Game Review: ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’

Platform: PlayStation 4 • Xbox One • PlayStation 3 • Xbox 360 • PC

Style: 1-Player Shooter (18-Player Online)

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Sledgehammer Games

Release: November 4

Rating: M

The Bottom Line: 9/10

Concept: Explore the exciting and terrifying applications of weaponry in the near future

Graphics: Excellent visuals with backdrops that go way beyond the standard generic offices, warehouses, and weapon facilities

Sound: All of the gunshots and grenade clatters as you expect, with some new sounds (or lack thereof) for new toys like the mute charge

Playability: The campaign presents everything you need to know as you go. Multiplayer has so much customization that it can be daunting to jump into from scratch, but easy-to-use templates are available immediately

Entertainment: A traditional, well-executed string of bombastic set pieces in single-player give way to excellent and varied multiplayer modes that capitalize on the tried-and-true franchise gameplay while adding significant changes in the form of mobility and enhanced customization

Replay Value: High

Sledgehammer Games Takes Call of Duty Into the Future

After years of modern warfare, the latest Call of Duty takes you to a terrifying future just a few years away. Drones fight wars, harmonic pulses identify targets behind walls, and death is casually doled out from afar on tablets. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare feels like you’re screening 10 summer blockbuster films at the same time as you maneuver through a fantastic set of backdrops that range from Seoul, Seattle, and a futuristic Abu Ghraib. With serious tweaks to some elements of core gameplay, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare feels like its own special surge forward while maintaining the gunplay that makes the series fantastic.

The story sees your friend killed during a mission, and his father (played by Kevin Spacey) seeks to create a world where such reckless deaths will be avoided – a world shaped by his paramilitary corporation. Spacey’s character is almost a cut-and-paste job from his House of Cards persona, and it’s suited to the role, but the performances still end up feeling one-dimensional and hammy. Even so, the story tackles the issues of totalitarianism, fascism, and war on a slightly more cerebral level than prior iterations of the series; there’s a lot more going on here than taking on “the terrorists” out of some forced patriotic narrative. Still, the campaign plods to a predictable conclusion after about seven hours.

You fly, drive, head underwater, and participate in a string of missions in a variety of distinct and interesting levels – always welcome in the shooter space where things blur together as you take out hordes of identical enemies. The action stays constant, interspersed with horrifying (or wonderful) lessons regarding the tech you use to complete your tasks, and you rarely rely on the same powers or technology twice. There’s nothing quite like painting a room with a harmonics pulse and watching all the targets drop, or using your grappling exo suit to snag unsuspecting guards during a stealth mission. Some of my favorite moments involved an extended sequence commanding a drone to back up my team’s insertion, running from a new-age take on the traditional bell tower sniper, and crawling back from beyond death under the icy depths.

You gain new powers like extra health and grenades, but these upgrades don’t feel meaningful or impactful. The gunplay feels a lot like the Call of Duty you’ve played before, despite having new additions like the catalyst/primer sniper rifle and energy shotgun. The most significant change (which I noticed a lot more in multiplayer) is to mobility. Having a double jump and boost dash adds a degree of agility that changes how Call of Duty is played, giving you an unprecedented amount of fast movement for ambushes, flag caps, and skirmishes in vertical space. It takes a few hours, but once you perfect dashing and jumping, it’s a whole new kind of combat.

Advanced Warfare is at its best with multiplayer. “Pick 13” allows for a ridiculous amount of loadout customization. Similar to the Pick 10 system from Black Ops II, Pick 13 allows for even more extensive customization. You have 13 points to distribute in any areas you wish, from weapon attachments, perks, exo abilities like temporary cloaks, speed, or health boosts, exo launchers (grenades), and scorestreaks. If you want to make a cloaked knife commando or a grenade-lobbing demolitions expert, you can. Never getting scorestreaks because you’re always dying? Don’t bother with them; put your points in something else. It’s a lot of fun mixing and matching your points to make wacky or effective combinations.

As per traditional Call of Duty progression, you rank up and unlock a host of new weapons, perks, and other toys. You can even customize your score streak options, like a support UAV that costs substantially more points to use but retains points toward use through death.

The new supply drop system means you are constantly finding new variations on standard weapon types along with cosmetic, stylish options to outfit your character to perfection.

I wasn’t the best shot with the HBRa3, but once I found an elite version of the weapon in a supply drop I was tempted to learn it, and I enjoyed doing so while wearing some hot purple gloves and green shoes. If you find something you don’t like or can’t use for another 20 ranks, you can cash it in for XP. These supply drops are truly the secret sauce, as they provide a reward loop on top of the already pervasive progression system that lies at the core of Call of Duty multiplayer. Coming off of a bad round, there’s nothing like busting open your supply drop and hearing “Elite!” when some new gear pops out.

All the classic multiplayer modes are available, like Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed, but you’re also free to try some of the new modes, the best among them being Uplink. It’s essentially capture the flag with one flag and two basketball nets, and watching someone go in for a dunk and get processed with a laser beam is great times. A co-op survival mode is perfect for players shy about going right into competition, or those looking to set records on how many waves they can handle.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s single-player campaign is a ridiculous summer movie romp with sobering visions of the future of weaponry. Bring popcorn, because the real fun begins with the multiplayer, where the wealth of customization options should have players coming back for game after game.

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