Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Campaign

[WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]

COD-AW-image-4I’m going to be reviewing the Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Campaign only. Putting aside the multiplayer element of this gaming giant. Let me start by saying my relationship with the Call of Duty franchise has been bitter-sweet. Like many seasoned gamers out there I’ve encountered the dizzying highs of MW2 and the terrible lows of BO2. That being said I have always enjoyed a COD campaign.

I enjoy them so much that when I completed MW3 in under 5 hours I was so annoyed I traded it in the next day feeling robbed. So, when I got my hands on COD:AW I started the campaign with hope and a cautious pessimism.

I can tell you now, this single player story is good. If you’ve never played a COD campaign this will blow you away. If, like me, you’ve been through every one since Call of Duty 3, advanced warfare delivers that very distinctive COD feel with a host of new experiences.

I started my game and took notes of what I liked and didn’t like, the hallmarks of the franchise were there – gruff voices: Check, an English bloke swearing: Check, fading in and out of consciousness: Check, buildings crumbling around and on top of you: Check. These features have been dusted off by Activision once more and shined up for the next-gen experience. Don’t get me wrong, they work as devices to engross you in the story and hide the somewhat patchy narrative. It wouldn’t be a COD if you weren’t blacking out whilst being dragged in or out of some kind of carnage by your squad leader whilst being told to “stay with me”! After a while something changed, I had to make more detailed notes as the story played out, mission after mission unfolded and unlike some recent Activision efforts I found the in game hours  being soaked up. I started to look back at my notes and couldn’t remember what “fallen into glacier” meant or quite why it was so good, the campaign was filling up my short and long term memory. This is a massive plus point as recent years have focused so heavily on the multiplayer it felt like the developers had a post it note on their desks to remind them “Don’t forget the story”.

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The game is smooth, polished and slick. The new abilities and increased mobility of the Exo are packaged beautifully as foreground and background roll effortlessly across screen fading in and out of focus. These movements created an opportunity to use height and differing levels throughout, which is echoed in the multiplayer maps. From the battle heavy streets of Seoul to the terraces of Greece each globetrotting mission feels rich and layered, each street and building looked lived in and part of a greater landscape. The pace of AW will push you through these locations as the enemies and objectives fall at your double jumping feet. Stop to take a look around and the detail of the games many backdrops can be distracting, this isn’t groundbreaking but its worth noting – time has been spent putting this campaign together. As well as looking good the settings frequently allow for you to flank the enemy or take more than one route into a firefight, something simple but stood out as missing from previous CODs. Playing the game on Veteran setting often meant i couldn’t charge in all guns blazing and come out the other side alive, if not a little out of breath. I had to use cover, threat grenades, wait for the enemy to reload and yes, i died….. Many times. There’s a challenge there if you want it. If you don’t, change the difficulty to novice and you can walk bolt upright – RoboCop style – into most situations without feeling too stressed.

With any game there has to be a moment or several moments where you feel a connection with the story, along with feeling like you are in the game. Physically ducking, dodging or jumping whilst playing is a good indicator of this. In COD:AW i felt this when being dragged away from a wreckage where my best friend sacrificed his life for the mission, only to see my left arm wasn’t coming with me. That gaming moment early on in the campaign lit up the hope i was holding onto for Call of Duty. The loss of Will Irons stays with you through the game as your left arm (or lack of) creates opportunities for Sledgehammer Games to create tension and move the story onwards. Escaping a facility with one arm means having to not only hip fire your way through corridors but also rely on swapping weapons with your victims as you desperately hunt for the next pistol or SMG in the safety of cover. It’s that or try to take on your captors with a knife – “You aren’t going to be able to reload with only one wing”

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Other Advanced Warfare moments stand out as triumphs within the games 15 missions. The car chase on the bridge clinging to buses as you are being chased and also doing the chasing, the plunge into the river below the bridge moved my stomach like a ride in a lift. The manhunt mission allows you to take control of a flying drone called a wasp which is a recon and assault remote controlled vehicle. Providing cover fire to your squad whilst they infiltrate a heavily guarded compound. Getting behind the controls of a goliath, delivering devastating attacks in the hover tank, grapple hooking your way into a warbird helicopter – filling the crew full of lead and diving out the other side was particularly sweet. There are many examples of when AW gets it really right. Giving you a sense of satisfaction of what you are doing along with an appreciation of how well the developers have presented this to you. The futuristic feel of AW could have gone very wrong, what Sledgehammer have done well is present their vision in a believable package, HUDs and control panels look crisp and show similarities to technology we use today. The Exo feels solid when ripping a steel hatch off its hinges or turning a car door into a riot shield. Some of its abilities I would have liked to use more freely such as magnetised gloves to climb metal surfaces, although the game allows you to do this it is strictly on its own terms and smacks you with the feeling you are more of a passenger on this ride than the driver. There are challenges to take on such as headshots, grenade kills and total kills which grant you upgrade points for your Exo, it was good to equip additional tactical and lethal grenades however I really couldn’t feel the benefits of the other upgrades as I moved through the levels.

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That isn’t the only time i was left feeling let down. On booting up the first mission i noticed lagging in the cut scene which occasionally re-appeared along with some noticeable lip syncing issues. The NPCs in the game were reproduced time and again to the point that I thought “Has Atlas perfected cloning?” – this stood out like a sore thumb at Wills funeral when two of the marines 6ft away from each other lining the path back to the limos were identical. Despite traversing the Golden Gate bridge being a solid experience, I had the feeling I’d been there before – playing Spec Ops in MW2. Nearing the end of the game i got the chance to fly a jet and the flight controls were appalling, controlling the plane by pointing it down canyons felt as if i was playing a different game…. a very poor game. Compared to the freedom of Battlefields jets this attempt at Top Gun meets Independence Day was, well…. like Top Gun meets Independence Day. That being said these issues stood out because the rest of the game was very good, albeit not very rewarding. You don’t get a sense of achievement playing through this game, especially not if you’ve been grinding through the levels of Destiny solidly for the past few weeks. In COD:AW you follow the waypoint, plant the device, follow your team mate and get to the evac point. There were moments of freedom and choice, such as grapple hooking your way across the Irons mansion compound undetected or deciding to go high or low when making your way past a few enemy Goliath’s on the streets of New Baghdad. Other than that it boils down to a very pretty and very fun roller coaster ride.

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One man lends his voice, face and talent to the story – Kevin Spacey. This isn’t the first time a hollywood actor has made an appearance in a game. Voice work is frequently appearing on A, B & Z lister CVs – take a look at IMDB and you’d be surprised at the amount of actors creaming in the royalties from game studios. What Mr Spacey does is something quite remarkable, he does a bloody good job! Bringing weight and tension to the role, coupling this with some fantastic graphics that have you thinking you are playing a live action film. The venture capitalist turned megalomaniac becomes a memorable character of the franchise, up there with that one armed guy and whats his name? Oh you know the one….. you thought he was on your side and then he wasn’t, it’ll come back to me.

To tie a knot in my ramblings I’ll summarise, this game is well worth a look. If you are a fan you’ll be pleased with the latest offerings and if you’ve never touched a CoD before this is a good place to start. It’s a welcome return to a Call of Duty with a worthwhile campaign and with a closing line of “This wasn’t the end. It was just the beginning” expect to see the very forgettable and meak looking Mitchell strapping back into his Exo within the next 2 years. I’m off to check out Mark’s guide to Advanced Warfare multiplayer so i can stay alive for more than 45 seconds at a time and not put my controller through the tv in a fit of frustration.

GENERAL SHEPHERD!!!! that was his name, i knew i would get it.

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