Oh look, it is November. That can mean only one thing! The avalanche of holiday games is about to arrive and is usually signaled by the release of the latest Call Of Duty. And look! Here it is.Just another standard update to a long running series…
…Or not. As the case may be with Advanced Warfare.
There are two ways to look at Activision’s (and Sledgehammer’s) latest Call of Duty. They either know that the series needed a bit of a facelift and something different to the usual, or it has seen Titanfall and wanted some of that action. The answer probably depends on how cynical you are and somewhere in the middle.
That being said, do we really care if some games borrow ideas of other games? Well, no, not if they are good and help change the landscape of a genre, even just a little. Playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare certainly does feel like something different to the previous iterations of the game.
Let’s start with the single player campaign, which now days in most modern shooters feel like they are tacked on, just because it is expected that a game should have offline content and a way to appeal to those who don’t play much online. The problem here and it is really clear in Advanced Warfare, is that the single player experience feels more like one of two things.
Firstly it is just a showcase for a graphics engine and new game mechanics, to give the player a basic feel of the sorts of things they get to play with over the life of the game. A chance to look at the cool new weapon types, that sort of thing. Second, it is now just a glorified interactive movie.
Now there is nothing wrong with that and in all fairness, the performances by Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker in particular are of a high quality. That’s the thing, the production values of the single player campaign are huge and even with a bit of a duff story, you are happy to sit through it, switch off your brain and follow the linear movie like path.
But that then raises some issues of their own. Being linear is fine, there is nothing wrong with that and if a game / interactive movie wants to embrace that, then great, we can be onboard with it. However in the case of Advanced Warfare, it seems to be straddling the line between wanting to be a proper game and being an interactive movie. It shows off some wonderful new toys, but very rarely lets you loose to play with them.
There is a fantastic arsenal of weapons and gadgets that are being begged to be played with. Where you want the choice of how to approach a situation, but because there is a very specific story in place that needs cues to trigger cut-scenes or specific action areas, it cannot let you get too far from the chosen path. Advanced Warfare as a ‘movie’ is certainly passable and the nonsensical story is dumb, but entertaining, especially with the star names now being attached. As a game though, it just lacks as it never feels like you have ever achieved anything, nor do your choices have any effect whatsoever.
That brings us to the bread and butter of recent shooters. The online multiplayer. Before we get into the finer details, kudos must be given to this as a series with regards to split-screen gaming. It is still there and it still allows you to share the experience on the couch, something that has long been forgotten by many games with an online focus.
For the first time in a very long time, this feels like a Call Of Duty that levels the playing field somewhat and rather than just being more of the same with new maps, it feels like a genuine injection of new ideas to the series.
Thanks to the new technology introduced to the game through the single player, the exo-skeleton is the biggest change to how the online is played. Levels now have a lot more vertical action to them and starts to resemble other great games like Halo 2, Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc. You can bounce around levels dealing death from all manner of spots on the maps, which have been designed to allow for this also.
The problem there has been with military shooters, is that they have to be grounded in some kind of realism. Your avatar can’t leap and bound high into the sky, because they are set to realistic tech, thus keeping them pretty much grounded. Now whilst this is fine, t often meant that there was little scope for trying anything new and drastic.
But by introducing experimental future tech, the dog can be let of the leash so to speak and allow players to go all out. One of the biggest changes Gamestyle noticed, was that we could be competitive, whereas in previous recent titles it was a case of spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn…get a kill, die and repeat. Here though something clicked, the ability to really traverse the maps meant we didn’t feel like it was a campers paradise and there were more chances to pick people off in lots of different ways.
One such moment came when moving through the map on foot. Nothing was visible for a kill, so a quick leap showed where a potential enemy was. However they saw us and started come to our position. But because they then decided to use the exo-skeleton for some height, we were able to sneak into another position and pick them off from behind. It felt a lot less restrictive and that can only be a good thing.
Now that isn’t to say this is perfect, because there are some issues to be had still, although many that can hopefully be fixed in a patch. There have been a fair amount of connection issues early on, which have ruined some fun games, we have experience some ‘out of memory’ crashes whilst in split-screen online and it has on occasions had framerate drops that have rendered the game unplayable for a few second to a minute.
Now as we said, all these can be fixed in a patch and it would be surprising if this isn’t sorted soon and despite listing the issues above, they aren’t regular and they don’t all happen together and overall the online experience if pretty smooth.
The other issue with more on the design side of things and any improvements will likely be based on how much you buy into the game with future DLC. The maps are a range of excellent, where you can have wonderful battles and moments of cat and mouse and work well across most of the various game modes. However there are also a number of maps that feel dull, restrictive and lifeless and don’t feel like they were built with the traversal element in mind. You get the feeling that some of the better maps will headline future DLC and that some of the originals are there just to pad out the initial content.
As an overall package, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is something that is really only going to appeal to those who want a decent online experience. The single player is barely worth bothering with, but the new additions that allow for some big gameplay changes are more than welcome in the multiplayer.