Full Disclosure: I purchased my copy of the game with my own money, and did not have any financial backing whatsoever. The game was purchased for Xbox One and is my personal copy.
To get one thing out of the way, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare could be seen as the largest evolutionary Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare. However, despite a vastly upgraded/new engine, a new movement system, and being the fastest Call of Duty yet, there are still some flaws.
So let’s start off with the thing most Call of Duty players will go to first; the single player campaign. You play as Jack Mitchell, a former marine turned PMC for Atlus, owned by your best friend’s father, Jonathan Irons as played by Kevin Spacey. After a stint defending South Korea from North Korea, Will Irons, Jonathan Irons’ son, is killed and you are left wounded. After getting back home, Irons asks if you want a second chance, offering a job for his corporation Atlus. After this, you globe trot around the world in typical Call of Duty fashion, going pretty much everywhere people in Western Civilization could point to on a map. Part way though, you learn Irons isn’t everything he says, and thus goes into the typical CoD “we’re good, this guy is bad” line of work. It’s a rather standard single player campaign, but is a much better improvement over last year’s Ghosts, but not as good as the Black Ops trilogy from Treyarch, which have been widely seen as the series’ best stories. While the story is fun, and definitely gets you used to the new addition to the game, the Exo-skeleton, it doesn’t do a great job setting you up for the multiplayer.
Speaking of the Exo-skeleton, it is the reason this Call of Duty game feels separate from the previous titles. The main thing the suit adds is vertical gameplay and speed. The ability to double jump, air dash, and then slam down on opponents is immensely satisfying, and learning how to use the suit to your advantage is a must online. This is definitely the fastest Call of Duty, too, but not as fast as Titanfall, but people will still want to make the connection with the jetpacks/jump boosts from both games. One thing that hasn’t changed is the gunplay. Guns still feel great when you get used to them, and although more guns is always enjoyable, the option to have fewer weapons that you can truly take the time to master could be seen as a smart decision. Energy weapons are in the game, and they aren’t as overpowered as one might think. They offer a balance between the precision assault rifles and the bulky LMGs, and adds more variety to the gameplay. You can’t play this game as a regular Call of Duty game in normal game modes. Unless you are a camper, moving is always important, and the new movement speed makes flanking your best friend.
Furthermore, this game is the best looking Call of Duty game since we were all blown away by Modern Warfare. Cutscenes are hard to differentiate between real and rendered, in-game cutscenes looked great, and textures on walls and environments actually look good, unlike previous games *coughGhostscough*. One problem I had though was during gameplay, when you’re running around, if you were to turn and look at your squad mates as they spoke, their lips would be wildly out of sync, and sometimes look worse than when you talk into a microphone in Grand Theft Auto V. This is a non-issue most of the time, but the first time you notice it, you’ll probably laugh and then sigh, because with all the motion capture that went into the cutscenes, not a lot went into the faces during gameplay. Another downfall of the game is the sounds. While the acting is surprisingly good, especially from Kevin Spacey, the guns we know today, such as the AK-12 and MK14, sound kind of wimpy, even in headphones with bass moderately up. They don’t sound as intimidating as you would think a Kalashnikov would, and the SMG weapons in the game sound pretty bad too. When a gun is shot, it is loud, and Advanced Warfare sadly did not deliver on that.
Let’s talk about the thing most Call of Duty players will spend their time on; the multiplayer. As mentioned earlier, this is a game you cannot play like previous games in the series, unless you play the classic modes without exo movement. There is a very moderate learning curve you’ll have to get over to get as good as you may have been in previous titles, but that could be seen as a good thing. The game keeps the gunplay and class system from previous titles, and gives it new life through interesting movement and smarter strategy. As always, Call of Duty is more of a lone wolf’s game, but if you do go around the levels by yourself, you’ll have to think about flanking opponents, because the movement will not let you just stay shooting. Leading your targets is a must now. The class system is similar to the Pick 10 system from Black Ops 2, but now Pick 13. An interesting addition is Exo abilities, such as a shield, cloaking, muted foot prints, or a trophy system, but these are only available for as long as their batteries will permit. They do add a sense of strategy, though, since you can’t use them all the time. Using your shield to deplete your enemy’s magazine in order to shoot back, or activating your trophy system to hold down an objective are new strategies, though they could be exploited in the future. The multiplayer is still good, but can be frustrating if you don’t take the Exo movement into account.
There is also a survival mode, as is needed in most Call of Duty games, but it feels a lot like the Modern Warfare 3 survival mode but with Exo abilities. While it can be fun for a bit, it’s not exceptional… At least, not unless you get the zombie pack. Then I think we’ll be in for a treat.
In conclusion, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is one of the largest evolutionary steps the franchise has taken since CoD 4. Similar gameplay, and pulling the best things from previous titles, and coupling them with a new movement system and graphics system was a smart decision, and Sledgehammer Games really gave the franchise a nice spin. The sound design is strange for the weapons, the story is cliche, and there is a learning curve compared to the standard point and shoot of other games in the franchise. So who is the game for? Well, if you love Call of Duty, you probably already have it. If you’ve been waiting for the series to bring something new to the table, and you liked Titanfall, this may be a very interesting time to join the fray. I wouldn’t buy this game if you want a great story, team game play, or a ton of different guns, since sadly, that stuff isn’t here. The game is a step in the right direction for the franchise, and people looking for something new should definitely give this a try.
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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare adds new life with movement and graphics, but falls short on sound design and story.