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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review

Duty calls

Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare_20141106001724

The moment I realised that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was still a Call of Duty game at its core came when I opened a Supply Drop to find a pair of pants. That’s right, a single pair of pants to customise my character with. Never has a reward for time spent playing a game been so utterly pointless, especially when these pants are a different shade of beige from the previous pants I was wearing. I took it as a sign that, no matter how much Sledgehammer Games has completely rejuvenated the series, it’s always going to be absolutely absurd under the surface.

So, with Advanced Warfare things are still very much in the same Call of Duty universe where America Saves The Day™ after an evil tyrant tries to take over the world. As usual, it’s an empowering tale and attempts to tug at your heartstrings by putting characters in peril, and it throws explosions and enemies in your path aplenty. But somehow Sledgehammer Games has managed to do something that a Call of Duty campaign hasn’t managed since the days of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: it’s good.

Perhaps it’s the use of Kevin Spacey as Atlus President and CEO Jonathan Irons, or it could equally be down to the motion captured characters and absolutely stunning cinematic cutscenes, but Advance Warfare‘s campaign had me gripped. It felt like I was playing a movie, something that games don’t successfully replicate very often. I needed to know what was going to happen next.

It’s safe to say I enjoyed every level. And exploring environments during combat using the new exo suit is sublime, especially when you’re given a grappling hook and left to your own devices to traverse large open spaces. There’s even a mid-game stealth level that’s up there with the likes of Modern Warfare‘s Chernobyl stealth mission, and a dogfighting section in an Iraqi canyon certainly sticks in the mind.

The story may be a little convoluted, and certainly requires you to suspend disbelief. But it’s no more absurd than anything that’s come before it in the franchise, in fact it’s rather conservative in how much it slathers patriotic bravado all over the script. Instead of being a tale of how the US are heroes and every soldier is doing his country a service, it tells a cautionary tale of privatising the military and placing your nation’s trust in private enterprise and the free market. It’s a story that isn’t afraid to paint soldiers as nothing more than men going after heroism and money, and it does it all without really making its message heavy-handed and obvious.

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From a gameplay perspective the new engine feels great. It may still have the burden of straddling generations like Ghosts did, but this time it feels like a truly current-gen title as opposed to a merely graphically improved one. The addition of Exo Suit abilities also changes the pace of play in a good way, but it does get a little annoying when certain abilities – notably the double jump and grapple hook – are wrestled away from you on a level-by-level basis. Having six different types of grenade also seems a little excessive, and bar the occasional use of a Threat grenade to paint foes’ locations and an EMP one to disable drones, I didn’t really find much use for them.

Over in the multiplayer portion of Advanced Warfare you’ll find largely the same content as before. Now, I’ll be honest and upfront here: I’m not a big Call of Duty multiplayer fan. I’ve always preferred the other options on offer (read: Halo) due to CoD‘s inherent feeling of imbalance between players due to custom loadouts. But Advanced Warfare is fun. In fact, it’s the most fun I’ve had with CoD multiplayer since Modern Warfare. The exo suit really changes how combat plays out, being able to doge bullet fire and grenades effectively or – quite literally – get the jump on an opponent.

Sledgehammer has also expanded Black Ops “Pick 10” system to “Pick 13”, allowing you more room to customise loadouts and perks. You’d think this would make for an even more unbalanced game, but my experience so far has been relatively even – except for the instances where you go up against some high-level opponents who have far better gear. I still have my gripes over the series’ multiplayer as a whole, but this is most certainly the best there’s been so far.

So, it seems as if Activision’s gamble with a big-name actor, a new studio to take the franchise helm, and a bold new direction for the series has really paid off. Let’s just hope that the franchise fatigue that’s set in after ten core entries (and a further 10 spinoffs) doesn’t mean that this gets flung to the bottom of people’s radar because – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – it’s far more than another rote entry into a tired series, it’s superb.

TheGamersHub Score
Reviewer: Vaughn.H
+ Pros

+ Brilliant single-player campaign

+ Exo suit changes gameplay pace

+ Kevin Spacey plays Jonathan Irons well

- Cons

- Multiplayer still feels unbalanced

- Kevin Spacey looks spaced out (no pun intended)

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