The Call of Duty franchise is a weird thing. It’s been a cultural phenomenon for what seems like forever now. In 2007 Activision took the series into unfamiliar territory with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare… the present. Prior to this, the first three installments into the franchise dealt with the second World War, common fodder for first-person shooters, and the games sold respectably. When studio Infinity Ward brought the shooter into present day though, it changed the game. Call of Duty became a blockbuster.
Since then we’ve been run through the trials of World War III, Vietnam, the Cold War, the future, the end of American civilization, and now back to the future again with this year’s installment, Advanced Warfare. So how does it shape up? Well, I can tell you it’s certainly better than last year’s Ghosts, which pitted a small faction of resistance fighters against a global terrorist turncoat. I also feel like it’s a much better take on where we might be in fifty-some odd years than Ghosts’ predecessor, Black Ops II.
Advanced Warfare feels more grounded in reality while still allowing us to do some things that feel pretty unreal. In this telling of the future, the biggest military forces in the world are rivaled by PMCs, Private Military Corporations. The PMCs are essentially soldiers for hire who go to work for the highest bidder. The corporation featured in this game, Atlas, is run by Jonathan Irons, portrayed by Kevin Spacey. Irons has his sights on more than money though, and for much of the story it is clear whether he is friend or foe to protagonist, Jack Mitchell. Mitchell, portrayed by Troy Baker, is a former Marine who is persuaded into joining Atlas after suffering great injury and the loss of a brother-in-arms on the battlefield.
From this point on, the story is typical Call of Duty fare. Double crossing, big explosions, more double crossing, more explosions, etc. etc. There are times where the story begins to branch off into weightier themes, but just as you really start to buy in, a cliche war-story moment pulls you right back out. Overall, the story isn’t terrible, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking. I’d put the story in the middle of the pack as far as Call of Duty campaigns go, with Modern Warfare 2 rising to the top and Ghosts bringing up the rear. The acting is pretty solid, and the mo-cap work is stellar. The cinematic sequences were truly a joy to watch, Kevin Spacey dead eyes or not.
The decisions to steer away from both the traditional CoD model of rotating characters throughout the campaign, and the first-person shooter cliche of a silent protagonist were very welcome. Troy Baker brings life to one of the few memorable protagonists in the series, and though he doesn’t speak often during gameplay and rarely at all during the middle hours of the adventure, it made the campaign that much more enjoyable.
The new Exo-Suit abilities in the game are also a welcome change, and although not as nimble as the abilities featured in Titanfall, they are a joy to play around with. The one unfortunate drawback is that each mission of the campaign juggles what abilities you can and cannot use, taking you out of the experience from time-to-time. Players cannot use every feature in multi-player either, and you’re left feeling as if the Exo is never really as powerful or fun as it could be.
The weapons are fun and keep things interesting, but many lack any sort of convincing recoil, which makes gunplay feel arcarde-like and a decade behind where it should be at times.Another complaint is that it’s often hard to tell who is your teammate and who is not during the campaign, with a noticeable delay in highlighting teammates when you draw your gun toward them. I often had to rely on weapons with special scopes and the new “threat grenades” to mark enemies and prevent friendly-fire. While this may be intentional to keep us invested in using the items new to this installation, it pretty much made me tie myself to one gun the entire campaign.
Outside of the weapons and highlighting issues, Exo restrictions, and the occasionally cliche moment, there really isn’t too much to complain about. It’s an enjoyable campaign that flows nicely through it’s respectable 7-10 hour run time.
Thus far I haven’t had the opportunity to check out the multi-player as much as I’d like to, as I always run through the campaign as tradition, but what I’ve experienced I’ve enjoyed. It’s not as hectic as Titanfall or strategic as Battlefield, but it feels like it’s improved upon the traditional Call of Duty play style. The addition of Exo suits makes camping a difficult strategy, and firefights more intense, and the “Pick 13” loadout system riffs on Ghosts’ enjoyable “Pick 10” system. As far as changes to the gameplay go, I’d say this installment is akin to what Halo Reach introduced to the Halo series. In short, I really hope we don’t lose the Exos in whatever the next CoD installment is.
I haven’t touched the new Exo Survival mode either, as these modes usually aren’t my thing, but I will give it a go to see what’s there. If anything tickles my fancy, I’ll be sure to post a new article for it. Same with developments in multiplayer.
If pressed, I wouldn’t say Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the best the series has been, but it’s definitely a return to form after Ghosts. I know a lot of gaming outlets have been giving it reviews in the high 8’s and 9’s, but probably put it just a little bit less than that. It’s definitely worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a low-commitment, mindless shooter, but it won’t blow your mind.
I always say that Call of Duty is a lot like Madden and other sports games. You might not play every mode, but they’re a lot of fun to pick up and play with friends. However, you probably won’t be playing this much longer than a few months unless you’re a huge fan of the series..
That is why I give Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare an 8.25 out of 10.