Advanced Warfare is the first installment in the Call of Duty series developed by Sledgehammer Games, who had a hand in developing Modern Warfare 3 and signals the beginning of the 3 year rotation of the franchise between them, Treyarch and Infinity Ward; so it is fair to assume that the developers would be doing all they can to take the game in a new direction.
The marketing push leading up to the launch was definitely doing all it could to draw attention to the fact that the gameplay was going to change; from the tagline “Power Changes Everything” to the live action trailer full of jet-packs, grappling-hooks and attempted bestiality. But disregarding the hype for the moment, which would have needed to cure at least three separate diseases in order to be fulfilled, let’s examine the game solely in the context of the CoD franchise.
Private Military Corporations are this installments primary enemy, which is a refreshing break from Russians and poor people; there are a group of somewhat hazily described terrorists with an anti-technology agenda, but they could not be more transparently a tool for Atlas’s world-conquering machinations if they were made of glass. Oh, and North Korea invades Seoul in the first mission, but the story gets all distraught over our hero losing an arm and forgets to tie up that particular thread.
From the outset it is clear that they’ve finally made the decision to ditch the “realistic” approach to shooters that has been the mainstay of the modern FPS; as we’re dropped out of a freaking dirigible into the middle of a warzone in an introduction totally not ripped out of the Halo 3 ODST spin off. From then on it’s all walking tanks, hovering rocket-grenades and, most significantly, the double-jump and mobility provided by Exo Abilities, which are additions to the player’s exoskeleton.
Unfortunately this only lasts a level before you’re pushed through an exposition level and given a more mundane “specialist” exoskeleton with no double-jump, a portable shield and an inexplicable slow-mo mechanic. This goes hand-in-hand with the more traditional CoD mechanics such as slow motion door breaches, scripted events and unexplained and ludicrously overpowered gadgets pulled out of nowhere, used once and then forgotten about.
The game then continues fluctuating between free-moving, Titanfall style fun and linear corridor shootouts; leaving me in an actual state of confusion about whether I actually liked the game or not. Certainly moments of it were fun, the graphics were as polished and gleaming as you’d expect from any triple-A release and the stealth missions towards the end were some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing CoD, even if they were kind of abrupt. However, nobody buys CoD solely for the campaign, so what have they done with the multiplayer?
Made it fun, is the answer to that question. There is no game that cannot be improved by the addition of double-jump; coupled with the ability to intuitively dash in any direction while mid-air makes merely getting around the map an act of sheer, gleeful fun.
The create a soldier system has gone back to the more sensible unlock through progression system from earlier entries; actually providing an incentive to use various combinations of weapons, rather than just spending your points on whatever. The maps are tight-knit and encourage the use of exo abilities; everything is a lot more vertical and one mis-timed jump or dash can send you into a completely unexpected part of the map; or off it as is often the case.
One thing that does bug me is that the game is begging, begging for deeper customization of the exo suit; both in the single player and multiplayer segments. For instance, the magnetic gloves that received a weird amount of attention in one of the story missions to merely end up taking you from one set-piece to another could have been a great addition to multiplayer; letting snipers access areas others couldn’t or gripping onto walls for an ambush. Picking your own load out and gadgets would have gone a long way to alleviating the feeling that the player is merely following somebody else’s script through the campaign as well.
So, judged solely in the context of CoD; Advanced Warfare could be considered almost revolutionary for the franchise. However, judged by gaming as a whole, it’s extremely linear and borrows very heavily from other games such as Crysis, Titanfall and Just Cause.
That said, if you’re a fan of the franchise and either your financial situation, social ineptitude or crippling injury keeps you from going outside it is still well worth the price of admission.
This review was conducted on the PS4. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is available for the PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.