After lending a helping hand on the development of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
, Sledgehammer Games have been handed the keys to the Call of Duty
franchise, and in doing so have attempted to make the biggest change the series has seen since Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
. Modern Warfare
set the bar for first person shooters and as other games have strived to match those standards (and in some cases exceed them), the Call of Duty
franchise has appeared to remain stationary, with each annual offering often appearing as little more than a re-skin of the previous year’s release.
Whilst none of those subsequent Call of Duty
releases can be described as bad games, the series has begun to show signs of fatigue. In Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
, Sledgehammer's addition of the Exo Suit aims to add a whole new dimension to the gameplay, whilst still remaining true to the fast-paced run and gun action that has made the Call of Duty
franchise the household name it is today. Advanced Warfare
’s globe-trotting campaign kicks off with a bang, and does a good job of introducing you to the futuristic weaponry and tech that the game’s 2054 setting has to offer. As you enter the battle via an orbital drop pod, the first mission sees you fighting off swarms of enemy soldiers and drones, whilst using your new Exo Suit to leap around the battlefield like we’ve never been able to before as a Call of Duty
At the end of the level, your character, Private Jack Mitchell suffers a personal loss that results in his discharge from the US Marine Corps, along with the death of his close friend, and brother in arms, Will Irons. At Will’s funeral, his father and CEO of the Atlas Corporation, the world’s largest private army, Jonathan Irons, offers you a second chance to pursue your military career. Predictably, the power Irons holds leads to him pursuing his personal greed and flexing his military muscle for his own personal benefit, and as you learn of his true intent, it’s up to you to try and stop him.
The campaign’s six-to-eight hour story isn't particularly deep, but it does explore some interesting subjects that draw on a few of today’s real world news stories of weapons of mass destruction and growing private armies, all while providing the huge explosions, intense gameplay sequences and dramatic deaths that we've become accustomed to in a Call of Duty
campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign's biggest problem is that despite some brilliant performances from the game’s actors and some of the most detailed character models we've seen to date, the story does very little to build on their back stories or their individual relationships, and leaves us with an ending that does little to tie everything together.
The tried and trusted structure from previous games remains intact, with the majority of the game’s levels requiring you to follow a character along a largely linear path, fighting your way from checkpoint to checkpoint. Whilst this severely limits the amount of exploration available, it does allow for some of the game’s more intense and exhilarating moments to take place as you jump between moving buses on a packed freeway, race through busy canals and assassinate enemies using a futuristic drone.
Throughout the linear levels, the different pieces of tech on offer help to keep them feeling fresh in a way that previous Call of Duty
campaigns haven’t been able to in the past. Whilst the human and drone enemies remain largely the same, the way you can take them on changes depending on which Exo Suit the level provides you with. On some you’ll be able to cloak and take a more stealthy approach, whilst others allow you to use a sonic emitter to stun large groups of enemies and take them on in a more direct fashion.
The campaign really becomes special when the levels open up to and allow you to use the full ability of your Exo Suit to traverse the environment in a number of different ways. On one such occasion when heading towards a checkpoint marker, a handily placed enemy airship allows you to grappling hook onto it, take out all four occupants and then jump to safety as it crashes down on more enemies below. Such moments in the past would have been a quick time event that was required to progress with the mission, however this time the choice is yours. You can choose to take the route that I went, or simple take out the enemies from the ground. Unfortunately such sections are in the minority, but coupled with the more linear levels and epic moment make for a fun-filled campaign that will keep your attention throughout.
Completing set objectives during the campaign grants you with unlocks that can be used to upgrade your Exo Suit. The Exo Suit allows you to customise your character with additional health, quicker movement and other perks as you progress, and adds replay value to the campaign as you try you fully upgrade your soldier.Advanced Warfare
’s co-op mode comes in the way of Exo Survival, which sees you and up to three friends face waves of enemies in an attempt to survive for as long as you can. It’s a mode that we’ve seen previously in Modern Warfare 3
, and takes on a similar format with upgrades to your weapons and kit available as you progress. The main difference with this version is that you can no longer simply find an easy to defend area and set up base. Difference waves will have you diffusing bombs planted around the map, collecting intel from downed enemies or defending specific areas. It’s a solid mode that will no doubt be improved on with upcoming DLC releases, but at the moment it doesn’t hold he same charm that Zombies and Extinction have done previously. The games take place on the standard multiplayer maps rather than having unique areas to explore and are devoid of any unique gameplay that can’t be found in multiplayer or the campaign already.
The biggest change to this year’s Call of Duty
comes in the multiplayer, where the addition of the Exo Suit brings a new dimension to the gameplay whilst maintaining many of the aspects that have made the series so popular.
Maps are brilliantly designed with an additional vertical element that allows you to quickly double jump your way across the map in search of the next kill. This makes the already fast-paced action from previous games feel even quicker. Large areas of maps allow for full use of the Exo Suit, whilst tight corridors stay true to the more traditional action we've seen previously, which make for a nice variety of gameplay on every map.
There’s a steep learning curve initially as people more accustomed to the maps and abilities use them to their advantage, but once you become accustomed to your surroundings and what each of the available abilities do, you’ll quickly find yourself using them to your advantage in both attack and defense.
The "Pick 13" customisation options allow for you to build a truly unique load-out tailored to the way you want to play. At first it can seem a little over whelming, but as you try new items and weapons you’ll quickly discover what feels right for you and your play style.
Since Modern Warfare
, Call of Duty
has always excelled at rewarding players with new items and perks to use in multiplayer, and Advanced Warfare
takes it to another level by rewarding you with supply drops between games. Get a high kill streak and you’ll unlock Bloodthirsty items that will allow you to customise your character for a short time and show your opponents what they are up against. Do well with a particular gun and you’ll unlock new versions of it, with new skins and improved stats. It’s a constant stream of unlocks that will make you want to come back for more.
Achievements in the game are standard for the Call of Duty
franchise, with the majority available in the campaign. Each level rewards an achievement upon completion, and there are three achievements available for completing the campaign on any difficulty, Hardened and Veteran. Individual levels offer achievements for completing a set objective, whilst others can be unlocked at any time in the campaign upon completing a set number of actions, including the obligatory two achievements for finding all the collectibles. The remaining achievements can be unlocked in Exo Survival and may be difficult to obtain without a group willing to communicate as the difficulty ramps up on later levels.
The addition of the Exo Suit and the new abilities it provides might not be ground breaking to first person shooters, but rarely have we seen these abilities combined with the fast-paced gameplay, accurate shooter mechanics and overall presentation that a Call of Duty
game brings. Advanced Warfare
succeeds in adding a new dimension to all three game modes on offer and reinvigorates the series enough that both veterans and casual players of the franchise will feel like they are experiencing something new, whilst maintaining all of the core gameplay aspects that have made Call of Duty
what it is today. The question isn’t if Sledgehammer succeeded in breathing new life into the Call of Duty
franchise, it’s more a point of how the franchise will cope in the future without them.The reviewer spent approximately seven hours playing through the single player campaign on Veteran difficulty, four hours playing Exo Survival and approximately ten hours in the games various multiplayer game modes, earning 34 of the game's 50 achievements. This Xbox One review copy was supplied by the publisher.