Warfare is reinvented.
all of Duty has always been a series of games that’s largely in competition with itself. Rather than implementing features most popular to other games in it’s genre, it seems to spend more time trying to evolve the features that where introduced in past games and elevate it to the next level. And while some of these features are not at all original there’s only so much you can actually do with a game before having to expand in to other genres of games.
Aside from changing the time-line and making use of the scenery and technology that applies to each game’s specific world, lets face it. First-person shooters have become stale, dull, and repetitive. And with the exception of the Borderlands series there’s been a significant limitation in the colour palette. Cal Poly Green, Gunmetal Grey, or Dark Coyote Brown, Blue is absurd and there’s apparently no place for Pink.
I’m sure many would agree that things need to change for the first-person shooter genre, both in terms of gameplay and visual presentation. With the likes of TitanFall and Destiny along with the upcoming title Evolve developed by Turtle Rock Studios, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is taking it’s own stab at the first-person shooter genre and it’s vastly different from the rest.
When Respawn Entertainment released TitanFall back in early March it attempted to make a statement about the way in which first-person shooters needed to change, should they hope to remain relevant in the coming years. Things within this genre needed to be revamped and new things needed to be introduced in order to truly give people a reason to go and play another game about a grunt and his gun. This new feature was traversal and more specifically it was speed.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare now makes this abundant and does so in its own style which is drastically different from TitanFall despite the illusionary comparisons that have been floating around the interweb. First-person shooters from here on and out can no longer be restricted to sprinting, crouching, going prone, and crouching and then sprinting again. There needs to be some sort of feature that takes the game’s method of traversal and navigation to new heights, no pun intended.
"First-person shooters have become stale, dull, and repetitive. Advanced Warfare changes that."
Advanced Warfare is a game set 39 years in to the future, 2054 to be more precise. Taking control of Private Jack Mitchell voiced by Troy Baker known for his outstanding roles as the clown prince of crime and the apocalypse surviving shank crafter with an exceptional sense of hearing.
There’s a certain level of expectation to be met from such a talented actor and Troy’s role in voicing private Mitchell is descent to say the least, and cut-scene voice-overs of Mitchell’s thoughts and feelings towards the events in the game are truly worthwhile. There’s a good reason for them too, shortly after the events in the beginning of the game private Mitchell enlists with the Atlas Corporation, a private military contractor.
For the sake of spoilers I’m going to leave Mitchell’s reasons for this as “Unknown”. If you haven’t found out already from the use of trailers, posters, billboards and leaked gameplay. Yeah, thanks interwebs. Advanced Warfare’s main attraction is the Exo-suit. A skeletal-style frame that fits around the wearer and increases their strength and speed, and provides them with jet-pack-style abilities that make standard soldiers look like G.I. Joe dolls in comparison.
This is where Advanced Warfare brings it’s own flavour to the genre of first-person shooters as gameplay is now fast and frantic delivering a feeling of power towards the player that’s truly entertaining. This new found feeling mobility, speed, and down right dominance the player now has is backed up the game’s level design which provides larger and more vertically scaled environments that do well in making use of the players Exo-suit abilities.
Each level seems to be tailored to providing the player with ways to make use of their Exo-suit when engaging in battle with it’s selection of enemies. These range from soldiers to drones, and dogs to enemy vehicles. The variety at hand is enough to keep the player entertained clone NPCs are non-existent.
"Taking control of Private Jack Mitchell voiced by Troy Baker known for his outstanding roles as the clown prince of crime and the apocalypse surviving shank crafter with an exceptional sense of hearing. "
However, one of the few gripes I do have with the game and I feel this is something that needs to be addressed concerning future titles, and one that should have been addressed years ago.
It’s the element of choice with how the game’s mission structure plays out as well as what is decided as a fail state. During a mission in which stealth is introduced and it’s the only way to complete the level due to an auto-fail upon detection, two things came to mind.
The first of which, why didn’t the game have a method of adjustment so that I may continue even if detected? And the second of which, why wasn’t there more missions involving stealth? Better yet why didn’t any of the missions give me a choice of dynamic play style?
The series would do well to take note of the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six games and I feel this would have served the game well, especially since it places so much focus on the player’s character working alongside other characters in the game. To that I might add are quite memorable and do a descent enough job in the roles that they play.
It really does feel at times that the game is dangling candy above your head, but you’re just a baby in a crib waiting for mummy to say “no” and give you what she feels is best. And while I do understand that the designers, developers, the producer and so on has a story they would like to tell and to some degree hand holding the player through certain scenes is necessary. I do feel there was a missed opportunity for player choice here.
Unfortunately enough this extends in to other sections of the game, one of which that will stand out to most players is the menu that appears right before the next mission starts. The game allows the player to make upgrades to their Exo-suit based on the amount of skill points he or she earns from the mission prior.
"It's the element of choice with how the game's mission structure plays out as well as what is decided as a fail state. "
These are earned by completing a various number of challenges shown on the games loading screen. Elements such as kills, headshots, intel collecting and the like. Now what’s great about this is that it doesn’t at all feel mandatory or something the player will have to keep track off as they’ll most likely complete these challenges without even knowing it.
They’re simple and well implemented in to the nature of it’s gameplay and is by no means overwhelming. But here’s where things begin to slip. The game consists of two main Exo-suits throughout it’s campaign with a third that’s given to the player towards the end of the game.
Each suit contains their own set of three unique abilities as a way of delivering a distinctive play-style for the player. Between the two primary suits the player is able to hover and dash with jet-pack style abilities, pull out a shield, turn invisible, scale walls with magnetic gloves, and send out sonic waves to stun the surroundings enemies.
Now while all this is great my only problem here is why I wasn’t given the choice of which suit in particular I would like to use for the upcoming mission. I saw no reason whatsoever regarding the structure of the game’s missions that stood out to me as a requirement for why I would need a specific Exo-suit. Both are great to use and are distinctive enough for me to remain engaged and not feel bored with one or the other.
But it’s the missing element of choice that plague’s the game’s single player campaign, that brings out the missing potential for what could have made the game truly spectacular. There’s no denying the gameplay is enjoyable and the control scheme works well in what the player is able to do with Exo-suit. Buttons are mapped out to the Exo-suit’s abilities pretty well and the gun-play is solid.
"They're simple and well implemented in to the nature of it's gameplay and is by no means overwhelming. "
Call of Duty feels and plays as it always has but this time around it’s clear there’s been a few slap over the heads, and SledgeHammer Games have spent their time well in developing it’s gameplay mechanics to feel new while still remaining familiar.
Being the main star of the show the Exo-suit isn’t just a thrown-in gimmick or a short-lived feature that players would rather do without. It’s a critical implementation that’s largely responsible for the player’s enjoyability with the game, and to be quite honest I don’t want to see another Call of Duty game that doesn’t have it.
It’s clear there’s no going back and it would be quite literally a step backwards in regards to what the studio has done with the series and how it’s evolved. Along with the Exo-suit abilities the player is given a wide variety of gadgets and weapons to play with in order to give a feeling of choice when engaging in a fire-fight with enemies.
Smart grenades that seek out targets, a threat-detection device that maps out the environment and exposes enemy locations, and the use of EMPs that shut down drones and paralyse certain enemy types are just a taste of what the game has to offer. There’s also sequences in the game that gives the player new vehicles to play with such as hover-bikes, hover-tanks, and a boat that’s as fast on top of the water as it is when it dives under. This technological leap in the series’ universe isn’t just centered around the characters and their fancy new arsenal, it extends in to the game’s environments and locations.
City streets and building interiors are all themed around it’s futuristic setting and this extends to the game’s vehicles and architecture. There’s a fair amount of detail here presenting the research and design efforts reflecting the studio’s ideas of the future. Small details such as computer terminals, hand-held electronics, city billboards, and the set-ups of desks and furniture are really something to be appreciated here.
" Being the main star of the show the Exo-suit isn't just a thrown-in gimmick or a short-lived feature that players would rather do without."
As said previously player choice is lacking, but the missions themselves are enjoyable. Like previous games in the series the player is taken through a variety of environments spanning across the globe. I do wish however that I was given more time within the level so that I may see more of the environments as they are so incredibly detailed and immersive.
The focus on the game’s story and it’s characters all contain actual relevance to it’s story. The game’s main protagonist Private Mitchell always remains central to the game. Mitchell isn’t just a grunt for hire as the player’s vehicle for navigating the game the story in which it seeks to tell.
Kevin Spacey’s role in the game as Jonathon Irons president of Atlas Corporation, who equips private Mitchell with his fancy suit and exciting gadgets is without a doubt exceptional. Irons’ attitude and motives regarding the storyline are almost relatable, and it’s easy to see the character’s reasoning in the choices he makes, which are told mostly through cut-scenes.
The use of cut-scenes in the game is something I’m of two minds about. Weeks prior to the game’s initial launch there was much debate over the comparison of video games and movies, regarding the way in which a story a told towards it’s audience. Cliff Bleszinski known known most famously for the creation of Gears of War, had his piece to say on the subject through Twitter, saying that “Games shouldn’t aspire to be movies”.
I agree with this and that the two mediums are entirely different and deliver their own unique experiences. One shouldn’t try to be or imitate the other as it would just leave the medium at hand irrelevant to it’s purpose. And no matter how far some developers are willing to pursue this pointless endeavour, whether that be through interactive button prompts or through the sacrificial means of frame-rate in exchange for a visual flare. It’s the distinction of experience that a game delivers through the technique of hands-on immersion that makes it worthwhile.
"The focus on the game's story and it's characters all contain actual relevance to it's story. "
However, when a game it introduces pre-rendered cut-scenes that don’t know when they’re overstaying their welcome, and the in-game camera takes away far too much control from the player. It’s not hard to break the player’s immersion and place them in a mindset that they’re now watching a movie. I don’t find there’s any problems with cut-scenes in general as they can actually enhance the experience of the game. But it’s the use of cut-scenes in regards to it’s length and the replacement of actual gameplay that needs to be assessed.
The overall feeling I gained from the story in reference to it’s enjoyability did well to keep me engaged as I was really immersed in what would happen next and how the ending of the story would play out. No previous Call of Duty game has gripped me as much as Advanced Warfare, and this is primarily down to it’s characters and the feeling of power that the game delivers on through the means of the Exo-suit. As said in an earlier preview of the game which can be read here. It’s Matt Damon’s Elysium meets Crysis and Modern Warfare, and I still standby this.
My interest in the game’s characters and the idea of a private military corporation along with it’s technology and ideas of how wars and politics should be dealt with, is one that feels vastly different from other games in this genre. The idea of an Advanced Warfare trilogy is something I hold high hopes for and it would be a shame to change it’s setting and ideas in exchange for something set in an alternative time period or a new set of characters.
There’s clearly potential here to expand upon it’s characters whether that be through a sequel, or even a prequel telling the story of Jonathon Irons’ deceased son William and how the Atlas Corporation rose to power. There’s a universe here. Going beyond the single-player campaign is the Exo-suit survival mode.
Reminiscent of Modern Warfare’s Spec-Ops mode the player is able to take on waves on enemies such as soldiers, dogs, drones, and the like. In doing so the player will become better at the game’s online multiplayer mode while customizing and experimenting with Exo-suit abilities and game perks. What’s unique about this mode is the way the player is able to participate within it. Solo, Online Co-Op, and local two-player Co-op. You. Play. Your Way.
" The overall feeling I gained from the story in reference to it's enjoyability did well to keep me engaged as I was really immersed in what would happen next and how the ending of the story would play out."
After finishing the fantastic single-player campaign and still wanting more from what the game had given me, this Exo-suit survival mode was exactly what I needed to fuel my addiction. It’s both challenging and exciting and provides just enough maps to do battle on, which are unlocked as you play through each of it’s maps.
It’s been a long time since local two-player gaming proved to be such an interesting feature in our modern times, outside of Beat ’em Up’s and racers. Whether it’s played solo or with a friend it’s an entertaining experience that encourages the player to get better at their skills.
The Call of Duty series have always gained somewhat of a balanced response in terms of it’s visuals. On one end of the scale it can be seen as consistent that doesn’t do much to progress technologically, but this is passable so long as the controls remain consistent and don’t sway too much from what players expect and enjoy about the game.
I feel this end of the scale applies to most and it’s not hard to see why. The controls are central as to why most people prefer Call of Duty as opposed to other first-person shooters. It’s an easy learning curve with room to expand, and it feels fast and fluid due to it’s allegiance to the true standard of what is considered a playable frame-rate.
On the other end of the scale people seem to have no expectation of the series improving upon it’s visuals and this can cause something of a turn-off due to each game in the series being a visual “cut and paste” of the last. Advanced Warfare changes things this time around and I don’t think many can disagree with that.
"It's an easy learning curve with room to expand, and it feels fast and fluid due to it's allegiance to the true standard of what is considered a playable frame-rate."
While my time with the game was played on the Xbox One I can’t speak for the last-generation versions and how they stack up. The PC version takes things up a notch with richer textures, even higher frame rates, and resolutions up to 4K. And although the Xbox One has received quite a large amount of flack for being the weaker console in regards to the PS4, there’s no denying how amazing the game looks on the Xbox One.
No longer do concrete textures look flat and washed out with rocks and stones resembling tough wet plastic bathed in vaseline and baby oil. The natural environments in the game actually look descent and the use of lighting in particular really makes the game standout. Whether the player is hoping across rooftops in Lagos, walking the narrow paths of a mountain top ice cave, or making their way through a dark and creepy structurally weakened school in the future abandoned city of Detroit, the lighting holds a visual dominance.
Past Call of Duty games have always looked more like a movie-set with structures and buildings that I would believe to be made of cardboard, that would topple over if the player had the ability to push them down. Vehicles looked like clay sculptures for the most part and possessed no sense of credibility that they could even function. One thing in particular in terms of the graphics that I have mixed feelings towards, is the implementation of depth-of-field and the use of motion blur.
While I generally despise these features in every other game and tend to turn them off before even heading in to the game, this choice only applies to the PC were these options are actually available. But given that my time with Advanced Warfare was first experienced on the Xbox One this wasn’t an option and strangely enough I didn’t mind as much. It doesn’t feel overblown in any way and the features didn’t distract me from the game.
Where I personally feel motion blur is pointless and only exists as failed attempt to cover up low frame-rates in games that suffer from this, it wasn’t overused here. And seeing as the function of the human eye in regards to focus, will produce depth-of-field naturally when focusing on whatever I happen to be looking at, again it feels pointless. But it wasn’t enough of a visual distraction to ruin my experience with the game nor did it feel like the camera was trying to control where I wanted to look.
" Where I personally feel motion blur is pointless and only exists as failed attempt to cover up low frame-rates in games that suffer from this, it wasn't overused here."
Advanced Warfare has certainly corrected past graphical flaws and it’s by far the best looking Call of Duty game to date, as well as being one that’s visually amazing in it’s own right. Prior to the game’s launch it was revealed that the game runs at a resolution of 1360 by 1080p at 60 frames per second, with the implementation of a dynamic scaler that causes it to increase to a full HD of 1920 by 1080p when less demanding scenes are being rendered.
By comparison the PS4 version of the game runs continuously in full HD, but makes a trade-off with an inconsistent frame rate that drops to around 50 on average with a worst case scenario falling to the high 40s.
This is quite an interesting topic for a Call of Duty game as a consistent frame rate has always been prioritized above it’s visual presentation. Regardless of which platform the game is played on I have no doubts that the core game-play experience remains in “parity”. But as far as the visuals go for the Xbox One version it’s without a doubt an amazing looking game.
Touching on the mutiplayer which is largely considered to be the meat of the game as far as most people who play this series actually care about. It’s definitely an impressive and enjoyable experience. As touched upon in the earlier preview I had with the game, I spoke on how I’m one of the only fifty odd people in the world who actually plays Call of Duty for it’s single-player campaign. And while Advanced Warfare isn’t going to change my stance on multiplayer first-person shooters, it certainly had my attention.
My take on first-person shooters when playing online has always been an attitude of “Ah you’ve played one you’ve played ’em all, different setting different guns I’ll be done after a week”. Advanced Warfare hasn’t done anything to change that. The game does change things up quite a bit from what fans of the series are used to too and it differs from prior games in what it delivers, as well as other most noticeable titles, and it does so quite tremendously.
Upon entering the multiplayer menu and searching for a match to jump in to, the player is greeted to the customization screen. From here the player is able to view each of his or her team mates Exo-suits and weaponization choices in the form of a virtual lobby. This adds a real feeling of immersion to the game that would otherwise be a table full of names, rankings, and background pictures.
This small touch alone really makes the player feel like they’re part of a team as they’re able to kit-out their own gear and experiment with weapon choices. Unlike the single-player campaign where the player is largely restricted in making choices for the Exo-suit, the multi-player section of the game does away with this. Jet-pack boosting, invisibility cloak, wrist-mounted shield, the grappling hook, all is at the player’s disposal to choose from.
Along with a large selection of assault rifles, pistols, sub-machine guns and so on, each with perks and attachments that provide the player with the freedom of choice rather than weapon proprietary options, it’s quite easy to spend a fair chunk of your time making weapon decisions and holding up your team in the process. But this is why it’s great, there’s so much to work with here and since a majority of the weapons are a reflection of the time in which the game is set, alot of it feels new and will give fans of the series something new that they haven’t tried out before.
Advanced Warfare also implements the Pick 13 system, an iteration of the Pick 10 system introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Custom weapon and gadget loadouts dictated by the allocation of points and unlocked perks and abilities add a new dimension of tailoring the player’s experience to a play style that they can create and excel in. Just like the game’s single-player campaign but more so in particular with the multiplayer, the maps are designed around the use of the player’s exo-suit.
The design direction of creating levels that’s geared towards verticality here is obvious and it provides so many options as to how the player is going to engage with other online players. One thing that’s certainly going to grab people’s attention within their first playthrough of the multiplayer, is just how ridiculously fast the battles actually play out. Sprinting is a norm, defensive shields are second nature, and for lake of a better word “flying!” everybody is flying!
The rate at which players traverse the environment is astonishing and after two or so matches players will become fairly familiar with it themselves. Will Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare hold the attention of first-person fanatics? Yes…well at least until the next Call of Duty comes along and SledgeHammer Games pulls of the almighty task of topping what they’ve already done here and adds something new to the series. Is this the Call of Duty game where the multi-player mascots should give the single-player campaign a chance? Yes and if not for me, if not for themselves, then do it for Kevin Spacey he’s a phenomenal actor as is Troy Baker.
But all jokes aside the time, effort, research, and focus that has been given to crafting such a unique and immersive storyline that the studio has worked so hard on delivering to it’s audience has really paid off. As I said before, there’s a universe here and I can only hope for another entry in to the Advanced Warfare storyline.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Better visuals, new weapons, and a return to local Co-op.
Teasing of choice in the single-player campaign.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is it's own unique game and does well in telling in a fantastic story that's well worth the experience. Multiplayer is entertaining as ever and controls remain fluid and responsive as set by it's own standard.