Just ask any great boxer and they will all say the same thing: The true test of a fighter is to know he can get back on his feet after suffering a knockdown to regain the composure and begin their own furious assault. So to then does Call of Duty rise from the canvas of Ghosts to deliver a crushing blow to its rivals and take the heavyweight belt as Activision’s flagship title once more reigns supreme as the Undisputed Champion.
Following what has been a pretty tough year, compared to most in the history of the Call of Duty franchise, Activision have weathered the unfathomable demonizing of their shooter series by the collected gaming media who, it would seem, were Hell bent on destroying the franchise and supplant it with EA’s Battlefield 4…and journalists wonder why so many accusing fingers are leveled at them by gamers in the current ‘corruption climate’?
Nevertheless, numbers do not lie and in that respect Ghosts was the first in the franchise to suffer a dip in sales. This can be attributed in no small part to the number of bandwagon’ing view-whores in the gaming press who discovered how profitable it was to slag off Call of Duty much in the same way as football fans hate on Man United simply because they have been at the top of their game for such a long period of time. The only difference here is that Activision’s ‘Red Devils’ have seen off the challenges put to them by their own ‘City Blues’, ‘Chelski’ and ‘Gooners’.
Back with the proverbial ‘bang’ Call of Duty Advanced Warfare has been dragged kicking and screaming into the ‘space race’ by a myriad of developers with lead team Sledgehammer Games taking the reins, so to speak.
Now, regardless of personal preferences we will at least try to objectively review Advanced Warfare without breaking off into a soap-box styled rant about ‘quick-scopers’, stupid bloody lasers and Halo-bouncing jet-packs….though as you may have a slight indication of it may take some restraint, and we are uncertain of the outcome. Bear with us.
Looking crisper than Quentin and sleeker than Linda Evangelista in a cat suit Call of Duty Advanced Warfare has stormed into the world’s game charts with a sexy new look that somehow has been wrung from the existing engine in a feat praiseworthy on its own. Just how the developers were able to squeeze so much graphical gorgeousness of the now aging Call of Duty engine is so remarkable it is bordering on witchcraft.
The sheer scale of the improvements made are staggering with character models and environments housing so much detail it is almost beyond belief. NPC’s barking orders at your player affect such a realistic position that many may well be forgiven for leaping off their sofa’s and reaching for a weapon as they are instructed by such life-like characters to join the fight.
Of course, pretty as the graphics are, we all know the real talking points surrounding this latest version of Call of Duty, and that just has to be the new weaponry and abilities provided by the futuristic setting and the awesome exo-suits.
Looking more Destiny than D-Day this latest edition in the best-selling shooter series has taken the early skepticism regarding the sci-fi direction and completely turned it on its head as the thrilling gameplay and simply outstanding solo campaign have won gamers over with aplomb.
Of course, the similarities of the single player experience with real-world events is enough to make even the most uninformed raise a questioning eyebrow at the way governments have become corporations and international policy is now little more than a hostile take-over perpetrated by private military contractors such as the inspirational Aegis Security.
Speaking of ‘outside influences’ the stellar cast of voice talent , which includes a tour de force performance by legendary actor Kevin Spacey, is second to none. Troy Baker also brings home an outstanding contribution in the lead role of Mitchell, the games’ main protagonist and long-suffering soldier under the ever watchful eye of military mouth-piece Sgt Cormack. But, ultimately it is the role of PMC President Jonathon Irons from Spacey that steals the show as the demented would-be despot drags the world toward global conflict with his incessant plotting.
Of course, the excellent acting is only enhanced by the first-rate script, Hollywood blockbuster styled imagery and superb graphics that offer some of the most impressive character models that we have ever seen. ( in any game ) If the ‘haters‘ were expecting to come out with all guns blazing on Call of Duty Advanced Warfare then readers should take particular notice of the rather silent cannons in the online communities.
The story behind the action in Advanced Warfare is one of political intrigue coupled with one man’s quest for personal domination on a universal scale. But make no mistake, Irons is no cartoon ‘bad guy‘ or Blofeld-styled Bond villain Hell-bent on subjugating the world for criminal ill-gotten gains, oh no. Irons is a far more cunning animal even than they. This is a man who comes to Capitol Hill with an oily handshake and smile that could freeze the heart of the Devil himself. Irons is the dirtiest villain of them all, he is a ‘capitalistic conniver’, and be damned to any and all who stand in his way of a dollar.
Irons represents all that is currently wrong with the world, and every sane and rational persons who prays for a stable, peaceful future. The embodiment of the faceless corporate empires controlling and manipulating every aspect of our daily lives as they seek to extend their evil empire by devouring everything and everyone within reach, and in that respect he is truly a man to be feared.
Mitchell, on the other hand, starts out very much as the atypical grunt ( complete with best mate in tow ” ooh-raah’ing “ their way into some of the worlds bloodiest combat zones ). He is joined in the games opening tutorial level by brother-in-arms, and son to the aforementioned Irons no less, Will. After being dropped into a hot-spot, and getting to grips with the obligatory control method, we kick off proceedings with an explosive introductory mission that leaves Irons’ son, Will, dead on the ground and Mitchell invalided out of the forces. A strange introduction to a shooter, you may be thinking, as the main character is pensioned off after being left with only one arm, but this is ‘Advanced Warfare’, and in the future such things as the loss of a limb are mere trivialities to a high-tech PMC outfit like Irons’ paramilitary practitioners ‘Atlas’.
Atlas is the private military contractor, and the sole mobilized might, belonging to main antagonist Irons. This armed to the teeth outfit is the best equipped and best trained fighting force in the private sector, and because of this they are called upon by governments from all sides to do the dirty work and execute the orders that the public would balk at regarding their own national armies. But all of this military manpower comes at a price, and it would seem the price which Iron’s has in mind is not measured in dollars or pounds…rather in capitulation.
So, there you have it. Spoiler free, ( almost ), and only requiring that you input the disc into your Xbox One for further involvement and understanding of the huge events that take place in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. Rather than explain away the entire plot and premise of the game we leave that area to you, the player, to fulfill and enjoy as we move on with the rest of the review.
Getting into the armoury of Advanced Warfare we now get to sample some of the technological delights that await players in the arsenal that is available to you on the battlefield, and boy what a cracking collection of killing machines we have at our fingertips!
Of course, updated versions of timeless classics such as the Kalashnikov and the Heckler and Koch’s of this world are still there, as are the Armalites and the Sigue Sauer’s, but it is in their futuristic guises that we now meet with ‘old friends‘ and experience all that their coming generations have to offer.
The new technology, however, is what will bring the most jaw-dropping moments, and it is with items such as the highly impressive EM-1 directed energy weapon, ( or ‘laser‘ ), that many will find themselves getting some of the best of the kills. Naturally there are still some surprises in the standard firearm sections such as the excellent entry level BAL-27 or the Thompson inspired ASM-1, and with the upgraded ‘Pick `12′ system players will be able to take advantage of some outstanding attachments for all weapons with some old and some new favourites to ‘wow‘ gamers along the way.
Shields and sniper rifles are both back, but we promised to try and avoid a ‘rant‘ so all we will say, ( through gritted teeth ), is that they are tools available in the real world and so should be part and parcel of the Call of Duty franchise, although they should not be allowed to dictate the play in the way that they do. ( “ Stop that!” -Ed. )
There are a whole host of handheld horrors for you to exploit your enemies weaknesses, and strengths, at your disposal too, such as the ‘hover grenade‘, ‘EMP’ and the ‘spy flare‘. As well as any number of noob-friendly wonders for the, *ahem, ‘mobility-challenged‘ types to take thorough advantage of. ( ” Last warning! “ -Ed. )
But all of these new goodies, gadgets and gizmo’s aside the games’ real talking point has to be the addition of the Halo-bouncing paradise that is the ‘Exo-Suit’. This technological toy allows gamers to leap like startled flea’s high into the air as they bounce around the multiplayer maps like demented frogs in the hope that they will catch a ‘360 no-scope‘ for their YouTube channel, whilst at the same time allowing such over the top power moves in the melee kills that recipients of the ‘Hadouken‘ blow will often find themselves coming down in another game zone.
Now, don’t misunderstand us, in the solo campaign the exo-suit is great fun and makes for highly entertaining scenario’s. But in the multiplayer it has changed the face of Call of Duty so much that it is no longer the classic military styled shooter that we all know and loved so much.
But is that really such a bad thing?
The multiplayer in Call of Duty Advanced Warfare may play like Destiny and look like Titanfall but there is no doubt about the fact that it still does what it does better than anyone else, and that is the action. Its breakneck pace never lets up from the get-go, and should you require a little more practice with your exo before you leap into the fray of the online arena then that is available for you too.
There is also a Classic Combat Mode for players looking to just experience Call of Duty without the double-jump mayhem of the exo-suit combat, but truth be told it feels limited after spending time in the main arena.
Obviously with the launches of titles like Titanfall and Destiny game play has evolved into a more science fiction era, and even though some may like you to believe that Titanfall is stuttering and spluttering the strong online community is proof of anything but.
Destiny is also proving to be a hit, although not at the rate we suspect Bungie expected, and so it would seem that Call of Duty developers believed that maybe it was a case of ‘Evolve or Die’? Whatever the reason behind the move by Sledgehammer Games it certainly looks to have paid off for them, and for Activision, with Call of Duty experiencing something of a renaissance among gamers, and rightfully so.
The new additions to the format breathe new life into the series after the cookie-cutter feeling that Infinity Ward left us with in Ghosts, and if anything this may well prove to be a kind of blessing in disguise for Activision that they have rival franchises in the same publishing house as it means that both teams will be pushing each other to produce ever better experiences for the players.
Maybe, in fact, it could well be that Activision decide to let Call of Duty become a total ‘two way winner‘ with Treyarch taking the reins on the next iteration and turning the clock back to a more traditional era of warfare, as well as returning with the highly successful zombies mode, and then switching back to a futuristic setting when Sledgehammer take back control? With Destiny there to fill in the gaps between for the sci-fi shooter fans this is a very real possibility and one that would satisfy all fans of all genres thus ringing those cash registers and making them sing like a gaggle of X Factor wannabee’s.
Whatever the outcome, and what lies in store for Call of Duty fans, one thing is assured and that is that the best-selling shooter franchise is back to its blockbuster brilliant best. 9 out of amazing 10