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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

PC | PlayStation 4 | Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Developer: Sledgehammer Games Official Site: http://www.callofduty.com
Publisher: Activision
Release Date:
4th November 2014
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review
Review By @ 07:04pm 03/11/14
“It’s that time of year again,” I hear a lot of people saying. Some with a snicker and others with enthusiasm. But no matter which way you look at it another Call of Duty has dropped and the franchise continues its annual trend of splitting opinion and offering a home for the corridor shooter heroes out there. Each and every one of us.

This year of course, the conversation revolves around two things: new studio Sledgehammer Games being at the helm, and their procurement of the venerable Kevin Spacey as one of its main characters. It’s also the series’ true step into the next-generation of home console, if you ask me, and while the game manages to strike all of the franchise’s beats with metronome-like proficiency, it does so with a ‘best hits’ mindset. Advanced Warfare takes all of the best bits from the best games in the series and crafts a clever, enjoyable and engaging experience across every facet, though it rarely shakes things up and lacks in variety outside of the single-player campaign and multiplayer proper.

War-torn Seoul is the opening act for Advanced Warfare where you quickly learn that the future is now and Space Invaders was actually a warning of things to come. Call of Duty muscle memory immediately sets in and you find yourself instantly trying to secure your first laptop of intel (you'd think in the future laptops would be largely obsolete, replaced by smart devices, but I digress). ’Induction’ isn't even a clever name for your first boots on the ground Advanced Warfare experience, because the level is very much a tutorial. But you learn that this game isn't about being metaphorical or philosophical (read: it's not trying to be Ghosts), it's a straight shooter this one, which is as refreshing as its movement system and ever-escalating gadgetry.

Advanced Warfare also doesn't pull any punches in channeling the best the series has offered in the past. You'll finish your first mission on a sour note with both personal and peripheral loss. Our (in-game) voiceless protagonist, Mitchell, gives an arm and a leg for his country, but thankfully at the tail end of it all is the option to Upgrade through accrued Upgrade Points between missions. You gain these by working towards satisfactory engagement in four areas: Kills, Headshot Kills, Grenade Kills and finding Intel. The points go towards your new in-game companion - your Exo.

Detection, Resistance, Armor, Recoil, Flinch, Reload, Quick Aim, Tactical and Lethal Grenade, Sprint and of course, Battery. These are the basic skill and attribute areas you bolster throughout the campaign. There are 22 points to fill (two per skill/attribute) with the first costing you one upgrade point and the second two, totalling three per application. At roughly eight to 10 hours of play on Veteran, the hardest difficulty I tackled, I came in shy of decking out my Exo by seven points. Thankfully, like all Call of Duty games, once a mission is clear you're free to re-engage it on any difficulty level you like, opening up replayability to the collectors and 100 percenters out there.

At its absolute heart, and as I touched on a little earlier, Advanced Warfare is Call of Duty. It's inspiring in parts, because this is a team who hasn't lived and breathed the franchise, in development, for the past 10 years. Rather it's a team who understands the CoD beat; the cadence at which the game's campaign should run and they one-up themselves the whole time. By and large it's simple in delivery and even more so in execution. The plot isn't overly convoluted or complex, but it's full of meat. Each mission's end feels like the episode closer of a weekly TV action-thriller, and the characters are all well-balanced and wonderfully presented to a point that you're so drawn in by the time you reach Atlas, you don't even realise you've subconsciously signed-up for the long haul.

Character portrayals and acting are the best the series has ever seen here. The seasoned Troy Baker is excellent as the young Mitchell you play as, though he only talks during cut-scenes, which I found odd. The supporting cast take his lead though, and deliver standout performances. Cormack felt incredibly real all-too often, but at the end of the day it's Kevin Spacey's skills that ultimately pay the bills. His character is perhaps less underhanded than his brilliant Frank Underwood, but the transition he makes to eventual Bond-esque villain is great. You can actually follow this descent by listening to Intel from the menu, though I think it might have been better served as exposition during missions, even if it began to play out after the game's switch, but I don't want to delve too much here for fear of spoilers.

At the opposite end of the acting is their in-game representations. Advanced Warfare is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde experience where visuals are concerned. Across the board, this is definitely a decent-looking game on next-gen, and some levels in particular are stunning. Others, however, tend to err on the side of "must have been done earlier in development". It's not as inconsistent as Ghosts was, by any measure, and that silky smooth 60fps the series is known for is in tow, but certain levels show lacklustre textures or feature far too much pop-in. Grass sways in imaginative wind (where there should be none) and rarely blends with the environment. In the San Francisco Bay, white 'splashes' indicate blocky, barely-detailed ships are in fact, afloat. It's peripheral stuff not specific to where the game is directing you, but at this point in time (and with some of this studio's visual heritage), I was expecting more.

Up close, character models are stunning though, with realistic skin, piercing eyes and believable facial hair. Cormack, who I mentioned before, is the most emotive in-game model and the lip-syncing for him and the rest of the cast is really very good. He best matched the CGI models that appear in the game's gorgeous cut-scenes and simply came across as a hugely believable character which completely reflects the nature of this narrative. In CoDs gone by, players were too easily confused by who they were, why they were that person and therefore what the point of it all was -- Advanced Warfare keeps things in your direct sights. It’s not mind-numbing though, there’s real forethought behind this game’s story, it’s more that it keeps the player engaged by allowing them to sink into the role and experience the overarching story the team here is telling, for themselves and through the eyes of a single character.

Obviously it’s not all about the single-player component though, with the life-blood of the series being multiplayer. The retail product is unfortunately lacking a dedicated co-op mode of a unique nature (there is co-op in Exo Survival, but that’s more a Horde Mode than anything), and by and large the modes, maps and more are all part of that Call of Duty cadence I’ve riddled throughout here, but it does pack a single, defining game-changer in movement.

The Exo abilities that have been the focus of marketing aren’t a lie. It’s not the PR team sinking their teeth into an aesthetic thing and calling it new because it is new and it will, over time, change the way this game’s competitive side is played. It’s a challenge to learn and even more difficult to master. It will make you rethink map layouts, even if they seem familiar to the series, and it will absolutely make you shift the way you would normally go into a gunfight to a point that the adage ought to be changed from “never bring a knife to a gunfight fight” to “always wear your Exo because who cares about guns and knives”.

Where Call of Duty may have sunk into an area of bravado-laden run and gunners, or cheap campers, the Advanced Warfare Exo addition changes the formula. And the better you get at creating movement lines with that suit and its short battery life, to literally dance around the opposition, the sooner those players of the past will be left behind in the proverbial digital dust.

What’s crazy to me though, is how much they pared back some of the abilities from the single-player game and left them on the sidelines for multiplayer. And I’d be over-stepping the potential longevity of the current gameplay release roster this early into the game’s life. Even at my review retreat I really only had three days with it -- despite all of Call of Duty’s familiarity, the community shapes how these things blossom and in that light, the exclusion of the single-player game’s grappling hook and magnetic gloves should be looked upon as a massive oversight. Even the idea of allowing players to choose specific Exo abilities alongside the aforementioned, to absolutely create an asymmetrical playing field, could be a solution and it does feel that even with all that change on-hand in terms of suit movement, there’s a sense of playing safe through those exclusions.

I gained serious insight into the inner workings of the development process for this game (like that Eric Hirshberg wrote most of Spacey’s lines), and lament that the Sydney Opera House multiplayer map is nowhere to be found, but the studio’s optimism and passion was, and is, very clear. There’s also the idea that some of these ideas aren’t actually dead and that we’re to be reminded this is a year-long investment when you sign up. The movement system is an absolute game-changer -- that cannot be denied, but there’s a bigger question of ‘is that enough?’. The series is long in the tooth now, and despite Ghosts’ actual design flaws it was also a catalyst for that long-overdue discussion about whether or not fatigue was finally setting in. Seeing what Sledgehammer is not only capable of when playing to familiarity, but also their game-changing (and breaking) moments of genius and foresight suggests not, but accelerated movement in an emerging era of that already becoming the FPS norm isn’t the major change we crave.

There are options all over the place -- asymmetrical multiplayer, open-world single-player, full narrative co-op, user-generated content, more use of vehicles off rails, grappling hooks in goddamned multiplayer... and so on. None of that is meant to lead you to believe this is a bad game -- it’s the best Call of Duty since Modern Warfare and may in fact be better, but saying that isn’t because it’s changed the series’ formula the way that game did, rather it’s refined it. And maybe that’s not the fault of any of the developers working on the game, and rests more squarely on the shoulders of the publisher who sets that beat I’ve talked so much about.

Instead of a ‘best hits’ directive, maybe it’s time to change the tune altogether.

What we liked
  • The new Exo movement system absolutely changes how you approach multiplayer
  • Kevin Spacey and the full cast deliver the best performances in the series to-date
  • Takes all of the best beats from the best entries in the series and delivers a coherent and fun game as a result
  • Looks great, and often gorgeous on next-gen machines
What we didn't like
  • Aside from the Exo movement there's no major shift in the series' formula
  • Not shipping with a dedicated and unique co-op mode
  • A handful of Exo abilities from the campaign don't make it into multiplayer, which is criminal
  • Story exposition featuring Irons could have been more front and centre
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 11:28pm 03/11/14
As with most COD titles, looks interesting but similar to the previous games.
AW is odd in that when the trailers trickled out last year, it looked like it was a mash up of numerous games and movies.
How does AW feel compared to Titanfall?
Is it a unique experience or have they basically copied ideas from Titanfall and other games/movies?
Posted 08:33am 04/11/14
I haven't played a CoD since original Black Ops but this has me genuinely excited to play. I don't know what it is, but the game just oozes great work on the CoD franchise and so I'll definitely be picking it up this week, most likely from a CD key store though because screw paying $100.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 09:24am 04/11/14
FSCB it honestly kills Titanfall in the movement department and feels nothing like it. There's a genuine skill in applying all of the movement options to a single line that isn't straight
Posted 01:58pm 04/11/14
Whats it like on the PC though? Got dedicated servers this time hey? Seriously thinking about getting this one... haven't played COD since MW2 and BF4 is giving me this s****
Posted 02:05pm 04/11/14
Yeah id grab a key for this if they got dedicated servers. Cod4 and 5 were so f*****g awesome multiplayer.
Posted 02:07pm 04/11/14
Whats it like on the PC though? Got dedicated servers this time hey? Seriously thinking about getting this one... haven't played COD since MW2 and BF4 is giving me this s****

+1 yeah I haven't played since MW2
Posted 05:43pm 04/11/14
They do indeed have dedicated servers apparently, at least from this Reddit thread yesterday.
Posted 05:49pm 04/11/14
Are they fully integrated/ supported, or just the same s*** they put out with the previous ones where you can't rank up etc.
No I'm not going to reddit to check that either
Posted 10:47pm 04/11/14
It's a trap! No dedicated servers! It's all f*****g P2P, no server browser in the UI.

I'll be getting my money back, thank you.
Posted 09:04am 05/11/14

No dedicated servers is a deal breaker... thought this might have held me over til dirtybomb to but no way fkers, no servers, no buy... shame cause it looked reasonable tbh
Posted 11:04am 05/11/14
for all the pc needs
Posted 11:29am 05/11/14
f*** I am so on the fence about this game, I'm currently downloading the demo so I will see how that goes first. If they release dedicated servers I'll cave and buy.. I also have not played since MW2.
Posted 11:26pm 05/11/14
It's a trap! No dedicated servers! It's all f*****g P2P, no server browser in the UI.

didn't they confirm dedicated servers a little while ago? damn liars.
Posted 03:10am 06/11/14

didn't they confirm dedicated servers a little while ago? damn liars.

They did and those articles are what that shows up when you search for "advanced warfare pc dedicated servers". I was wondering if it was worth a buy and did a quick bit of research, saw it had dedi servers and figured I'd take the plunge.

Thinking I'll be trying to get a refund for false advertising.

The game itself was promising, I'd play it if dedi's came in.
Posted 09:42am 06/11/14
I have a feeling they just haven't turned them on yet. No way would you come out and publicly say you had dedicated servers and then not turn them on. Marketing suicide.
Posted 02:02pm 06/11/14
I dunno, I'm reasonably sure that during my search, I saw a quote saying they would let us know where we could rent a server...

But the fact that there's no server list? Either there's a big patch coming to make the game worth playing (adding in a server browser and allowing REAL dedicated servers, not their BS excuse of "we own the servers, but hey, they're still dedicated right?") or this is the best we can hope for, which I personally think is still bordering on false advertising.

PC gamers mean 1 thing when they say "dedicated servers". It's what we've had for 10+ years... We do NOT want Activision controlled, locked off servers that randomly might get assigned from a lobby. There really needs to be a PC gamer push back against big publishers taking the term "dedicated servers" and twisting it to whatever THEY want it to mean.
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