Friday, February 19, 2016

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Played on: Playstation 4
Release Date: November 4, 2014

I've had a storied history with the Call of Duty franchise.

Call of Duty 3 was the first time I really thought console first person shooters could be a thing. I was amazed at how great the controls felt compared to other console FPSs like the PS1 Doom port or Halo.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first time online multiplayer got it's hooks into me. I had 8 clocked days in the multiplayer. I bought every DLC map and generally played for a couple hours each night. This was also the first game I played in high definition.

Call of Duty World at War was the first time I was utterly impressed with how many glitches there were in both the campaign and multiplayer.

I thought the first Black Ops was a boring story wrapped around favorite movie scenes from Apocalypse Now and Hamburger Hill. And Modern Warfare 3 fell short of the expectations coming from MW 1 and 2. I took a few years off of Call of Duty.

Advanced Warfare was bought only because I wanted a couch co-op game to play with a buddy and it was half off that weekend. What I received was a surprisingly fun game.

What I didn't like

I don't need to talk about things made fun of like the press square to salute. There are dumb silly things in this game just like there are dumb silly things in action movies.

Call of Duty rarely goes off their formula of big set pieces, a cross, a double cross, the world is in danger, boat / tank level, sniper level, over the top ending.

Advanced Warfare follows this same formula but my favorite part, the sniper level, is really boring and short.

And the big set pieces largely take place in similar looking Bond villain hideouts. You don't get as much of the globe trotting variety of jungles, snowy mountains, American suburbs, or Russian gulags.

The protagonists were slightly more generic than in previous installments. There's no Soap or Price that you remember after the credits role. Instead there's black leader, Asian guy, military buddy, and guy who lost hand.

There was also a part of a mission  called Manhunt that particularly irritated me, "Find the KVA Key Man." You scan a crowd trying to find this particular target. It took 30 tries before I finally looked up the solution. They don't give you enough information or time to get your bearings before it was game over.

Because the guns were built around being "future" guns, most of them made very little noise, had very little recoil, and were able to highlight enemies on the field. While some of these are probably real world prototypes, it really takes the "gun" feeling away from some of the battles. Instead you feel like you're doing exactly what you're doing, placing the cursor over a spot on the screen and pressing a button to shoot.

What was OK

This is a game built around looking vertically. It doesn't seem like it would change much, but think about how different it is to play a couch co-op game with the vertical split vs the horizontal. I never realized how much past COD games relied on you panning across a battlefield, whereas this one relies on you looking up and down first.

Part of that is because most Exo-suits in Advanced Warfare have either a rocket booster that will allow you to jump three stories or grappling hooks.

And Kevin Spacey, although an excellent actor and great in this role, distracts. He chews up the scenery and I think this is part of the reason why everyone else in the game is forgettable. And because Spacey is such a great actor and you know his face so well, when his character is on screen talking, you really notice how out of sync everything is.

What I liked

The verticality of the game made the multiplayer feel different. Camping as a sniper was no longer a viable role to rack up kills. Everyone is moving quickly and erratically really making all roles relatively even. The short range guys can lure people inside, the assault guys run rampant on the battlefield, the explosive guys set their traps, and the snipers hope they can guess where people are trending. 

There were two missions that stood out from the rest and that's because they are very Tom Clancy like.

The second missions Atlus has you running around the private military base doing target practice and seeing all the cool stuff Atlus is working on. Eventually you infiltrate a simulation house and smuggle a target out.

You approach quietly, cover corners, go room to room with suppressors on your guns and night vision enabled.

It feels great. It's a mission that makes me particularly upset with the direction Ubisoft took the newest Rainbow Six because this feels like a modernized version of the missions from the first few Rainbow Six games.

And then there's Sentinel, a very challenging stealth mission that takes place in the Atlus estate while a party with civilians is going on. If the next Splinter Cell doesn't take queues from this mission, they've messed up.

It's interesting to see how a level is built around new technologies. It's not a normal crouch down and stick to the shadows sort of level. You grapple from place to place, still killing soldiers from the bushes. But then you have to worry about the drones flying around the estate which will find you even if you're in the shadows.

You have to worry about the electronic tennis court coming alive when you step on it. You have to worry about the cars coming and going from the party. You have to worry about the civilians seeing you taking out guards.

I loved that this game had couch co-op. I do miss the actual missions you could play co-op in Modern Warfare 2 and 3. This one was more of a horde mode. But it's a challenging and fun horde mode.

Final Thoughts

Advanced Warfare is an interesting entry in the Call of Duty series. It has portions of Black Ops and Modern Warfare mixed with a little bit of Sci-fi.

It's not the strongest Call of Duty game by a long shot, but it did make me think, "Yeah, maybe I could get on the yearly Call of Duty train again."

Rating: It's cheap now. If you want a fun FPS with some couch co-op elements, buy it.

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