Version Tested: PlayStation 3
This year’s entry into the Call of Duty franchise brings with it a lot of promise. Fresh off of their role in developing 2011’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Sledgehammer Games gets their first crack at developing a fully fledged COD title. This is also the first game in the series to be developed within the newly announced 3 year development cycle. Does this extra dev time combined with an excellent performance by House of Card’s Kevin Spacey and the addition of powerful exoskeletons revitalize Activision’s yearly warfare franchise? or should you refuse to enlist? Read on to find out…
This is by far the furthest in the future that the COD series has ventured, with the story set in 2054. Set against the backdrop of a far off future where paramilitary corporations have amassed armies larger than most countries. The narrative follows Jack Mitchell as he is recruited by the world’s largest PMC, Atlus Corporation, after being forced to retire from the military due to a failed operation that cost the lives of 6,000 soldiers. What follows is roughly four or five hours of Jack investigating a terrorist organization known as KVA -who launch a devastating series of terrorist attacks around the world. Kevin Spacey not only lends his likeness to PMC owner Jonathon Irons but also provides the motion capture for the character and he outright owns the role. His character is intimidating, deranged and focused all at the same time. His excellent performance helps the supporting cast feel more human and less like your standard FPS cut-outs barking orders at you, it’s just a shame none of the other supporting characters don’t bring as much to their performances as Spacey. There’s also a very predictable plot-twist about half way through the single player that any keen players will surely predict long before it is actually unveiled.
The exoskeletons bring the largest overhaul to Call of Duty’s game play since 2012’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Each soldier is equipped with an exosuit that allows them to harness a number of different abilities as well as being able to utilize enhanced strength. Players are able to double jump thanks to the built in thrusters, as well as quickly strafe from side to side at whim. This makes Multiplayer battle especially interesting because the maps offer a vertical take on the Call of Duty formula we haven’t seen before. You’ll have to check for enemies on roof tops, ledges and other hard to reach places that would have been inaccessible in other iterations of the series. This whole thing makes multiplayer feel a bit like older arena shooters like Quake III or Unreal Tournament with players buzzing around the map. Other abilities that can be equipped to the exosuit include temporary invisibility, expanded health capacity and a jet pack.
[youtube id=”VKYHuhg0l3I” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Returning from Black Ops II is the “Pick ten” system, now expanded to include kill streaks. This revised system allows players to choose their primary weapon, secondary weapon, as well as a series of attachments and exo-abilities. Want your soldier to be invisible to UAVs, other player’s kill streaks and radar? You can certainly accomplish this! During my five hours with the multiplayer I experimented with a number of different builds and ended up creating the ultimate cloaked assassin whom was invisible to most forms of detection but had no kill streaks since I needed the extra points to place suppressors and scopes on my two favorite SMGs. You’ll probably end up spending hours trying out new load outs and combinations until you find just the right fit, and hey if you don’t get it right the first time changing things up before a match takes only a few seconds.
New mechanics and enhanced flexibility are great but what about the multiplayer arenas and playlists? Advanced Warfare ships with 13 maps on the disc with the promise of several map-packs to come in the future. Some of the maps are absolutely fantastic – with Bio lab and Solar being my two favorites due to their different atmospheres and the amount of objects that were useful when I had a jet-pack equipped. Other maps felt a little rough around the edges – namely Greenband which honestly felt a little unpolished in places with textures that looked muddy and out of place. I also noticed during my time with the multiplayer that certain maps were included in the rotation more than others. At one point I played the Detroid map three times in one sitting, it’s unknown if this was the result of player votes or just random luck but it was slightly annoying. Regardless of my small gripes with the multiplayer map rotation there’s bound to be one or two maps on the disc that will become your favorite in no time. In terms of Playlists – returning modes include Capture the Flag and Hardpoint from Black Ops II as well as Kill Confirmed from Modern Warfare 3. I spent the majority of my time with Advanced Warfare playing the Team Deathmatch and Free for All playlists because those are some of my favorite classic modes regardless of what FPS I’m enjoying. Also, if you want to play some Call of Duty without the Exo-Abilities or enhanced movements there’s an entire set of classic playlists available.
It’s very easy to recommend Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare regardless of whether or not you are playing on a next-gen console or current-gen console. The PS3 version we played for review managed to impress in quite a number of spots showing that even on nine year old hardware Sledgehammer and High Moon studios can churn out some gorgeous art direction. We did notice some frequent mid mission loading zones during some campaign missions and texture pop-in at the beginning of multiplayer maps but these are only minor technical complaints given all of the positives that Advanced Warfare has to offer. Also there were a few moments during the single-player that got a good chuckle or groan out of our staff during our play-through. Early on in the story Mitchell is equipped with a prosthetic limb we cleverly dubbed CyberArm but our staff couldn’t help but chuckle and exclaim “CYBERARM!” as we watched Mitchell push an ambulance off the road almost single handedly. Small gripes aside Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is sure to keep newcomers and series veterans alike busy all winter with its addicting multiplayer and fresh take on the COD formula.