This year’s Call of Duty is the best yet but it’s got some major problems.
The name “Call of Duty” used to imply freshness and an overall new approach to shooting in video games. Ever since Activision took over and instituted a yearly sequel cycle for the series, that freshness dwindled further and further down the line, culminating in the utterly creative-less mess that was Call of Duty: Ghosts. However, Sledgehammer Games – itself working on a radically different off-shoot of the franchise before being assigned elsewhere – has seemingly brought back the freshness with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare while retaining the aspects that make Call of Duty what it is. The single-player campaign is compelling and surprisingly good; the visuals have been bumped up significantly; even the Exo Survival mode takes itself seriously, requiring you to put effort into toppling the opposition and working with team-mates.
This leads us to the multiplayer.
Whenever you buy a Call of Duty game, you’re buying it for the multiplayer. In Call of Duty: advanced Warfare, more so than previous games, this is a boon. In addition to a strong campaign and co-op mode, you get a fully feature-packed multiplayer mode that lets you customize your character, play across several different modes and make splendid use of the new Exo mechanics. If any game’s multiplayer was meant to convince you to hop aboard the series’ hype train for the first time, it’s Advanced Warfare’s.
So why should you be skipping it now that it’s available for all?
Because for all the things Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gets right, there are a ton of things that simply ruin the experience for all involved. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t play the game at all but if your main motivation is multiplayer, there are a couple of things to be cautious about.
1. Exo Abilities
Okay, maybe the new Exo Abilities won’t ruin the game completely but they are completely disposable. In a game like Titanfall, abilities like Stim, Cloak and Active Radar Pulse all have their respective uses. Pilot vs. Titan combat makes Cloak invaluable (though not over-powered) while Active Radar Pulse is essential for beating overwhelming odds.
In Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the Exo abilities are almost all useless. There is little need for cloaking with the lack of Titans and it only really comes in handy for dark environments (no, slightly dim doesn’t cut it). Exo Stim does nothing for health regeneration and Exo Hover is a great way to become a target in mid-air.
The only truly useful ability is Exo Ping which lets you detect enemy Exo movement in the area. Because of all the things to help you find enemies, there had to be just one more. Exo Trophy, which disintegrates two enemy projectiles on impact, would’ve been useful except for one singular problem.
This is what will ultimately drive Call of Duty veterans and rookies alike away from Advanced Warfare. Ghosts was notorious for launching without dedicated servers and despite promises by Sledgehammer co-founder Michael Condrey, Advanced Warfare is seemingly the same.
But the lag in this game is just plain horrible. Marvel as you put 7 to 8 bullets into an enemy and they immediately kill you with one. Witness the miracle of being punched when you thought you had dashed away. Rejoice as every single bullet seemingly finds you around corners. The lag compensation is strong with this game and players are made all the weaker for it.
Though Sledgehammer Games has stated that it will be adding dedicated servers, it doesn’t seem like it will be happening soon. However, that’s not the worst of it.
3. Host Migration and Server Troubles
Since Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer relies on peer-to-peer, it has issues with host migration. To put it simply, when one host is dropped out, the game will switch to another player for hosting. If you’ve played any multiplayer game where this has been a problem it usually means (a) the game is interrupted until migration is complete, or (b) you keep migrating till you find a suitable host. The latter seems to be affecting players more often than not.
To make things worse, many players on Xbox One and PC are having trouble getting online in the first place. Having played on PC, one has personally encountered times when Call of Duty online services would suddenly be interrupted and cease to work. You could again blame it on the lack of dedicated servers but the overall spectrum of problems goes beyond lag.
Do you like your UAV? Do you like being able to customize it for increased threat detection, support and time? That’s good – because you’ll be relying on it a lot in death match (forget Domination. Just…forget it).
The killstreaks in this year’s Call of Duty are simply amazing in how useless they can be. The Warbird is effectively neutralized due to indoor settings. The same goes for the Vulcan and it’s made especially useless with its short duration. Both of these killstreaks would be fine if they didn’t require several kills to obtain. Even the Goliath feels weak due to its slow speed. Don’t even get us started on the assault drone.
The only really useful killstreaks appear to be the bombing run and the Orbital Drops which bestow different bonuses and streaks like the Inmate Tracking System in Riot. They’re still not as good as the UAV though.
Even with a three year development cycle and an extensive budget – not to mention allocating only current gen consoles to Sledgehammer while High Moon Studios focused on previous gen platforms – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has its share of performance issues.
Enabling shader loading on PC results in some major performance issues. You’ll net supply drops in matches but find nothing to unpack in the post-game lobby. Mouse acceleration is all over the place. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg here and Sledgehammer hasn’t exaclty been the most communicative in terms of how it will fix things.
This isn’t to knock the amazing work Sledgehammer Games has done on Advanced Warfare. Some of these issues like Killstreaks and Exo Abilities can by ignored altogether. It’s the lag and bugs that severely hurt the experience. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is perhaps the one game in the series worth checking out in a long time but for now, it’s better to wait.