Every year there is chatter around the next entry in the Call of Duty franchise, on whether-or-not it is going to sell as well as its predecessor, or if this is the year where gamers speak with their wallets and let Activision know that maybe it is time to put the series to bed.
With the development of each yearly iteration moving from, Infinity Ward, to Treyarch, and now this year Sledgehammer Games there has been a lack of consistency over the last couple of years, as far as storytelling, gameplay mechanics, and multiplayer elements.
There is no denying it, this is a Call of Duty game in every aspect, from the mission structure, to the set pieces, yet this title feels different. You are still aiming down the sites and taking out enemies, but the way you get to those enemies has changed. The new (exo-suit) allows you to dash forward, sideways, backwards, and even boost up to higher ground to get an advantage over your enemies. Mobility seemed to be the topic of discussion at Sledgehammer Games, and it has clearly paid off.
The game takes place in the distant future, with the rise of terrorist organizations and Private Military Companies. You play as a former marine employed by the Atlas Corporation. Taking orders directly from Jonathan Irons, played by Kevin Spacey the founder of Atlas. The campaign is still your typical summer blockbuster action movie, but very engaging, they get the pacing just right in AW. There were a few story beats I saw coming, and when I was expected something to happen the story went completely in another direction. I wanted to see what my next mission was, and I wanted to uncover who was behind the curtain pulling the strings.
The campaign has you covering a vast selection of locations across the globe, from the desert of Iraq, to the snow covered terrain of Antarctica. You are also able to gather Intel from laptops in the world, which give you a little back story in to what is going on and why. The overall presentation of the game is phenomenal, every area is represented in great detail, the character models look amazing, and the voice acting is top-notch.
We all know this would not be a COD game without quick-time events. You hold (X) to interact with mostly everything in the game, and during some sequences the game wants you to press or hold (A) to complete certain scenarios, but it was not always obvious if a press or a hold was necessary during these events. I found myself completing certain sequences over again because the button prompts did not always indicate which manner they should be pressed.
I know its the developers job to make the player feel like their the baddest person in the game, and I understand that, but where we are today with game design and the constant improvement of Artificial Intelligence, I would like to think the overall experience could change. Playing Advanced Warfare, I got the broad view of being part of this massive organization, but once I was in combat with all these soldiers around me, it still felt like I had to be the person who did everything. My squad still racked up kills, but not in the same capacity that I did, I’m not saying that power needs to be taken from you the player, but there would be no harm in adjusting the AI around you so that sequences play-out a little more dynamically.
Setting the game in the near future gives Sledgehammer the ability to use plausible weaponry that could be in our military’s hands soon and at the same time giving you some neat gadgets to play with, such as the Mute Charge, a device which suppresses the sound in a general area for a brief period of time. The guns feel and handle like you’ve come to expect from a COD game, and the game makes sure you try out a decent amount of them. Being able to cycle through which grenade you would like to deploy feels great, making you pretty much ready for every encounter. During the campaign the abilities of your exo-suit are chosen for you and they vary from mission-to-mission. One mission may have you boosting around the map and the next will have you grappling from building-to-building.
There’s an upgrade system built into the campaign that lets you earn points by reaching milestones in number of kills, headshots, grenade kills, and Intel collected. These points can be spent on things like allowing you to flinch less while taking damage, the ability to aim down your sights more quickly, reducing weapon recoil, and so on. It’s not a huge feature, but it gives you a reason to at least try to get a well-placed headshot or keep an eye open for those Intel laptops.
Most of the modes and options you’ve come to expect from the series, are present in this year’s multiplayer. The introduction of the exo-suit, is what changes the dynamics of the game. Mobility plays a huge part this year, and the design of the maps reflect that. Instead of running up flights of stairs, you can just double-tap the jump button to boost to the top of rooftops. Being able to boost sideways and backwards, helps to quickly get out of gunfire range, and allows you to close the distance on your enemy. While boosting can be used strategically to gain an advantage, it can also leave you vulnerable to attack if you are carelessly just boosting around the map.
Advanced Warfare introduces a (Pick 13) system, unlike the (Pick 10) system first introduced in Black Ops II. It gives you three more points to spend and also brings score-streak bonuses, like UAVs and care package drops, into the system. So, if you’re the person who loves multiplayer, but never survives long enough to call in any of the cool streaks, just remove them from your class and carry more stuff. It’s a great update to the system and it’d be nice to see it stay, and create some consistency between each development company going forward.
The unlocking of weapons, attachments, and perks all come in a set order this time. You unlock attachments for weapons, by using that particular weapon effectively. The level cap has been set back to 50, and you’ll also unlock the ability to customize your score-streaks. Meaning your sentry gun can fire rockets instead of bullets, or you can turn your regular UAV into an orbital UAV that can’t be shot down.
All your favorite modes such as Hardpoint, Kill Confirmed, Team Deathmatch, and Domination make a return along with some new ones. Uplink is a mode in which two teams fight over a “ball shaped satellite” they need to deliver to the opposing team’s uplink spot. Throw the ball to score one point – jump with the ball through the uplink to score two.
You randomly acquire Supply Drops while playing multiplayer, after a match you’re presented with 3 items, which can come in the form of clothing, armor, or weapons. You are then able to customize your character with these various items, but you can also receive weapons that alter your stats. That machine gun you received might do less damage, but it boost your overall speed.
Exo Survival is the co-op mode in AW, that pits you and up to 3 friends against increasingly challenging waves of enemies. While facing enemies there is also some objective based gameplay, which may have you defusing bombs or collecting dog tags. This is an excellent way to receive upgrade points, and if you and a few friends just want to kill some time and have fun doing so, then this mode is a great way to do that.
Advanced Warfare took me by surprise this year, I expected this summer blockbuster with a linear story, but I did not expect it to be as interesting or engaging as it was. The overall presentation of the game is exceptional and the cast they put together for this title did an excellent job. The (Pick 13) system they introduce, makes multiplayer intriguing and also offers an enjoyable gameplay path for individuals who may not be as advanced as other players.
It would have been nice to see a little innovation as far as storytelling is concerned, I know multiplayer is the bread and butter of the franchise, but I feel they are only a few good ideas away from having a great campaign. I say Advanced Warfare has created the blueprint for future games, because of the introduction of the exo-suit, which brings better mobility, which in my opinion makes the game more enjoyable. It would be hard to fathom a COD next year, that does not offer this same freedom of movement and choice.
Even if you only dabble in multiplayer games like I do, then I recommend you pick up Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare solely for the single-player campaign. They did good this year.