Occasionally humanity does an odd thing where it collectively forgets something exists because we don’t really want to think about how awful it is. So, everyone huddle round, we need a little talk. Can we all come to a decision that Call Of Duty Ghosts just didn’t exist? Let’s be honest, it’s sullied the reputation of a historically decent franchise to the degree that hype for this year’s installment, Advanced Warfare, was significantly diminished when compared to previous releases.
Some say that the best way to get out of a rut is to make a change, and it seems Activision subscribe to the same theory. In reaction to dropping sales and an increasingly negative critical and public perception, they’ve added a third developer to their Call Of Duty roster in order to extend each team’s development cycle to 3 years between games. Sledgehammer Games take the helm for the first time on Advanced Warfare, having previously helped Infinity Ward with development of Modern Warfare 3.
Advanced Warfare follows the story of Jack Mitchell, played by the seemingly ubiquitous Troy Baker. After a traumatic injury during a mission in Seoul, Mitchell leaves the US Marines and begins fighting for a private military organisation called Atlas, led by Jonathan Irons, who is played by Kevin Spacey.
What follows is effectively ‘Call Of Duty by the book’, yet somehow feels more invigorated than it has in years. It contains all the hallmarks of the series, from Michael Bay-esque set pieces to seemingly covering every continent on the globe, but considerably more enjoyably, despite the campaign slipping into the standard COD trope of double crossing skullduggery. It’s possibly down to the smattering of new mechanics introduced thanks to the exoskeletons that the soldiers wear, allowing them to perform mid-air dashes, double jumps and deploy shields. While none are revolutionary in general, it adds a fresh feeling into a game that was feeling dreadfully stale.
It’s extremely difficult not to be impressed by the presentation of Advanced Warfare. Each locale you visit is stunningly rendered, although the war torn 2050’s era Seoul seen in the opening levels isn’t topped through the rest of the game. All this pales in insignificance when compared to the character models. Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey are both instantly recognisable with the latter in particular, despite curiously soulless eyes, being a jaw dropping example of facial mapping. Similarly, voice acting is top notch, although Irons’ lines are as cliched as one expects.
Onto the multiplayer, because this is what the vast majority of you will buy Advanced Warfare for. As to be expected from a Call Of Duty title, the PvP comes full to the brim of modes, guns, perks and more.
My first few hours on Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer were fantastic. After taking a few rounds to get the general ‘feel’ of playing COD PvP back into my system I put in a good few games of solid performances, managing to grab myself a few 1st and 2nd placed positions on the scoreboards and leading me to say things like “This is what Call Of Duty does right. When you fire and hit the other person, they die. There’s no lag problems.” Excitedly, we made plans to reconvene on Saturday night, for the first time in months eschewing Destiny.
And it was disastrous.
I’ve had bad games in the past, we all have. I’ve seen a 0.75 k/d next to my name and felt ashamed, but 99 time out of 100 I’ll be back up to scratch on my next game. Never in my life though have I been on the receiving end of a 0.1 k/d. Worse still, I certainly haven’t spent an entire night playing a Call Of Duty game not once topping 10 kills and regularly dying 30 plus times. It was a painful experience, running around firing endless clips into people with no effect, only for me to die when seemingly taking a single bullet to a toe. The only bright side to this was that it wasn’t just me suffering, in fact our entire Midlife Gamer party were being absolutely torn apart, game after game after game.
Now you could well be thinking that this rotten performance is more down to me than the game and if I was listening to someone say these things I would be thinking the same, but here’s what confuses me; I’m generally OK at FPS games. I’ve played Call Of Duty religiously since Modern Warfare 1, snapping up each installment. Outside of this franchise I’ve put countless hours into Battlefield, Destiny, countless other shooters and, for a more direct comparison, Titanfall, and never suffered from this sort of problem apart from on odd, vastly irregular occasions. So what gives? I believe the game needs to return to dedicated servers, and quickly. If the server gods are on your side then you’ll have a wonderful, smooth and precise experience, as one would expect from a Call Of Duty game. On the flipside, if you’re sent into a ‘bad game’, prepare to be on the tail end of an exercise in abject frustration, riddled with lag and firing blanks.
In recent years Call Of Duty developers have attempted to freshen up the multiplayer formula by changing the loadout system, with each iteration adding a new degree of complexity to the once simple process of just picking a couple of guns and which killstreak rewards take your fancy. With Advanced Warfare I feel it’s finally gone a step too far, with a seemingly endless selection of options, perks, enhancements, killstreaks and guns to choose from. Call Of Duty’s PvP is so fast, both in terms of match length and gameplay, it’s difficult to get a feel of whether or not your build is really working or not, or whether you just need a bit more practice with it.
One the plus side, there’s a wide range of modes to engage with, plus the map design is as strong as ever, with an added dimension of verticality needed to fully warrant the inclusion of the exoskeleton. Whether you’re a run ‘n’ gun assault rifle expert, an up close and personal shotgunner or a sneaky bastard I hate you so much sniper, there’s opportunities in most, if not all, maps for you to utilize your own specific style.
I’m left with a love/hate relationship with Advanced Warfare. On one hand I really enjoyed one of the best campaigns a Call Of Duty game has seen in many years, and the presentation is spectacular thanks to wonderful graphics and absolutely superb sound direction. Kevin Spacey makes a compelling villain, and the voice acting and motion capture is fantastic. On the other hand, I’m left with a multiplayer mode that I just cannot get my head around. Whether it’s technical problems at the times I played, an increasing complex loadout system, or me just not being up to standard any longer, I can’t be sure, but Advanced Warfare’s competitive mode didn’t deliver for me this year. Overall though, this year’s installment of Call Of Duty is recommended for FPS fans and marks a successful first outing for Sledgehammer Games. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 3 / PC / Xbox One / Xbox 360 Release Date: 04/11/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Call of Duty Advanced Warfare by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 weeks on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.