Review by Nathan Miller on the Xbox One.
Available on the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, and PC.
Call of Duty is a series everyone loves to hate. It is the butt of every video game joke, which only adds notoriety to the franchise, yet every year millions of gamers buy the latest installment. Activision, who is keen to keep their yearly release schedule afloat, has brought in a new team among Infinity Ward and Treyarch Games in order to give their developers more time on the franchise. Sledgehammer games has dabbled in previous iterations of the series but have never been at the helm of their own installment. The unfamiliar name has left many gamers questioning if Sledgehammer games has what it takes to hang out with the big boys. So let me state this from the get go, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is easily one of the best releases to have come out of this franchise. Whether it be the phenomenal gameplay, the superb multiplayer experience (Split-screen anyone?), or good ol' Kevin Spacey, Advanced Warfare delivers on just about everything you would hope for from a first person shooter. While Advanced Warfare is available on nearly every console, I am focusing on the Xbox One, PS4, and PC version of the game.
North Korea has invaded South Korea, so the United States deploys troops in aid of South Korea. Jack Mitchell, along with his close friend Will Irons, is deployed with a squad tasked with a very important objective. As the squad completes their objective, Irons is killed in action while Mitchell loses his arm causing him to be discharged from military service. Mitchell attends the funeral service for Irons and is approached by his father, Johnathan Irons, who proposes a second chance for Mitchell with his private military company: Atlas. Mitchell is given a robotic arm and undergoes extensive training in order to return to the field. He is teamed up with an Atlas veteran, Gideon, as a new technophobic terrorist group, KVA, threatens to "awaken" those dependent on technology. Throughout Mitchell and Gideon's battle with the KVA, questionable new details on their boss Irons arise that leaves them wondering what they are fighting for.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a first person shooter like previous iterations of the series; however, Sledgehammer games has introduced a new HUD that condenses all player information to their gun and added new game mechanics (Double jump, Boosting in lateral directions, etc) for the first time in series history for nearly a decade. The exo suit, a robotic shell that attaches to your soldier, adds special abilities and ideas that freshens up the familiar gameplay associated with Call of Duty. Grenades can be changed on the fly to better suit the situation or your play style while certain guns recharge over time rather than you needing to switch the magazines. A lot of effort was put into recreating the way this series is played and most veteran players have had to approach this entry with new strategies.
There is a single player story mode with fifteen missions, an abundance of multiplayer game types (team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc) and a new co-op mode called "Exo Survival." Exo Survival is a wave based survival mode where you fight to survive many rounds of various enemies with a group of up to four people. The multiplayer received new game types like the very entertaining "Uplink" mode which can be compared to Halo's "Griffball." Sledgehammer also redid the load-out system which has made it even easier to customize your multiplayer load-out. If you are looking to practice before jumping into the online battlefield, there is a combat readiness program that pits you against bots or other people trying to learn how to play. In the single player campaign, there are multiple challenges (set amount of kills, headshots, etc) that can be completed in order to gain attribute points. You can use these points to boost your character in single player and gain faster reflexes or more grenades that helps make finishing the story much easier. The core game modes and mechanics remain true to the series, but the new additions added to this entry take the game to a whole other level.
The graphics for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare pushes the Xbox One and PS4 to their limits. Everything in the game is highly detailed and the character animations have never been better. As someone who has never enjoyed playing the multiplayer of any Call of Duty game, my experience in this iteration's multiplayer has me wanting to play more. The new mechanics implemented helped level out the playing field for me, and I push to do better to unlock the bountiful amount of customization options waiting for me. While we are on the subject, the customization in this game is the most I have seen in any Call of Duty. Whether it be the emblem maker, the load-out options, or the vast amounts of clothing and armor choices, you can create a character that is a representation of yourself (or someone you want to be).
The sheer amount of content packed into this game should be applauded. Advanced Warfare has kept me up for a few too many days. While the single player story and dialogue itself is not very good, there are moments within it that will cause you to jump up out of excitement. I do not want to ruin those moments, but when you get your grappling hook and scorpion enemies out of their exo suits, I guarantee you will be dancing around due to your overwhelming excitement. The grappling hook is not the only thing that will feed your adrenaline filled sensations, there are plentiful of "Hell Yeah" moments sprinkled in the story. It is worth noting that Kevin Spacey does a terrific job as Johnathan Irons, but Spacey can only do so much to save a mediocre story-line. The gameplay and overall performance of the game is smooth and responsive. I did not experience any glitches or screen tears during my time playing.
A predictable story and mediocre dialogue can damper any movie, and the same can be said about games. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare suffers from a streamlined story that pushes more for action packed moments rather than intuitive storytelling. While not all moments of the story are bad, there are not enough of them to be able to recommend the game solely on the single player. In order to fully enjoy this game, multiplayer is an essential part of the package and without it would make this game not worth its value. The Exo Survival mode is underwhelming in direct comparison to zombie modes of previous Call of Duty games. It is uninspired and lackluster to say the least, and it is disappointing that they followed the trend of these "horde" type modes rather than introducing new ideas to innovate it.
While the story is not all it can be, there is more than enough positive changes and moments in Advanced Warfare that leads me to recommend checking it out. The multiplayer was crafted to help novice players get better while customization unlocks push for reoccurring late night sessions. The gameplay is fresh and addictive, and there are plenty of new mechanics that help level out the playing field. The vast amount of content in this game will keep you busy for days to come even if one of them (exo survival) is not all it could have been. This might be the series everyone likes to trash talk, but Sledgehammer games delivered in almost every category desirable in a first person shooter. Ultimately, supporting this passionate team makes looking into this iteration alone worth it. I am optimistically looking forward to what else they have up their sleeves, and I am generally concerned for whoever has to follow up this game in the Call of Duty franchise.