Call of Duty has fast become one of those franchises that can be met with scorn and bliss. Usually, it’s well made, if not predictable; generally, it’s fast paced and fun; commonly, it’s the same-old same-old which makes it both worth an annual purchase but also a series which should, uniformly, be met with strong criticism.
Advanced Warfare is the newest installment in this perennial franchise. It takes the fight to the future, grants you a host of upgrades as you fight off hordes of infidels, and is marred by its own banality and lofty expectations. This game, however it may be received, is better than previous iterations. With a very good, if not short, single-player campaign and technically impressive visual and audio design it’s easy to recommend.
But is Advanced Warfare anything different? Is it really worth your time and money?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but with strong reservations.
What is It?
When Call of Duty first came on the scene it changed the way narrative driven war shooters were received and also played. It had an outstanding campaign with a variety of gameplay mechanics which kept it fresh and a lot of fun. Since then, we’ve seen the series move from place to place and time to time and eventually lead us into what might be considered a realistic concept of future warfare.
Advanced Warfare does indeed get the job done. It offers that predictably exciting gameplay and is still a lot of fun to play. But you can’t help constantly wondering if you’ve already played it before.
First, let’s start with the things that work. Advanced Warfare’s single-player campaign is undeniably better than the last few entries. There are only a few very good Call of Duty games, the last ones being Modern Warfare and Black Ops. The last entry, Ghosts, was dull and repetitive, offering very little to those looking for something fresh.
Advanced Warfare changes just enough about the gameplay to make it at least interesting from its conceptual design.
Taking place in the middle of this century, you play as a soldier recruited by a private military contractor called Atlus. The story maintains a hearty and often heavy-handed dialogue between the role of nations versus the power of those who are powerful in solving international crises.
From the get-go you realize that something is amiss. The leader of Atlus, played by both the image and likeness of Kevin Spacey (ala House of Cards), is clearly a man with a plan. He is a man who right off the bat distinguishes himself from the common political leader, making it obvious he is up to something whether that something is good or bad.
Turns out it’s bad.
Without spoiling much of the story, you are thrust into a conflict that deals with how powerful men with powerful institutions can mislead or manipulate common people during times of crisis.
The narrative is fine, but it could have used a bit more oomph. It’s fast, surely, but it lacks the grandiose nature that the narrative both promises and calls for. It was exciting all the way through but it most certainly could have been even better should it have been longer, keeping the conflict at the center rather than just a backdrop for admittedly stunning locations or fire-fights.
Why Should I Care?
If you came to Advanced Warfare looking for a strong single-player campaign, you might want to buy something with a little more substance. It’s a short game which clocks in maybe between 4-7 hours in total.
If you came to Advanced Warfare looking for the staple multiplayer gameplay then perhaps this is the game for you. There are the standard set modes for multiplayer which have graced the franchise for a decade now. But there are also fun and intense cooperative modes, called Exo Survival.
These are a lot of fun and will surely keep you coming back time and time again as you level up your fighter, play against your friends and the broader world, or just like to shoot things as you unwind after your day. But generally speaking, that’s all there really is to it.
While it’s true that the single-player campaign is fun and the multiplayer offers the commonly accepted addicted and frenzied combat, the latter is also marred with its own problems.
We first heard reports of the game having considerable lag after just a day on the market. Testing it out, it seemed fine. It played well overall, but the complaints kept growing. Without having verified the issue, it seemed maybe people were overstating the issue or just had bad internet connections themselves.
Then, it happened. And it happened again, and again, and again.
Without a major update to patch this problem, it may yet be worth holding off on Advanced Warfare until they actually fix it. It does, in fact, lag and this has a serious effect on how well you play and how well the game plays in general.
What Makes it Worth My Time and Money?
To be as clear as possible, though it may seem like we are being negative here, Advanced Warfare isn’t a bad game at all. In fact, it’s one of the best Call of Duty games in a long time.
But that’s not enough.
Whether it is merely better than a host of basically good, if not mediocre games, is not something to sing atop the bell tower and alert all gamers to immediately purchase. It needs to step it up even further.
It would be great to have the same storyline explored from other perspectives, keeping Kevin Spacey’s character as the archetypal evil genius businessman out for profit and control. That was actually very impressive and offered a lot to be imagined by. But it was so short lived, so vastly underdeveloped, and seemingly secondary to the overall thrust of the actual gameplay to be something commendable or even to be considered supremely positive.
Advanced Warfare is a game worth your time and your money, but not without reservations. It might be something best purchased on sale or maybe borrowed from a friend. But if you’re going to go at it like you’ve gone at all the other Call of Duty games, surely a review won’t sway you one way or another.
Here’s to hoping the next Call of Duty raises the bar even further. You know you want that.