Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Making progress

November 10, 2014


Another year, another Call of Duty. After last year’s release, Ghosts, disappointed just about everyone, it can be easy to see why some might be wary about the future of the franchise. No one will deny even the most lackluster titles in the series are still competent, but with diminishing returns beginning to set in, many are skeptical we’ll see any new groundbreaking changes with the latest entry, Advanced Warfare. It may not set the world on fire, but there is something to be said about newcomer Sledgehammer Games’ attempt to breathe new life into the franchise.

As soon as Advanced Warfare’s campaign begins, you’re dropped into another standard Call of Duty mission. Intense opening sequence featuring a botched landing on foreign soil? Check. Military jargon spewed left and right by your squad members? Check. A man with the words “Follow” shining brightly above his head, indicating your next objective? Check. It’s bog-standard and doesn’t give you any reason to think this isn’t just yet another Call of Duty game. Thankfully, it isn’t long before you’re introduced to one of the elements that makes this game so ”advanced” compared to its predecessors: the exo suit.

Once the game opens up a little more, you’ll begin to notice your increased mobility, allowing you to essentially double-jump, hover and slide left and right to avoid enemy attacks. With this newfound focus in mobility comes more dynamic mission structure, forcing you out of your old habits and, for the first time in years, making you rely on some new strategies. This includes the increase in relying on elevation over simple flat terrains to take out the hundreds of enemies you will gun down on your journey to becoming a one-man army. Oh, and saving the world from generic action movie villains, as usual.

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The exo suit isn’t just a one-trick pony though. Depending on your current mission, your suit’s abilities will be swapped out for other, more essential features. When you’re faced down with a large number of enemies? A handy shield will protect you. What if you need to heal without relying on the recharging health? The suit can accommodate you. It all adds up to making each firefight more about being on the offensive instead of the defensive. Sure, you could argue battles were always like that, but this time it happens on your terms (most of the time, anyway).

The missions themselves benefit from some increased variety, with a decent number of them focusing on stealth above the standard run-and-gun. While they will never compare to a traditional stealth game in terms of variety, it provides you a nice, lengthy break from the signature explosive Call of Duty moments. Don’t worry though; Advanced Warfare still has plenty of those.

One mission in particular is the first to utilize my personal favorite exo suit feature, the grappling hook. This essentially allows you to quickly scale buildings to get a better view of your surroundings, and in said mission, gives you an easy way to sneak around a group of enemies. It’s still mostly linear, but the increased verticality and emphasis on pure stealth, something the series hasn’t excelled at since the original Modern Warfare, is a perfect demonstration of Advanced Warfare’s surprising variety.

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These missions rarely remain purely stealth-based though, as an alarm is inevitably tripped and you’re forced to pull out the big guns once again. Like a well-oiled machine, Advanced Warfare’s gunplay is exactly what you come to expect from the series. It’s as satisfying as ever, and with a handful of new toys to play with, there is plenty of room to experiment.

The weaponry is mostly standard, but with a few cool twists. Some weapons include a scope that allows you to see enemies through walls, while a select handful are just brand new for this iteration. I mean, seriously, there’s even a laser gun. You know it’s the future when you’re shooting lasers at terrorists.

Despite all of my praise, this still plays pretty much like you expect a Call of Duty game to play. It’s still a shooting gallery despite the changes, even if it wants you to forget that fact on occasion. To top it off, many times throughout the campaign you’ll find yourself greeted by the worst enemy of all: the dreaded quick-time event.

These pop up just often enough to be annoying, and can bog an otherwise-exciting romp down. The button prompts are sometimes hard to pinpoint, giving you little clue about when you’re supposed to perform specific actions or what button to even press before it’s too late. The game’s checkpoint system makes these defeats less frustrating than expected, but still grinds your momentum to a halt.

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Despite that, I still enjoyed my brief time with Advanced Warfare’s campaign. I’m mostly impressed with how it manages to avoid stagnation thanks to the exo suit, among other things. It’s not why many people are here, though. For many, Call of Duty is still all about the competitive multiplayer. If you’re looking for that, well, it’s about what you expect from the series at this point.

All of your favorite (or perhaps least favorite) game modes are back, including Call of Duty originals such as Hardpoint and Kill Confirmed. As per usual, you earn kill streaks by getting a certain number of kills without dying and you customize your loadout and unlock new weapons and attachments as you level up. Once again, the key difference is the exo suit. Jumping around, dodging enemy fire and ultimately being more mobile doesn’t evolve the multiplayer, but it adds just enough to keep me coming back.

Small changes add up as well. Typically, Call of Duty multiplayer boils down whoever sees who first will most likely get the kill. Although it was in exchange for my grenades, I decided to start with shield which blocks shots in front of me for a brief time, and with good timing, allowed me to avoid taking a few to the head. Typically I’m gunned down rapidly, but this small addition, among other things, gives me a slight edge and makes me feel like I can actually do decently enough. In this series’ multiplayer, something in which I have long since given up on making meaningful progress, it makes all of the difference.

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And then there’s the co-op mode, which is new to the series… sort of. Exo Survival tasks you and up to three friends to complete a series of objectives and essentially survive as long as possible. The more objectives you complete and points you earn, the more guns, attachments and upgrades you can unlock along the way. It’s not a particularly original mode, even with the exo suit, leaving you wanting something more along the lines of the Modern Warfare Spec Ops missions. After an hour, I felt I saw everything this lackluster mode had to offer and went right back to the competitive multiplayer.

If you’ve played a Call of Duty game before, you know what you’re getting into. Advanced Warfare isn’t going to revolutionize the series for sure, but the strong focus on mobility and the futuristic tech you utilize along the way help set it apart from previous games. If anything, it renews my faith in a series I once considered a favorite. Here’s hoping next year’s game continues this positive trend.

Pros: New mechanics prevent stagnation, competitive multiplayer is as solid as ever
Cons: Annoying quick-time events, lackluster co-op mode

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.