Call of Duty is a franchise that has received a lot of flak over the years. Suffering from a stale formula, dated engine, and terrible campaigns, it’s been tough imagining it ever returning back to form. Enter Advanced Warfare, the latest iteration developed by Sledgehammer games. By adding faster movement, new graphics, and really cracking down on the campaign and multiplayer presentations Sledgehammer has proven that there’s still life in this series assuming developers and fans are willing to take risks.
CoD: AW is the first title to be developed entirely with the next generation in mind. The graphics look beautiful, especially in the campaign and cut scenes. Smooth frame rates add to the twitch shooter mechanics that CoD is known for, running constantly at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. PC fans will find that they can get even more, depending on the build of their rig, but console fans will be excited to know that the franchise they’ve grown to love over the years continues its tradition of fast-paced gameplay that feels as fluid as it looks.
"Smooth frame rates add to the twitch shooter mechanics that CoD is known for, running constantly at a silky smooth 60 frames per second."
Cinematics are breathtaking, looking almost photo realistic at times. The facial animation and expressions that characters make are unbelievable. Though the actual graphics during gameplay aren’t quite on par with the title’s cut scenes, there’s a noticeable difference between AW and last year’s flop, Ghosts. The new engine is spectacular, and it renders a beautiful war-torn future that is riddle with color, life and, of course, explosions. At times, the game’s explosions and set pieces rival Battlefield, with buildings crumbling in such detail that it left me with my jaw on the floor. That destruction is unfortunately, still limited to events in campaigns and multiplayer maps, but it’s a much needed step in the right direction for the series. If it’s going to embrace the Michael Bay style approach to action it’s nice to see them truly trying their best to make it as breathtaking as possible.
The campaign’s story is the best I’ve experienced in a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare. It explores a dystopian future with a world plagued by terrorism. A private military organization known as ATLUS is now the most powerful force in the world. The company’s owned by a man named Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), a power-hungry individual that walks a fine line between domineering and evil. His character is well written, but when combined with Spacey’s powerhouse performance he quickly has become one of the most memorable characters in the Call of Duty universe.
"Campaign gameplay is outstanding, but it seems that the developers are still struggling to get away from the hand-holding mentality that CoD is known for."
The game’s campaign is surprisingly mature, exploring dark themes and terrifying possibilities. The game constantly poses the question: how much is too much? How much are we as society willing to give in the name of freedom and safety, and how can we continue to justify our sacrifices in the name of “security”? Politics, technology, and civil liberties all come under fire, not just on a personal level, but on a worldwide scale. For once, CoD has given its players something to read between the lines, offering us all something to genuinely think about during its six-to-eight hour play time.
Campaign gameplay is outstanding, but it seems that the developers are still struggling to get away from the hand-holding mentality that CoD is known for. Though some levels do offer players a chance to open up and try new tactics, most of the campaign consists of following your squad from instance to instance while shooting bad guys. Sledgehammer has done a good job of breaking up the monotony of combat with some unique new approaches, and though some of them don’t quite hit the mark the result is a generally refreshing experience.
"Multiplayer remains the series’ bread and butter, and it’s never been more fun."
The inclusion of exoskeletons was a great decision on Sledgehammer’s part. Offering players a variety of Exo abilities in addition to their normal repertoire is just enough to make the game feel fresh and new again. Boosting is incredibly valuable. You’re no longer vulnerable when under fire, you can just boost out of the way, take cover, and wait to unleash all over again. Though this might seem like it’s been ripped straight from Titanfall, I cannot express enough how much this is nothing like it. The boosting is much more limited – slower, too – and requires thought. You’re only limited to a few boosts at any given time, so learning to use them wisely is the key to victory, especially in multiplayer
"They know the formula is stale, and it seems that finally they’re willing to start taking chances."
Multiplayer remains the series’ bread and butter, and it’s never been more fun. The title’s new Pick 13 system is incredibly well executed, further building upon the layout originally designed for Black Ops 2. The new Exo abilities offer a ton of customization, while simultaneously preventing a lot of the grenade spam problems that effected the previous titles. Perks are balanced, and the new Killstreak system makes them tougher to obtain and much more rewarding, especially when you’re able to reach the higher level ones. CoD: AW is sure to please fans of the multiplayer and will definitely pull jaded fans back in.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare isn’t perfect, but it’s a sign that the developers are listening. They know the formula is stale, and it seems that finally they’re willing to start taking chances. Sledgehammer is a master of reinventing tired first person shooters, this release is a testament to that. If this is the way that CoD plans on continuing into the future, you can be sure to count it, once again, amongst the cream of the crop for console shooters, and with fantastic iterations like this it’s not hard to look past their past follies, new or old.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Xbox One