It’s been years since I’ve played a call of Duty game. That’s not to say I don’t like them, far from it in fact, I spent hundreds of hours playing Call of Duty 4 and World at War with friends whilst at uni. The problem is, in subsequent years since I fell in love with the series, not much has really changed in the way it’s played out. I found my time in COD Modern Warfare 2 mediocre at best and only entertaining because me and a work colleague brought it at midnight on release day and managed to finish it within a day. COD Modern Warfare 3 didn’t fare much better, as I only played it purely to finish the story, and purely to see how to game turned out considering all the controversy that happened around infinity ward’s directors.
I picked up Advanced Warfare as it’s genuinely one of the only COD games in recent memory which has actually peaked my interest. I managed to get a few matches of the games multiplayer done over Steams free weekend, so decided to pick the game up on PS4 where my other friends would be playing it.
So, to start with the differences, the setting. Previous games of the franchise have taken place either in the past, or in the present, with others straying semi into the future (black ops 2). Advanced Warfare doesn’t piss around, and is set firmly 50 years in the future, ensuring the player has access to all manner of different vehicles, settings, and technologies we could only dream of. This setting has it’s advantages; it allows sledgehammer games to imagine a world not too different from our own, but with the whole world being taken over by LCD screens. It’s pretty cool actually, seeing a world that isn’t completely sci-fi but actually imaginable compared to the technology we have today, something I compliment Sledgehammer on portraying fantastically.
Next up, the combat. Apart from introducing a new double jump that allows a player to see the terrain better or get up to new heights, not much has changed in the traditional Call of Duty formula of hiding behind a wall until an enemy hides and peeking out to kill them. The addition of homing grenades and new gear which help to highlight enemies on the field better than simply zooming in help to allow the player to kill more enemies than ever before, but doesn’t stop the core combat from feeling hollow as a result. I easily mowed down over 1400 enemies in my play through of the campaign, which would easily class me as a psychopath in most games, but in Call of Duty, it’s a standard affair.
The hollowness isn’t to say that the combat is boring, far from it; it’s still easily one of the best shooters on the market by far, with its simple Left Trigger Right Trigger combo of aiming one of the most satisfying by far. I just merely wish that the campaign/ would have some gravitas to it, some personality if you will, rather than the entire world being in danger and it’s up to you and your team to save it.
Graphically, Call of Duty games have come a long way. I seriously was gobsmacked at times at the intensity of the lighting effects on textures and shadows across the world. Add to this the amazing facial animation on characters in the world (with House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey playing the main antagonist), and you’ve got a truly delightful game to behold, one that really does honour the title of “next gen”.
Story wise, the Call of Duty formula unfortunately rears its ugly head once again, with a huge organisation (Atlas) threatening all of the free world with it’s tight grip on security giving it a plentiful supply of targets on the planet. This is another “one man saves the world against one insane dictator” type stories, but one which is made more believable due to Kevin Spaceys ability to make Irons an actual believable character, one which really does believe his own motives behind killing america or any other free state in the world due to governments inability to act within a timely manner.
The multiplayer of Call of Duty hasn’t changed a great deal, but my god is that a good thing. The timeless mechanic of die and repeat seems like it’ll never get old, with each death pushing you on to find your killer and put them down. It’s odd, but for all the new guns and advantages players are given (such as the double jump), things have relatively stayed the same, with most players staying grounded through fear of other players catching them whilst jumping. It’s all brilliant in the end, and I can easily see why players continue to buy Call of Duty games for the multiplayer alone, let alone the over-the-top campaign. There’s nothing more satisfying as seeing your own name at the top of your team with no deaths and many, many kills.
So, all in all, am I glad I brought back into the Call of Duty hype? Yes and no. The series is still easily one of the most recognisable in the world, with it’s shooting mechanics and priority of 60fps gameplay being a staple of the series, it’s not hard to see why. What I wouldn’t have minded seeing was after all this time away, experiencing something new and unique would have been nice. Scripted sequences like the jet level merely give the illusion of player control, and don’t necessarily go so far as to actually give you freedom to explore. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but considering games have the ability to give players an experience no film or book can give you by allowing you to make choices, it’s a shame the medium still hasn’t pushed forward or advanced. If you’ve kept your distance from the Call of Duty franchise for some years, Advanced Warfare might be worth coming back to, if not only to see how little has changed but how fun the core shooting mechanic still is.