A year ago, COD was pretty much the laughing stock of gaming with its sad release, “COD: Ghosts”. People lamented the title for it’s lazy storytelling, lackluster visuals, and odd weapon balancing issues. While I’m confident Infinity Ward had great intentions, they just weren’t able to live up to gamer’s high expectations. So how does Sledgehammer, the first developers to have 3 years to work on a COD title, handle this daunting task?
Presentation: There are very few games that match the visual quality in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Cutscene models are especially impressive, with life-like performances from both Troy Baker (surprise surprise) and Kevin Spacey. In-game models are also highly detailed, with excellent motion capture based animations. Although there is a noticeable difference between the two, it isn’t necessarily indicative of a large compromise. The overall aesthetics and art direction are breathtaking.
The user interface is well designed and non-obtrusive, especially in single player. Since this game takes place in the future, most of the information is displayed as an integrated HUD on several of your devices. Your gun will display how many rounds are left in the gun, and for several weapons, reloading is in relation to a battery, rather than actual bullets. Grenades also display information about which one you’re selecting- it’s all really well integrated and makes you feel like you’re handling sophisticated equipment.
If you’ve played a COD game in the last few years, you’ll know that sound is really important to COD. Part of the reason the weapons and equipment feel so tactile, and punchy, is due to the superb sound design. Music is beautifully orchestrated and goes well with the action on screen. Overall, the presentation for Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is spectacular. You can tell that they spent a lot of resources on the details. Voice acting is also top notch with performances from high-profile actors like the previously mentioned Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey, and a huge cast of other voice actors who do a wonderful job making the characters feel interesting and distinct.
Gameplay: The blessing, and curse, of being a Call of Duty title is the simple fact that it will feel extremely familiar to people who have played previous Call of Duty games. This means that accessibility will be relatively high, as most people who have played a game within the last 6 years, have likely been exposed to a Call of Duty title. The controls are pretty much exactly the same as every other COD title, and while this means it’s incredibly easy to pick up and play, for some it may come off as just a copy and paste of previous games.
There are a few additions to the controls that will undoubtedly make it a fresher experience to most players. Your character now has the ability to use exo movement, which is an accelerated form of double jumping, side strafing, and in some cases, exo abilities. Your exo abilities range from optical camouflage, exo hover ability, exo shield, and more. These exo abilities and movements make this game feel different, in that your ability to traverse throughout environments is much different than other games. You legitimately feel like a super soldier, even coming down to how you now melee enemies. In single player, you have several gadgets and scenes that often catch you off guard, such as electro magnetic gloves that allow you to scale metallic buildings or vehicles, a grappling hook that you use to either traverse or grab on to enemies, and even some interesting driving scenes. The single player experience is incredibly well done, but we all know that most people buy COD games because of the multiplayer.
Multiplayer is incredible, but not necessarily perfect. I’ve been playing on the PS4 version, and while it’s been a relatively exciting experience, there have been a few setbacks that really have me scratching my head. Let’s first discuss the positives: The multiplayer action is faster than ever thanks to the exo movement and abilities, and the game really tests your ability to outthink and outmaneuver your opponents. The guns pretty much all handle differently, and each have a distinct iron sight and weapon handling. Some weapons have recoil patterns that sway from left to right while other weapons may have recoil that goes more vertical. It’s incredibly fun to experiment with different weapons and attachments to find what suits you the best.
This game handles exo abilities for multiplayer by allowing players to set up an exo ability for one of your 13 class items. You can choose between cloak, exo boost, exo hover, exo shield, exo stim, trophy system, and exo muffle, and activate these abilities by pressing L1. Each of these things have their uses for different maps and game types, so experimenting with them and actually remembering to use them, is also a part of the fun. In terms of game modes, there are two game modes that are absent from previous versions of the game: headquarters, and demolition. I’m not entirely sure why those two game modes are absent, but what is here, is quite a bit of fun. The one game mode I’ve found to be fairly hit or miss is domination. The spawn points can get a bit absurd, but that is to be expected for a Call of Duty title.
In terms of the negatives, the game has been experiencing persistent lag, to the point where characters either skip around, or you appear on your enemies screen much before they’re even present on your own. There are also times in which you unload half, or sometimes, a full clip into an opponent, and they seemingly kill you with just a few shots; their kill-cam doesn’t even show you shooting at all. I know these have been issues other users on other gaming platforms have complained about, but it’s upsetting that even after this many years, its still an issue.
Another thing that baffles me, is why your party members aren’t highlighted on your screen so that you can better coordinate with them, and know where they are without looking at the mini map. All players show up with a blue name over their heads, rather than delineating between party members (gold) and the rest of your team (blue). How difficult would it have been to change the color for the on screen action? It baffles me, but it doesn’t completely deter me from enjoying the game. Another thing was the notification that shows up telling you your voice chat is prioritizing itself to a party. There’s this issue that still persists whereas the PS4 version continuously notifies you of this leading up to matches beginning. It obstructs your view of what you’re looking at, making it difficult to set up your classes.
The last negative, is in relation to the map segmentation. I obtained the collectors edition of Advanced Warfare, and in doing so, unlocked a special map that was exclusive to this edition of the game. While some may view that as a positive, it also means that anyone on my friends list who does not have the collectors edition of the game cannot play it with me, which conversely means I never really get to play it. Sectioning multiplayer weapons or maps to paid for DLC is always a bad idea, and further segments the gaming community.
Story: In addition to amazing production values and addictive, high-octane action, we also have a fairly compelling story. It won’t be winning any awards for it’s storytelling, but COD:AW does an adequate job at explaining what’s going on, and giving you incentive to, at the least, be invested in the experience. At times, the story gets a little cliche, but there were several moments I exclaimed “F**k Yeah!” during my explosive journey.
There were two moments that occurred during the campaign that really had me at a loss for words for two separate reasons. One I can talk about, since it happens fairly early on in the game. The main character, voiced and motion captured by Troy Baker, is stuck in a situation where he’s trying to save his best friend Will from an explosion. In the midst of all the chaos, you find yourself flung from a flying vehicle, with dust, fire, and debris flying at you. You momentarily lose consciousness when you’re hit with a shard of metal. As you awake, you see your commanding officer look you in the eye, and tell you that he’s bringing you home. As he drags you away, you notice a blood trail and your arm that remains on the battlefield. The execution of this scene was brilliant, and left an impression on me for days to come.
Conversely, there’s something that happens at the end that just makes no sense. Obviously, it’s difficult to mention without spoiling anything, but the story gets pretty ridiculous, and not in a fun campy kind of way. The main villain of the tale has several opportunities to dispatch of his opposition, but then apparently grows a heart each situation, after ironically killing thousands of people. I know for the sake of the plot, he couldn’t just kill everyone off, but the method of which the main characters cheat death really should have made more sense. It tarnished an otherwise epic campaign, and left me scratching my head for how this could have gone past the writers brainstorming room.
Lasting Appeal: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a great value for the money. With a solid single player campaign (with the intel collectibles) the exo survival mode (similar to Modern Warfare 3), and the stellar, if not laggy multiplayer which adds an addictive layer of experimentation and strategy, it’s hard not to recommend this title, especially to those who more or less enjoy first person shooters. Obviously, some will be off-put by the fact that there’s a COD title every year, but this is the first that had a 3 year development cycle, and it shows.
- Stellar production values, from visuals, to voice acting
- The main show, multiplayer, is just as addicting as ever
- Fast, frantic, and fun combat
- Online multiplayer still experiences several bugs and lag
- Segmented community due to DLC multiplayer maps
- Story mode suffers from bad writing
You can buy COD Advanced Warfare here.
All Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Images copyright Activision & Sledgehammer Games