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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is at the pinnacle of its genre now. The production values are brilliant, the acting quite comparable to anything we’ve ever experienced before (in-game or otherwise) and whatever little is lacking is more than made up for by Kevin Spacey’s very presence. Now if only they’d managed to rope in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, what a movie game this would have been! The exo-suits and a few new gadgets add a welcome amount of depth to the otherwise formulaic multiplayer experience and there’s a lot of fun to be had, if you’re willing. This is the best Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare and deserves a spot on every gamer’s bucketlist
It’s hard to describe the joy of playing a good Call of Duty game again. Ten years of bland, generic sequels have left us more than a little disheartened with the franchise. The games have been nothing more than gloomy click-fests that the die-hard fans among us try to get through in the hopes of catching a glimmer of that combination of spectacle, pacing and gameplay that made Modern Warfare (and United Offensive before it) such a great and memorable game.
So what’s different this time around? Well, for one thing, Kevin Spacey. Any semblance of a story, or lack thereof, is more than made up for by Spacey’s very presence and ruthless charm; it’s a major factor in bringing this game to life. You can’t help but see him on-screen and get drawn in by his persona. It doesn’t matter that he really doesn’t have a big role in the game (he is the villain, but he’s not even as memorable as 343 Guilty Spark) and that you rarely interact with him outside of cutscenes. The other thing that’s new is the exo-suit; it’s the first time, since Modern Warfare, that we’re actually introduced to something that has the potential to drastically affect the way we play and the best part is – it doesn’t suck
The true heart of a CoD game has always been spectacle, those moments that make your jaw drop and go, “That was awesome!” The franchise has, off-late, gone very over-the-top with that aspect and the recent glut of superhero blockbusters have spoilt us silly, but CoD still manages to illicit more than a few “oohs” and “aahs”. Never before have we actually been happy to say that a game is an interactive movie.
The game is simply gorgeous and, as befitting the oodles of graphical goodness, the system requirements are understandably high. We found our systems regularly running low on RAM (with 8GB onboard) and loading screens took up an inordinately long time on anything but the highest-end of systems (an Intel 3960x with HyperX beast RAM and a couple of SSDs).
For those who have such fancy systems, this is the game that makes that investment worth it. Of particular note are the extremely high-resolution textures that look fantastic on even 4K systems. The depth-of-field effects bring cut-scenes to life in a cinematic art-style that’s worthy of the best of cinematographers and are also exceptional.
If there’s anything we have against the cinematic cut-scenes, it’s that random quick-time-events just ruin them. Sections where you’re not shooting should just be played out by the game with you as a passenger, it would be more immersive and definitely less tedious.
Introducing: The Exo-Suit
The real star of the game is the Exo-suit (Exo from now on). CoD games have always been elaborate turkey shoots, good ones of course, and what the Exo does is give you the ability to perform trick shots. In single-player, the exo isn’t that much fun. It’s alright, fits in with the general theme, lets you hop around the map and over obstacles and lets you hover over gaps, etc., which is good, but you’re given all that power and are only allowed an atrophied brain and a claustrophobic sandbox to play in. As with any CoD game, creativity is severely punished and you’re only allowed to use your abilities when the game tells you that you can. Of course, you can double-jump up the occasional staircase or over the occasional wall, but that’s really as far as your Exo-abilities truly take you in single-player.
It’s very apparent from the mission design that the levels weren’t really designed with multi-level gameplay in mind, except as gimmicks. There are one or two missions where you really feel like you can put your Exo’s abilities to good use, but they’re so few that by that time, you don’t really care.
When it comes to multiplayer however, the Exos come to life. Instead of running and gunning, you can now run-and-gun-and-jump-and-boost-and-shield-and-cloak and do so much more and it’s all good fun. You get to choose the type of Exo you want, be it one designed for speed and extended sprinting or one designed to absorb damage for the slightly tankier among us. It’s easy to customise the suit and your build to suit your play style and quite frankly, you’d better. Higher-level players are quite hard to take down, not because they have better gear, which they do but because they’ve customised their suit to take advantage of their play style and they know how to use it.
Advanced Warfare has done a really good job of showcasing, well, advanced warfare. You really feel like you’re in a battlefield of the future, what with the drones popping up all over the place, the “threat” grenades, your Exo, SMART grenades, wonky looking tanks and walkers and more. The problem here is that Sledgehammer games either went too far or didn’t go far enough.
Take the grenades for instance, they’ve always been something you hurl at an enemy and run. Now, you throw a grenade, watch it try to hover while it performs a maniacal dance and then direct it to an enemy. It looks cool, but it’s too cumbersome. The threat grenades (they highlight enemies through obstacles) and EMP grenades (for taking out Exos and drones and other electronic devices) are actually grenades that you hurl by first pressing “Q” and then cycling through grenade types by pressing “F”. It’s too complex and is definitely not something you want to do mid-battle. We rarely found ourselves switching grenades during the campaign, and they’re even less significant in multiplayer for this very reason. Speaking of which, multiplayer is bucket loads of fun. There are issues with matchmaking and pings can be bad, but we’ve rarely had this much fun in a CoD game.
Call of Duty: Drone Warfare
It has to be said, a more plausible argument for drone warfare couldn’t have been made better than in CoD. The drones are smart, as deadly as a pack of ravenous chiwavas and creatively implemented. The blowing up of the Golden Gate Bridge for example, was one of the finest examples of possible drone use that we’ve seen, it’s too bad that there aren’t enough of such moments. In fact, the one major argument against the drones is that they’re just not dangerous enough. They’re more like the aforementioned chiwavas which will, only if given enough time, eventually wear you down. It would have been so much cooler if you had drone swarms darkening the sky and unleashing a hail of bullets or clamping on to enemies (even you) and detonating or any of a myriad of such scenarios.
To be fair though, it’s testament to the game’s design that the drones seem as natural to the environment as a gun to a battlefield – they seem inevitable