Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 11.4.14
Gameplay Footage: Xbox One

The Hype: Lets get it out in the open right away and be done with it. Call of Duty: Ghosts was one of the more disappointing releases in the franchises long history of titles. I guess Activision could have released something worse than Ghosts but for the sake of this argument, they really only had one direction to move with their next title and that was onwards and upwards. With the release of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer Games takes on the lead role as a developer for the first time. They now join the ranks of Infinity Ward and Treyarch as part of the three year development cycle for the annualized franchise.

For the past few months, the Call of Duty franchise has been playing second fiddle to Activision’s newest darling, Bungie’s Destiny. With many diehards grinding away for exotic light gear, the hype to the lead up of the next installment of the Call of Duty franchise wasn’t as palpable in years past. However, on social media channels, it was clear the pundits were calmly impressed with what they had received in their inboxes. I mention calmly because earlier in the year some of these same experts were loudly proclaiming how Titanfall was “the” game to supplant Call of Duty in the FPS market. While definitely a strong debut title, it was severely lacking any real content, thus Titanfall has dropped in the public eye as quick as a boulder being dropped into an ocean.

In Reality: The campaign for Advanced Warfare takes place in the not so distant future. North Korea and several terrorists organizations have run a muck on a global scale, so much so the US Army has been left in-adequate to deal with so many acts of war. A private self-proclaimed “Super Power” Army-for-hire has emerged called Atlus. The director of Atlus is Jonathan Irons, who is portrayed by famous actor, Kevin Spacey.

A running joke amongst gamers is always the single player campaign of Call of Duty. The punch line has nothing to do with the quality of campaign but more to do with the fact most gamers go right to the multiplayer rather than spend anytime with the campaign. The same can probably be said for gamers who purchase Advanced Warfare, but skip at your own peril. Sledgehammer has upped the ante by producing a campaign which shouldn’t take a back seat to anyone. Everything from the exo suit, weapons, character design, and dialouge feels like new life has been breathed into the franchise. While not as long as most campaigns, understandably so because again the multiplayer is the main attraction, Advanced Warfare is an action packed thriller with many twists and turns.

Gameplay: If you’ve been living under a rock, then you might not know that one of the major gameplay attractions to Advanced Warfare is the implementation of the exo suit. Whether playing the campaign or taking your lumps in multiplayer, the exo suit is going to be just as much a part of your arsenal as your weapons. The exo suit allows players to quickly dart in any direction, regardless if they are on the ground or in the air. Of course, the suit also gives players the ability to launch themselves into the air to scale small-medium sized buildings. While not quite the same verticality as we’ve seen in Titanfall, it is similar enough to feel familiar and comfortable. For multiplayer, this is a clearly a gamer changer as it now presents a whole host of options for players. We’ve heard of the drop shot, well now the exo suit makes that tired move look like child’s play when compared to some of the new inventive ways kills are being dished out. In the campaign, the exo suit is prominent as well. The Atlus model is a cut above when compared to the standard issue US Army design. Sledgehammer has made the controls feel intuitive so there isn’t a huge learning curve when first attempting to use the suit. Many of the guns, grenades, and other assorted perks feel like they have been given the next-gen/futuristic feel to be comparable to the exo suit. It’s a smart move as it would’ve felt weird to play with this cool suit from the future but yet been saddled with guns/ammo of the past.

Conclusion: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the shot in the arm Activision needed for the franchise. While the dissatisfaction of Ghosts might never go away, a new installment which cures many of the ills of its predecessor, goes along way with restoring faith in the community. Sledgehammer’s campaign is more than just a tacked on single player experience. There is a story here with good dialogue and tons of action to satisfy the most ardent thrill seeker. The franchise is finally running on a new engine, which was needed several releases ago, and coupled with some of the latest mo-cap technology, player movement has never looked and felt so good. The other developers, specifically Infinity Ward, should now be on notice that there is a new team on the block who have elevated the status quo. Treyarch, you’re up next.