Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
To date there's been eleven main iterations of Call of Duty, and whilst Black Ops 2 was the first to venture into the future, Activision's latest iteration, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, is the first to go the whole nine yards.
You play Jack Mitchell, a soldier who hass been recruited into Atlas, a private military company headed by Jonathan Irons played in turn by Kevin Spacey. Irons is your standard cookie cutter, thinly-veiled villain which isn’t particularly helped by Spacey's delivery, lacking as it does a certain je ne sais quoi. But then you've got to hand it to him – he didn't have much to work with. Overall the writing is utterly predictable and pretty one dimensional from the out, but let's face it, it's all about the grandeur, and Advanced Warfare has that in spades.
The main thing meant to differentiate Advanced Warfare from its predecessors is the exo-suit. This metal, powered, exoskeletal support system turns regular soldiers into super humans with the ability to rip doors off cars, jump from rooftop to rooftop like Spider-Man, pound enemies into the dirt and make yourself invisible. Unshackled from the confines of the present day, Advanced Warfare brings with it lasers, spider tanks, hover bikes, drones of all shapes and sizes and probably the most interesting grenade types you'll have seen yet in a video game.
On the whole this is the best Call of Duty single player campaign since Modern Warfare 2 but you're still running through scripted corridors. You’ll find yourself following a superior who seems determined to make you admire as much of the scenery as possible before they open that thin plywood door. It would have been great to make your own way through each level, tackling it how you wanted a la Crysis rather than just being funnelled down the same old corridor, albeit with the illusion of being able to branch out more.
Visually, Advanced Warfare is also the best-looking Call of Duty to date. You'll see sharp and lovingly created character models and textures but once again it doesn't feel like enough of a step forward. Just like the scripted sequences, cracks are showing around the edges and if you look around the periphery you’ll see objects in the distance that look like they've been drop-podded in from the last console generation. The contrast is made even starker when you pit these moments against the beautiful cut scenes that often look like real action rather than CGI.
The bread and butter of every Call of Duty experience is its multiplayer and Advanced Warfare’s is still as fast and frenetic as ever. You'll find all your standard multiplayer modes plus a new one called Uplink, which resembles capture the flag mixed with futuristic basketball. This time around though the exo-suits have changed the frustrating meat-grinder circuits into a game where death can come from any angle or elevation. Verticality is what it's all about as you double jump and mantle onto roofs. Likewise because you're able to traverse wide-open spaces quickly with enhanced dash capabilities you get into fights far quicker.
The only issue is whenever you use an exo-ability you light up on the radar like a Christmas tree, which seems at odds with the rest of the game. Time To Kill is also a bit brutal combined with the enhanced mobility; it only takes three or four bullets from an assault rifle to take an opponent down. If you combine this with threats quickly coming from every angle it pretty much negates any use of secondary weapons, launchers or kill streaks, which is something of a shame.
You do have more customisation choice though as the Pick 10 system is now Pick 13 and you can spec out your character exactly as you like. The cosmetic customisation options are also huge but have their quirks too – for example we thought we'd unlocked an awesome new helmet as part of the new loot system. It turns out we only had access to it for a couple of games before it was taken away again.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a coherent package. It’s polished and full of bombast but it also feels tired at times. So many parts of the game feel like you're one step away from peeling back the curtain and seeing someone pushing buttons and pulling the levers. It's becoming harder and harder to be immersed in a series that continues to restrict player choice.