When’s the last time you’ve picked up a Call of Duty game? If you’re anything like me and you answered 2-3 years ago, then I have some fantastic news for you! Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a great opportunity to get back into the series and experience some of the best twitch FPS action in the business. If however, the last time you played a CoD game was the most recent iteration titled “Ghosts” or if you have played any another recent FPS, such as Titanfall, then proceed with slight caution.
Since Call of Duty itself has two primary modes, Single and Multiplayer, I’ll be breaking down my review into two parts as well. With the single player, the first thing you’ll notice right away is the graphics, everything looks crisper and sharper than ever before. The light effects, the roar of the guns, everything looks great and feels responsive. The story, however, is a bit lacking and unfortunately jumps the shark quite early. The events of the game are set in the near future around 2050. You and your best friend are in the US army and have to defend South Korea from an invasion by the North. Within the first level, your “best friend” dies a hero’s death and the very next level is you at his funeral which you cannot exit until you hit a button prompt to “pay your respects.” I almost laughed out loud at this scene. It’s entire intent is to pull at your heart strings, but fails miserably. It’s only been about 15-20 minutes until the game began and I’m already supposed to feel sad that my “friend” died? This would have been a much better scene if there had been a chance to get to know the characters and feel a connection with them, instead it just became another button prompt to deal with so I could return to the action faster.
Of course this death is just a reason to introduce Kevin Spacey….errr I mean Jeremy Irons, the father of your best friend. He offers you a job at his company, which is the biggest private military contractor in the world. I have heard a wide array of opinions about Kevin Spacey’s performance. Suffice to say, he channels quite a bit of his Frank Underwood character from “House of Cards” but on the whole I enjoyed it; your mileage may vary. Of course, towards the end he turns out to be (*gasp!*) the bad guy. What a surprise, I’m sure nobody saw that coming!
But let’s get to the important part: what’s the gameplay like?
Well if you have ever played a Call of Duty game after Modern Warfare, then you know exactly what to expect. Each level is a giant action movie set piece, and you’ll get the opportunity to pilot four or so different vehicles during the course of the game, not counting a little drone which you can release to take out the baddies from cover every so often. The rest of your squad is, unfortunately, mostly useless and for show. If you want to advance in the level, you’re the one that’s going to have to push the enemy forces back and that means taking some damage and then ducking behind something to recover health. Having said that, the game IS fun and does have a futuristic feel to it. You’ll get to fire a laser gun, use a rail-gun sniper rifle, have access to all kinds of grenades including a homing one, another one which reveals the position of enemies behind walls, and a few other all whose functions can be switched on the fly. You’re also equipped with an exo-suit which allows you to double jump in some levels and grants you limited special abilities for each level. The abilities include a version of bullet time, sonic disruptors that will incapacitate the enemy, and magnetic gloves (that are never used in multiplayer!). While the game is constantly reminding you to use your special abilities, most of the levels can easily be beaten without them. Probably one of the biggest highlights in the game is a fantastic stealth mission where you get to use grappling hooks and actually have to sneak around and stealthily take people out using said grappling hooks. It’s the first time I have seen this kind of gameplay in a CoD game and felt incredibly refreshing. Overall, the singleplayer experience is very solid. It doesn’t completely recapture the magic of COD:MW but is no less fun for it.
Let’s be honest though, the real reason most people pick up a CoD game is for the multiplayer. In this regard, the game absolutely shines. Over the last few years, the game has refined twitch FPS gameplay to it’s absolute pinnacle. You are going to die a lot and die often but you’ll also be dishing out plenty of death yourself … with practice and a bit of luck. The multiplayer offers deep customization for your characters not only when it comes to the physical appearance of your avatar but in your loadout as well. Right from level 1 you can start customizing your character or select a few prebuilt defaults. The biggest change to the multiplayer is the addition of a double jump. While the mechanic isn’t new to FPS games, it is new to the series and it changes everything. As a player, you have to learn to always start looking up and get used to aiming at people in the process of ascending or descending. Additionally, the all new 13 maps available for multiplayer have been crafted with the double jump mechanic in place. You can now easily find a fantastic sniping perch or double jump into a 2nd floor window to get out of harm’s way. Some of the powers from your exo suit make it into the multiplayer as well and include powers that give you a temporary health or speedy boost. The coolest has to be one that grants a temporary invisibility power, you’re not completely invisible but it’s enough to give you an upper hand on your opponent most of the time. As always, there’s a ton of challenges to complete for XP, which net you new guns and attachments. The best part is that while you are in the lobby waiting for a new game to start, you can seamlessly jump into a shooting range to get a feel for your new gun or attachment. Speaking of the lobbies, they are one of the few downsides. You can’t choose which lobby you enter but most of the ones I have been in during my time with the game have had pretty good connections. Probably one of the largest banes of any player’s online experience are cheaters but I am happy to report that I have only encountered one aimbot cheater during my time with the game. I only wish there was a way to report these guys during gameplay.
At the end of the day, CoD: AW doesn’t bring anything to the table gameplay- or mechanic-wise you haven’t seen in other games. What it does do is provide a well polished and engrossing FPS action game. If you haven’t scratched your multiplayer itch in a while, this is a fantastic time to jump back into the genre. If you’re a FPS regular, then you should already know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Now if you don’t mind, I have some terrorists to go take out. I’ll see you all on the other side of a killcam.