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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher/Developer: Activision/Sledgehammer Games
Call of Duty is a massively popular franchise that is the subject of extreme hype and criticism. With each new installment offering little that differs it from the previous entry, this immense powerhouse has seen a decline in both sales and ratings. Now, Sledgehammer Games aims to bring the series back to its beloved form with a 3 year dev cycle, new gameplay and story, and more. This in turn results in probably the freshest take on the series in years, but it still has design choices that perplexes me even now.
As the title implies, this latest entry has Call of Duty taking place in the future, more specifically mostly 2059. Soldiers are no longer just soldiers, but now super soldiers thanks to the new Exosuit technology and now advancements are being made everywhere. While Black Ops 2 dabbled with a near future concept, AW takes the time further and manages to look and feel the part, for the most part.
A shot of the Bal 27 in its overpowered glory.
The devs have stated that a new vision and focus for the campaign was a very large aspect for AW. They wanted to revive the campaigns and make them feel like they are actually worth playing for once, as past COD games have failed to really have any impact within their campaigns. AW manages to rise above the games of the last few years in this way, but sadly, not by much.
The campaign has you playing as a soldier in the future who is sent with his best friend to North Korea to destroy a vital airship that they wield. After which, you go through a predictable romp of shooting things, completing mostly linear objectives, and shotting more things. What sets this campaign apart though are the new technologies at your disposal. You can now double jump, there are exo abilities such as a shield you can deploy, the two categories of grenades are now all on two different grenades that you cycle through, and more. These actually made the campaign far more enjoyable to play in my opinion and you have a lot more choices for combat. When a grenade flys your way, instead of being mostly powerless, you can now dodge away from it. These new gameplay elements might be small, but when combined they make a campaign that is worth playing through at least for the gameplay, even if the story does not live up to it, even with Kevin Spacey, who is excellent here. The story is predictable and pretty shallow towards the end. Some concept of choice would have done wonders for the story, but no innovations were made here. One pretty neat aspect of the campaign are the challenges. As you play and take out enemies, you will be working towards kill challenges that when hit, reward you with upgrade points that allow you to upgrade your exo. This again is small, but for me it was a nice addition. The length overall is 6-7 hours and while that is still a bit short compared to other campaigns, it does outclass the length of past games in this series. Overall the campaign is a lot better than past games of this series, so kudos for that, but the story really is a letdown.
Kevin Spacey AKA the only great character in the campaign
Another mode that is introduced is the Exo Survival mode. In this mode, you and up to 3 others have to survive waves upon waves of enemies, earning points, upgrades for your weapons, and your exo. You also choose one of 3 classes that can only use specific weapons and exo abilities. Honestly, there is not much else to say about this mode. It is pretty straight forward and sadly is not tied to your multiplayer rank at all. It does have its own unlockables but they are limited. I found this mode fun to play for a short while but only with a friend. It is a mode that just does not have enough variety or replyability. It is not bad by any means and it can be enjoyable for sure, but it is nowhere near what it could have been.
The graphics are a step up for this series, but still lags behinds its competition
Now, onto an aspect that seems to be the biggest selling point for this series, the multiplayer. At first glance, the multiplayer feels very much like Call of Duty, it has that distinct fast paced feel. However, thanks to the new gameplay additions, AW has the most verticality than any other entry and that does set this game apart in that aspect. Thanks to the double jump and the dodging and dashing, you have more control over your character and his movements, though the basic movement still feels the same. It is easy to tell that this is running on the same tired engine that this series has been using for many years. Beyond this, there are more new things to be found, some of which are better than others. This game introduces a few new modes and returns many favorites, such as TDM, CTF, Domination, and more. The new modes, Momentum, Uplink, and others are a mixed bag. Uplink is a surprsingly intense mode that is quite fun and a great match for the the new gameplay mechanics. Then ones like Momentum, it is not as fun. There definitely could have been more new modes to match the new gameplay so that is a slight disappointment. Other modes like Kill Confirmed are definitely more fun thanks to the gameplay additions.
Beyond the modes, some other new additions are the Supply Drops, which is the new loot system. This also ties into the new customization system which lets you 'customize' your own soldier. Through the Supply Drops, you will gain new clothing, weapons, and even things like Double XP. The way these are earned is through timed play, I noticed I earned them mostly after I was killed after a certain point, which this is a great idea. Even if you get duplicates of items, you can redeem them for extra XP if that item has a rarity of some kind. Overall this new loot system is a great new addition to the series, even if it inconsistent at times.
The character customization itself is passable for sure once you start collecting items from the Supply Drops, of which there are a lot of, but still it might be hard to make your soldier look exactly how you want. I myself was able to get a good loadout overall, but others might find it more difficult. It is a system that is a massive improvement over Ghost's pathetic excuse for customization and while it isn't completely to its potential, it is a good step in the right direction. As a side note, you can still do local multiplayer with bots as well as system link play if you are interested in that as well. The create a class system is also very customizable to fit your needs with the Pick 13 system. This is a slightly updated version of Black Ops 2's Pick 10.
Now, onto what I thought went wrong with the multiplayer. For one, there is a definite shortage of weapons here. While there are some neat weapons that feel good to use, there is a smaller amount of weapons here than the past games, easily smaller than any of the more recent games. This is kinda alleviated with the weapon variants, of which there are 10 for every weapon, but you still need to get these mostly from the supply drops. More weapon variety would have been nice, especially due to the weapon balancing.
The balancing is the next issue. While I do feel this is one of the more balanced entries, there are a few weapons that really break the experience at times, mainly the Bal 27 assault rifle. Not only is this weapon very powerful and basically broken, it is actually the VERY FIRST assault rifle in the entire game that you can use. How Sledgehammer completely missed this is totally beyond me but it is a thing that has frustrated me and others. If this weapon was earned much later then I could understand it, but instead it is a problem that should have been fixed easily, but wasn't.
Speaking of shortages, there are others in the multiplayer. There is an obvious lack of playercards and camos here. Given the 3 year dev cycle, you would think that these things would be pushed even further and made better, but instead there are less of these than Black Ops 2 at launch. These things might not seem important to some and fair enough, but for me, they can help the player further personalize their gameplay experience and for multiplayer, I always see that as a good thing but they instead give us the bare minimum with that. One positive here is that the Emblem Creator is back after its omission from Ghosts (Thanks again IW) and it works quite well, which this does help ease the other obvious lack of work.
One last thing I will mention, the graphics and sound are definitely the best this series has ever had, on the next gen consoles and PC at least. While this is true, it still holds nothing against games like Battlefield 4 in terms of sheer detail. While Sledgehammer was definitely able to set a new benchmark for the series, they still trudged behind the competition. This could be a result of the engine, but it is still a factor.
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is a game that manages that breathe new life into a tired franchise while still making some pretty obvious mistakes that has plagued that same franchise. Its campaign definitely feels more fun thanks to the new gameplay mechanics, but it fall short thanks to the insanely predictable story. The Exo survival mode is only mediocre at best but it does function as it should. The multiplayer introduced new ideas like the loot system and customization that work well, and thanks to the new gameplay aspects, it feels better than all of the past games of the series, but it still suffers from balance problems and bugs as well as some connectivity issues. At the time of this review, there have been problems fixed, but the game was in a shaky state at launch and for being worked on for 3 years, that is inexcusable. If you absolutely loathe Call of Duty, I still don't think this will change your mind, but for fans like me who wanted something drastic to be done after the failure that was Ghosts, this is still a good step in the right direction, even if the 3 year dev cycle feels as though it was not all fully utilized. If you are a fan of the series, I feel this is a comfortable buy that will give you tons of hours of gameplay, as it has already given me that and more. It is still Call of Duty, that is a fact, but it at least is taking that series somewhere a bit different. This game is still fun to me despite its shortcomings, but it has shortcomings nonetheless.
+Campaign is fun thanks to the new elements
+Tons of content in the multiplayer overall
+Graphics and sound are a definite step up for the series
+Soldier Customization and Supply Drops
-A painfully predictable story
-Shortage of weapons in the multiplayer
-Exo Survival is wasted potential
-Balance issues and bugs still plague the series
-Some content obviously stripped for DLC
How do they compare?
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Until next week, Turbo out!
And for those that buy the Call of Duty games for the Zombies mode present in the Treyarch games, it has been confirmed that a zombies mode is coming to Advanced Warfare, which sounds like a neato idea, but apparently it is going to be in the Season Pass. Sorry Activision, I am still not paying another $50 for that.
*There has been a patch recently to the game that has updated some small things and apparently balanced some weapons. If this patch changes my opinion on anything I will update the review, but so far it doesn't seem like much has changed.
For the record, this game barely escaped my 'Meh' rating. You may have noticed a new addition to this review, my new 'How do they compare' rating where I compare the rating for the just reviewed game with a past game of the series to see how it would compare to the rating I did it or would have given it. Let me know what you think of that below.