multiplayer options available.
All in all then, Advanced Warfare marks some interesting improvements and milestones for the series, without truly re-inventing the wheel. It doesn’t freshen things up in such a large way as Titanfall, but Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer is still considerably more enjoyable than Destiny’s Crucible offerings. Despite a big budget campaign with extra polish, it’s still offensively short, but Advanced Warfare more than makes up for that shortfall if you’re looking to delve into its glut of multiplayer options. There’s definitely been competition to the crown Call of Duty holds in 2014 but, for now at least, Advanced Warfare focuses on the series’ strengths delivering more of the same much-loved content fans crave on a yearly basis, standing up to challengers and firmly keeping the crown.