With Advanced Warfare, Activision is taking the extremely successful Call of Duty mostly to places it’s already been, which is to say this is a game about war, shooting, explosions and guns. But it’s also taking a stab at some realistic futurism with the ‘Exo’ suits your character gets to wear, which augment your ability to navigate your environment and deal damage to your enemies, and weapons that boast some plausible improvements over their counterparts of today. And of course, Kevin Spacey is all over the place.
Here’s a disclaimer up front: I don’t usually spend that much time playing these kinds of games. My interests favor swords, sorcery, giant rolling Katamaris and colourful characters. That said, I also cut my teeth on classics like Medal of Honor for the PC, and the early Tom Clancy Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games. Still, I’m coming to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare with only a casual knowledge of the games in the series that precede it.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s single player campaign. It struck a good balance between exposition, basic instruction and making sure you get to the action right away at the beginning, jumping you right in at the start and only then peeling back for the traditional “oh here’s some training simulation” to refine the basics you pick up in the initial live combat opening level.
What surprised me about Advanced Warfare most might’ve been how much I enjoyed its story. The plot, while both predictable and shallow, was nonetheless solidly put together, well-told and well-acted by both the animated characters (which look fantastic on the PlayStation 4, by the way) and the voice actors behind them, which include Spacey in a key role that’s probably really best described as the lead, given his screen time, Troy Baker as the player character Jack Mitchell, and Gideon Emery as the creatively-named “Gideon.”
While the story isn’t going to blow anyone away, even with its big ‘twist’ (which you should be able to see coming from basically the opening cutscene) it’s sort of like any good big budget action movie, in that it’s a simple story, well-told, with a focus on action and special effects that makes up for the lack of a deep narrative. Again, I’m not the most familiar with this series, but as far as action games go, this is one of the better recent entrants from a story perspective.
On the gameplay side, Call Of Duty delivers typically solid first-person shooter action. The fundamentals are all well done, as is the new arsenal of weaponry. Each gun can be found throughout the game outfitted with a number of different sights and scopes, and you’ll find pretty quickly that you’ll likely prefer one type over another. Tracking down the right weapon variant for your play style adds to the experience, and I quickly found I’d become either frustrated when I couldn’t find a weapon with a threat indicator, or feel a wave of relief wash over me when I could.
As for the Exos, the exoskeleton augmentation suits that soldiers wear in Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, they do indeed offer fun gameplay tweaks, including the ability to jump much farther than you can normally in games like this, a hover break for steep descents, grappling hooks for zipping around maps and quietly taking down bad guys, and much more. Each mission has a different loadout, and pretty rigorously guides and limits your use of these new features, but in multiplayer it’s up to you to determine what powers you carry, and how you use them.
Multiplayer is a part of Call of Duty that is markedly improved in this generation, in part because the Exo’s really open up the game for the kind of fun that the series’ ultra-realistic approach just couldn’t offer, as opposed to something like what Titanfall or the Halo series provides. The Exo’s abilities make it easier for new players to run away when they need to, and the Combat Readiness Program that lets new users slowly immerse themselves in multiplayer without verbal assaults or even a stable identity to be ashamed of is a terrific touch.
Of course, I still suck at Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer, and I’m easy fodder for more experienced players in standard games. The inclusion of the excellent co-op assault mode makes for terrific local cooperative multiplayer experiences, however, and I’m old school enough that this more than makes up for an online multiplayer component that’s still dominated by the most dedicated, mostly obnoxious hardcore players.
In short, Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a reboot of sorts for the series, and one that for this player proved enough of a hook to get me into the franchise, whereas previously I had little interest. Too often, studios can rest on their laurels with a successful series, but Activision has done a lot more than that here, and the result is a great game.