November is here, and keeping with tradition, a new Call of Duty title has hit the shelves. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Call of Duty is the Madden franchise of FPS titles; each iteration always seems to drive a derisive spike into the fanbase, dividing fans down the center, and igniting messageboards throughout the internet.
If you happen to know someone who plays Call of Duty (henceforth referred as COD), go ahead and ask them which one is their favorite…then brace yourself for the 30 minute diatribe that will follow, which will surely include why one series is filth on par with a dumpster filled with used diapers on a muggy summer day, while the other shines like a glorious beacon of hope, guiding gamers safely home and solving world problems.
Me? I like to shoot things. And thanks to the ever-evolving mechanics in the franchise, I stand by the declaration that the franchise continues to get better. I mean, if you’re ever going into a COD title (or, really, any FPS title) expecting Citizen Kane, you’re going to be disappointed.
That being said, Advanced Warfare’s storyline is one of the better ones, even if it relies heavily on action movie tropes: at its heart, regardless of what it paints itself as being, Advanced Warfare is a revenge story. Sure, it’s formulaic (SPOILER ALERT: Kevin Spacey is a bad guy!), but it contains all of the best parts of every action movie you’ve ever seen, helped along by a stellar voice cast.
In addition to the mo-cap Spacey, you’re also treated to near perfect reproductions of Troy “I’m-in-every-game-ever” Baker, Gideon Emery and Angela Gots, all of whom are essentially playing themselves…only bigger and more badass. Simply put, the character models look amazing, and it’s incredibly clear that the developers based their actual in-game characters around their actual physical characteristics. So yeah…visually, Advanced Warfare is stunning.
Of course, these days it’s not enough to have a game that just looks gorgeous…you need to make something that plays great, too. This time around, Sledgehammer took a hard left turn and went tech-heavy…far more than any other Call of Duty title ever has. Remember that polarizing element I mentioned earlier? The tech-reliant gameplay will certainly be the hot topic, with purists probably pining back to the “old” days of Modern Warfare.
But as I mentioned before: I really just like shooting things, and making enemies go ka-blooey…and Advanced Warfare gives me plenty of opportunities to do just that. Look, regardless of the mountain o’ goodness, people always tend to have a laundry list of complaints after playing a game, regardless of how much fun it is…and it honestly feels like Sledgehammer paid attention to the harsh criticisms flung at them after Modern Warfare 3…not to mention the myriad of complaints people had about Black Ops and Ghosts (I know, I know, NOT Sledgehammer! Still…). Point is, they were clearly paying attention.
For starters, they incorporated not only new grenade types (threat, EMP, and stun), but they’re available in a handy ”variable” grenade, meaning you can cycle through the three options on a SINGLE grenade. Advanced Warfare also introduces “smart grenades”, which homes in on nearby enemies. Unfortunately (or, if you’re not into cheating, fortunately) the smart grenades are only available in single-player modes. Thank god. My only real annoyance with the grenade system, is that they can’t simply be thrown; you have to launch them from your Exo. As a result, it not only takes additional time to prime and shoot, but also leads to overthrowing until you get used to the physics. Ugh.
Plus, probably the best thing they’ve done is incorporate double jumping into the foray, and once you jumpy jump around a level, it’s really hard to go back to “classic” FPS mechanics. For starters, it makes the maps, many of which could be considered needlessly gargantuan, a lot more navigable. Plus, both the jump and the exo-dash can often mean the difference between being gunned down, and narrowly escaping to regroup. It’s a literal fight-or-flight mechanic…and I dig it.
Fear not: Sledgehammer didn’t leave purists in the dust; you can actually play almost all of the core multiplayer modes sans exo (team deathmatch, domination, kill confirmed and search & destroy)…y’know, if you’re one of those people. You can also play all of the “classic” modes with hardcore rules (limited HUD, extra damage and friendly fire).
They’ve also included “bonus” playlists, which currently offers two modes: Infected and Atlas Gorge (unfortunately, at release only Infected is playable if you didn’t buy the exclusive editions of the game). Infected pits a squad of troops armed with only shotguns against a slowly increasing number of infected—IE Maniac—enemies. If you’re “tagged” by an infected, you respawn as an infected enemy, hunting your previous allies.
Exo-friendly matches include the classics: team deathmatch, domination, search and destroy (and it’s variant, search and rescue), capture the flag and free-for-all. They’ve also included hardpoint (king of the hill with changing locations), momentum (a CTF variant that lets you capture flags quicker based on how many your team controls), uplink (a Rollerball-style match where you have to carry or throw a satellite drone to an uplink station—think Quidditch on meth), and ground war (a 12-18 player version of team deathmatch, kill confirmed and domination).
Advanced Warfare also features a deep customization system which (like Ghosts before it) allows you to not only pick your gender, player model and outfit, but also includes choices of headwear, gloves, goggles, shirts, vests, pants, kneepads and boots. All of the clothing options are purely cosmetic, even though some certainly look more armored than others.
The “pick thirteen” system is still alive and well, and allows you to customize each of your custom loadouts with up to 13 “points”, which are based on weapons, attachments, accessories and perks.
In addition, Advanced Warfare offers supply drops, which can be earned by completing multiplayer challenges, leveling up or simply playing a certain amount of time. Each drop will include a random assortment of items, including “consumables” (such as Double XP time), customized weapons (which only count as ONE of your “pick thirteen” choices) and clothing customization.
Speaking of thirteen, like previous CoD releases, Advanced Warfare comes pre-packaged with 13 multiplayer maps: Ascend (a space elevator terminal), Bio-Lab (cloning facility with barrels of explosive gas, and a building that “drops” halfway through the match), Comeback (downtown Lagos featuring a scorestreak with two walkers that shoot homing rockets), Defender (a series of graffiti-tagged bunkers under the Golden Gate Bridge, featuring tsunamis), Detroit (set in, well, downtown Detroit and featuring a sky-tram with controllable minigun), Greenband (a highrise park in Seoul), Horizon (inside adrone facility hangar in Iceland), Instinct (a jungle map featuring the ruins of a pyramid), Recovery (an Atlas observatory overlooking an ACTIVE volcano in Hawaii), Retreat (a ritzy Atlas retreat which allows massive jumps), Riot (a post-riot prison with plenty of choke points), Solar (a solar array in New Baghdad with plenty of hidden tunnels), Terrace (a series of Greek clifftop restaurants and hotel, with 50 % tunnels and 50% open, jump-friendly rooftops). People who got the Atlas limited, Pro or Season pass also got Atlas Gorge, which is a reimagined Pipeline map from CoD 4.
One of the more overlooked modes of Advanced Warfare is the Co-Op mode (AKA “Exo Survival”), where you and three buddies (presumably…or, as is often the case, total strangers) team up against waves of enemies. Unlike previous titles, the waves will often throw a monkey wrench into your “just survive” plan, in the form of mini objectives (“collect the dog tags scattered around the map”) or “bonus enemies” (dogs and random turrets). It’s honestly a nice change from the often frantic adversarial multiplayer matches. Plus, if you hang in there long enough, you just might encounter some…gasp…ZOMBIES!
So, with all of these heaps of praise, is it perfect? Of course not. You’ll still run into odd graphical hitches, seemingly accidental “you’re leaving the area” messages, as well as the other little hooks and snags that competitive FPS titles are known for. But the good outweighs the bad on a massive scale, and you’ll find yourself returning to the multiplayer matches a lot more than you’d probably expect. The last game I loved with this conviction was Titanfall, and Advanced Warfare manages to blend the world of CoD and the aesthetics I loved in Titanfall with near-seamless ease.
At the end of the day, regardless of where your allegiances lie in the CoD “FanWar”, Advanced Warfare brings so much new to the table, and streamlines fun gameplay, that you can’t help but smile at it’s insane predicaments. The story is a textbook action/revenge Summer blockbuster formula that works a hell of a lot more than previous titles did. Plus, there’s no weird shoehorned “be the bad guy/torture your enemies” track that previous titles have “daringly” included. The result is a game that’s a blast to play, either for the story, the co-op levels or the all-out insanity of multiplayer matches. If you’ve never played a Call of Duty title before, I can’t recommend Advanced Warfare enough–be warned, though: once you experience the soaring double jumps and snazzy exo abilities (when you remember to use ‘em), there will be no going back.
And if you don’t like it, I’m sure there’s still plenty of room on your precious Modern Warfare 2 servers.