I’ve been playing the Call of Duty games a long time. Over the years they’ve had me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh, made me smile… but more recently I’ve been frustrated and often angry when playing them. Particularly with Infinity Ward‘s offering in Call of Duty: Ghosts. I didn’t hold up much hope for Advanced Warfare, but I needn’t have been sceptical.
“People don’t want freedom. They want boundaries, rules. Protection. From invaders and from themselves. People need a leader who can give them both the support and the constraints to keep chaos at bay. You give them that, and they’ll follow… And that’s where I come in.”
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare heralds Sledgehammer Games‘ return to the franchise, following their slightly underwhelming offering of Modern Warfare 3, and I’m absolutely loving it. I played on the multiplayer at EGX this year, and during a round of Uplink I got so involved I literally fell off my chair. I attended the midnight opening to get my hands on the game for Day Zero, and the store was running the game on free-for-all… so of course we played winner stays on, and I kicked a little bit of arse with a big grin on my face.
This is the first time I’ve actually had fun while playing Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2 came out… but Sledgehammer have taken inspiration from it’s rivals Titanfall and Destiny, and have injected some much-needed fun and craziness to create a truly adrenaline-fueled experience. Include one of my favourite actors in the form of Kevin Spacey, and you have a really cinematic experience on your hands.
Advanced Warfare follows the story of Jack Mitchell (voiced by Troy Baker) in 2054, who enlists in the Marine Corps with his friend Will Irons. During the course of a mission in Seoul, Will is killed and Mitchell loses an arm and as a result he’s discharged from the Corps. When Mitchell attends Will’s funeral, he’s approached by his father Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), and is offered a job with the Atlas Corporation – the world’s largest private military contractor (plus he’s given a shiny new arm).
I won’t spoil any plot points for you, but expect mystery, intrigue, and a few twists and turns before the
movie game enters it’s final act through to it’s conclusion. Although a little formulaic, the game has a solid storyline, and characters you’ll get involved with and attached to. With a campaign running for a decent 5.5 hours (if you speed through it), you’ll get a good playthrough with this.
What I love about this game is that the lines between video game and movie are really blurred, and with Spacey’s brilliant performance this is only helps to bolster this feeling. The voice acting is well done, and the cinematics of the game are absolutely jaw-dropping in terms of graphical quality. Spacey prettymuch reprises his Frank Underwood role from House of Cards, and he does it so well… even digitally.
Like I’ve said, the graphics quality in the cinematic sequences of the game are amazing. It’s the small details like individual hairs and skin pores that really sell it, and the level of detail is insane. When you see someone as recognisable as Kevin Spacey faithfully recreated in immense detail, it really is a testament to how far technology has progressed.
Now I was playing on the PS3 version, which isn’t natively coded by Sledgehammer themselves – it’s a port (albeit a very good one) of it’s next-gen brethren done by High Moon (the studio behind the excellent, yet batshit insane Deadpool game). Unfortunately it does show on the PS3, as when the game transfers to using the in-game graphics engine, we lose the small details. The animation is smooth, but when you look at a characters eyes there’s a very noticeable drop in quality. The good thing though, is that the pace of the game is so fast you tend not to notice that dip (unless you’re going through a slow tutorial-esque walk sequence or something).
However what I did notice on the PS3 version is that I sometimes hit a loading screen mid-way through a level (which I’m assuming isn’t present/necessary on the PS4 and Xbox One versions). This didn’t come at an inconvenient time or anything, so there’s no problem in that respect, but it’s the first mid-level loading screen I’ve seen in the CoD franchise that I can remember.
This does drop my rating somewhat, as I’d expect Sledgehammer to natively code the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions to try to maintain the quality of the title. That being said, High Moon have done a great job in their port to get so much into the game.
If you’ve played any of the Call of Duty games in the past few years, CoD:AW will come as second nature to you. However there are a few adjustments taken into account to facilitate the Exo suit’s mechanics and abilities;
When you jump, you can now double-jump to use the Exo boost feature. This allows players to bounce around like Tigger with an Uzi on crack, spitting out death and destruction in their wake. Clicking the left stick down allows you to boost in whichever direction you’re pointing the left stick, so you can skip to the side or back and forward to avoid gunfire etc.
When you’re on the ground you can’t boost unless you jump, so you have to do a little hop and then boost in your chosen direction. If you press the crouch/prone button while in the air you’ll do a ground smash-type maneuver.
The Exo suit allows for some other interesting options, taking the place of tactical grenades on the left trigger. You can use a Predator-style cloak, pull out a personal (temporary) riot shield, gain a health or speed boost and more.
The online multiplayer for the Call of Duty franchise has always been a big draw (sometimes players only play the multiplayer and not the campaign for some reason), and oddly enough there’s a third studio used for this aspect of the game – Raven Software. This side of the title is well polished, and the Pick 10 system has now become the Pick 13 system, and makes for some really balanced builds available.
Because of the map sizes and the more vertical aspects of the gameplay, assault rifles seem to be the dominant weapon type that people are going for. I’m favouring the AK-12 at the moment, which is available from the start. As you play and gain levels you can get supply drops, which will contain anything from new customisation options like helmets, Exo suits, boots etc… to new variant weapons. The variants will have slightly adjusted statistics (usually only by a point or two) which can help or hinder based on your playstyle.
One of the disappointing things I noticed about the multiplayer is again a drastic drop in graphical quality, but this is only noticeable in the game lobbies where you can look at other players’ loadouts etc. This is a great feature though, as you can check with guns and equipment other players use to give yourself a little inspiration. You can also duck into the firing range in the intermission to test out new guns you’ve unlocked or acquired.
There are some great additions in the multiplayer maps too, from a controllable sun laser that teams will fight for possession of, to a tidal wave that comes in an soaks the lower points of a map. There’s a great map where there’s an active volcano that starts erupting, so you have to evacuate one side of the map (which is quite close-combat orientated) and go to another wider side which changes to a more long-range game.
There are very few maps I dislike in Advanced Warfare (save for the really campy Bio-Lab level), and all-in-all I’m enjoying it even though I’ve mostly stuck to Team Deathmatch and Uplink so far.
All things considered, I really like Advanced Warfare. Despite the shortcomings of the last-gen versions of the game (which are purely inconsequential cosmetic issues), it’s a robust game with a decent lifespan for the campaign, and the supply drop and customisation options will keep players going on even long after max prestige.
It’s infinitely better than the debacle that was CoD: Ghosts, not that that’s hard to do. The best way I can describe the game is like a mix of Unreal Tournament, Titanfall and Black Ops 2. It’s fun, it’s fast and it’s probably going to take up a lot of my time.