November is upon us, which means another iteration of yearly franchises like Assassin’s Creed and, of course, Call of Duty. There’s been debate for some time about whether the franchise is becoming stale, and newcomer Sledgehammer Games has attempted to bring CoD into a new era with Advanced Warfare. Does the team revive the series or fall into another predictable pattern? Read on to find out.
[Content Warning: Advanced Warfare is rated Mature and this review includes gameplay clips containing violence.]
As the game’s name suggests, the events of the story take place in the future, circa 2054-2061. You control Jack Mitchell, a private in the US Marines who is sent to defend Seoul, South Korea from North Korean invaders. Mitchell’s best friend, Will Irons, gets his arm stuck in a vehicle after he tosses an explosive into it and dies as a result.
Shrapnel from the blast destroys Mitchell’s arm, and as a result he is discharged from the service. After Will’s funeral, Mitchell is approached by Will’s father, Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey). Irons offers him a new advanced prosthetic arm and a chance to join Atlas, a private military contractor he owns. Mitchell accepts and joins the team.
This all takes place in the first mission, and of course a few twists pop up along the way. The campaign is longer than last year’s Ghosts, but you can still finish its 15 missions up quickly (around 6 hours on Recruit). The new Exo suit plays a big role in the campaign missions, but it would have been nice to see it have more use. You’ll use the cloak capabilities in a stealth situation, a grapple to get around quickly and perform stealth kills, and mag-gloves to scale walls, but it’s only during scripted situations for the most part.
Advanced Warfare allows you to upgrade a bit over the course of the campaign. Whenever you rack up enough kills, headshots, grenade kills, or collected Intel, you’ll be able to upgrade an ability of your suit. It’s a nice little addition to work for, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the depth of Black Ops II‘s campaign, which featured branching storylines depending on your actions, as well as ten challenges to achieve on each level. You could have spent a good amount of time in that campaign, but AW‘s is more of a one-time deal, unless you’re a trophy hunter.
The graphics (played on PS4) are pretty and look much better than Ghosts, and there’s no frame rate drop issues present. A highlight are Advanced Warfare‘s cutscenes; they’re absolutely stunning and look as if Kevin Spacey and the other actors are right in front of you. The voice acting is quality all-around just like the actors in Black Ops; your wingman, Gideon, is a great example. Your protagonist isn’t silent this time, either!
Overall, the campaign isn’t as classic as the first Modern Warfare or as deep as Black Ops II, but it has a passing story, great acting, and plenty of cool, scripted moments. If you’ve played CoD stories before, you know what to expect for the most part.
No matter what other modes are added to the game, Multiplayer is what keeps players coming back to the Call of Duty series, and this year’s installment is no exception. Lots of previous elements are still here, including custom classes, familiar modes, and scorestreaks, but the core has been changed because of the Exo Suit.
In Advanced Warfare, you won’t feel confined at all. This game’s movement is the freest the series has ever been; you can boost jump, juke left, right, and back on the ground, and blast forward in the sky. No longer is the “whoever shoots first wins” rule in effect; you’re quick enough on your feet to run when danger rises. As a consequence of this, camping becomes less prevalent, due to the fact that others have so many options to weed them out.
In another neat move, Sledgehammer removed all placeable explosives from online play, so you won’t see any claymores or C4 anywhere. This reinforces the fast-paced movement and does away with random, cheap deaths. Unfortunately, grenade launchers are still available, but they haven’t presented an issue thus far. Weapon attachments are unlocked by challenges again, à la MW2, which we haven’t seen for a few games.
The maps reflect these changes, too. Vertical elements play a huge part in the layout, so you can expect to take advantage of the Exo Suit jump regularly. More of a classic CoD vibe resides in these maps, so you don’t have eighteen different ways to get to a spot like you did in Ghosts.
Black Ops II‘s Pick-10 feature, which allowed you to allocate ten points between your weapons, equipment, perks, and attachments, is back as Pick-13. The higher number allows for Scorestreaks to be included in the customization. Because of this, if you’re poor at stringing together multiple kills and just want more perks, you can completely ignore Scorestreaks and put those points where they’re more effective.
In addition to one grenade which can be either lethal or tactical, you can carry an Exo ability. These are short power-ups, like cloaking or the ability to move faster for a few moments, that can give you the upper hand in a duel.
The class customization doesn’t stop there, however. Each Scorestreak can have additional abilities tacked on at the expense of a higher cost. For example, a standard UAV might require 400 points to be acquired; choosing to tag enemies on your mini-map as directional arrows instead of just dots will make it require 600 points instead. Each streak has several different attributes, and the risk-reward balance this mechanic adds is exciting.
You’ll appreciate the Firing Range feature if you’ve ever been wary to try out a new gun. With the press of a button at the Create A Class screen, you’ll be placed into a shooting range with your chosen loadout, which allows you to test any weapon without actually going into a match. It loads instantly and can even be done in between online games, which is just awesome.
A few other features mix up the formula, as well. Character customization returns from Ghosts and it’s a bit more fleshed-out, allowing you to change your character’s gloves, boots, Exo Suit, and even knee pads. You can also save four different styles, giving you some variety.
While you’re waiting for a match to begin, you’ll be able to check out everyone’s soldier in the Virtual Lobby, which is a cool touch (you can see all of the neat stuff you haven’t unlocked yet!). Custom emblems return, as well as plenty of challenges that reset when you Prestige. Gone is the multi-soldier system and absurd amount of perks from Ghosts; instead you Prestige after level 50 and reset nearly everything.
Another all-new feature is Supply Drops, which feels like something out of Destiny. By completing challenges or even just playing for a while, you’ll earn them from time to time. Each one contains a few items that can be used on your character, including specially modified weapons, exclusive equipment, or Reinforcements to use in-game, such as Double XP or a powerful Scorestreak. They’re great fun and add a further element of progression to the already-addictive Call of Duty formula.
A few game modes make a return after being gone for a few years, including Capture the Flag and Momentum, which is the same as World at War‘s War mode. There’s also an all-new game mode called Uplink, which has two teams competing to grab a ball and drop it in their goal. The catch is that when you have the ball, you can’t use your weapon, so be ready to pass it off!
Finally, if all of this futuristic stuff is too much for you, you can take it down a notch with Classic playlists, which let you play without the Exo suits.
Exo Survival (Co-Op)
Treyarch takes care of the iconic Zombies mode, so Sledgehammer placed a more traditional Survival mode into Advanced Warfare. If you’ve played the Survival mode in Modern Warfare 3, you’ll be at home here.
Survival tasks you and up to three others with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies. You’ll be able to choose between three different Exo Suit types: the light one give you free movement but can’t take much damage, while the heavy suit can handle lots of abuse but is slow and can’t juke. The Specialist is middle-of-the-road.
There are two stations to utilize to your advantage. One lets you switch weapons, add attachments, and refill ammo. The other deals with your suit and lets you change your ability or upgrade Scorestreaks. You’ll need to survive to later rounds to unlock some of the gear, however. There are four maps (the same ones as in Multiplayer) on each tier, and you’ll need to spend some time in each of them to unlock the next set.
The Survival mode in MW3 was a bit boring; it’s been improved here, but not by a whole lot. Black Ops‘s Zombies certainly has more personality and atmosphere, but Survival is no cakewalk. You’ll certainly need teamwork and a strategy to get anywhere, as the enemies are too strong to just muscle through.
Adding variety are objective-based rounds, where you have to collect dog tags, defuse bombs, or find intel (while still being shot at) in a set amount of time. If you succeed, you’re rewarded with upgrade points; if you run out of time, you are penalized (by the scrambling of your suit, for example) and must suffer through an extra-tough round. This mechanic puts the responsibility of staying alive into your hands.
Overall, this mode likely won’t pull you away from Multiplayer for too long, but it’s a nice aside and good fun with some buddies.
The Bottom Line
At first glance, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare may look like just another drop in the bucket of Activision’s mega-franchise, but Sledgehammer really did gamers a solid with their first solo foray. Advanced Warfare doesn’t reinvent the CoD formula or fundamentally change core elements, but rather offers a nice refresh with new game components that keep you thinking. You might forget about your Exo Suit’s ability to juke because it’s nothing that was ever there before, and that’s a great thing to say about a Call of Duty game.
Because of its refreshing, customizable online play, decent campaign with fantastic acting, and enjoyable Survival mode, my recommendation for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is to:
Buy this game.
If you’re sick of the Call of Duty formula or hate online shooters to begin with, you won’t find much reason to play Advanced Warfare. But for those who were disappointed by Ghosts, enjoyed Black Ops II‘s innovation, or have been wanting to get back into CoD, you’ll find an awesome package.