Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Review: The Future Is Now
Another year, another Call of Duty game hits store shelves. With the franchise going on a full decade of yearly installments, many fans are questioning whether they should even give the latest entry, Advanced Warfare, a shot at all. Last year’s game, Call of Duty Ghosts, didn’t set the franchise’s fan base on fire. There is a growing sense of franchise fatigue with consumers, one that Advanced Warfare tries hard to put to rest. Does this year’s Call of Duty make enough advancements (pun intended) to keep fans on the hook for a little while longer?
The short answer is yes. Advanced Warfare makes enough changes to keep the standard Call of Duty twitch-based shooter formula fresh. Essentially Sledge Hammer Games added elements from popular sci-fi shooters to the series which certainly changes how you approach the usual COD firefights.
Players have several new abilities in Advanced Warfare, from double jumping and invisibility to grenades that actively seek out targets on their own. You’ll pilot a few mechs (giant robots) and use a grappling hook to travel across some of the bigger set pieces. These changes add an extra layer to competitive multi-player because you now have to think vertically. If you don’t you’ll be consistently on the losing end of online matches. Multi-player maps are built with vertical traversal in mind, giving Advanced Warfare possibly the most fleshed out, well designed multi-player maps of any recent Call of Duty.
But that brings us to the fundamental issues with Call of Duty’s infamous competitive multi-player. You’re now flying through the air like never before, sneaking up behind someone while using an invisibility cloak but you still die in the quick, sometimes cheap fashion fans have come to expect from the series. It is still a game of who sees who first. Doing well online still requires fast reflexes just to break even in matches. Advanced Warfare adds layers to how it functions but at its very core its still the same Call of Duty experience you played last year.
As far as the game’s story goes, it also adds more style to the stock Call of Duty campaign than Ghosts did in 2013. Kevin Spacey stars Jeremy Irons, CEO of a private military company that comes to the world’s aid with their superior technology at a time of need.
I don’t think anyone who has played one of these games before actually believes Kevin Spacey’s character would be a “good guy” the entire game and in a predictable twist he becomes the main villain in a quest for world domination due to a weapon of mass destruction that can target specific ethnic groups. The story isn’t going to win any awards but it does have its fair share of draw that keeps you playing over the course of the six hour campaign mode.
Advanced Warfare does contain one of the most laughable button commands in the history of video games. At one point early in the story the player is a funeral and is prompted to press the X button to pay their last respects to a fallen soldier. This makes the main character, Mitchell, rest his hand on the casket for a moment before it is lowered into the ground.
Why Sledge Hammer Games felt this was a good move I don’t know. It breaks any immersion I might be feeling for the main character who had just lost a friend. It makes the player laugh out loud at the absurdity of asking them to pay their last digital respects for a character they knew was going to die from the moment they saw them in the first mission.
As far as characters and writing, Advanced Warfare is still cheesy and over-the-top in a Michael Bay film sort of way but the characters of Mitchell, Gideon and Irons are well done. Spacey’s voice acting is top notch as you would expect and his character model is frighteningly life-like. Spacey is the best villain the series has seen in a long time, partly due to having a recognizable face that can back up an evil character instead of the generic extremist/Russian fare fans are used to.
The last few missions of the game end the story on a particularly high note, pulling out all the stops. You’ll fight through endless waves of increasingly difficult enemies in a mech suit that is similar though not as smooth as the mech combat in Respawn’s Titanfall. The high-point of the game is a mission where Mitchell loses his cybernetic left arm and the player must play through an entire mission with only one arm and no weapon reloading. This is an innovative take what you would expect out of a Call of Duty level and mixes things up in refreshing way.
Visually speaking, Call of Duty Advanced Warfare runs at an impressive 1080p on Xbox One (the version tested for this review), boasting some impressive lighting, realistic character models and an abundance of dazzling explosions. It looks like a significant step up from the graphics achievable on Xbox 360 and PS3 though there is occasionally some spotty environmental textures.
If you were thinking this would be the year to give up on Call of Duty, think again. The formula may be showing its cracks but Sledge Hammer Games and Activision wisely mixed up said formula with futuristic weapons and abilities. The addition of vertical gameplay alone makes Advanced Warfare worth a look, no matter whether you’re a seasoned Call of Duty veteran or a lapsed fan who is thinking about giving up on the series.
Advanced Warfare takes significant risks to keep the core gameplay alive and for the most part it excels at giving the player enough reason to let Call of Duty dominate his or her free-time for at least one more year.
This year is not the year to give up on Call of Duty. Advanced Warfare polishes up the expected formula with a futuristic twist and it mostly works out. The story is well-told and the finale is fantastic. Review copy provided by Activision. Xbox One version tested.