Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 27.08.2015

Review for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on PlayStation 4

In many ways, Call of Duty has become a victim of its own success. There is an unavoidable set of pressures and expectations that inevitably goes hand-in-hand with being one of the highest grossing entertainment products of the twenty-first century. The series' gritty subject matter, character-driven story line, and addictive multiplayer component have ensured that Activison have stumbled across a worldwide smash in the series, particularly following the release of 2007's Modern Warfare. Having established an annual release pattern early on in the series, other developers have been drafted in to extend each game's development time, while still meeting fan demand and keeping the revenue stream flowing; first with Treyarch, and now with San Francisco-based developer Sledgehammer.

It would be unfair to say that Call of Duty's storytelling peaked in Modern Warfare, but in retrospect it does indeed feel like that set a precedent for the series that was never really matched in subsequent releases. At the time, its frank, brutal take on conflict felt fresh and innovative, though the quality of the storytelling has fluctuated wildly in the years since, depending on the developer holding the baton at the time. Treyarch came up with some interesting ideas with the Cold War-set Black Ops series, but some of Infinity Ward's entries have sometimes felt rather phoned-in with generic, clichéd plots, which got confusing to follow - thanks in no small part to the continuous use of multiple characters that were difficult both to differentiate between and to gain an affinity with. All of the big Hollywood set-pieces were still present, but it felt more like a small bunch of disparate conflict zones had been pulled out of a hat with a thin story cobbled together as a flimsy excuse to flit between each location.

With the unenviable task of taking the reins on an established worldwide phenomenon with a consistently critical fanbase, Sledgehammer has opted to take the series in an entirely different direction: the future. Set in the year 2054, it follows Private Jack Mitchell of the US Marine Corps (played by the seemingly ubiquitous Troy Baker), who, during an early scene, loses both his left arm and his best friend, resulting in his discharge from active service. While attending his friend's funeral, Mitchell is offered a job by his fallen comrade's father, Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey). Irons just so happens to be the CEO of the Atlas Corporation: the world's largest private military contractor. While most would be happy with a guaranteed parking spot and gym membership, the offer of a cutting edge prosthetic arm is too good for Mitchell to refuse, and so he joins Atlas and quickly settles into his new role.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on PlayStation 4

A very real threat is becoming apparent in the form of a terrorist group called the KVA, and, after launching numerous attacks on nuclear reactors worldwide, causing widespread death and destruction, it seems that Atlas is the obvious choice to deal with this menace. However, Mitchell soon uncovers some information linking both his employer and the KVA, resulting once again in the rollout of the classic Call of Duty 'rogue operator' storyline, with Spacey playing the bad guy with consummate ease. While Advanced Warfare doesn't exactly tread new ground with its story, it does at least remain consistent and focused, mainly due to having just the one protagonist.

War in the future may be quite scary, but it's a great excuse for Sledgehammer to go all-out with the exotic weaponry and gadgets. The exosuit is the star of the show, bringing with it a set of enhancements and abilities that help tip the scale in combat, ranging from cloaking to overclocking, as well as built-in long range grenades and boosted movement in every direction, including vertically. As a rule, the player is given a couple of mission-specific gadgets and abilities per level - a sensible approach, considering that making everything available at once would make the player ridiculously overpowered (not to mention that there just aren't enough buttons on the controller to cover the lot). For the first time ever in the single player campaign is the option to upgrade the loadout and exosuit via points earned by meeting certain criteria, which can cover variables such as the number of grenades carried to exosuit battery life.

Bizarrely, a fairly high percentage of the people that purchase Call of Duty never actually touch the campaign at all, as the multiplayer component alone is a compelling enough reason to ensure repeat business. There's always the danger of overfamiliarity with any annual franchise, and it seems that CoD isn't immune from this, given that the sales figures from the past few years have been on a slow decline. Wisely, Sledgehammer haven't tinkered with the formula too much, so it still feels, looks, and handles very much like any other game in the series, but the addition of the exosuit adds an additional layer for consideration.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on PlayStation 4

With regards to equipment loadout, there are a total of 13 points to allocate, all of which can be split between weapons and attachments, perks, score streaks, grenades and exosuit abilities, allowing players to finely hone a selection to match any play style. For the first time ever, it's actually possible to level up score streaks: for example, if the Orbital Care Package is selected, a number of points can be spent to booby trap it, hide it from enemy radar, and more, in what is a nice touch that doesn't eat into the existing loadout points allowance.

Further customisation of the character's appearance is also possible via the plentiful items of clothing received in the regular Supply Drop crates, which are awarded for meeting certain targets during play. Somewhat unsurprisingly, there is a micro-transaction system offering a range of blinged-up cosmetic upgrades that don't provide any kind of advantage during play, but do make the online lobbies a far more interesting proposition. The Supply Drop crates also provide a large number of weapon variations that differ from the progressive unlocks by attribute and skin and, while it doesn't come close to Borderlands' sheer volume, it's still enough to add some flair to what is often considered a fairly drab series.

The virtual battlegrounds can often be an intimidating and bewildering experience for newcomers and, even now, there remains no easier way of fuelling that gaming inferiority complex than hopping into an online Call of Duty match. Sledgehammer have attempted to address this issue with the inclusion of the Combat Readiness Program to ease new recruits into the fray - the gaming equivalent of attaching a pair of training wheels to a bike. It couldn't be simpler: a random map is selected and populated by a mixture of bots and anonymous human players (meaning that there is no indication that any potential kills were human or otherwise) and, as scoring doesn't count towards levelling up, it remains a fairly pressure-free environment for newcomers to practise until confidence increases.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on PlayStation 4

Advanced Warfare ships with 13 well-designed maps, each packed with an impressive amount of detail that caters well to the exosuit's new verticality options. There's a good variety of locations, ranging from a solar array in New Baghdad to a downtown Detroit slum, and even the aftermath of a prison riot. Given the speed at which the game plays, campers - the usual scourge of CoD players - also don't seem to be as prevalent as in past iterations, which can only be a good thing.

Most maps have an event or context-relevant killstreak which can affect play, but it's nowhere near the scale of destruction found in the Battlefield series, making the game far less of a spectacle, all told. Predictably, all of the usual game modes are present and correct, ranging from the classic deathmatches and capture-the-flag modes to more obscure variations, as well as a fun new game mode called Uplink. This plays a little like basketball with guns, and involves each team trying to get a satellite drone into the opposing team's uplink station.

While the zombie mode in Advanced Warfare has been relegated to the DLC (which may seem a little unfair to some), there is a slightly less interesting survival-based co-op mode that's fun with friends - but less so with strangers. Sociable gamers will enjoy the fact that all of the multiplayer modes can be played split-screen and online simultaneously making it a great game to fire up when entertaining.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare delivers a high quality package that tweaks the formula enough to feel different, without straying too far from the master template. CoD's familiarity is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness, and, while it was always going to be an uphill struggle to win over the series' detractors, Sledgehammer should be commended for stamping its own character on proceedings. With the imminent release of Black Ops III, there's never been a better time to pick this up, as frugal gamers that might have previously been on the fence about pulling the trigger can now pick this up for a bargain price.

Developer

Sledgehammer Games

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Sandy Wilson

There are 1 members online at the moment.