The circle of life, another year rolls by, another Call of Duty explodes into life.
“In the first 7 days following launch, over 5 MILLION hours of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare were played globally, that’s 623 YEARS of gameplay!”
After strapping on the steel-toe boots of protagonist Jack Mitchell, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare thrusts the player into a harsh sci-fi future, a world teetering once again on the edge of destruction. After a typical introduction to the game mechanics and gadgets Mitchell’s story takes a dark turn when he is terribly wounded and he loses his best friend. Cue the entrance of Kevin Spacey, modelled beautifully down to every wrinkle, Spacey play Mr Jonathan Irons a high power weapons dealer with ambition. It doesn’t take long to spot the dark heart at the centre of his motivation, but of course you have to play along being a key weapon in the arsenal of his Private Military Corporation: Atlas.
What follows is classic CoD and a well-paced campaign to boot, the futuristic setting sometimes feels a little clinical, but on the whole it does everything CoD does well. Along with a few of the things that CoD also does a little too often.
In comparison to Ghosts in 2013, Advanced Warfare has lifted its game to deliver a next-gen experience, graphically the game is stunning. Motion captures and facial animations are beyond photo realistic. In fact Kevin Spacey may be the big budget drawcard, but the other actors actually look a damn sight better, the quality in their modelling is really quite stunning, especially when they stand next to ‘old dead eyes’ although to be fair Mr Spacey does pick up the pace as things go on.
Gameplay has brought a new dimension in the shape of the Exo, one of those strap-like exoskeletons that Hollywood has been making popular over the last year or so. The Exo adds a new set of skills depending on its loadout, allowing quick movement dodges, boosted jumps, strength, pop-up shields and the list goes on. All very nice although regardless of whether it’s the crew from Advanced Warfare, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon or that weasel guy from Robocop they just look damned uncomfortable to me.
The mission specific loadout is always considerate of your environments along with the parameters of the level and does spice up the action nicely. Where CoD game do annoy me however is by trotting out the same situations, on-rails vehicle sections where you get drip fed the same truck full of bad guys or a trip down a river peppered with similarly cloned attack boats and having crack troops peppered along the banks.
That said, when the campaign shines it blazes, battling through an assault in a Mediterranean village or stealthing into the private estate of Mr Irons himself. The action is of a hi-octane calibre that Michael Bay can only dream about and regardless of a few annoying quicktime events the pace keeps you moving while your senses are entertained. The story is straightforward and certainly put the series back on track, although sadly the gritty satisfaction of Modern Warfare and the inspiration of characters like Captain Price are long lost memories in this futuristic setting.
Of course many, many people never touch the campaign because they live for the annual update of CoD multiplayer. Again the online game has had a polish, it has new bells and whistles, new weapons, new perks and of course the ‘Exo’ factor. However it doesn’t feel that far removed from the last incarnation to feel particularly fresh, familiar game modes are there although some have new names and of course the community offers a broad cross section of players that you’d never want to be in a room with. The map rotation is pretty comprehensive and the obligatory season pass will be adding more along with the fan favourite zombie survival modes. Best described as ‘it is what it is’, CoD online is always fun for a quick blast but never feels to have the hook that Modern Warfare brought to the table. The old issues are of course still there and there’s only so long you can play happily against people that appear to be both psychic and able to kill you as soon as look at you.
As a package it is the best CoD of recent years, but you have to wonder how long this annual cash cow can keep breaking records without re-capturing the hearts of those that fell in love with CoD in the Captain Price era.