It’s no secret that the Call of Duty series has begun to stagnate. Last year’s iteration, Ghosts, was met with lower-than-average review scores and lower-than-average sales. Many felt like the Call of Duty franchise was doomed to fail like Guitar Hero before it. It’s safe to say that a lot is riding on Advanced Warfare, and thankfully, it’s the breath of fresh air that the series needed.
That being said, let’s get one thing straight: if you hate the basic Call of Duty formula, this installment won’t sway you. But if you found yourself liking older Call of Duty games and became burnt out, then Advanced Warfare brings enough new mechanics to the table to make it worthwhile.
Those new mechanics come by way of the Exo Suit, a powered exoskeleton that gives you increased mobility. You can now double-jump and quickly dash in any direction. On paper, this sounds like merely a subtle addition, but in practice, it completely changes the way you play the game. The ability to leap over and dash around other players in multiplayer leads to some seriously satisfying kills. The added mobility adds another layer of complexity to the multiplayer, and the most successful players will have to think about both their aim and movement.
Thankfully, maps are built around the new double-jumping mechanic. Increased verticality is a welcome addition, and fighting for the high ground makes each match feel more dynamic. All the maps are solidly constructed, with limited camping spots or areas from which a team can lock down and dominate. Curiously, most of the maps have an event that will take place during the course of a match and shake things up, much like Battlefield 4’s cringeworthily-named “Levolution.” However, these events are either inconsequential or annoying, and I wish they just didn’t have them altogether. Despite that, there aren’t any maps that stick out as being particularly bad, which is great considering the Call of Duty series has had its fair share of stinkers. Ultimately, the added mobility the Exo Suit provides is the biggest (and best) change to Call of Duty since the create-a-class system, and that’s not an exaggeration.
The multiplayer is otherwise standard: you level up, unlock new guns, and earn attachments for each gun by getting kills. Weapons are balanced and varied, and I found myself constantly switching between new guns and liking them all for different reasons. You can also customize your character with armor pieces and modified weapons you get randomly, which is a nice added layer of customization. The “Pick 13” create-a-class system lets you swap out every piece of gear in your loadout and allows you to really tailor your class to your preferred playstyle. For example, you can opt out of having a secondary weapon in order to have more points, which you can spend on an extra frag grenade or a third attachment on your primary weapon. You can even remove scorestreaks to allow yourself more points to spend elsewhere, which is a move I would recommend, because the scorestreaks just aren’t that useful or fun to use.
Now, the single player: it’s okay. It’s your standard-faire shooting galleries mixed in with some impressive set pieces and scripted action sequences. However, things are spruced up a bit by a character voiced by (and modeled after) Kevin Spacey, who puts on a fantastic performance. The voice acting in general is superb, which is great considering the story is ultimately the same rehashed tale of PMCs and rebel forces told by almost every futuristic military shooter. I’ve never been a huge fan of the single-player campaigns in Call of Duty games, and Advanced Warfare has yet to sway me. The locations are diverse and the game is graphically stunning, but at the end of the day, you’re still following an AI and shooting enemies as they pop in and out of cover. A couple interesting stealth sequences do their best to shake things up, but ultimately the campaign felt like more of the same. Not bad, but not great either.
The one legitimately disappointing thing about Advanced Warfare is the cooperative “Exo Survival” mode in which players team up and engage in wave-based fights against AI. I loved Modern Warfare 3’s co-op mode, but unfortunately, this version doesn’t stack up in the slightest. Enemies are a little too powerful, enemy dogs are incredibly annoying, and loadout upgrades take too long to unlock. The mode adds little diversions like collecting items from enemies for a bonus during the next wave, but they often prove tedious. It’s a bummer that this mode isn’t better, especially considering Call of Duty has handled co-op so well in the past.
Say what you want about Activision and their DLC policies, but Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has a lot of bang for the buck. The game has perhaps the most robust multiplayer component in a Call of Duty game to date, the campaign lasts a solid eight hours, and the co-op mode is disappointing, but not atrocious. As a value proposition, Advanced Warfare is a solid product. However, the multiplayer is the real star of the show, and the added mobility of the Exo Suit is, for lack of a better phrase, a complete game-changer. Advanced Warfare doesn’t reinvent the basic Call of Duty formula, but it moves the series forward in an unprecedented way.