It’s not unfair to say that Call of Duty has lost its way a little in recent years. A constant battle of one-upmanship between Infinity Ward and Treyarch has left the series feeling a bit empty and devoid of new ideas. Despite that, eyebrows were raised when Sledgehammer was given the chance to do something a bit different, something to get everything back into place for the new generation of consoles. Impressively they’ve done exactly that, and while this is still the same old Call of Duty in many ways, it’s been given a hearty kick back to the fun times seen in the earlier Modern Warfare games. And let’s face it, that can’t be a bad thing.
One of the big changes isn’t necessarily in the setting, which is a futuristic and technologically advanced time, but how that setting is used. Exosuits look like a bit of a gimmick at first, but some time with both the single player campaign on the multiplayer show just how handy a game-changing the suits are. Depending on your suit and abilities you’ll be able to deploy a small pop-up shield to fend off bullets heading your way for a few seconds, give you a mini jetpack of sorts as well as various other very cool toys. They give something new to try out and extra ways to progress through the campaign, but also change the way the you approach the multiplayer options. Those annoying sniper hiding spots that need months of playing to reach (often resulting in those frustrating, controller-destroying high death counts) can now be countered with a simple double jump up to the higher spot. From minute 1 you can use the ability to turn almost invisible for a short time or silence your movements, giving you access to the kind of tricks usually afforded to those putting in a 40 hours per week shift.
But what of the campaign then, given the new things offered by the Exosuit? It’s still a largely linear affair, such is tradition with this series, and gives the same type of missions you’ve seen before in terms of rescuing people, attacking an enemy stronghold, a spot of recon action and so on. But while previous games have felt samey as a result, the Exosuit comes to the rescue again giving you numerous ways to approach each scenario, even making multiple playthroughs possible to try out all of the options. You might not get the impact of some of the bigger set piece moments a second time round (and there are some truly epic, and visually stunning moments throughout) but they’re so enjoyable it’s not at all unlikely you’ll want to see them again.
Meanwhile on the online side of the fence, the choice of game modes seems sensible, giving the usual favourites as well as one or two new modes to keep thing as fresh as possible. There’s a Combat Readiness option too, letting you try out your weapons and abilities without worrying about looking too rubbish against top level players. My favourite two modes (Kill Confirmed and Domination) still drew most of my time, but the other options were good for a change. There’s still a lot of patting on the back, with awards and bonuses popping up seemingly whenever you take 4 steps without tripping over your own feet, and the pace is incredibly fast and relentless which won’t suit everyone, but for an overall experience this is the most enjoyable COD multiplayer we’ve had for some time. Customisation is handled well too, letting you spend a set number of points on various aspects of your loadout and giving you the choice of having less more powerful options or a wider spread of weaker components. It gives some empowerment early on, something which is often lacking in Call of Duty online games.
If you prefer a bit of co-op play, then you’re accounted for here as well. The new Exo Survival mode pitches you and up to three friends against waves of bad guys on a range of maps. It’s every bit as quick as the competitive modes, but can be excellent fun if you’ve got a couple of mates with headsets to dig in with. A lot of people will find this to be even more enjoyable than constantly getting annihilated by 12 year olds.
The weapons are a nice mix too, blending existing guns with some near-future tech to give enough variety without becoming laughably unrealistic. They sound awesome too, which is always good if you’ve got a decent sound system or pair of headphones to plug in. The sound compliments the visuals, which give a far more next-gen feel than what you’ll have found had you picked up Ghosts for one of the new consoles.
With a linear yet very enjoyable campaign, a set of multiplayer modes which are good fun and a well-judged set of new techno-toys to try out, Advanced Warfare is comfortably the most enjoyable Call of Duty for several years. It’s still very much Call of Duty in its approach to both multiplayer and single player modes, and that might put people off, but for fans of the series who were feeling a bit disillusioned then this is a huge leap back towards the right track.
Reviewed on PS4