Next Generation – Old dog, new tech
Part of me wonders if Activision understands what people didn’t like about Call of Duty: Ghosts. By all accounts, it’s a perfectly serviceable entry to the series, but I was pretty disappointed in it after Black Ops II set expectations for what a Call of Duty game can be higher than they’ve been in a long time. As a launch game for Playstation 4 and Xbox One (as well as being split-gen), it felt like a bunch of features present in previous games were missing in Ghosts. Advanced Warfare seems like a huge step in the right direction, with some smart additions to mobility and tactics that make the other recent games in the series feel dated and decidedly last-gen.
The mobility comes in the form of Exo-Suits, metal frames that the soldiers of the future wear like body armor. The Exo-Suit allows the player to double jump, strafe, and quickly back-peddle, as well as affording additional tools like a riot shield, and a shot of adrenaline which slows everything else down. Each variation of the Exo-Suit possesses different abilities, though all of them (at least in the multiplayer) can double-jump and strafe. This addition is perhaps the most striking change to Call of Duty since Infinity Ward essentially re-invented the shooter genre in 2007 with Call of Duty 4.
The campaign begins in the year 2055. North Korea has invaded Seoul, and the USMC has been sent to aid South Korea. The player takes the role of Jack Mitchell (voiced by Troy Baker), who is part of the insertion team sent in to take down a colossal mobile artillery gun. The story is fairly milquetoast: After Mitchell is wounded, the head of a private military corporation (Jonathan Irons, voiced by Kevin Spacey) notices Mitchell’s potential and gives him a new arm and a new job. It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill “PMC doing PMC things” right down to the plot twists (which one can ses coming a mile away). The best things about the campaign aren’t the story or setting, though — it’s the moment-to-moment action and the grandiose set-pieces that really set Call of Duty apart from other shooters’ single player. One of the missions contains a stealth sequence that rivals All Ghillied Up, and there’s a drone section that’s done even better than the AC130 mission in CoD4. The attention to fun mission design is apparent, and is something that was decidedly absent in Ghosts.
Really though, the most important thing about Call of Duty has always been the multiplayer. Advanced Warfare offers a few new multiplayer playlists and a bunch of returning modes, as well as a new co-operative mode: Exo Defense. This wave-based survival is fun for a while, with increasingly difficult enemies and bonus objectives like bomb defusal, but games can drag on for what seems like an hour once you and your team get good at it.
The multiplayer has most of the expected modes on display, with twists on old favorites (Headquarters is gone in favor of Hardpoint, though I think it’s been that way for a while), but new modes like Uplink and Momentum are where most of my time was spent. Uplink is a sort of basketball with satellites and guns: players grab the satellite and throw it into the opposing team’s goal. Momentum is similar to War in earlier Call of Duty games: there are five capture points which must be taken in order, and each team is playing a kind of Tug of War to take and hold them.
Unlike most previous entries, classes in multiplayer can be customized immediately. The “pick ten” system from Black Ops II is present, but here it’s “pick thirteen” — presumably due to the addition of scorestreak bonuses into class building. Later on, you can customize your scorestreaks, and do things like convert your UAV into an orbital drone that can’t be destroyed, or changing them to “support,” which means progress towards your streak stays after you die. It’s a smart spin on an already innovative system. Also unlike in Ghosts, gear unlocks at set intervals, so getting twenty kills with certain guns will unlock a red dot sight, and so on. There are no more squad points and random unlocks, instead a return to what I think is a better system for unlocking gear and weapons.
In addition to class customization, cosmetic unlocks like hats and pants can be temporarily unlocked through Supply Drops, which I would receive at seemingly random intervals. In addition, Supply Drops can contain things like timed XP Boosts and slightly-altered guns (for instance, one of the shotguns I got out of a Supply Drop increased damage but decreased mobility). You can only have 80 items in your “armory” at a time, but anything you don’t want you can grind down for XP.
Advanced Warfare feels like a fresh-yet-familiar step in the right direction, using some very cool mobility and affording new tactical options that the series desperately needed after Ghosts’ tepid showing. If this is any indication of what the three-year development cycle of a Call of Duty game will bring, I’m all for it. Seriously though, Kevin Spacey’s likeness is super creepy, in a kind of amazing way.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360; Developer: Sledgehammer Games (PS4/Xbox One/PC version), High Moon Studios (PS3/Xbox 360 version); Publisher: Activision; Players: 1-10; Released: November 4; Genre: First-Person Shooter; MSRP: $59.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based off of a retail copy of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare purchased by Hey Poor Player.