Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

“Hold X to review Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” If only it were that simple.

It’s easy to take a screenshot from a single tactless moment in Advanced Warfare‘s campaign and hold it up as an example of this being just another Call of Duty game. Just another five or six hours of mindless military porn, included primarily to give players too timid to take their game online something to help justify the $US60 pricetag. And a flimsy story at that — one that fumbles awkwardly through anything not directly involving shooting or being shot at.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

It’s easy because that’s exactly what Advanced Warfare‘s campaign mode is. Change the setting from the 2050s to modern day and strip away the high tech gear and this would be just another Call of Duty game.

Taking lead on Call of Duty development for the first time, Sledgehammer Games doesn’t tinker with the established formula. Advanced Warfare isn’t a complete overhaul of the franchise. It’s a tech upgrade — an impressive tech upgrade.

Take the campaign’s story, for instance. A soldier finds himself embroiled in a plot to take over the free world and battle against overwhelming odds to set things right. It’s standard Call of Duty fare. It’s just presented with more technical proficiency than any Call of Duty before it.

The digital actors come to life as they never have before. Kevin Spacey does a fine job in his video game debut, portraying Jonathan Irons, the founder and CEO of the world’s largest private military corporation, Atlas. Prominent video game actor Troy Baker is just lovely as Jack Mitchell, a wounded Marine given a fresh chance to fight by Irons. And British actor Gideon Emery is outstanding as Mitchell’s captain.

As the story goes, Mitchell is an up-and-coming Marine whose career is cut short following a tragic mission to South Korea. He loses his best friend, his left hand and his dignity as the weighty moment is accompanied by the unlocking of the “Seoul Mates” achievement. In steps Jonathan Irons, offering to lend Mitchell a replacement hand in exchange for his services to Atlas. Thus begins a long and storied career that turns on a dime a few missions later as the former enemy of the free world introduces Mitchell and company to the new enemy of the free world.

It’s a shocking twist that will… ok it’s not. Within the first 15 minutes of the campaign you can pretty much see how everything is going to play out. It’s the uncanny (in a good way) digital actors who give weight to a story that would have otherwise fallen flat. Sloppy writing, glaring plot discrepancies and the odd “hold X” moments are much easier to overlook when the monsters of military video game acting are on the screen.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

And when they aren’t we’re too busy battling through exotic locales and participating in massive set-piece battles to care. From pitched battles across busy city streets to an incredibly cool sequence deep within Antarctica to the explosive mech suit sequence we all knew would be the moment the first shots of it surfaced, Advanced Warfare never shies away from spectacle.

We’ve run through corridor-like city streets before, grabbing cover and shooting until there’s nothing shooting back. Now we’re double-jumping through city streets courtesy of future tech exosuits, tossing threat detection grenades to highlight our enemies as glowing red silhouettes. We’re killing until there’s no one trying to kill us back, but we’re doing it with lasers and heat-seeking explosives and even the odd primitive mech suit.

The game we’re playing hasn’t changed. The way we play it has.

The primary difference is the game’s newfound mobility. Through the application of rocket booster-equipped exo suits, Call of Duty finally realises a truth that platforming games have known for decades — double jumping is the best. Two of this year’s big first-person shooters — Bungie’s Destiny and Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall — wooed players with fresh new ways to traverse traditional battlefields. With its newfound vertical movement, Advanced Warfare manages to keep up with the competition. It’s such a profound difference that I worry for future Call of Duty games that aren’t set in future times — bunny-hopping just isn’t cool anymore.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

With boost-jumping, boost-sliding, boost-dashing and boost-dodging, Advanced Warfare deftly out-maneuvers older games in the series, while still maintaining its classic feel. Each chapter in the campaign mode introduces players to new ways to confront and overcome familiar problems. Mute mines dampen sound, adding dramatic flair to breaching rooms. Bio-sensors see through walls, allowing soldiers to tag enemy combatants without worrying about breaching at all. Magnetic gloves scale metal surfaces with ease.The grapple line allows players to zip stealthily through levels — or tear mech pilots right out of their suits.

I only wish the campaign’s killer tech weren’t so tightly controlled. The bio-sensors make a single appearance. The magnetic grips show up a couple of times. Only two levels make use of the grappling hook, offering us a brief glimpse of intoxicating freedom before leading us back to a mostly linear experience. This set of amazing toys deserves a bigger playground.

Advanced Warfare‘s technical upgrades are most keenly felt in the game’s extensive online multiplayer. After years of running about maps getting shot in the face every time I turn a corner, now I’m getting shot in the face in mid-air from the top of a building 100 yards away.

There’s a new energy and excitement to Call of Duty multiplayer matches with Advanced Warfare that I’ve not felt in years. There’s a giddy feeling that comes as the timer counts down to the start of any of the game’s dozen or so multiplayer match types. And when that countdown ends, we’re not simply deploying — we’re rocketing out of the gate, boost-sprinting and jumping our way towards enemies and objectives.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

Between this instilled eagerness and the game’s extensive Pick 13 create-a-class feature, allowing players to build a soldier with just the right equipment, it’s easy for lesser-skilled soldiers like myself to believe we can actually get the job done. And if that proves untrue, at least we’re earning ranks and supply drops at a fast enough rate that showing up at the end of the end-of-game report isn’t quite as painful.

Oh, those glorious supply drops, filled with random weapons and equipment. The joy of opening a box of random goodies might be lost on more hardcore players but, for a borderline casual like me, it’s a drug. Each new weapon added to my arsenal is another round I must play in order to see if it’s “the one”, and even when I think I’ve found it (I’m quite fond of a particular SMG right now), there are variations of that weapon to be found and attachments to add in order to tweak performance and stability.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare: The Kotaku Review

I’ve never delved this deep into the mechanics of a Call of Duty game. I’ve never really wanted to. The more I explore these systems the more comfortable I get with the game and the higher my name reaches on the end-of-round report.

Still, should the failure start to overwhelm, Advanced Warfare‘s new Combat Readiness Program is a fun and anonymous way for novice players to gain a little more confidence. A quick-and-dirty team deathmatch featuring a mix of players and bots, this special mode disables voice chat, replaces player names with generic “Friendly” and “Enemy” tags and replaces the standard summary with a player progress screen. It’s stupid in the most brilliant of ways.

In an odd juxtaposition, I find myself enjoying the multiplayer modes I normally abhor and not taking to the one I assumed I would love best. I expected the cooperative Exo Survival mode to be right up my alley, given my great love for Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ Extinction campaign, but where Extinction had a cohesive story running throughout, Exo Survival is just a random series of battles with different enemies to kill and objectives to achieve. I enjoy a bit more structure with my co-op. Perhaps the upcoming zombies DLC will scratch that itch more successfully.

There is a stupid moment in Advanced Warfare — but there’ve been stupid moments in nearly every Call of Duty game. Let’s show off the atrocity of war by making the player mow down innocent civilians, Modern Warfare 2. Hey Modern Warfare 3, let’s call to mind the 2005 tube bombings by blowing up the Davis family’s London vacation, little girl and all. Why not put a mission in the game that revolves around assassinating Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator still alive enough to get incredibly ticked over his depiction in Black Ops II.

Call of Duty has made some bad decisions.Handing the development reins to Sledgehammer Games was not one of those. Sure, we’ve still got a trite story sprinkled with stupid moments, but those stupid moments play out in spectacular fashion, powered by the convincing performances of some of the best virtual actors in the business (and Kevin Spacey). We’re still shooting at each other for points/flags/dogtags/sport, but the way we’re shooting at each other and what we’re shooting with have been vastly upgraded.

Advanced Warfare isn’t a different Call of Duty game. It’s a better one.

Now which button do I hold to wrap this up?


    • Just curious, what made you say that? Didn’t agree with it, didn’t like it, just doesn’t like COD games in general, just wanted to make a pithy comment, genuinely believed someone handed the editor 100 dollars to make it happen?

    • A bit mean, COD games may be brainless and iterative but they are undeniably fun. One of the best things about the COD franchise has been their refusal to remove splitscreen multiplayer which I love. Get a few friends over and a ton of beer, vodka, whisky, wine and stacks of pizza and frag each other all night 🙂

      • Im playing on PC and its garbage…
        Not remotely playable in MP, forced mouse acceleration (seriously da fuq?)
        p2p host systems
        poor graphics
        Movement system is ok, but because of the forced mouse acceleration and lag, there is no point in using any gun apart from dual wielding full autos.

        Single players only saving grace is Kevin Spacey, and the facial animations.

        • I guess it shows the direction that the series is heading (and has been moving in for a while), which is console priority, with PC as a secondary objective.

          Without trying to start flamewars, I guess this is a plus for console players & a negative for PC players. Prolly makes sense business wise if that is where the biggest sales lie.

        • Yeah fair enough, I’d never buy this franchise for PC because there are loads of better options and Activision have a reputation for shoddy COD PC ports.

          However as a console shooter it is a lot of fun.

          @wynstyn I think there’s room enough in the shooter genre for PC friendly shooters and console friendly shooters, no reason why they should have to appeal to both console and PC.

          • Yeah I agree.

            I prefer my shooters on console (it’s what i grew up playing them on) so I’m quite enjoying the new CoD. I tend to prefer PC for strategy & RTS.

        • I’m also playing on PC and I’m not finding it too bad but I’m certainly not going to say it’s faultless. The mouse acceleration is not actually too bad to deal with, a lot of people would play all of their FPS with mouse acceleration on and not even realise, however 70% of the time a level loads up I get the most horrendous lag, not from the internet but from the game itself. It goes away after about 30 seconds but that’s usually enough time to die at least once, I’ve had to turn all of the graphics settings down to low with all the post processing off to stop it from doing it, pretty silly and a real shame given that after the first 30 seconds or so of lag It runs smooth as butter @30fps with everything turned on high (Note: I always turn settings down low enough to run at 60fps, but I like to check games with graphics up).
          I’m not sure I agree with the “poor Graphics” statement, when everything is turned up it actually looks quite nice. Mind you it’s not well optimized, BF4 is still a much nicer looking game and yet nowhere near as resource hungry as COD, BF4 I get 60fps with everything on high, COD I get 60 fps with everything on Medium.

      • Is this COD is 4 player split screen? I heard it was only 2 player but am happy to be proved wrong.

    • So they paid Kotaku to say it’s just the same formulaic COD game with just prettier graphics? LOL!

      If they are going to pay for a review, don’t you think they would have paid for a positive one?

      • The review has been edited since my comment, there was a giant green “Should you play this YES”.

  • I’m digging AW a lot. It’s certainly better than Ghosts, which was the most generic entry for some time.

    Multi feels much tighter and better balanced too.

  • The campaign was pretty fun, I laughed out loud at several points.

    The PC port is pretty shonky though, I was in a chase with someone and the game just goes “Press UNBOUND to slide under the door”.

    • I get through the door with some control changes (using hold crouch instead of toggle crouch) but then after I melee the solider, and catch up to Irons a button press cue comes up (yellow msgs) but it says UNBOUND….halp?

  • “Hold X to review Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” If only it were that simple.

    It is that simple. Just copy and paste last years review 😀

    Hahaha! I’m sorry, but I had to get that general attitude over the CoD franchise out of the way. Anyways, I really wish I could be excited again for CoD. But I’ve been playing CoD every year since Medal of Honour on PS1. I’m burnt out, I’m tired, I’m getting sick of the general design of the franchise (especially when other publishers force developers to follow).

    I’m drained of all energy to play CoD again. My only hope is that Treyarch knocks it out of the park next year.

    • Have Treyarch ever knocked anything out of any park? Looking back through their history, there’s a lot of mediocrity going on there.

  • My problem with Ghosts was that it almost seemed overly balanced and made it quite difficult for any member of a team to get a decent lead – There were counters to everything easily available even from the start and as you grinded through the level’s you found yourself not even using the unlocks but instead checking them off like some kind of Farmville checklist.

    Please tell me AW’s leveling up system, killstreaks and perks have improved…

  • Played the first 3 levels on Veteran, really enjoying it so far, I stopped buying CoD at MW3, some of those CG cutscenes are insanely detailed. Haven’t tried multi yet.

  • Totally unexpected, but I’m actually preferring AW to TF and Destiny.

    Significantly so. The game reminds me of the fun I had when I first played COD4.

  • I really only buy COD for the Multiplayer, I loved Black Ops but since then the reason I disliked MW3, barely played BO2, and avoided Ghosts is because they all felt the same. I have to admit the new movement and equipment really does make the game feel refreshed. I might actually stick this one out for a while

    • Wow, your story and MY story are the same story!

      Hang on a minute, do you have a scar on your left side and a strange feeling you were separated at birth?

      • I often take a moment in the mirror to simply look at that scar, pondering majestically about the who or what was attached…..we could have been something man…

        • Imagine us…joined…one mind…two bodies….one controller….

          Me on the right controlling looking, shooting and jumping. You on the left controlling movement and aiming.

          Could have been the best CoD player/s of all time…

  • I was in the camp of, Campaign is always enjoyable enough, I enjoy this kind of FPS thing. However mainly buy for MP. Until MW3, that was awful. BO2 though was actually quite decent but it was back to the tired formula. Ghosts was garbage though. So bad. I already have more time in AW than MW3 and Ghosts combined. I did that in two days.

    I agree that the movement adds a lot, but I think I can’t see myself sticking with it. I am already getting bored of the maps. None stand out as great. They are all just decent. I can only get matches on a few modes and everyone plays every mode as TDM and so they are feel the same.

    Then I hate how 90% of players seem to have a macro that combines prone with fire. Add this to the currently terrible lag compensation, jumping pings and terrible netcode. It just gets more and more frustrating. II find myself watching the kill cams constantly just to be annoyed at how much of a discrepancy there is.

    The mechanics though, they are fun but surprisingly less polished than you’d think. When you’ve played Titan Fall, the recent Evolve Alpha/Beta. The boost and jumping mechanics are smoother and more natural. Also the ledge grabbing is quite rough. In something like Crysis 2 /3, this is so smooth and intuitive compared to AW.

    Also there is an issue where a lot of the buildings geometry seems to catch on your model and stop boosts. Surely in testing they would have figured out that tiny lips on walls would constantly be colliding with play models. Removed them or found a fix. This is where it feels like a mod of movement added to an existing game.

    So often you watch people or yourself are trying to jump and not sure what is stopping you. If this doesn’t make sense, you know how a wall in a video game isn’t just flat. There is some geometry for details and design. However it has no impact on game play. As far as you are concerned for game play it’s a flat wall. In this it constantly catches in your boosting and stops you dead in your tracks.

  • I literally cannot remember a cod campaign since modern warfare 1. The multiplayer is shallow and boring with everyone trying to be rambo. I have played every game since cod 3 and I think the series has gotten worse over the years, nothing is fresh.

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