Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review: Stagnant Warfare

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Posted on November 5, 2014, Ron Whitaker Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review: Stagnant Warfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is Sledgehammer Games’ first effort as a lead developer on the series, but it bears all the hallmarks of its predecessors — to its ultimate detriment.

After Call of Duty: Ghosts’ dismal performance last year, Activision needed to turn around the fortunes of its flagship franchise. To that end, it added a third studio to its yearly CoD rotation, along with franchise creator Infinity Ward and off-year studio Treyarch. Treyarch’s more unique Black Ops titles seem to be doing better than the latest Infinity Ward offerings, and with Advanced Warfare, it looked like Activision was asking Sledgehammer to put its own unique mark on gaming’s all-time leading seller.

Sledgehammer’s inaugural effort is a solid one, but it’s so steeped in the traditions of the series that it falls short of truly becoming its own game.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: November 4, 2014
MSRP: $59.99

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare puts players into a familiar situation — there’s a threat to the safety of the world, and you’re off to deal with it. It’s 2054, and your character, Jack Mitchell (voiced by Troy Baker), is a member of the United States Marine Corps having recently joined up with his friend Will Irons. On a mission to repel a North Korean invasion of South Korea, Irons is killed, and Mitchell loses an arm.

Mitchell recovers, and later attends his friend’s funeral, which includes one of the more awkward scenes in a Call of Duty game. After the oration is completed, you get the somewhat strange prompt to “Press F to pay respects.” It makes some sort of superficial sense for Mitchell to pay his respects to his friend, but the casualness of the button prompt just didn’t feel right at all. The awkwardness is compounded by Will’s father, Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey) offering Mitchell a job as he departs the funeral.

In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised by much in Advanced Warfare. There are no bold steps forward here.

Jonathan Irons is the CEO of Atlas, a multinational private military corporation that appears to have weaponry and technology that surpasses that of the U.S. military, including an advanced prosthetic that brings Mitchell back to combat readiness. From here, you’ll travel the world, carrying out missions until a blatantly obvious plot twist comes along. I won’t spoil it here; suffice to say that you won’t be surprised by it.

In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised by much in Advanced Warfare. There are no bold steps forward here. Instead, there are half-hearted additions to a franchise formula that seemed to be wearing thin two installments ago. You can almost guess what the parts of the formula are. WMDs? Check. Threat to world security and the survival of humanity? Yep. Only you (and your super-small team of awesome soldiers) can stop it? Oh yeah.

That’s the real shame of Advanced Warfare. Beneath the trappings of Call of Duty is the potential for a game that could have been a lot more. For instance, there’s a character progression system that’s largely superficial. You gain points to spend by getting headshots, kills, and the like, to unlock bonuses and upgrades, but you earn so many points that you can count on being able to upgrade almost everything before the end of the campaign.

Almost nothing in the progression system is required. You can reduce recoil, or speed up your reload ever so slightly, or add a bit of health. These perks sound useful, but in practice each “upgrade” is so miniscule, it could have just been dispensed with. It’s a shallow system that really adds very little to the campaign. It almost feels like Sledgehammer needed a progression system to check the corresponding box on a design document somewhere.

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