'Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare' is out now on every format and in every collector's edition conceivable to humanking.
- Longer, 10-hour single player campaign
- Kevin Spacey
- Bold new abilities and futuristic weapons
- That guy from the Old Vic
- All the multiplayer modes you expect (and a few new ones)
- The evil dude from House of Cards
Hypothetically, it's a rough time for a new 'Call Of Duty' game to be released. The video game industry and media is currently tearing itself apart on issues like extreme violence, the domination of generic 'gamer' AAA titles and various other problems for which 'Call of Duty' specifically sometimes (unfairly) gets the blame.
None of which, it turns out, is really an issue. Because if there's one thing that 'CoD' has nailed this year, it's how to be a 'genre' game without being merely generic. Which is Games Journalism-ism for 'this is a really fun, inventive game… in context'.
The context, for the last few humans alive who remain unaware, is shooting loads of bad guys really dead with amazingly powerful weapons, including your friends over multiplayer. It means a style of gameplay which is fast, flowing, bombastic and twitchy, but not overly tactical or strategic.
It means a single-player campaign lathered in set-pieces and BLACKOUT… "on your feet soldier" transitions, interesting ideas quickly tried on and discarded, rapid progression and terrible dialogue. And, yes, a multiplayer mode which is deep, engaging and hideously addictive.
All of this Advanced Warfare has, like many CoD games before it. Where this game differs is the license it takes with the core formula -- risky, since that is a formula as consistent and beloved as that of FIFA or Madden at this point.
For here we're not on the amped-up but contemporary battlefields of Modern Warfare, but a world about 45 years in the future where drones, exo-skeletons, energy weapons and various other theoretically plausible tech has completely transformed fighting for governments, and fighting for pay. This gives the player a shifting range of new abilities, from boost double-jumps and dodge moves, to grenades which highlight enemies and let you shoot through walls. You can fly drones equipped with machine guns, ride on hover bikes through a post-apocalypse Detroit, climb walls with magnetic gloves and 'mute' areas with a pulse mine before slowing down time and shooting terrorists with your laser railgun.
Yes, it's ludicrous. But the trick is giving your the sense of superpowers, without making you all that much more powerful. Absorbing bullets, auto-healing and sprinting at 30MPH are pretty much the norm for CoD already. What this game does is rationalise it, augment those powers and reconfigure familiar building blocks to create a game that requires more skill and thought to be really good at - without taking the focus too far off the run-and-shoot core.
The campaign this time around is extremely kinetic, moving from war-torn Seoul to a nuclear plant in Seattle in mere minutes, but giving each of its many environments and settings enough time to impress. The story - Kevin Spacey's rise as the CEO-president of post-nuclear America - is high-camp but engaging enough in short bursts, and there is 10 hours of solid gameplay here for average players.
Multiplayer also comes with some new modes, like a rugby-style capture the flag variant, and an ever-deeper player creation tool that rewards careful, dedicated fraggers with tons of equipment and loadout options.
Graphically too this game is very impressive, especially on the newer consoles, with only the in-game NPC models (and their troublesome mouths) really standing out as a little bit ropey.
All of which means this is a very impressive game… but as we said, only really in context.
Sledgehammer Games has spent three years creatively honing, flexing and reconfiguring how Call of Duty works, but they've still delivered a pretty on-the-nose CoD game. If you've played one before and liked it, you'll love this. If you've previously found them lacking in soul, intelligence or anything else you consider important in games, you won't.
But on its own terms - within the context of its own genre - it's hard to fault Advanced Warfare. It's full of new ideas for presenting and expanding its brutalising, violent, jock-y formula, has a well-acted (if still artistically cramped) campaign and delivers a genuine next-gen graphical experience. What more could you ask for… or expect?