Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare ReviewJoe Green
Exo-llence On Rails
Sledgehammer Games presents Call of Duty (COD): Advanced Warfare as the classic COD we know and love, but with speed, innovation and ultimately power to differentiate it from its predecessors. The bombastic trailers tell you that power changes everything'. And it does. Unfortunately, that change is largely visual and results in little difference to the power the player actually exerts.
So what's new? The most obvious and dramatic change to the formula is the exo-suit the player wears, much like that worn by Matt Damon in the film Elysium in concept.
The exo-suit allows you to demonstrate this power by the strength, speed and advanced technology it gives you. The most significant boon is the ability to jump: high, twice and with speed. The direction of this boosted jump is not only vertical, but horizontal, allowing the player to navigate to tactical spots and evade enemy players in an instant. The benefit of this ability should not be understated, as it adds an extra dimension to the game, both in single and multiplayer. The levels are cleverly designed to utilise this height by adding many platforms and roofs within reach. The boost also gives the game the degree of speed Sledgehammer promised and overall is unquestionably the game's greatest new addition.
The other additions to the mix are less obvious, but still certainly welcome. We have an A-list cast including the excellently represented Kevin Spacey. Visually, his character looks incredible and surely the most life-like recreation to feature in a game thus far. His addition to the game is more than just a gimmick, as each cutscene involving the actor is generally very strong. I found myself compelled to listen to the dialogue and interactions between the characters more than the usual dull military filler of most COD games.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's visual prowess extends beyond its character's life-like faces. The game looks fantastic. On many occasions I found myself stopping to stare at my surroundings and less so on the action in front of me. There's a good degree of variation in those surroundings too, meaning you won't be staring at the same grey labyrinthine corridors or war-torn strip either.
Unfortunately, for each of the added benefits above, there are an equal number of gripes which deter from the overall enjoyment of the game and prohibit it from excelling beyond some of its predecessors.
The game looks advanced, but at the same time there are needless basic visual weaknesses which deter from the immersion in the game's world. Characters will run and walk stilted at times, turning corners in a robotic way, as if their exo-suit was more than a device. The environment is infrequently fully destructible, meaning you will unload a full clip of futuristic bulletry in a room, which seemingly cannot destroy a simple vase.
As strong as Spacey's performance is, the intrigue his character lends the game is wasted on a horribly predictable developing story. What for me started out strong, quickly developed into a derivative story of US army politics and a disappointingly obvious bad-guy'. Playing your part in a private army, taking on tactical missions by employing futuristic weaponry, all whilst masterminded by the great Kevin Spacey was a fun and unique take on the COD formula. Unfortunately, this didn't last long enough and the single player campaign became samey' all too quickly.
Most significantly, although not so different to any previous iterations of COD, is the on-rails nature of the single player campaign. Hold square to do something of purely visual significance does not make for fun or memorable gameplay. This most obvious and blatant of flaws is something which COD developers just don't seem to grasp. You gain the infrequent ability to zipline, deploy a hook-shot like grapple or climb metallic walls. But only when you reach a predetermined spot in a linear path, after which point the game will tell you to press a button and effectively do little more than press forward, if anything.
It's about time developers understood that quick time events and simple button pressing does not help the players immersion in a game, in any way. If anything, I felt much of Advanced Warfare's button-pressing moments could have been achieved more successfully and less stilted by simply carrying on with the cutscene.
The most flagrant of bad examples was a mission which started out on a hovering speeder bike of sorts. The game makes you walk up to the bike, press a button to mount, and then proceeds to guide you through the sequence on the bike automatically, with no input or driving required from the player. Later when the player did gain control of the bike at the end of the mission, you do little more than hold forward on the control stick whilst flashy effects and explosions take place around you.
The multiplayer, whilst benefitting from the speed and verticality offered by the exo-suit just isn't different enough to truly differentiate itself from the previous games in the series. Much of the benefits of unique weaponry, abilities and graphical performance are diminished in multiplayer also, leaving the experience feeling equally as good as it predecessors, but less advanced' than the title might suggest.
Adding to a growing feeling of dissatisfaction is the fact many of the elements which made multiplayer and cooperative play fun in the past are missing. Daft but fun bonus modes such as gun-game and one in the chamber are gone. Frenetic close-combat maps like Nuketown are just not as well recreated in the game's new multiplayer maps. Last and most frustratingly, the cooperative zombie mode only features in the game as a glimpse of what is now only offered through additional purchase DLC. The decision to opt for today's all too common standard of more through additional purchase' is disappointing to say the least.
Advanced Warfare is by no means a bad game. But that's not the lasting sentiment I hoped to leave the game with. I fully anticipated Advanced Warfare to break old boundaries and offer something new and unique - next-generational even. By no means did I expect, or want, it to break the solid mould it has fine-tuned over the years, but something truly innovative was required to reinvigorate what has become an increasingly stale annualised series. Sadly, Advanced Warfare is a solid, at first promising, but overall uninspired addition to Call of Duty's lofty franchise. At least there's always next year...
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.