Call of Duty, the bluckbuster Video Game series from publisher Activision is back with the eleventh installment in the series and the first title produced under developer Sledgehammer Games. Newcomer Sledgehammer Games is no stranger to the series, having helped finish Modern Warfare 3 with Infinity Ward and previously working on a now-cancelled third-person Call of Duty. After last year’s Ghosts was more of the same, resulting in lukewarm reception from press and consumers, Activision needed to rebound this time around with a CoD featuring new additions to instill some excitement back into the franchise. Lucky for them, despite the speculations and drop in preorders, their bet on Sledgehammer paid off in the form of the delightful Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
As the campaign launches on Advanced Warfare, the first thing that pops off the screen is the visuals. The facial capture in both the CGI cut-scenes and the real-time rendered visuals is absolutely astonishing. Although the protagonist (Mitchell) isn’t an exact replica of the voice actor Troy Baker, there’s enough of him in there for you to instantly recognise who it is. There’s clever usage of Troy Baker too, as Mitchell speaks throughout the game, but only in cut-scenes when you’re viewing the character in third person. When you’re playing through in regular first person view, your character won’t have any lines, as to not break the immersion. It makes for an interesting compromise.
On the other hand, the much promoted use of Kevin Spacey is delivered as a lifelike carbon copy. Again, it’s really impressive – not only the level of detail in his facial textures, but also the mannerisms that have been captured. All his little micro expressions are picked up, for an ultra-realistic performance. There are moments when he doesn’t even need to speak, Spacey just looks into the camera and gives you that look, and it’s powerful stuff. The transitions are also worth note, as there are some perfectly smooth transitions that make it difficult to tell when game rendering ends and CGI movies begin.
Despite some trite dialogue, Advanced Warfare’s single-player storyline is vastly superior to anything we’ve found in recent CoD games. It’s full of twists and turns, and fuels some truly spectacular sequences.
While the single-player game still isn’t the longest, it’s much more satisfying than those of recent CoDs, introducing a military nut’s wet-dream of a futuristic arsenal. The exo-suits generate abilities such as a huge double-jump, cloaking, Overdrive (which briefly slows time), the ability to see enemies through walls and a stim-pack for when you’re low on health.
One excellent stealth level lets you move undetected from building to building with a grapple, which also serves as a means of enacting stealth executions.
While the campaign is a marked improvement, it’s the multiplayer that will be the primary attraction for many. With the introduction of the exo, this is a major shift for the series and how it plays online, but it still manages to feel like a Call of Duty game.
While it took a little bit to get acclimated to exoskeleton boosting, I quickly came to appreciate the newfound freedom and quickly learned to chain boosts together efficiently to move through maps with ease. Playing in a way that uses the exoskeleton boosting extensively gave off an arena shooter-like vibe reminiscent of the days of the Quake or Unreal games. When I think about it, it really does play like Crysis. Undoubtedly, there will be traditionalists who hate fighting hopping, air-dashing opponents, so Sledgehammer, always thinking of the fans, has included a “Classic” playlist that disables exoskeleton movements.
The new traversal options open up the map designers more verticality to work with and thus greater liberty in constructing their multiplayer battlefields. The library of maps encompasses a variety of sizes, settings, and paths. A handful of them even feature dynamic events, such as an incoming tsunami or automated turrets, which force shifts in your game plan.
There are lots of improvements over previous Call of Duty titles in Advanced Warfare, not only in the gameplay mechanics, but also in the area of customisation. You’ll still have an Emblem and Player Card to represent your personal branding on the battlefield, but now your solider is totally customisable, too. Selecting a body type and gender affects how your soldier looks on the map, but the real clincher here is the customisable costumes. You’ll earn helmets, character gear, and exo suits from playing the game, in both single player and multiplayer. Completing challenges provides you with time-limited gear. For example, getting a certain number of headshots in a match will earn you the Bloodshed helmet, that only lasts for thirty minutes of game time. Therefore, if you see someone in your lobby with a Bloodshed helmet on, you had better keep your head down during that match
The amount of customization you can avail yourself of online is almost bewildering, but worth getting to grips with: Black Ops’ Pick 10 system has become Pick 13, so you can really tailor your loadout to suit your abilities (swapping high-end kill-streaks you’re never going to get for more fundamental boosts, for example). You do get access to some of the exo-suit abilities from the single-player game, like cloaking, and there are some new ones like a temporary health-boost. But you can see how the likes of the grapple and the mech-suit would unbalance everything online.
Based on Survival Mode from Spec Ops in Modern Warfare 3, Exo Survival is a wave-based cooperative multiplayer mode, where a team of 4 players go up against hordes of enemies. There are 25 rounds of differing enemy types and it can get quite intense. If pitting yourself against the CoD masses isn’t your cup of tea, Exo Survival might be more up your alley. Cooperative teamplay is encouraged, with three different class types, Light, Heavy and Specialist, each having different Exo abilities and weapon types.
Sledgehammer has made some bold moves with their first Call of Duty title. With the addition of a new dimension and brand new weaponry, there’s just so much to appreciate and enjoy about Advanced Warfare. It’s fast paced, it’s smooth, well balanced and really just feels like a breath of fresh air. Add to that a genuinely compelling single player, and Advanced Warfare does enough to reignite anyone’s interest in the series.