Yeezus once rapped “no one man should have all that power” and if that song hadn’t been overused in dozens of commercials, I’m sure it would have fit perfectly in an ad campaign for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. In this latest entry in the Call of Duty (CoD) franchise, the first from Sledgehammer Games, we go up against – spoilers – Kevin Spacey and his own private army.
Just a little history about me and Call of Duty before we go any further. I’ve been a fan of the series for a while now, going back to when the developers were making the Medal of Honor games. Call of Duty 2 is what sold me on an Xbox 360; well, it and the promise of Halo 3. The series saw a lot of playtime on my various 360 machines, mostly single player, except for when Modern Warfare came out. On that title I spent a good chunk of time in the multiplayer playing with a group of dads. Those were some great times, playing with other gamer dads I’d met online, working as a team, and busting each others’ balls over everyday life. Great times.
So, back to the future and Advanced Warfare. Everything I’ll speak to in this piece is about the single player campaign on Xbox One. I’ve not played multiplayer since all of those dads I talked about are now on PS4 and Destiny. I could join them, as I have both consoles, but home life always finds a way of keeping me from playing too much single player, let alone multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare takes place about 40 years from now, and starts with the Marines being sent into Seoul to combat an incursion by North Korea. In this intro level we meet the hero Mitchell, voiced by the great Troy Baker, and his best friend Will Irons. However, things go badly on the mission, Will doesn’t make it, and Mitchell loses an arm. At this point I was thinking to myself that Will dying was going to come back later in some hairbrained plot twist that turns him into some sort of Frankenstein’s monster or Robocop. Rest easy, it never happens. That was just a byproduct of me seeing way too many sci-fi movies as a kid.
When we next see Mitchell, he’s at Will’s funeral and we get to the “press ‘X’ to pay respects” scene. I had heard about this scene and saw it in one of Conan’s Clueless Gamer bits worrying that it would be tacky. I was worried about this because I’ve gone through that ceremony in my life and know how it can stick with someone, but ultimately, I felt that it was handled tastefully. It’s at this point that we meet Will’s dad, Jonathan Irons, played by Kevin Spacey. He knows of Mitchell from his son and offers him a second chance as his company, Atlas, has prosthetic technology decades ahead of the military.
From this point on we are in the game proper and travel the world in various scenarios and encounter plot twists that I’ll refrain from spoiling. Needless to say, you know where it’s going if you read the intro or have half a brain. What I will go into is some of the new gameplay mechanics.
Being that warfare has uh, advanced, we now have exo suits. Much like what Matt Damon wears in Elysium, we have augmented strength and other abilities that are specific to certain classes of suit. On this point I was a little disappointed that we aren’t given a choice on which suit we want. Each mission has a specific suit, so on one mission you may have the deployable riot shield, while on others you may have the jump jet. Later on you get a grapple ability that I really enjoyed. For one, the grapple allowed for silenced kills ala Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, where you’d grapple an enemy and pull them towards you so that you could finish them with your knife. Secondly, it allowed you to traverse the area fairly quickly by grappling to fixed points and pulling yourself up to ledges. However, another gripe for me was the melee animation for the main character. The other characters in the game had melee animations that showcased their amplified strength. They’d pick up an enemy and slam them down or grapple them into a clothesline, or something akin to those. When it comes to your melee, you just sort of push people down. Lame, I know. During missions you could earn upgrade points to better your exo suits. Upgrades offered options like lowering damage taken by explosions, faster reload times, more sprint time, less of a flinch by the character when shot, more grenade slots, and the like.
Also new are some various grenade types. By holding LB you could cycle through your non-lethal types. My favorites of those being “threat” which painted enemies for a short time so that you could see them behind cover and “EMP,” which took out drones and momentarily stopped enemies in heavily armored power suits. If RB is held you can choose from your lethal grenades with “smart” being my favorite of those. Once thrown, it would hover, pick a target and then rocket over to that target. The lethal types though often left me feeling that they weren’t very effective. Either I have bad aim or their area of effect wasn’t very large. In any case, I mainly used the non-lethal options.
These new gameplay additions have me hoping for more entries in the Advanced Warfare line. There’s a lot of promise here. They’ve shaken up the formula and made the series feel new again. I just hope they give us a chance to choose our suit and further personalize it in future iterations. Also, I really want them to come up with some real kickass melee animations that have you feel like a badass as you kick or punch someone through a wall or something similarly overpowered.