The days are getting colder and shorter and yet another Call of Duty game is in my hands. This latest iteration from the famed franchise, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare promises not to be another ritualistic appeasement to its former glory (Modern Warfare era), and instead deliver much needed innovation in the form of an improved engine that takes into account current gen consoles specs, Exo abilities that improve the flow and feel of the game, and the thespianic talents of a certain Hollywood A-lister. Will Advance Warfare continue to shirk under the weight of its already rusted foundations? Or, will it heed the Call of Duty and (finally) innovate the FPS genre after nearly a decade of dormancy?
Advanced Warfare predicts that in 45 years into the future, America will cease its addiction to waging war. No we haven’t given peace a chance or won the War on Terror. The good ole U.S. of A now hires Atlas, a private military corporation ran by the charismatic Jonathon Irons (Kevin Spacey), to fight its wars for them. Players take on the role of Mitchell (Troy Baker), a new hire that Iron’s immediately taken a shine to, that soon discovers that an armed sector of Wal-Mart isn’t the best thing after all. Well animated and acted cut scenes replace the typical briefing sections and do a great job of moving the story forward. The script is underwritten and contains various plot holes and pacing issues. However the actors do their best to make it work. Troy Baker tries to imbue Mitchell with a sense of pathos, but comes up short. Kevin Spacey’s Jonathon Irons is entertaining to watch and chews up more scenery than Pac-Man, but lacks any real motivation. The actual gameplay is typical Call of Duty fare, shooting hordes of enemies on your way to the next bombastic and highly improbably set piece. Like the previous Call of Duty campaigns, users lack any real agency over their actions and are told from the moment they start the campaign where to go, who to shoot, where to place breach charges, etc. The EXO abilities are fun to use, but the instances where the game allows you to use them are severely limited. Advanced Warfare also comes with a co-op mode where you and three friends fight off hordes of enemies in various maps pulled from the competitive multiplayer. It’s simple fun, however it didn’t pull me away from the competitive multiplayer mode.
Unlike the single player campaign, which sparingly used Exo abilities, the competitive multiplayer takes full advantage of the new EXO abilities and delivers a frenetic experience that (almost) reinvigorates the series from its seven year creative slouch. Verticality and speed are major game changers to the tried and true Call of Duty formula. For example, getting the drop on an enemy is less important when said enemy can use their Exo jetback to jettison away or better yet flank you. These maneuvers are deceptively easy to pull off but are hard to master (and mastering them is a must if you wish to be successful). A minor flaw in the Exo mobility mechanic is that instead of creating new strategies, it merely strengthens and enriches existing strategies of play. For example, snipers can use the jetback to quickly scale building, while those who favor a more direct run and gun approach can quickly close the gap between enemies with the new dodge mechanic. Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer carries a sense of autonomy that greatly contrast with the single player campaign. You are not forced into the role of the generic lead, Mitchell. In fact, the game encourages users to forge their own hero using facial models derived from NPCs from the game (that cut across both genders, I might add), and dress them in the latest in death dealing fashions. AW customization goes beyond merely cosmetic distinctiveness, in that users can decide how they want to interact with the multiplayer. AW retains the pick 13 option from Black Ops 2, allowing user to choose from a myriad of weapons, attachments, perks, wildcards, and score streaks to arm their made to order mercenary.
The 13 maps that ship with the game are well design in that they accommodate the redefined mobility. However from a pure aesthetic perspective, they really don’t stand out. Yes, they are nicely detailed and have a lived in quality to them, but there is not a single classic among them. In fact, some of them look almost copy and paste from other Call of Duty games (you can’t tell me that Bio labs doesn’t look somewhat familiar to Summit from Black Ops) . I know this problem will quickly be remedied with upcoming DLC, but still I would like a little more uniqueness in the maps.
The same technical issues that tend to occur in just about every Call of Duty are present and accounted for in this latest iteration. Game sessions occasionally become laggy. The hit detection, although slightly more accurate, is still rather poor. AW still clings to the outdated peer to peer online architecture (which is the culprit to many of these foibles) rather than the promised dedicated servers (which were suppose to launch alongside the game). I have no doubt that this oversight is temporary and that a upcoming patch will rectify the situation. However one thing that can’t be patched is the online community that typically plays AW. Yes normal folks partake in the game, but following right beside them are campers, MLG try hards, and various other annoying people. If you’re used to playing Call of Duty, you’re probably familiar with these characters by now. However the culture shock can be a bit jarring, if you’re new.
If you’re not already smitten by Call of Duty’s gameplay, there’s not much here that will change your mind on the subject. The campaign is your typical Call of Duty rush to the set piece. The actors do their best to elevate the hackneyed writing, but come up short. The co-op, although a fun diversion, is very forgettable. The only thing worth playing in Advanced Warfare is its competitive multiplayer. The Exo movements reinvigorates the multiplayer, and does the impossible – make Call of Duty fun again. Those looking for an engaging single player FPS should look elsewhere. But those that seek a fast pace multiplayer FPS experience should consider giving the game a try.