Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Review: Reinventing the franchise or same old, same old?

Yearly franchises are a hard thing to judge and give a real review. Most reviewers aren’t willing to give them very low scores because they still tend to work every year, they provide a decent quality gaming experience (at least for the most part). Call of Duty has been the mainstay of that idea and Advanced Warfare is no different. But is the game actually doing enough to justify being called one of the biggest changes in the franchises? Well…no, not really.

I think it’s safe to say that most people understand the Call of Duty formula at this point: A campaign with mindless action movie fun, a co-op mode that is wave after wave of survival, and a multiplayer mode filled with an extravagant amount of game types to try out where you shoot other people on the Internet. And most people are buying these games for the latter. Regardless, I still think it’s incredibly important to discuss the campaigns of Call of Duty, specifically the one found within Advanced Warfare.

For one thing, the campaign has two really great actors in it: Troy Baker, the biggest actor in the gaming business (played Joel in The Last of Us, The Joker in Batman Arkham Origins, Talion in Shadow of Mordor, among an absurd amount more), and Kevin Spacey…who you might have heard of. He’s in that one popular Netflix show the kids are watching. Having Kevin Spacey in your video game pretty much displays how big Call of Duty has become, it isn’t a joke, and Spacey does give a great performance…in a campaign filled with bad writing.

The campaign has glimmers of hope: it looks beautiful. I played on the Playstation 4 version of Advanced Warfare and it is absolutely beautiful to look at in every single way, from big Hollywood explosions to long drawn-out landscapes to the facial expressions of Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker, the visuals are no joke. If anything, the campaign is worth playing because it’s pretty to look at. But what about the gameplay and the writing I mentioned earlier? Same old, same old.

The game has a new gameplay mechanic called the “Exo Suit,” which is also prominently used in multiplayer and co-op but I’ll get to that later. The Exo Suit gives the player the ability to double jump, strafe forward, down, left, and right, and sometimes other abilities used with a technique called “Overdrive,” which seems to only be used to slow down game time…and that isn’t anything new in first person shooter game design, it’s actually quite old. The Exo Suit wants to be something desperately innovative but it isn’t even used prominently enough to justify itself. It comes across as really cool for about the first hour or so and then it becomes a thing that is just there. It has no prominence or place and very little usefulness in a campaign that you spend just mowing down A.I. after A.I. that aren’t very smart. The campaign is no different from any other COD campaign: you will shoot at enemies, duck after getting hit, recover, and shoot at more enemies, and then at the end you’ll have a really cool big action piece where you get a cool ability or gun. It is literally the same formula being done, over and over again and nobody seems to care.

I do care because I think the first person shooter campaigns found within COD games could be more interesting, especially because Advanced Warfare wants to be more interesting but fails to execute it properly. Even in the writing, I was baffled that the game-for at least a little bit-took an ANTI-military stance. The typical formula of a COD campaign is that you are cool guy silent protagonist (except in cutscenes in this game’s case and the only reason I’m assuming they let the character talk is because they got Troy Baker to play him) who is in the U.S. military, which is by far the coolest military in the world (according to the game). It’s borderline propaganda and a bit scary. But in this game, you start in the U.S. military but eventually join Atlas, a private military corporation ran by Kevin Spacey’s character, Jonathan Irons. And for a hot second there, I actually thought this game would do something baffling and criticize the military in someway…it doesn’t. I won’t go into it further to avoid spoilers. (Even though I’m writing this review extremely late…I got the game late, okay?) But let’s just say I was extremely disappointed in Advanced Warfare seeing as it actually had potential but devolves into COD nonsense within two hours.

It’s almost as if the designers just don’t even care about the campaign (which wouldn’t surprise me). They haven’t evolved the formula of these campaigns in years. They run, beat by beat, exactly the same. It’s extremely depressing to see a lack of innovation in a franchise that has potential to say something because it has such a large audience and fanbase. All I can really say fully about the campaign is that Advanced Warfare moved very SLIGHTLY in the right direction…but does nothing truly new with itself.

Co-op play in Advanced Warfare is still really fun. Currently the only mode available is Exo Survival. It’s a 4-player co-op mode (at least online it is) where each player can choose between a Light Exo, Heavy Exo, Specialist Exo, and it is played on the multiplayer maps found in the typical PVP modes (which I will discuss after this). The Light Exo focuses on SMGS and Assault Rifles, has the fastest movement speed, full range of boost abilities but has the lowest Armor, and it has the UAV scorestreak enabled. The Heavy Exo has a focus on heavy weapons, slowest movement, limited boost abilities, highest armor, high damage, and has the Goliath scorestreak. The Specialist Exo has a focus on Shotguns and Sniper Rifles, normal movement, limited boost abilities, normal armor, and the Sentry Gun scorestreak. The vary in class choice actually makes co-op more dynamic and more interesting to play whether playing locally on your own or with two people, or playing online with up to 4 people. The mode has upgrade points that you can use in between rounds in order to upgrade weapons, scorestreaks, Exo Suit abilities, etc. If anything, the co-op has plenty of features that make it worth checking out, at least for a little bit. But is it anything more dynamic than most co-op survival modes that have been done before? Absolutely not. It’s another same old, same old mode that is about mowing down A.I. and hopefully not dying. The Exo Suit abilities do not add anywhere near enough reason for this mode to keep you playing for a very long time. Overall, is this mode bad? No, it isn’t. It can be quite a bit of fun, but it’s the lack of innovation that makes it painfully hard for me to highly recommend it.

And now I’ll move onto the PVP online-also known as the reason most people buy Call of Duty games. I have to say, I’m more impressed with this than I thought I would be. The Exo Suit abilities do add at least something somewhat interesting to the game and how it’s played and I still find myself coming back to play a couple matches almost everyday. The game still has the typical slew of game types that people enjoy with a few new ones as well. Regardless, I haven’t found myself getting too attached to the new game types and find that still jumping into Team Deathmatch or Domination is the way to play Call of Duty online.

Domination has become something far more dynamic with the Exo Suit abilities. The pacing of this game as a whole is extremely fast, everyone is moving at light speed. For one thing, everyone has infinite sprint, sprint never runs out. And I think that was a good choice, it makes the game extraordinarily faster than most first person shooters dare to be. For one thing, Call of Duty was already one of the fastest first person shooters around. This game dared to speed it up even further. It even speeds it up further by having the Exo Suit used as a fully realized gameplay mechanics that allows players to double jump and strafe just as you can in the campaign. Does it work? Sort of. It adds something special to a mode like Domination, everyone is getting to capture points so quickly that the game is such a fast-paced craziness of fun where you have to be constantly thinking and deciding where to go.

But when you get to certain modes like Team Deathmatch, it can become frustrating. For one thing, expect to be shoot in the back. A lot. Like really a lot. For another thing, expect fairly crappy spawns because of the game’s pace. People spawn near each other from the opposite team and people just come up behind you on a constant basis that can make the game utterly frustrating to play. Now I don’t consider myself a great COD player, I’m average at best, but even I can see some of the flaws of this overly fast-paced game. I like the concept and it is executed decently in plenty of ways, but it still fails at providing a certain amount of balance that needs to be there, I still find myself getting far too frustrated more than I should be by things that feel like the game mechanics fault rather than my own ability to play the game.

Regardless, Advanced Warfare’s PVP is as good as Call of Duty has ever been. Will it change your mind if you aren’t already into Call of Duty? Probably not. It could if you want a shooter that is extremely fast, but otherwise you’ll probably still be disinterested in the typical Call of Duty mechanics that thrive in the game. The Exo Suit abilities of being able to double jump and strafe aren’t enough to justify playing the PVP if you don’t already like Call of Duty very much. Even the new Exo Suit abilities that you can activate with the click of L1 aren’t that interesting either. A vast majority of them are absolutely pointless and I’ve found myself almost exclusively using Exo Overclock, which allows you to move EVEN faster for a limited amount of time. In a game that is already focused on speed, I might as well go even faster. The other abilities just seem to have little to no use in a game where you need to constantly be on the move or you’ll probably die. It’s disappointing to see an interesting concept fail to have much use when they could have been unique. I think it’s still growing pains in trying to figure out how to use these abilities for future games.

The last two things worth pointing out in PVP are the class set-ups and character customization. The class set-ups run on a 13-point system, which is pretty clearly inspired by past COD games as well as The Last of Us multiplayer. The point system makes class customization take far too much time (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you’ll just be spending a lot of time sitting at the custom class menus) and allows for a far more dynamic game, from allowing you to have three gun attachments or having four scorestreaks or two perks in a single slot, you can run with so many different combinations that are worth experimenting with. I’ve yet to find a class set-up that I can stay with fully because there is so much worth trying out. If anything, that is one of the most positive things I can say about the multiplayer: You have plenty to try out in class customization alone that will make you want to come back and try out new things. The character customization is more of a gimmicky thing than anything else. It has no impact on the multiplayer itself but you can customize your character with different clothing and you can be male or female, it’s still interesting to have this ability even if it isn’t that interesting. The game also has supply drops that you get sporadically as you play that include clothing as well as customized weapons that you can equip to class slots, they tend to lower a stat on the gun and replace it with a higher stat, so essentially you’ll be playing a trade-off game if you equip one of them.

As a whole, Advanced Warfare is the most interesting Call of Duty has been in years. The campaign has a glimmer of being something hopeful but ends up failing miserably and becomes the typical Call of Duty campaign except with more Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker. (Which is a good thing I guess?) The co-op is fun but same old, old. The PVP is more dynamic but will do nothing to drawn in new players to a franchise that is becoming stale. I for one decided to jump back into Call of Duty with this game. I haven’t played one since Modern Warfare 3 and I am still having a good time with Advanced Warfare. I’m just disappointed at a game that has potential to be so much more (it had three years of development) but still miserably drops the ball. All I can say is, this is the largest glimmer of hope Call of Duty has had in years, and I still have hope for this franchise. I do have hopes that this series could become more dynamic and Advanced Warfare at least attempts to show that.

Pros:

+Solid performances by Troy Baker and Kevin Spacey

+PVP is still as fun as ever

+New dynamics in PVP add something new to the franchise

Cons:

-The campaign devolves into typical Call of Duty nonsense

-Co-op is same old, same old

-PVP is still dangerously unbalanced and maybe too fast paced

7/10

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Author of this post (and the only author ever on this blog):

Jesse Jordon is an aspiring writer who writes this stuff on these blogs to make you learn something I guess. (Wait, why am I mixing 3rd and 1st person point of view when I’m the only one writing this?) He’s trying to be a video game journalist but is probably failing at that. You can follow him on Twitter @jjordon96 (if you want I guess). You can also purchase his first self-published book On Human Empathy for only $5.00 (you can buy literature or coffee, it’s up to you to decide. I’d go with the coffee personally).

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One thought on “Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Review: Reinventing the franchise or same old, same old?

  1. Pingback: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Call of Duty | Smaller Than Galaxies

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