With the last three installments being set in the not-so-distant future (Modern Warfare 3), the not-so-distant future (Black Ops II), and, yes, the not-so-distant future (Ghosts), the Call Of Duty series was starting to get itself into a rut. But by setting Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC) far enough in the future to add some sci-fi into the mix, while still keeping this series’ tenets intact, designers Sledgehammer Games, High Moon Studios (who made the PS3 and 360 editions), and Raven Software (multiplayer) have injected a little but still much-needed newness into this first-person shooter series.
Set in 2054, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare casts you as a former marine who now works for a PMC called Atlas. But when a coordinated terrorist attack takes out nuclear reactors across the globe, decimating the infrastructure, and thus the military, of many major nations, your employer steps in to bring the terrorists to justice.
Be it the story-driven campaign, the online multiplayer, or the co-op mode, all of Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare is informed by the game’s future setting. So much so that while these games are usually inspired by such realistic military movies as Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, and The Rock, this has as many nods to The Matrix trilogy, Aliens, and even a bit of Star Wars. But along with gun sights and Smart Grenades that identify enemies, the most useful new part of your arsenal is your Exo Suit, which (depending on the model) gives you increased strength, a portable riot shield, even a momentary bit of speed that, from your perspective, slows down time, making it easier for you take out the enemy.
More importantly, the suit comes with jump jets that let you leap great distances, which adds a bit of verticality to the proceedings. In multiplayer, for instance, you could sometimes run up to the top of a building in hopes of getting the drop on someone. But in Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare, you can leap up there as easily as Mario double jumps onto a pipe. As a result, playing online now gives the advantage to those whose thinking isn’t two-dimensional.
Admittedly, the future tech and ability to hop around doesn’t change the feel of Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare too much; it’s more like a seasoning than a fundament shift (especially since you don’t always have it). This never, for instance, never feels like Titanfall (though it does reinforce my feelings that Titanfall really needed a story-driven single-player campaign). Instead, this is still a Call Of Duty game, and has the same great controls, exhilarating and frantic firefights, and, in the campaign, penchant for cinematic moments and plot twists that have been the hallmarks of this series since 2007’s Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Sadly, this means that Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare has the same irritants as well. For starters, the campaign is as short as it has been for the last couple installments. And while it’s so addictive and compelling that you’ll want to play it more than once, it still would’ve been cooler if they added a couple more battles. Especially if they’re like the ones from the second half, which is where they happen in places that aren’t just another industrial building or war torn city.
Which isn’t to say that everything in Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare is as you remember it. Pulling a page from this series’ multiplayer modes, and role-playing games, the campaign now has some simple but effective earnable upgrades. By getting headshots, finding Intel, using grenades, and killing lots of people, you can improve aspects of your health, carry more grenades, and learn to reload faster. It’s not a game changer by any stretch, and doesn’t make any narrative sense, but it’s still a new element that lets you enhances the abilities you want to improve.
As for multiplayer, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare has all your old favorite modes (“Team Deatchmatch,” “Kill Confirmed,” and so on), but also adds a new one called “Uplink” in which you have you to use your jump jets to carry a drone through a floating goal, which makes it kind if like basketball with bullets. And yes, while it is as silly as it sounds — and not just because the announcer is doing a bad imitation of Morpheus from The Matrix — it’s actually a lot of goofy fun since it plays like a sped-up version of “Capture The Flag.”
It also helps that, in classic C.O.D. fashion, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare has some fun battlefields in multiplayer, including “Greenband,” a South Korean hi-rise park with some precarious drops, and a rather snazzy house called “Retreat” that oddly has a lot of nooks and crannies. You can even, when picking out your guns, test them out at a firing range so you can make sure you didn’t pick some crappy assault rifle that can only fire once every five seconds. Which comes in real handy when you earn a Supply Drop, a between round reward that gives you new weapons and such boosts as temporary double XP.
Then there’s the co-op mode of Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare, “Exo Survival.” Basically “Horde” from Gears Of War 2, this has you and three other people taking on waves of enemies. It even mixes things up, if only a little, by sometimes giving you a secondary objective, such as diffusing three EMPs, and by letting hackers screw up your heads-up display. The thing is, because the number of enemies in each wave is so small, and every battlefield is so large, rounds of “Exo Survival” feel less like you’re surviving and more like you’re playing “Team Deathmatch” against four people who just met online and thus aren’t working together.
In the end, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare is yet another Call Of Duty game, it just happens to be a little better than some. While not a complete reinvention, by setting the game even further in the future than “not-so-distant,” this is easily the most unique installment of this series since 2010’s Black Ops took us back to the ’60s and ’70s. Which is what, more than anything, this series really needed this time around.