When a new Call of Duty rolls into town you generally know what to expect, after all, when you have a winning formula that makes you a bucket load of cash each year, why would you mess with it? You wouldn't, unless of course the people who buy your games start to get fed up with the formula and sales suffer as a result. So what do you do to counter that? Appoint a new developer, making for a three year lifecycle for the series and of course, add new guns, technology and a kick ass actor.
Advanced Warfare introduces us to Sledgehammer Games as a main developer of the series for the first time. It has played a bit part on previous titles when it comes to multiplayer and it shows here, but it still had a lot to prove and for the most part Sledgehammer has done a fantastic job.
A good as place as any to start in this review is at the campaign, which for the past few years the in the Call of Duty games has almost been worth missing, however Sledgehammer managed to pull off a stroke of genius by having one of the characters played by the excellent actor that is Kevin Spacey and for this fact alone the game is almost worth it.
The campaign is set in 2054, the world is on the edge of global disaster and with nations struggling for control, out of nowhere comes the powerful ATLAS Corporation, the world’s largest private military contractor which is headed up by Jonathan Irons (Spacey). You're character, Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker), who has an unfortunate accident at the beginning of the game, is then given a second chance at a military career by Irons, which in turn introduces you to its technology and power.
*Gallery includes spoilers*
The campaign lasts around 7-10 hours depending on your skill level and is full of all the cinematic twists and turns you expect from a high budget game. Straight from the off you'll realise that this isn't your standard warfare as you take on all manner of high end tech, such as flying drones and a large four legged war machine known as the Titan. You are also met with technology of your own, the Exo suit, which is perhaps the biggest change the game has seen in a long time.
The Exo suit allows for a more flexible solider, giving you abilities such as Boost Jump, Slide, Dodge, Dash, and Slam. Boost Jump is a feature that certainly adds a different element to gameplay, allowing you to jump higher and shoot in the air, while you can also dash to clear large gaps. Boosting also allows you to quickly evade enemy gunfire while you can also Slam into enemies, turning your new found ability into a melee attack. There is even the ability to climb walls and grapple as the campaign runs its course.
Combat in Advanced Warfare becomes interesting not only thanks to these new abilities, but also the weapons and equipment too. You'll come across all manner of new weapons such as the EMI Quantum, which fires a constant beam of energy and doesn't run out of ammo, although can overheat. This is a pretty devastating weapon if used wisely. Perhaps the most useful piece of equipment though is the Threat Grenade, which you can throw to discover enemy locations, this certainly came in handy for me on more than one occasion. Enemies have Exo suits and decent equipment too of course, so you and your campaign AI teammates will have to negotiate them, although it's not really too difficulty thankfully (well unless you are playing on the most punishing difficulty level of course, I'm not that brave).
Advanced Warfare's campaign consists of 15 missions, which last roughly 30 minutes per mission. Each location offers a different objective and a different style of gameplay and are glued together with some of the most impressive and realistic cutscenes seen in a next generation game to date. There were a few occasions when my other half asked if we were watching a computer generated scene or the real actors, which gives you an idea of how close to reality these scenes look. There's plenty I could tell you about the campaign of course, but given the twists and turns involved, I'm not really one for spoiling it, although what I will say is that the ending was pretty disappointing considering everything that came before it, oh and Kevin Spacey is brilliant.
Before moving on to talk about the online multiplayer, after all that's what everyone want to know about, I thought I'd say a quick word on Exo Survival, which is the games main co-op mode. As per the Survival Mode seen in Modern Warfare 3, you and three others fight and survive against AI in waves. What's different here is that you, your team and the enemies are Exo suit equipped and of course, you'll face up to some of the more difficult enemies from the campaign as the waves progress, such as the aforementioned Titans and the mechanical Goliaths, which are best taken down with a headshot. As you take down each wave you can buy new weapons and equipment from the computer stations which are spread around the map, allowing you to become more formidable, which is needed as your opponents become tougher the longer you survive.
Multiplayer has always been the main focus of the Call of Duty series and thanks to the new abilities and the impressive map design, Advanced Warfare feels a lot more enjoyable this year. All of the most popular game modes return, so if you enjoy Kill Confirmed as I do, or like to mix it up in Team Deathmatch or Infected, then you are accounted for here. There is even a new mode known as Uplink, which has you trying to get hold of a satellite and upload it at your base for points.
What I will say about the multiplayer is that it feels a lot more hectic than the last few Call of Duty games. Online modes I stuck to most were Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and Infected and each definitely feel all the better for the new map design. There are 13 new maps in all, most of which suit the new Exo abilities. It certainly adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay now that you can not only go through the doors, but over the rooftops too. What it means is that not only are you watching you back, but you are watching the skies too, so if there is one saving grace it's that whenever the enemy uses their Exo abilities they are flagged on the map, although this obviously means that you are too, so not always useful.
Maps are varied, tight and colourful. One particular map, Greenband, has you in what looks like an aquarium, high atop the large city below. This particular map has plenty of opportunities to jump and leap, taking your opponents by surprise. Other maps are also varied; Instinct is based at a mining corporation and has you fighting it out between a stepped pyramid; Riot meanwhile has you fighting it out in a prison, while Terrace takes place on the picturesque rooftops of Greece. Most may not think that 13 maps is a lot, but the variety on offer makes each feel unique.
There are finer details to Advanced Warfare's multiplayer of course. Combat is mixed up with the new weapons and equipment which you will encounter in the main campaign, while perks and score streak bonuses give you an added boost, with the latter allowing for turrets, control of drones and more. Your Exo Ability will also help you stay alive a little longer, as you are allowed to choose from certain boosts such as a limited use shield which attaches to your arm, the ability to silence your footsteps, hover or even cloak, as you gain in levels.
Advanced Warfare certainly mixes things up thanks to its new settings, however it still has that distinct Call of Duty feel to it, which makes multiplayer matches feel very similar, even though it is quite different in other respects.
What I've always liked about the Call of Duty series is that, even though I'm relatively bad at shooters, it always feels more forgiving that other FPS games out there. It's the sort of title that's always been quite welcoming for all gamers and that doesn't change with Advanced Warfare.
Whether Advanced Warfare is for you or not will be down to if you like the series. I can't really see it converting those who have turned against the series, but it'll certainly keep those who love Call of Duty from growing tired. The new changes mix things up enough to keep Call of Duty interesting and the campaign, with the excellent Kevin Spacey, is just the icing on the cake. It's just a shame that the developers couldn't dream up an ending that would have left people thirsty for more.
Words by Joe Anderson.
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/Xbox LIVE: wotta
(Version Tested: PS4)
+ Excellent acting
+ Brilliant campaign
+ Impressive Cutscenes
+ New abilities help make gameplay exciting
+ Smaller maps make for more hectic action
- Disappointing ending to the campaign
- Multiplayer Perks are a little disappointing
* Our review was written based on our own copy of the game and not a review copy, therefore we have not agreed to a review embargo.