By Armand Hill
I have to admit Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been one of the games I’ve been looking forward to the most this season. While its being released on last gen and next gen consoles, this will be the second Call of Duty game to be released on next gen systems. Advanced Warfare represents a break from the previous iterations of the franchise (Modern Warfare, Black Ops, and last year’s Ghosts) and a literal jump forward to the future. With a new campaign featuring Kevin Spacy (House of Cards, Usual Suspects, Superman Returns) and a multiplayer mode significantly different from years past, I had high expectations, some of which where met, others unfortunately were not.
The campaign story for Call of Duty begins in 2016 with the invasion of South Korea by the North. It’s apparent from the opening minutes that the major addition to Advanced Warfare is the exoskeleton. Sledgehammer Games took great care in making sure the exoskeleton doesn’t come off like a Halo knock off. It definitely gives a player a sense of power with features like boost jump and other exo abilities but at no time will you drift into thinking that your playing Destiny, another Activision FPS. Following the death of your best friend in the first mission and the loss of your arm, the player takes a job with Atlas, a incredibly powerful military contractor headed by your friend’s father Jonathan Irons played by Kevin Spacy. The initial antagonist is Hades, leader of the KVA, an anti technology terrorist group. Predictably however the player ends up in conflict with Irons and Atlas who are revealed to have allowed a massive global terrorist attack by the KVA to be successful in order to profit from the aftermath.
Call of Duty has a history of controversial/thought provoking moments in its campaigns. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 had the shooting of innocent civilians in a Russian Airport as part of your attempt to infiltrate a terrorist cell. In Advanced Warfare the moment was riding on a transport home following the first mission of the game with the remains of your fellow Marines following the U.S. Military’s efforts to prevent the invasion of South Korea by the North. This part of the game concludes with you tending your best friend’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. I haven’t been able to come a a definitive conclusion about whether this was a genuine attempt to expose gamers to the realities of armed conflict or whether the inclusion of this moment is cheap and exploitative. To its credit it made me think, and that at least in my mind is rare for a modern major console release. [Its important for me to note that Call of Duty has a history of supporting veterans, most recently selling Call of Duty limited edition dog tags to place 1,000 veterans in high quality jobs].
I can’t really voice a complaint about the game play but at the same time I wasn’t wowed by it either. The controls were everything that you would expect from a Call of Duty game, accurate and responsive, and the new grenades definitely were a plus. Still the campaign failed to really grab me. It could be that I’ve spend to much time playing previous Call of Duty’s but the campaign mode even with the addition of Kevin Spacy failed to generate a lot of enthusiasm for me. The story is fairly predictable and the exoskeleton while interesting and a nice twist fails to be able to carry the campaign mode all on its own.
This is not your older brother’s Call of Duty when it comes to the multiplayer. There is an impressive amount of customization from the cosmetic to the essential, players are given the ability to alter just about anything. This marks a major change from Call of Duty Ghosts, which allowed for limited customization based upon your achievements in the multiplayer mode, customization is available to all players from the very beginning.
Another significant change to multiplayer is the exoskeleton itself. Players are genuinely more mobile than any previous version of the game. Seasoned players will have to make the adjustment to having to worry about attacks from above and the overall faster pace of the game. The change in speed isn’t for everyone and I can imagine that some players might find themselves playing Ghosts for a more traditional experience.
At it’s heart the multiplayer is still about your kill to death ratio and making it to the next prestige level as quickly as possible. The new changes do make the grind to level 50 and back again a enjoyable one.
Ultimately Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is a good but not great game. I found the story mode in Destiny to be more enjoyable than Advanced Warfare campaign even with Kevin Spacy, which is something that I did not expect. Advanced Warfare isn’t the transcendent FPS title this year the way it has in years past. This entry in the series is definitely worth playing but something is going to have to be done in order for this franchise to avoid the fate Assassin’s Creed and Madden, where even devoted fans don’t show for every new title and frequently skip years. For the time being however Advanced Warfare is just advanced enough to merit a purchase.