There’s no disputing the success of the Call of Duty series, which has firmly established its place as the leading first-person shooter on the market. While the eleventh outing in the series, Ghosts, was greeted to a mediocre reaction from fans and critics alike, the development baton has been passed on to Sledgehammer Games for the release of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Set in 2054, the Advanced Warfare single player campaign follows Private Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker), who is invited to join the Atlas Corporation by CEO Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), after the death of Private Will Irons (Paul Telfer). Meanwhile, the KVA – a terrorist group led by a technophobic man called Joseph “Hades” Chkheidze (Sharif Ibrahim) – begins staging numerous terrorist attacks, with the world turning to Atlas to stop them.
The Call of Duty series regularly comes under fire for the duration of its single player campaigns. Regrettably, Advanced Warfare is unable to rectify that, as the story mode clocks in at around the six hour mark. However, that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. The campaign is full of the usual thrills and spills, providing highly intense moments throughout. Not to mention the inclusion of “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey, who makes his presence felt both visually and through the audio, having been brought to life using performance capture technology.
Despite Spacey’s strong acting performance, the storyline soon transcends into familiar Call of Duty territory with its focus on US army politics. This comes as quite the disappointment, especially considering the campaign gets off to a particularly strong start. There’s also a slight over-reliance on quick-time events, though this is easily overlooked in the grand scale of things.
Call of Duty is a series that is renowned for its multiplayer, and Advanced Warfare certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. Sledgehammer Games, who previously co-developed Modern Warfare 3 alongside Infinity Ward, has built upon the winning formula to deliver a truly terrific multiplayer experience.
In terms of game modes, the developer has packed Advanced Warfare with plenty to keep gamers occupied. “Uplink” is one of the most notable new additions, in which players obtain possession of a satellite drone and throw it into the opposing team’s portal. Think of it as space basketball.
Another excellent inclusion is “Momentum”, a more linear version of “Domination” in which opposing teams capture the points set out in a row. If it sounds familiar, it’s probably because Momentum is (more or less) the return of the “War” game mode from Call of Duty 3 and World at War, something that will delight regular players.
“Exo Survival” is a strong co-operative game mode where players fight against increasingly more difficult waves of enemies. Available to play both online and locally, the round-based game type draws similarities to Modern Warfare 3’s “Survival” mode and Ghosts’ “Safeguard”. Exo Survival provides some extremely enjoyable moments, even more so with a group of friends. There’s also the likes of “Capture The Flag”, “Kill Confirmed”, “Team Deathmatch” and “Search and Rescue” to keep players occupied, among others.
Throughout each of the multiplayer game modes, players rack up XP as they kill opponents, capture points and complete matches. As players go through the ranks (from Private to Prestige), they unlock bonuses such as new weapons, bonuses and perks. While it’s nothing particularly innovating or unique, the ranking system has been well implemented and acts as an incentive for gamers to keep on playing.
As for the multiplayer maps, Advanced Warfare contains 13 in total, each of which has been excellently designed to facilitate the new gameplay mechanics. While the maps themselves aren’t particularly memorable and lack landscape-transforming events, there are enough routes, choke points and open spaces in each of them to cater for Call of Duty’s range of playing styles.
In terms of weaponry, aside from the usual assault rifle and submachine gun types (all of which have been given a futuristic makeover), Advanced Warfare contains energy weapons that fire beams. Whereas many players claim that they are “overpowered”, they introduce a much-needed new element to the gameplay and provide a refreshing change from the standard arsenal. Each weapon is fully customisable with a range of attachments, such as scopes, extended magazines and rapid fire.
There’s also a wide range of grenade types to be utilised throughout the single player and multiplayer. One that particularly stands out is the Variable Grenade, which allows players to switch between Stun, EMP, Threat and Smoke on the battlefield.
As well as the game’s weapons, characters are also fully customisable, from appearance and load-outs to boosts and perks (such as temporary shields, cloaking and healing). Further customisable options are available via levelling up, completing challenges (for example, obtaining so many kills with a specific weapon) and acquiring supply drops during matches. The sheer amount of customisable options is staggering, giving the player total control over their soldier… although, there is a catch.
The “Pick 13” system (which was previously evident in Black Ops II as “Pick 10”) limits the player to spending 13 points in total, allowing them to have any combination of weapons, boosts and perks, as long as they don’t exceed the points total. The result is well-balanced gameplay that gives newcomers a fighting chance against those with an extremely well-equipped arsenal.
However, the real game changer that truly separates Advanced Warfare from the other future-based Call of Duty titles is the implementation of the Exo suits (also referred to as “exoskeletons”) – advanced pieces of tech that give soldiers more power, speed, and agility. The Exo suits allow players to jump incredibly high and shift sideways in and out of cover, among other abilities. While this isn’t something that is unique to the Call of Duty series, it has certainly altered the gameplay for the better and adds a much-needed dimension to the title, especially in multiplayer.
Visually, Advanced Warfare is truly remarkable, as the Hollywood-inspired CGI cutscenes are easily mistakable for genuine film footage. While the in-game graphics don’t live up to the same standard, they are certainly some of the best visuals we have seen on the latest generation of gaming. It’s a similar case with the audio, which takes full advantage of surround sound systems to truly immerse gamers.
Overall, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the much-needed revival the series needed following last year’s poor outing. Sledgehammer Games has managed to improve upon the winning formula with the addition of Exo suits, while also ensuring this still feels like a Call of Duty title. Whereas the single player campaign is short-lived, there are enough game modes and new features in the multiplayer to justify the price tag, as Call of Duty reaffirms its position as the number one first-person shooter.