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War. War sometimes changes.

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    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    War. War sometimes changes.

    Call of Duty: Ghosts is the first Call of Duty game that I have ever sold. All the others sit on my shelf, valued games in my collection, and are still played often to this day. Almost every Call of Duty game is excellent, and even at its worse, Call of Duty is still pretty fantastic most of the time. Ghosts was one of the most disappointing gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and it really made me feel bitter about the series. Advanced Warfare wipes away all those hard feelings, and brings to the table an excellent, game-changing title that not only meets expectations, but exceeds them as well.

    There are three elements to every Call of Duty game. There’s the single player experience, the co-op, and of course, the multiplayer. For the sake of this review, I am going to cover the single player campaign first. The campaign in Call of Duty: Ghosts was horrendous, and typically, the campaign is the most disappointing part of Call of Duty. However, Advanced Warfare delivers one of the best Call of Duty campaigns in years.

    The plot of the campaign is fairly generic and predictable. It is set in the near-future, with a corporation called Atlas providing military support to the highest bidder. The Atlas military is equipped with futuristic gadgets and weaponry, which helps them fight off various threats around the world. Their main rival is a terrorist organization known as the KVA, led by a villain named Hades, and that has the ultimate goal of destroying the free world.

    If you’ve played any Call of Duty game since the fourth one, then you should have an idea of what to expect from the story and the characters within the story. Everything that they do is predictable and it’s obvious what’s going to happen. However, the performances in this game’s story are what stand out. Yes, the characters are weakly written (the dialogue is also pretty bad and just stuffed with cringe-worthy exposition all over the place) and the story is just going through the paces, but the voice actors really put their all into it. Kevin Spacey plays Jonathon Irons, the head of the Atlas corporation, and he brings an unprecedented amount of energy to the game. Sometimes it feels like he’s just channeling his Frank Underwood character from the Netflix series House of Cards, but even still his performance is electric and spellbinding.

    All of the voice actors do a wonderful job. Their performances are enhanced by the jaw dropping visuals, including stunningly realistic facial animations and character models, as well as the incredible soundtrack that brings it all to life in a profound way. You probably won’t care about much about what’s going on in the plot, but seeing it is still a spectacle in and of itself, and a triumph in gaming.

    The campaign gameplay itself is some of the most fun that Call of Duty campaigns have been in the longest time. Yes, it still suffers from "follow me" syndrome in a few missions, but there’s also a lot more moments where you are able to branch out and be more creative in the way that you tackle the mission objectives. Some missions are deceptively deep, such as a stealth mission that allows you to either go straight for the main objective, or go around and explore the compound, stealthily taking out the enemies from the shadows while also avoiding the drones patrolling nearby.

    The campaign uses a lot of vehicular segments and gimmicks to break up the typical Call of Duty action. Some may find this distracting, but I found it to be a nice way to make the action stay fresh. None of them are particularly creative, but they are all very exciting and pulled off with a level of polish not seen often in gaming.

    The campaign starts off a lot more challenging than most Call of Duty campaigns, but that difficulty is lessened as players upgrade their campaign character. This is done by completing challenges, such as getting X amount of grenade kills, finding all the enemy intel, or getting a certain amount of headshots. This upgraded character can also be used when going back through the game on harder difficulties, meaning that the lesser-skilled players don’t have to be quite as intimidated when attempting to go through the game on the (usually) notoriously difficult Veteran setting. I appreciate this, but I will also say that the game is sometimes way too easy on Veteran to the point that it is somewhat pathetic, especially for those that are gluttons for punishment and like a lot of challenge out of their games.

    Advanced Warfare’s campaign may go through the same basic formula that most Call of Duty campaigns experience, but at the same time, the campaign takes advantage of the new setting in big ways, offering a lot of new gameplay mechanics that make the game feel very different from any of the Call of Duty titles that came before.

    For example, the exo suit is one of the biggest changes to the Call of Duty formula and it changes the game in big ways. The exo suit allows unprecedented maneuverability, while also offering various other gimmicks such as unleashing sound waves that stun enemies or allowing players to go into a slow-motion state to line up better shots. The only exo suit ability that I found to be somewhat silly is the sideways dashing, which is just awkward to execute as it has you tilt the left analog stick to the left or to the right and then push it in. This action just feels extremely rough on the controller, and the sideways dash is not really useful at all.

    Brand new grenade types introduced here made sure that I was using both lethal and non lethal grenades much more than I have in any other Call of Duty game to date. Some of my favorites include the threat grenades, which highlight enemies in a red glow, and the smart grenades. The smart grenades follow your reticule, hovering in air for a brief second before rushing towards the target.

    While certainly not the greatest Call of Duty campaign (I believe that distinction still belongs to Call of Duty 2), it’s definitely one of the better ones. The new gameplay mechanics make it feel different than the games that preceded it, the story is very simple but not insultingly ridiculous like Ghosts, and the game gives players a lot more freedom than other games in the series (though still not quite enough). Overall, the campaign in Advanced Warfare is a blast, very exciting, and definitely worth playing through at least once.

    Now on to the multiplayer. A good portion of the Call of Duty audience picks up the new game in the series year after year almost exclusively to play the multiplayer component in the game. I am happy to report that the multiplayer in Advanced Warfare is absolutely fantastic, and it completely blows Ghosts out of the water.

    The multiplayer is extremely comprehensive and deep. Players could dump countless hours into this and not get bored if they truly desired to do so. The amount of game modes is staggering, and for a change, I don’t feel like any game types are more or less directly copies of other game types. New game modes such as Uplink and Momentum (a re-imagining of the "War" game mode from Call of Duty: World at War) really add a lot to the game, but all the classic game modes from Call of Duty’s past are represented, with the unfortunate lack of Gun Game or other wager matches.

    The exo suit really changes the way that the multiplayer plays as well. It still feels like Call of Duty, but it’s even more fast-paced than ever before. Camping is not really a viable strategy anymore because of how fast-paced the game is. For those that want the classic Call of Duty experience without the exo suit and all of the new mechanics, there’s also an option to play the game vanilla if one so desires.

    For the first time probably in the history of playing first-person shooters, I can definitively say that I greatly enjoy every single map in Advanced Warfare. There are a few that stand out as truly excellent, well-designed maps, such as Terrace and Defender, but none of the maps feel poorly designed. All of them are fun, and they all take great advantage of the exo suit, allowing for more complicated and exciting maps. The maps have those dynamic shifts that were hyped a lot in Ghosts, with things like new objects being dropped into the battlefield or tsunamis rolling in and adding a foot of water to one end of the map, but they are executed a lot better here, and are much more exciting.

    The multiplayer offers more customization than I’ve experienced in a Call of Duty game. Players can fully customize their multiplayer character with gear won through playing matches. The lobby system has been changed to show off your custom character, and it’s a breeze to just cycle through the lobby and take a look at what everyone else has made as well. The customization extends to the "Pick 13" system which allows players to have more freedom with creating their classes than they’ve ever had.

    Advanced Warfare takes giant strides in the right direction for the multiplayer in Call of Duty, with brilliant map design, and robust, incredibly deep online offerings that make the game infinitely replayable. My only gripe is that the game doesn’t bring back four player split-screen. Ghosts took it out, limiting the game to two player split-screen, and unfortunately Advanced Warfare hasn’t upped the number back up. It’s disappointing, but by no means is it a complete deal breaker. I just hope that the next Call of Duty game brings back four player split-screen for the multiplayer and co-op modes.

    Finally, it’s time to talk about the co-op. The co-op mode in Advanced Warfare is known as Exo Survival. It is heavily influenced by the "Survival" branch of Spec Ops from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, though trimmed down a bit. Players choose from one of three classes (why not four? I am not sure, as it allows up to four people to play), then they have to fight off waves of enemies. It’s a typical horde mode, and it’s fine. It’s not great though, mainly due to a general lack of challenge. If playing correctly and with at least two other people, it is very possible that you could more or less endlessly play Exo Survival, which gets extremely boring. The co-op is being expanded in the future when Activision introduces zombies back into the series with the first DLC pack, but that’s still a couple of months out, and the current co-op offering is fairly lackluster. It really feels tacked-on, which is unfortunate as Call of Duty has really triumphed in the past with co-op modes.

    Advanced Warfare’s achievements are almost entirely rooted in the campaign. I appreciate that it challenges players to experience the campaign levels in different ways, but I was hoping for some multiplayer achievements. The Call of Duty games are some of the only games where it would actually make sense to use achievements for the multiplayer, as it is practically a guarantee that the online will constantly be alive for the game. That being said, Advanced Warfare is one of the easiest games to get 100% on Xbox One right now. I appreciate that the game doesn’t have any ridiculously hard and irritating easter eggs from Zombies like past Call of Duty games, but a bit more challenge in the achievements would’ve been appreciated.

    Though the achievements don’t add a whole lot of replayability to the game, Advanced Warfare is still quite the bang for your buck. I can see myself revisiting the multiplayer component for years to come, at least until Advanced Warfare 2 drops. The campaign is serviceable and a lot of fun, and while the co-op mode is pretty weak, it’s still entertaining for at least a little bit.

    I declared the Call of Duty series dead, in terms of creativity, after playing the debacle that was Call of Duty: Ghosts. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has renewed my faith in the series, with its better than usual campaign and awesome multiplayer. The game still has its fair share of issues, but none of its problems are major or game breaking. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is one of the best Call of Duty games in years, and I highly recommend it to any FPS fan out there.

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