Kevin Spacey, double-jumping and the (near) future. Yup, Call of Duty is back and better than ever. I’ve completed the singleplayer half of the game, I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve thought about many ways in which things could be improved and this is my Verdict.
I said it up the top, yes, I did enjoy the singleplayer campaign in Advanced Warfare. The story was fine, the action was fun, and I didn’t feel like:
a) Giving up after the first couple of missions (I’m looking at Black-Ops there)
b) I had to plough my way through it because it was the first game I got for my PlayStation 4 (Ghosts gets that award)
Ultimately, I don’t think it matched the epitome of Call of Duty singleplayer campaigns. In the ‘old’ world of Call of Duty, either of the first two games would have stood strong as some of my favourite singleplayer action. In the world of Call of Duty following Modern Warfare, it is only that title which beats the experience of Advanced Warfare.
Advanced Warfare is a good action game wrapped in a narrative that could have been much improved. Your first mission takes place in Korea where your character, Private Jack Mitchell sees his best buddy, Private Will Irons, sacrifice himself for the greater good. Cut, flash forward and suddenly the Will’s father, Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey) is offering you condolences and a job with his private security firm, Atlas. You get straight into the meat of the story, but the funeral for Will seems so overblown for you as a player to experience when you barely knew the lad for ten minutes. A bit of background with the kids before Korea wouldn’t have gone amiss to help set up the background of world in 2054.
As you progress through the game, the story is developed through pre-mission briefings which often combine news reports with the more militaristic style briefing. The news reports do a good job of conveying what is happening, but everything seems to play out as if it is on fast-forward. You breeze through the years in a flash while the news reports do little to convey the results of your previous missions. If you’ve ever watched some 24-hour news, you’ll start to get an understanding of how Advanced Warfare plays out.
The big-twist is fairly obvious, but it does play out nicely with the game’s only female character, Ilona, laying out Irons’ dark secret. The sequence is well done, and the way Spacey conveys the rationale behind Irons’ actions in an address to the United Nations is succinct. But again, it all feels rushed with no time to let things breathe. I have to say, for all of the focus that was put on Spacey before the game launched, I was disappointed that the story wasn’t stronger.
Regardless, the action surrounding Kevin Spacey is bloody good fun, though still made up of some of the same old elements that have come to define the series. Enemies pop out of cover nearly asking to be shot, gadgets are thrown into your hands and taken away once the mission is complete, novelty missions with drones and tanks take place, and there is an obligatory stealth mission. I’ll be honest though that everything is polished and works to a standard I haven’t seen in Call of Duty since Advanced Warfare.
The gadgets are either great, or nearly useless. The double-jump mechanic is the biggest feature (and it is the main aspect of multiplayer), and it is great fun to launch yourself around the levels. It is just a shame that it is only available in a handful of missions. Similarly, the grapple hook is a damn good addition and works in nearly alternative levels to the jump tool. All in all, they add a much needed degree of verticality to a series which has been staggeringly flat for so many years. It is a testament to Sledgehammer Games that they give you access to the grapple hook during the stealth mission. It makes what could have been a nightmare a thrilling ride in what is one of the most open missions in the game.
Tasked with sneaking into one of Irons’ compounds while a cocktail party is taking place, you have to sneak around and avoid alerting the guards. Launching yourself from pillar to post with the hook is fun, but it becomes something a bit more special once you start grappling the guards from a distance. While sneaking through the gardens, a quick whistle attracted the attention of a guard who I dispatched without hesitation using the hook.
It was great fun, but it is a shame that so many of the other missions fall down into fairly generic action filled with many Michael Bay moments (the mission in the Antarctic springs to mind for Bay moments). I was surprised though by the novelty missions. Flying a drone around the beautiful vistas of Santorini was great fun. The drone section takes place in an all round great mission where you and Ilona track down one of the games’ early baddies. Rushing through the white stone buildings of the Greek island reminded me of missions in Africa and Greece from old school Medal of Honour. Taking charge of the drone, you have to navigate your way around a building where the bad guys are having a conference, you take out guards from afar to allow your squaddies to move in. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it is fun.
Another novelty section takes place in a hulking hover tank. It comes into play at the end of another globe-trotting mission in Bulgaria while you are on the hunt for WMDs. The mission through the science labs is another strong one with the tank section a fitting finale. I was reminded of missions in the World War Two based Call of Duty’s where you take charge of some tanks. All in all, it was a much better thank mission than the one we saw in Ghosts and reminded me that these type of levels can still work.
What makes these drone and tank stand apart from the other novelty mission is that they are well crafted, and appear during appropriate sequences of their missions. The final novelty sees you in a fighter jet where you are hunting down enemy planes in a race to reach New Baghdad. It all takes place in twisting canyons where flying too high results in death from anti-air guns, while flying through the narrow canyons isn’t an easy, or fun task.
A hell of a lot of Private Mitchell’s personal tale surrounds his prosthetic arm gifted by Irons and Atlas Corporation. It crops up several times during the game, none more so than during an end of game mission in New Baghdad. It was one of my favourite sequences, and I won’t ruin it…but safe to say there are some highlights to save you from the generic shooting and flying mission.
There is a lot that I think could have been done with the structure and plotting of Advanced Warfare, however on the whole, I enjoyed my time with the singleplayer aspect of the action. My Verdict below does only reflect the campaign side of things, I’ll have multiplayer thoughts at a later date. Don’t dive in expecting a masterpiece in story-telling, or even an entirely consistent action experience. But for the first time in a long time, the solo play feels like it provides strong support to the multiplayer action.
The (singleplayer Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox 360 and One, PlayStation 3 and 4
Platform Reviewed – PlayStation 4
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Review copy supplied by Activision. Multiplayer thoughts to come at a later date.