I used to wear the fact that I’d never played a Call of Duty game as a badge of honor. That I’d not submitted a part of my soul to the never-ending billion dollar dude-bro franchise was a personal gaming merit of mine, one that I cherished up until three weeks ago. Now, I’ve always had a disdain for military fantasy shooters and refrained from even touching them up until Battlefield 4, which was admittedly fantastic fun (once it got patched up). But this year I decided to expand my horizons even further with Advanced Warfare, the first entry in the series which openly admits it IS in fact a military fantasy shooter by including rocket boots. And lasers. And hulking armor that falls from the sky. In other words, it’s the first COD to resemble something fun (Titanfall); making it an approachable title for me.
First things first, the campaign, otherwise known as the seven hours no one experienced. It’s got piss-poor friendly AI that constantly get in your way and actively inhibit level progression, weak one-off implementations of exo-suit abilities that are so on-rails that you might as well have been watching a cutscene, and enough actual cutscenes to make Metal Gear Solid do a double-take. If it sounds like a lacking experience, that’s because it is. Now, there are some nice moments that break up the monotony, such as an Endor-esque speeder-bike section and an over-the-top arcade segment that tasks you with piloting a jet. But these moments are far and few between, as the campaign relies far more heavily on narrow hallway shooting, a hallmark of the series which kept me away from it for so long, obnoxious quick-time events (press F to pay respects, anyone?) and an over-reliance on exo-suit gimmicks. There are moments when the exo-suit’s usage feels natural and organic to the gameplay, like when levels get slightly more open and allow for more jet-boosting mobility, but the majority of these moments consist of Advanced Warfare trying to rip off MI: Ghost Protocol with shit like wall climbing segments that are handheld to the point of being the polar opposite of engrossing. So, in short, it’s what I had originally thought a typical Call of Duty campaign to be, albeit with moderately cool rocket boot moments and some great one-off vehicle segments. Oh, and did I mention Kevin f*cking Spacey is in this?!? Too bad he got saddled with such a cliche` role. There was actually potential here for his character to be one of the most memorable antagonists (notice I didn’t say villain) in gaming history, but of course he just has to play the villain, because otherwise what would the U.S. Marines have to shoot at?
One last nitpick about the campaign: when I say most things are on autopilot, I’m not kidding. Even the f*cking grenades auto-target enemies.
If you read the above wall of text to its entirety, congrats, here is the multiplayer portion of the review. In short, it’s the same basic twitch-reflex shooter that you’ve seen COD devolve into over these past few years, but with the inclusion of the aforementioned rocket boots!! And for that reason alone, the multiplayer is awesome. It evens the playing field between COD veterans and newbies and allows for new strategies to be implemented, something I’m becoming increasingly good at. Mind you, my kill-death ratio is shit as the COD regulars still have more honed reflexes, but at least I have a very solid fighting chance thanks to being able to spam the rocket boost ability all over the map. In short, it’s the best aspect of Titanfall, the mobility, coupled with COD’s substantially weighty ground-shooter gameplay. The aforementioned lasers and Titanfall-esque sky-drop armors also carry over to the multiplayer, the former being heavy rifles and the latter being a kill streak perk. They are also well integrated into the regular COD experience. One last effort by Sledgehammer to really bolster player-to-player balancing is the “pick 13” system, which limits how you want to customize your loadout so that no lone player has every possible fail-safe in the game, a much appreciated touch.
Important notice: at the time of this review and the subsequent weeks before it, I encountered little to no lag issues, and the few that I did encounter almost always faded away after the first few seconds of the match. I can only truly recall one downright unplayable peer-to-peer connection, but I guess that’s what other players have been experiencing for the majority of online playtime, hence the massive backlash in regards to Advanced Warfare’s server structure. I include this as a full disclosure that apparently I’ve just been extremely lucky in terms of player connections (now watch at how every match I play after this review will have a shit connection).
The cooperative mode of the multiplayer is pretty bad, to be honest. All players go down in a handful of hits, and the more people playing with you, the fewer bullets all of you can withstand. Players go down so fast that you’d expect it to be a free-to-play shooter where you have to spend ninety-nine cents to get back up; it’s absurd. Not to mention that it’s just hordes of generic paramilitary goons, each wave as rinse-and-repeat as the last, with the exception of the bonus zombies wave at the very end. And of course, if it’s good then why not sell more of it as DLC? So, expect an actually substantial zombie experience to charge you fifteen bucks somewhere down the line.
In short, if you loved past COD multiplayer, this year’s installment really amps things up a notch and keeps the series exciting; at least in this department. Single player falls short in most respects, even with the glory that is Kevin Spacey (and Troy Baker, I know) being present. And the cooperative mode is a joke, to be honest. That’s not to say that the multiplayer alone justifies a purchase, as it’s more like a bag of chips rather than a full meal. Just like a bag of Lay’s potato chips, you can mechanically stay seated grazing away at multiplayer for hours, not really enjoying yourself but having no real reason to stop, either. So you will graze, the hours will go by, and you’ll eventually stop, realizing that it’s not really fulfilling your appetite nor providing any real nutrition. So, in short, COD fans will love it like always and most of the rest of us will move on in a few weeks.