CHANGES to the fundamental run and gun formula produce the best game in the series for years
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC
FOR years now, there has been a growing fatigue surrounding Call of Duty, the insatiable, annualised leviathan of gaming. The campaigns became increasingly bombastic and the online play incrementally embellished with all manner of perks, upgrades and customisable options. Beneath the body armour, however, the fundamentals remained unchanged from 2007’s Modern Warfare. The latest sequel, Advanced Warfare, does not usher in a metamorphosis and is considerably more subtle than the trailers might have suggested - but it is tremendous fun and the best iteration of the series for five years.
The decision to pitch the game 40 years in the future was one fraught with risk, but any fears that the franchise would be embarking on an overblown new sci-fi direction can mercifully be laid to rest. This is Call of Duty as you know it, but with a few careful, reinvigorating adjustments. While the run and gun mechanics abide by the same formula which debuted seven years ago, the exosuit gives the classic experience a welcome and overdue overhaul. Taking its inspiration from Titanfall and the a near-future setting for the campaign which allows for some artistic license, the gameplay benefits from another dimension as soldiers are able to leap, hover, cloak, dash and slam all around, as long as their futuristic suit has sufficient juice for the task.
The changes come into their own in multiplayer, where risk and reward is key
In the campaign, this makes for some entertaining set pieces but the single player experience does not always take advantage of these new skills. A new grappling hook, for example, offers a refreshing new way to navigate around (as well as a lethal weapon if used indiscriminately) but it can only be deployed at certain points. Similarly, the exosuit abilities are predetermined at the start of every level. The duration of the 11 hour campaign is entertaining, with Kevin Spacey giving good value for money and only the occasional grating moment (the much-derided funeral scene) but it is still a linear experience where the overhauls to the combat and movement feel somewhat constricted.
If history is anything to go by, however, the majority of players will rush through the campaign and settle down to rank up through the heart of any Call of Duty title - the competitive multiplayer environment. Here, the tweaks really come into their own. Whereas before, any sense of verticality was entirely dependent on the imagination and planning of level designers, the exosuit ramps up the sense of risk and reward. Boost and jump to a higher ledge or rooftop and it will give you a good overview of the battleground, but so too it leaves you open to attack from foes on the ground. Rather than overpowering the game, these new abilities add a subtle layer of strategy to proceedings.
Sledgehammer Games have an innate understanding of Call of Duty multiplayer
Overall, the multiplayer offering is one of the past in years, arguably on a par with Modern Warfare 2. The new futuristic weapons and attachments are novel without being outlandish, while developers Sledgehammer Games show an innate understanding of the rhythm and flow of a team deathmatch encounter, with taut, dynamic maps featuring places of relative quiet as well as volatile chokepoints - it is less frenetic than recent games in the series where quick fire deaths prevented any real sense of momentum. Advanced Warfare is not a reboot or a revolution, but it is an excellent example of how to make a distinct, exciting sequel.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) The jumping ability of the new exosuit can allow you to gain an advantage over your opponents, but don’t play Advanced Warfare like Titanfall. You are vulnerable and highly visible when leaping through the air.
2) If you relied on grenades for kills in previous Call of Duty games, devise a new strategy. Players can dash and dodge quickly in Advanced Warfare, allowing them to escape a blast radius with ease.
3) The cloaking ability does not make you invisible, only transparent, so think about where you use it, with exteriors the best environments in general.