Call of Duty is a franchise with a long, storied history; love it or hate it, the series has proven incredibly popular, with reports suggesting it has sold a total of nearly 190 million units. With this sort of success in its wake, choosing to break new ground is either brilliant or foolhardy. Infinity Ward managed it seven years ago with the first Modern Warfare, a game with which they helped CoD topple the mighty Halo as King of the FPS genre. Could lightning strike twice for Sledgehammer as they attempt to reinvent the wheel one more time? Nearly.
It’s as if Sledgehammer picked up the book of FPS clichés and started working on a greatest hits parade.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops of death though. Firstly, the (un)friendly AI is horrendously inconsistent, from near unstoppable in the early levels to all but useless in later ones. A close second is the appalling checkpoint system. For about 90% of the game, it’s fantastic, but when it goes wrong, it’s a deal-breaker. In one particular mission, a death sent us back about 10 minutes, which, in a game like this, that can be the bulk of a single level. Speaking of death, 90% of all deaths suffered in the campaign during our playthrough were caused by not being able to see what I was doing - because everything is just too dark.
Fortunately, these issues are so infrequent that they serve as only a small black mark on the overall experience, and the lighting is easily countered by always carrying a weapon with an enhanced targeter.
In multiplayer the game is as divisive an experience as it has ever been. The Exo Survival Co-Op mode is everything you would expect it to be, while the traditional multiplayer however has had a significant shakeup this time around, and not all of it is good.
There are a dozen different match options with up to 18 players, which at times can make for some furious firefights. Taking their lead from Titanfall, the maps are crafted to suit the numbers of players - there is never a sense of having too few players on overly large maps. 'Pick 10' from Black Ops 2 makes a return, this time as 'Pick 13', with the score streaks rolled in.
This is a smart move that grants each player far more control over their experience. The numerous modifications allow players to truly tailor their avatar to suit their style - even a 'Gung ho' style is far more effective than it has ever been.
increased mobility is a double-edged sword...it fundamentally changes the traditional CoD multiplayer experience...
Part of this comes down to the increased mobility, which is a double-edged sword. Whilst it certainly opens the game up, it fundamentally changes the traditional CoD multiplayer experience. In the past, they key to success in CoD has been in learning the levels, learning the best paths and angles for optimum offense and defense. The perks and streaks aided players in becoming 'one-man armies', as a reward for their time and patience.
With Pick 13 and increased mobility, that's all gone; there is no advantage to learning a map as players can just drop in on you from all angles. It's also impossible to maintain 360 degree awareness, so there is a regular issue of just being shot in the back that has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with just hopping around a map. Titanfall handled this much better simply by allowing players to quickly access their Titans for greater offense and resilience, and without that all we have in CoD is players bunny-hopping everywhere getting kills from the back. With Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer have made a statement of intent.
With Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer have made a statement of intent. They've provided a complete package with an exciting new campaign, glorious visuals and the most technically sound, highly-polished Multiplayer for the series so far (no lag, no random kicks from matches). Though they haven't quite managed to reinvent the wheel, they've shown us all that CoD can change and remain an industry leader for this coming generation. Advanced Warfare is a magnificent foundation for the franchise to build upon. It is safe in Sledgehammer's competent hands who have shown that they can carry on the legacy began with Infinity Ward seven years ago. CoD fans or not, we’re sure as hell excited to see what comes next.