Here we have it then, finally a Call of Duty game made with the new console hardware in mind. It certainly looks the part aside from one or two blemishes that pop up from time to time. A graphical upgrade was expected at this point though. After last year's critically disappointing Ghosts, what have Sledgehammer Games done to freshen up a franchise that has felt staler with each iteration?
Well, upon first firing up the game, things feel very familiar. The game controls feel just like every other entry to the franchise over the last ten odd years. Not an automatic negative, the core demographic keep coming back for how the central games plays after all and there's still a fast paced twitch thrill to be had. The issue is that many have grown tired of this and need something new. The answer to this is the new exo suit, which grants the player a number of new abilities such as double jumping, dodging in the air, stealth and a Spiderman style grappling hook system.These new additions go a long way to alleviating the tired feel of the franchise and open up lots of new possibility in the multiplayer.
They also make the campaign much more fun as like every CoD ever, the single player is essentially a six hour tutorial. The twist is that each mission focuses on a different suit power so this side of the game is brimming with variety. The plot itself is your standard military flag waving rubbish but it's made actually engaging by some brilliant acting and a plot that keeps it simple. I'm not sure I actually cared about any of the characters by the ends of the game but I was enjoying the story enough to want to finish it. I think Virtual Kevin Spacey helped. I'd even go as far to say that there was at least three genuine "wow" moments, something that I haven't had from a CoD game in a very long time.
There's the standard vehicle sections to look forward to as well. These are the usual minute or two sprints to break up the shooting but even so are done well in comparison to past entries. Previous plane sections were nigh on unplayable but this time around you're treated to a fun little bit of arcade twitch tomfoolery. As you may guess from the mech suits in the adverts, you do indeed get to pilot one at a later point in the game and it's just as fun as it sounds. While the mech's are not as satisfying to use as the ones in Titanfall, it's still a great, if brief, part of the game.
The mention of the elephant in room brings up an important point about Advanced Warfare though. As fresh as it is in the context of it's own series, there's nothing here that you haven't seen before in other shooters. The jump packs are straight from Titanfall, the stealth from Crysis and the slow mo from FEAR. It's all implemented very well and you can't blame Sledgehammer for implementing a wish list of cool powers from other games but those who play more than just the latest Call of Duty or Battlefield every year won't be quite as impressed as the hardcore fan base potentially will be.
This neatly brings us to the multiplayer, the traditional drawn ofthe franchise. The new abilities really shine here and add a true sense of verticality to the levels. There's still your fair share of campers depending on the level, but for the most part staying still is an even worse idea than it was previously as your opponents can come from literally any direction. It genuinely shakes things up and has the potential to bring those bored of the series back into the fold.There is one massive caveat to this though: the networking technology appears to have gone backwards and is peer to peer. So expect lots ofd odgy performance you have no control over and lots of lag killing.This is a massive black mark for the game and something that hopefully will get rectified in the future. For now though, the rather inspired breath of fresh air for the series has been winded.
It's worth mentioning that the new setting has allowed for the choice of weapons to become much more varied. My personal favourite is the laser rifle that doesn't run out of ammo and instead overheats. Unlocking sights actually matters this time around as each one offers something different, rather than the usual "how much of you screen do you want blocked out while zoomed?". Even grenades have had thought put into them. You now have access to a smart grenade that once thrown stays in the air and can be aimed. There's also the grenade that paints all enemies within it's blast, adding genuine tactical value.
There's a feeling that the developers want to move the series forward and have had a good stab at doing so. Unfortunately it's all hobbled by the fact that they have to keep reusing the same tired core mechanics. What could have been an amazing reinvention of the series has tragically only turned out to be great. I can certainly recommend it to shooter fans, just don't expect to be quite so blown away as you were the last time the series had such a major shake up.