The tagline for Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is “power changes everything.” With Sledgehammer Games first solo foray into the long running franchise, they try to go above and beyond in proving that statement as fact. Running on a brand-new engine designed with next-gen consoles in mind and taking the story and setting 30 years into the future, where exoskeletons and other advanced technology is almost commonplace, Advanced Warfare feels like a fresh new chapter in the series, and one that’s sure to set the precedent for years to come.
Taking place in the year 2054, North Korea has become a dominant world power and Jack Mitchell, a US Marine, is sent in alongside his best friend Will to stop an invasion on Seoul by the terrorist organization known as the KVA. Things seem to be going well until an explosion kills Will and severs one of Jack’s arms. Mourning the loss of his best friend as well as one of his limbs, Jack feels like his combat days are behind him, that is until Jonathan Irons, the CEO of a private military organization known as Atlas, offers him a second chance. Atlas is one of the biggest military organizations in the world and has hired the top scientists in the country to develop brand-new technologies that will give the average soldier a definite advantage. He sets Jack up with an advanced prosthetic arm and trains him to be a better soldier than he ever was before, but when Irons tries to make Atlas the most dominant force in the world by militarizing it, all may not be what it seems.
Over the course of the six hour campaign, you’re taken to a number of different locations all over the world and get to experience a little bit of everything the game has to offer, just like most entries in the series. You can drive around in tanks, fly around in fighter jets, fight on a busy highway and sneak your way around Thailand without getting spotted. There’s definitely a lot of variety to be had, both in the mission structure and the loadout your given in each mission, but you’ll still be doing a lot of following, waiting and watching until the action begins. The good news, however, is that Advanced Warfare’s campaign is actually really quite well done. Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey give phenomenal performances as Jack and Irons respectively and the facial scanning technology used in the next-gen versions of the game really help convey the emotion of the situation at hand. It’s still a bombastic summer blockbuster at it’s core, so don’t expect top-tier level writing, but in the grand scheme of Call of Duty campaigns, it’s definitely one of the better ones in recent years.
Even with an impressive campaign mode, the multiplayer in Call of Duty has always been the focus of the series. Sledgehammer Games really delivers this year with the introduction of the exo, which adds a number of different abilities that really change the layout of how you play the game. You can boost jump, which adds a great sense of verticality to the maps and really makes you think about the area around you instead of just in front and behind you, and there is also boost slam, dodge, slide, dash, grapple and cloak, which can really help you create a unique way of attacking any given situation. Some of these abilities are easier to handle than others, with dodge being the most cumbersome, but overall it’s definitely a nice improvement to how you play the game.
On top of those abilities you also have Exo abilities, which can be augmented and modified to the players content. Each of the exo abilities brings something unique to the table, whether it’s giving you a increase in health or speed, or even giving you a shield to protect yourself with, and when you add in perks and the returning Pick 10, now known as the Pick 13, alongside brand new Co-Op Scorestreaks, there’s really a myriad different options that the player can make to customize the game into the one that they want to play. Co-op scorestreaks are definitely a highlight for me, because not only does it encourage similarly ranked players to work cooperatively together, but it can also help out novices with veteran friends get bonuses that they otherwise wouldn’t get.
Also added to the game is the Heavy Weapon class, which gives energy weapons a class all their own. With a bevy of different weapons to choose from, be it the Bal-27 assault, the KF5 submachine gun or any number of the other classic standouts, there’s definitely a weapon here for everybody and I have yet to hold a gun that didn’t feel right while I was playing it. On top of that, supply drops now work as more of a loot system, with three classes of rarities to choose from: Enlisted, Professional and Elite. There’s also now a virtual firing range, which helps cut down test matches by giving the player the opportunity to test out their weapon or goodies before going out into battle.
In terms of modes, it’s generally what you’ve come to expect from Call of Duty with two new modes added in to freshen things up. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Search and Rescue, Hardpoint and Domination all return, but it’s Momentum and Uplink, the two new modes, that caught my eye. Uplink plays like Blitz from Ghosts, but this time you’re fighting to get control of a satellite that you take to your opponents uplink to score. Momentum is like War from World at War, where you fight to control five areas based on whoever has the most kills. Most modes are fast paced and fun, and offer some definite excitement for players looking for something outside the norm.
The co-op mode this time around is a horde mode known as Exo-Survival. Using one to four players, you team up to fight waves of enemies that get more difficult as time goes on. If you’ve played horde modes before, you pretty much known what to expect with Exo-Survival, and really, it’s only fun in small bursts as the concept has been done before and done much better in other games. Maps, conversely, are large and varied and are wonderfully designed with Exo in mind. With tons of different paths, vantage points, dynamic changes and even some great close quarter combat areas, the maps here are all expertly crafted and some of the best the series has to offer.
With a solid campaign, plenty of improvements and tweaks to multiplayer and a myriad different ways to customize the game how you want to, Advanced Warfare is a definite step in the right direction for the franchise. It’s still definitely Call of Duty at it’s core, for better or worse, but it’s a fresh experience that longtime fans will enjoy, as well as those who had maybe grown weary of the series over the last couple of years.
For more on the game, including a video review, click here