Being the first Call of Duty title to truly leverage the new gen console platforms as well as being Sledgehammer Games first title as the lead developer, Call of Duty Advanced Warfare was bound to attract interest from all quarters. Will Activision’s strategy of having three developers (Sledgehammer, Infinity Ward and Treyarch) alternating titles over the years help fuel innovation in a franchise that has stumbled as much as it has dominated sales?
What I’m happy to say is that while the game might appear to go in a strong sci-fi direction with features and abilities to fit with its premise, it is still firmly rooted in what makes a Call of Duty game memorable for so many players.
The first thing you notice with the campaign is how quickly the game gets you accustomed to the core mechanics. Instead of something like a training exercise you’re thrust right into the middle of full scale conflict requiring you to use your wits and gear to their full effect. It works far better than you might think.
Seeing as there are some radical changes to movement thanks to the tricks provided to players by the new “exo” suits it’s handled quite well. The “exos” in the game are military exoframes; lightweight power assisted mechanical suits similar to those presented in the recent Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow.
In the game these allow an enhanced degree of movement including boosts to jumping and dodging. The closest comparison I can think of would be combining the thruster pack armour ability from Halo 4 with parkour from Titanfall. However there are a few more tricks up these mechanical sleeves; depending on the suit being used you can have available a ballistic shield or a awesome grapple that is used to great effect during a couple of stages in the campaign.
The campaign itself doesn’t stray too far from the Call of Duty formula with enough Bayhem to keep the director himself happy. Private Military Contractors (PMCs) have been a popular topic in games and movies for some time and the game’s story leverages that to create an effective story. The big draw card though is Kevin Spacey whose voice and likeness are hard to miss thanks to his role as your character’s benefactor and future boss.
What sounds initially like a cash in comes across as a smart move because a great job has been done with the motion capture to allow his and the others actors performances to draw you in during cutscenes. It goes a long way towards immersion within the game. And that’s what it is all about when it comes to the campaigns of Call of Duty; it’s not just the shooting, it’s the spectacle.
Admittedly that spectacle doesn’t always hit the mark – there are bound to be numerous “Hold X to…” memes as a result of this game (a cutscene would have been enough) but there are also enough memorable moments to remember for the right reasons and justify spending a few hours in the campaign. One that involves jumping across moving trucks on a highway certainly ticks that box.
The multiplayer side feels very similar to previous titles. There are different type of customization for your character and spins on existing modes but I am not a fervent enough player to be able to provide detailed commentary in that area. I will say through that despite some early teething problems, the networking is very solid making this an easy “go to” game for anyone wanting a quick shooter fix online. After the disappointments of other franchises, the developers deserve a lot of credit to ensure the game delivers.
In addition to the competitive multiplayer mode, there’s also a new co-op mode that allows a team to face waves of enemies in a vein similar to Gears of War‘s horde mode. It’s encouraging to see the franchise continue to introduce modes such as this as it really encourages people to band together and experience online gaming without the hardcore competitive modes putting them of early.
Sledgehammer Games first solo outing on CoD really shows that the team has a good grasp of what makes this franchise tick. It doesn’t try to push the envelope too far but makes sure what is delivered is of an exceptional quality.