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Review

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review

No one man should have all that power.

The future of war is notoriously difficult to predict, but in the past three years, we’ve seen the Call of Duty series take three attempts at predicting what we might see. In Sledgehammer Games’ first solo effort, Advanced Warfare’s future sees the rise of the PMC as the preeminent force in global warfare.

“Mitchell’s rookie mission doesn’t exactly go to plan…”

Yet it’s actually with the US putting boots on the ground in South Korea to stave off a North Korean attack that we meet our new protagonist, Private Jack Mitchell. Mitchell’s rookie mission doesn’t exactly go to plan, suceeding in his mission objective, but losing his best friend and his arm in the process.

It’s an injury that sees him honourably discharged from the military, but with more advanced technology by far available to Altas and their CEO Jonathan Irons taking an interest in his life, he soon finds himself with a new bionic arm and part of one of their elite units. As the terrorist KVA launch attacks around the world, he finds himself once more on the front lines.

With technology forty years into the future, frontline troops for the more advanced armies are equipped with exoskeletons. Rather than fully encasing the body, these are primarily focussed around augmenting a human’s abilities, letting you double jump and dodge quicker, as well as giving you access to a number of futuristic gadgets.

During the campaign, your suit’s capabilities are limited to a subset of all those in the game, sometimes not allowing you to perform the game’s trademark double jump, but making up for it by giving you access to some other tool. However, the tech goes way beyond the exos, with advanced drones everywhere, laser-based weaponry and even multipurpose grenades that can mark enemies, give off an EMP blast or home in on an enemy target.

It would have been tempting to break out gadgets for a single use at convenient times, but this is thankfully not the case. Things like the mute bomb, which deadens sound within a certain area, appears on several occasions, for example, as are the electromagnets on your gloves to let you climb metallic walls.

The story also neatly avoids feeling like it’s going through the checklist of Call of Duty tropes too often. Yes, there are vehicle, overwatch and stealth sections, but with the story coming in at over six hours when played on Hardened, they sat well within the overall pacing of the game. However, I did feel that there were one or two missteps, with the game’s ending feeling to me to be the weakest part.

“Kevin Spacey is ideal for the role of the machiavellian Jonathan Irons.”

Kevin Spacey is ideal for the role of the machiavellian Jonathan Irons, who featured heavily in the game’s marketing campaign and is the real driving force behind the game’s plot. Spacey’s quite stunningly recreated likeness is matched by the rest of the cast, especially during the pre-rendered intermission cinematics, during which Mitchell is lent a likeness and a voice by Troy Baker – the latter a first for the venerable series that is restricted to these cinematics.

There is admittedly a step down in terms of absolute quality when shifting to the in-game engine, but it still looks quite outstanding. The heat shimmer from an exo’s boost jump, the motion blur when performing a boost dash and the explosions are all quite delightful. This is a big step up over Call of Duty: Ghosts, with the lighting effects and facial animations in particular much improved – though there are still some bland looking locations and incidental dialogue is primarily accompanied by expressionless mouth flapping.

It’s all in the game modes.

  • In addition to the usual Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and returning favourites like Search and Destroy or Infected, the exo’s movement comes to the fore in Capture The Flag and new game mode Uplink – a sporty form of one flag CTF. For new players, the Combat Readiness Programme strips away names and blends human and AI players to give a less pressurised entry into the world of multiplayer.

While the campaign is a marked improvement, with a story that I consider to be one of Call of Duty’s best for several years, it’s the multiplayer that will be the primary attraction for many. With the introduction of the exo, this is a major shift for the series and how it plays online, but it’s also one that still manages to feel like a Call of Duty game.

The absolute biggest difference that the exo makes is that of increased mobility. The boost jump allows you to reach a rooftop or window in moments, augmented further by the ability to perform a boost dash in four horizontal directions. Maps that range from holiday resorts to the tops of South Korean skyscrapers and the depths of a derelict Baghdad prison, have been designed to accommodate this enhanced movement too. Skylights and large open windows feature heavily, to allow easy access, while rooftops tend to be quite spartan and have relatively few points of cover, to neutralise the advantages of height to a certain degree.

Yet, the exo’s boost feels much weightier than those in Titanfall and Destiny, with a much shorter and sharper burst that feels like it brings you back down to ground much quicker. Without wall-running or long arcing trajectories, and with the boost dash in usable both in the air and on the ground, this is still very much about fighting on foot and knowing when to take to the skies. It helps to enhance the frenetic pace rather than alter it too much.

Picking what weaponry and gadgets you have equipped is all handled within the Pick 13 system, a descendant of Black Ops 2’s Pick 10. Each gun, attachment, scorestreak, gadget and perk takes up one of thirteen points that can be allocated however you want. Additionally, you can double up on some of these with up to three wildcards, which effectively make that second primary weapon cost two points.

It really allows you to customise the loadout how you want it, and the holographic firing range lets you test out a new gun for a few moments between matches. I quickly added a shotgun as a second primary alongside my SMG for close quarters fighting, or combine the a few perks with the exo’s cloak and mute device to make myself difficult to see and impossible to pick up on the minimap. There are a remarkable number of possibilities, and these are only extended by the game’s loot system.

Loot is now an integral part of the multiplayer experience and the key to getting gun variants and customising your look, coming in a variety of forms. Timed loot, which you earn by completing certain objectives in a single match, expires after a certain period of time – get numerous headshots in a round to earn the Bloodshed armour pieces, the helmet of which will be particularly common. There’s also permanent loot, for more overarching milestones.

“Loot is now an integral part of the multiplayer experience.”

Included are variants of guns, which you must first unlock the base model by levelling up in order to use, which might tweak the weapons attributes and attachments and add an interesting skin to it, as well as a myriad of outlandish items of cosmetic armour and gear.

Any custom armour won’t change your stats, but everybody in the game can create a character that they thing looks cool, and it’s very quick to give you some of the more exotic and interesting looking pieces of armour, from angular helmets to gold inlaid chestpieces. I was barely able to scratch the surface of the loot system, with more available once you prestige, unlockable during co-op or single player, and more to be added for free after launch.

Perhaps the weakest or at least the least inventive part of the game – certainly compared to Ghosts – the co-op drops four players into one of the multiplayer maps and pits you against potentially endless waves of enemies. The twist here is that they wear exos just like you, and as the waves progress they gradually become more and more difficult.

Clearing a wave earns you a few coins to spend at the upgrade stations for both your weaponry and exo, allowing you to switch gun, add attachments and upgrade things as you get to higher and higher levels. You can also switch between the three complimentary classes, but having struggled to get past round 7 on a variety of maps, we discovered that having four heavy exos, with their thicker initial armour and the giant Goliath suits as a scorestreak, stood us in good stead.

This tactic unfortunately felt like being able to bludgeon our way to success. However, it’s also fair to say that we learnt to stick together as a team and found the good defensive positions in order to survive dozens of rounds.

What’s Good:

  • The exo really transforms Call of Duty’s usual moveset.
  • A story that plays with a future setting, technologies and an excellent cast of characters and actors.
  • A graphics engine that’s more worthy of the newer consoles.
  • The biggest shift in COD multiplayer in a long time, while still retaining that essence.
  • Deep and expansive customisation options thanks to Pick 13 and the loot system.

What’s Bad:

  • A handful of low moments in the campaign, in particular the ending.
  • Some locations look drab and dull, and the lack of incidental dialogue lip syncing.
  • Co-op mode feels uninspired compared to other parts of the game.

At the heart of Advanced Warfare is the exoskeleton and all of the possibilities it opens up, transforming the way that you get around amidst the futuristic setting. Yet it delivers on many more levels too, from a compelling story and cast of characters to the graphics and the vast array of options for multiplayer character and loadout customisation. Sledgehammer have shown that there’s life in the long-running series yet, and thrown down the gauntlet to Treyarch and Infinity Ward.

Score: 9/10

Versions tested: PlayStation 4 & Xbox One

This review came from playing the game at a dedicated two day review event. Travel and accommodation was provided by Activision, and this featured relatively idealised playing conditions ahead of launch.

34 Comments
  1. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I watched about an hour of some ridiculously good player streaming live last night. It made me remember the reasons I don’t like cod (online). I’m tempted by this for the campaign but then I’d end up playing the mp and getting annoyed and frustrated. Too fast and twitchy for me

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 08:04.
    • beeje13
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      Do what I’m doing, get it for the campaign, give the multiplayer a go just in case you like it, if not sell it on, because it tends to hold its value for a while.

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 08:24.
      • Foxhound_Solid
        Is a smart cookie.
        Since: Dec 2009

        Snap :-)

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 09:26.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Single player? You? This? Heathen! :-)

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:31.
  2. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Right, good review I’ve managed to fully read through it on the train. You’ve covered all bases there, good work. I’d have been interested to see separate scores for single player and multiplayer, though I guess then you’d have to do another for coop too.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 08:26.
  3. Dominic Leighton
    Member
    Since: Mar 2012

    Great review bud – I was hoping that it didn’t do well so I wouldn’t be tempted to get it… Oh well!

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 08:38.
  4. Dr_mohannad
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    excellent review stefan.
    I’m glad the series is back with an interesting change to the core mechanics, I always loved this series but found it hard to get into when you play a competitive multiplayer for a game or two to find all those hard core players kicking your ass, I wish they found a way to fix that.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 08:51.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      You could pretty much say that about any competitive multiplayer mode though, couldn’t you?

      Unfortunately, with anything like that you are going to come up against someone who plays all day every day at some point. Personally, I just take the hit & move on.

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:30.
      • Dr_mohannad
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Good point,
        But i find this problem augmented with COD, maybe because it’s a fast twitch shooter, it doesn’t allow you to react once you got the first bullet you’re most probably dead, this also contributed to its popularity.

        What i was hoping for in these games is a better matchmaking system that puts me up against other player who have the same range of kill/ death ratio.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:36.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        You also raise a good point in sensible matchmaking (kudos to us both!) – I know other games have this, but I don’t play a lot of CoD, so I can’t really speak on that front.

        I am guessing from what you have said that there is no skill matching? That’s a shame if so, as that would go some way to alleviate the issue you mentioned above.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:43.
  5. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Some of the improvements sounds great, and I hope they are carried on to the next CoDs, but what with all the futuristic nonsense in this one, it’s just not for me. Hoping for a current-day or even another WW2 CoD.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 09:14.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Weirdly, I am never excited about CoD & generally only pick one up if I see it cheap later down the line (which will still probably be the case with this one, if at all), but I have to admit that the sci-fi gimmickery has me more interested this time around. Never really was into the more hardcore military shooters though, so that’s probably why.

      Perhaps that’s why they have gone this way – They know the usual CoD playerbase will probably be getting it regardless, so are trying to rope in people like me with new shiny features?

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:33.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Yeah could be, shiny stuff is good after all. :) I guess it’s just a preference, and hopefully we’ll get more choice now that there is going to be 3 different CoD’s.

        I thought Battlefield was more hardcore (that’s why I preferred CoD), I found Battlefield too elitist with no kill-cams for snipers – how could I learn who was killing me and how to avoid it in future? Although I guess the same could be said about CoD since there are people who play it to death and are particularly good, so if you don’t play it day-in day-out you’ll get equally destroyed.

        I’d like to see different lobbies for different Prestige’s (obviously may not work when partying up of few numbers playing) or levels, to make such games more accessible to the less hardcore players. The Recruit lobbies were a good idea but it only takes a couple of games to level up to that, and a couple of matches doesn’t turn you into a great player.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:49.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        I am not sure which Battlefield you have played (perhaps an early one?), but I would definitely feel the same way about lack of a killcam. I think that killed Medal of Honour for me if I recall correctly. Fortunately, BF has had one since at least Bad Company 2 (perhaps before? Can’t recall right now).

        It is of perhaps a more ‘serious’ nature than CoD, but it is much less twitchy & approaches & strategies can be considered before blindly attacking a flag (or whatever) – Like avoiding the camping sniper that you mentioned, or specifically finding a route to get to take his dogtags without him seeing you.

        I don’t know what it is that appeals to me about Battlefield really if I am honest, but I like the way that it plays & it probably has a lot to do with no aim assist. At least then you know it’s either your skill at aiming/firing that killed the person, or the lack of it that got you killed.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 11:08.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        I didn’t think BF3 has a killcam, it just showed you who killed you (which didn’t always help if the sniper was miles away…but I couldn’t be wrong…(it happens sometimes). ;)

        I think I need to move from CoD to BF due to the things you mention (as they counter the annoyances I have with CoD) – BF has fully dedicated servers, aim assist, and it’s more tactical. I suck at flying though lol.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 11:27.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Yeah sorry, that was what I meant – It isn’t an action reply of the gory event like CoD, more after the event it shows where that person is/was situated when they killed you & if they moved off in another direction, or continued to sit & snipe etc. It does require a little map knowledge in terms of snipers that are some distance away though (which I appreciate is quite difficult on some of BF’s maps due to sheer size).

        & don’t worry about the flying aspect, I can’t do that either. Still plenty of tanks & stuff to go around if you like though! :)

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 11:36.
  6. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    I miss the 2 player splitscreen co-op of MW2 & MW3. The forced 4 player of the last game was a far poorer experience and this doesn’t sound like it will be worth bothering with either.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 09:26.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      I pop the disc in to check, if you like, but I’m 90% certain that there is splitscreen co-op this time around. There was splitscreen for Extinction too, I thought, but with the wave-based horde mode, that might be more accomodating to the reduced viewpoints.

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 12:01.
  7. boeboe
    Member
    Since: Feb 2013

    So wheres zombies? You need to buy the season pass apparently.

    So get buying. Again. And shut up.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:28.
  8. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Lovely review, Tef. I’ll get this (for the single player) down the line sometime. Not worth the RRP at present but the Steam sales will have my back in a year or so.

    Interesting that the X1 version scales in resolution depending on how busy (or quiet) the scene is. Sounds better than fixing a lower resolution and it appears to start at the equivalent of 900p (when you’re counting pixels) and ramp up to 1080p when things are a bit quieter. Good stuff.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 10:55.
    • beeje13
      Member
      Since: Jan 2010

      Yes, 100% agree, I don’t know why every demanding game doesn’t have variable resolution. In my experience, its MUCH harder to notice an on-the-fly change in resolution, compared to a variable framerate.

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 11:17.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Yep, horizontal resolution changes in particular, and this was something that was pioneered by Wipeout HD on the PS3 and has been in a number of games since then, but far from as widespread as it could be.

        I think we’ll see it come to the fore again as devs are able to think about the potential need for a lower baseline resolution earlier in the development process. A year ago, I’m sure that many were optimistic that they’d be able to optimise and get 1080p out of these consoles, but that’s not been a certainty since then, so attitudes are bound to shift.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 11:52.
      • Kennykazey
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        Halo 2 Anniversary scales horizontally too, but it doesn’t adjust it’s resolution dynamically (the latest Wolfenstein does). It’s a great way of hitting that 60FPS target as long as you don’t overdo it.

        And for those wondering, this is considered better than 900p, even though the number of overall pixels come close, because you’re only scaling on one axis.

        I think we’ll see this approach continue to slowly become more commonplace. I’d like to see Shadowfall’s technique used more as well.

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 15:36.
  9. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    Nice Review Tef, but I’m still not taken in by the futuristic setting. I’m tempted to see what the SP is like, so might have to do some begging for someone to Share Play with me.

    How does it compare to Ghosts or the MWs? You say it’s the best SP for a few years, but in what way exactly? Set pieces, character development, plot twists etc?

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 12:35.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      I think it’s just across the board. I think MW was the high point for Infinity Ward and Black Ops’ Cold War thriller the same for Treyarch (without having played BO2), and Advanced Warfare gets a new series off on the right foot.

      I didn’t feel like I needed to disengage my brain to enjoy the story, as I have done in recent years, thanks to some fine performances from Spacey and co. and the story is a little bit longer than usual, so they were able to play with the pacing a little more. Aside from one or two more subdued moments, the ending in particular, it’s pretty top notch.

      Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 14:18.
      • gazzagb
        Master of speling mitakse
        Since: Feb 2009

        Hmm, definitely going to have to Share Play it then and see if the SP grabs me

        Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 17:12.
  10. Pixel_nme
    Member
    Since: Mar 2014

    Got myself to level 21 in multiplayer last night and have to say i really enjoyed it,looks good plays good still has that core CoD feel but with nice additions,i like the new mechanics but theres always the bare bones no exo suit game modes for those that want a bit more traditional CoD,it’s early days but i think this could easily become one of my favourites in the franchise a big improvement over Ghosts.

    Comment posted on 03/11/2014 at 12:36.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Developer:Sledgehammer Games
  • Publisher:Activision
  • Platforms:PS4, PS3, XBO, X360, PC
  • Release Date:04/11/14

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