Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review
Advanced Warfare is not your average Call of Duty game. Sure, it treads the same roads the series has for years and still more or less plays it safe with its setting and story, but Sledgehammer Games latest entry in the megaton shooter series features something that the most recent games have been lacking - heart and ambition. Advanced Warfare may not be the revelation that Modern Warfare was seven years ago but it does try new ideas that haven't been seen yet in the series, and the result is an unquestionably solid shooter. Advanced Warfare is easily the most fun I've had in a Call of Duty game in years and kept me coming back for more. More important though, it breathes life into a franchise that was starting to so desperately need it.
"There aren't many big shocking moments in the story..."
Advanced Warfare puts you in the shoes of Jack Mitchell, a gruff but loyal ex-marine recruited to join Atlas, a private Military group by company president Jonathan Irons after a tragedy effects both men personally. In truth, it's a story that rarely differs from the Call of Duty formula -a bad guy wants to do bad stuff and it's your job to stop them before really bad stuff happens. There aren't many big shocking moments in the story but it's tolerable thanks to terrific performances by leads Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey. Spacey in particular breathes a new and very believable life into Irons that makes him feel more alive than most characters in the Call of Duty universe. Advanced Warfare's story serves it's job, getting you from one action packed set piece to the next and it does it with such bravado and grandeur that it's hard to ignore and even harder to put down.
Where Advanced Warfare's story fails most though is when it tries to establish a strong emotional connection between it's central characters. Conversations, even those between characters who are supposed to be lifelong brothers-in-arms come off as robotic and forced. Thanks to the game's remarkable face rendering, I was able to tell really quickly when characters were going through shocking moments, but many of the performances (save for most by the leads) and the dialogue didn't convey the same message. Also, there's a break pretty early in the the campaign where the game's campaign jumps four years into the future, yet Mitchell is still viewed as the rookie and treated like the squad-bitch by the rest of the Atlas team. You can bet that if there's something dangerous to be done, everyone is going to try to get Mitchell to do it, and yell incessantly at you until it's done. I get the whole military thing, but when the game is trying to make your sward seem as close as it tries to do, it really takes away from itself.
"It would be easy to dismiss the new suits..."
Whether I was trying to escape a power plant about to crumble as it reaches failure or jumping from car to car across a busy African highway in pursuit of a terrorist, I was never bored with Advanced Warfare. It not only lives up to the series reputation of being the gaming equivalent of a big-budget summer popcorn flick, it blows it away, and a major reason for that is the new Exosuits and the technology that goes with them. It would be easy to dismiss the new suits, complete with boost-jump, jetpack and rechargeable shield as an attempt to have an answer for everything Titanfall brought to the table earlier this year but thankfully they work well here and feel remarkably natural.
From grenades that reveal the location of your enemies to drones that let you take out enemies from a distance and everything in between, Advanced Warfare seemingly never runs out of toys to give you and they're all a blast to use, I just wish I got to do so more often. Advanced Warfare has a habit of giving you a cool new mechanic to use and then never mentioning it again, or at least for more than a few chapters. Take the first mission for example, you're given a cool jetpack feature that completely changes how you'll play Call of Duty, but it doesn't make another appearance until much later in the game. This all makes much of the game's new tech feel like a showroom for what you can do in multiplayer, which in itself is okay since that's such a huge focus here, but it's a bit disappointing nevertheless.
It's a good thing then that the rest of the game, and it's weaponry is so solid and fun to use. Playing through Advanced Warfare, you can't help but notice that each weapon has a distinct feel and sound to it that lends an incredible sense of realism to the game and the story it's trying to tell. For the first time in a long time, it really mattered which gun I was using, and there was a slight learning curve when I picked up new guns. This combined with the abilities of the new Exosuits makes for a truly unique Call of Duty experience, just try to go back and play a previous game like Ghosts. To add to the experience, Advanced Warfare boasts a pretty stellar upgrade system that allows you to build your character and your play experience the way you want - I just wish I'd have the ability to choose my load out for each mission in terms of what abilities my suit has.
"... offers more in terms of rewards and at a much accelerated pace."
Of course, Call of Duty would still sell a million copies if everything else was terrible as long as the multiplayer was fun enough, so does Advanced Warfare pass the test? Before I answer that question, you should know that I'm not an avid online player - I'm one of those rare few that plays Call of Duty for the single-player. That being said, I found myself enjoying the multiplayer suite of Advanced Warfare much more than previous games. The new Exosuit technologies allow for more than just your typical run n' gun experience. Don't get me wrong, I still died...a lot, but I felt like I got the hang of the game and it's rules much sooner than in previous games. Advanced Warfare also offers more in terms of rewards and at a much accelerated pace. It wasn't long before I was testing out new weapons and add ons for my loadout.
Advanced Warfare's multiplayer also takes the Pick 10 system of Black Ops 2 and expands it to Pick 13, which really allows you to customize how you'll play the game and thus how you'll be rewarded. Players like me will never have the opportunity to capitalize on the higher level kill streak perks, and the Pick 13 system allows me to get rid of them in favor of more weapon attachments that will actually help me in succeed against better players. I did find myself enjoying the Exo-Survial mode more than anything else since it allows you to team up with up to three friends in an unpredictable survival mode.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare won't change how the many detractors the series has garnered feel about the game, but it's most definitely a step in the right direction. Full of new ideas, ambition and life, Sledgehammer Games has crafted one of the most fun and thrilling entires in the mega-popular shooter series in quite some time. If you've been away from the series waiting for a time to jump back in, there's no better time than Advanced Warfare as it proves that there's still life left the franchise, and never to count a good soldier out.
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