What, you expected me to chime in with a final opinion within a week of the game releasing? Please. Ok so my daily (ish) updates on Advanced Warfare were supposed to be leading up to a final verdict but then Christmas/life/poor online connectivity got in the way. So here it is, over two months later, the final verdict.
First up, I have played less of AW than any other COD (yes, even Ghosts) and the reason for that is simple – I’m one of the last left. My first venture online with COD came with Black Ops and it was mostly due to two or three friends being always online and coaching me through what the hell I was doing. They had done the hard labour figuring out best perks, weapons etc and I was happy out playing on a solid team. Then came MW3 and though it didn’t get anywhere near the investment that Black Ops did we got our money’s worth. Black Ops 2 proved divisive amongst my peers but again served its purpose. With Ghosts the key issue was that I went next-gen, nobody else did. Still, it was an easier game to play lone wolf than any previous COD. Then comes AW and the most crucial difference is that nobody bought it, at least very few on my friends list anyway. So my opinions on Advanced Warfare are nearly coming from an outsider looking in perspective given that I have only had the option to hop in to random online matches and to me that only gives half of the story in how enjoyable the game really is.
First of all, the campaign. Playing through on Veteran, my first issue with AW came in that it fell into the “not difficult, just annoying” category. Being an achievement hunter I will always play new COD titles on Veteran first time around to save replaying the campaign. The Modern Warfare series dished out a good challenge on this setting but a bad trait snuck in to Black Ops 2 and Ghosts wherein rather than throwing an extra enemy or two into encounters or simply requiring a higher level of strategy, they just gave the enemy AI an annoying level of accuracy and ridiculous health levels. AW unfortunately falls into this category too. At times simply spawning at a checkpoint and taking two steps forward would find you riddled with bullet holes dead on the ground during the campaign. Year on year COD seems to be getting exponentially ridiculous with the sheer volume of combat it throws your way and hopefully this trend will be bucked. Aside from this gameplay issue the plot and progression of such within the game is acceptable to impressive. Kevin Spacey as Jonathan Irons brings a fantastic gravitas to the cinematics. He is hot property right now with House Of Cards taking viewers by storm and his presence outshines any of the previous celebrity turns in the series. I will also say that the supporting cast put in some series best performances given that forming any real emotional bond with COD characters has been quite a chore in past games. The plot itself is quite interesting for the bulk of the game though the ending falls extremely flat, nearly in a “we ran out of ideas” sort of way. It just, ends. Pity because up until that point it is all a fair bit interesting.
So what else aside from the campaign? First up of course is the multiplayer. The familiar tropes are all here but with the notable difference that is the exo suits. “Pfft, ripping off Halo” was the consensus amongst most after the reveal trailer for AW and yes, that is correct. But rather than rip off, Sledgehammer Games decided to take the best aspects of Halo, Titanfall, previous COD titles and just a dash of originality (a tried and tested COD formula) and in my opinion they got it mostly right and refined what they had to. Yes, the aerial side of the combat can be a bit laborious and a little black or white – you will or won’t master it. But if you’re like me and you could at least hold your own in the aforementioned titles then you’ll have fun here. Another important point about AW’s multiplayer is that it is by far the easiest. Not in terms of learning curve but in the pick up and play sense, even going it alone, you will have a far more favourable enjoyable/frustrating ratio than in previous titles. This is due to the somewhat more level playing field of the gameplay style being “new” to everyone involved and the likes of killstreaks being less of a sizeable unlock. Instead of streaks requiring insane skill levels you will gain access to any and every streak relatively easily. Where your skill and commitment pays off is in the ability to customise killstreaks wherein you can add extra firepower, longevity etc. It is a welcome shake up and made a big difference to my enjoyment of the game.
After these two modes the game does fall a little flat but that has been a trademark of all non-Treyarch COD titles in my opinion. The Modern Warfare series has Spec Ops and Ghosts had the enjoyable Extinction mode but no developer has ever come close to Treyarch’s Zombies mode. This does not change for Sledgehammer who provide us some entertainment with their own Spec Ops spin but it is for the most part short lived, lacking the tactical nous of say MW3’s version of the same. There is also a Zombies Easter Egg to be found within Spec Ops where upon reaching a certain wave and surviving the undead come to tackle you for a wave but in order to play a full on Zombies mode you have to go down the route of DLC. No thanks.
In all, Advanced Warfare has a freshness to it that was crucial for the preservation of this annual series. Ghosts sullied the name for many people and quite a large number have gravitated towards a Treyarch-only way of thinking which is understandable. But Sledgehammer showed a good hand with this title and their future input to the series should prove interesting. This old dog ain’t dead yet.
Image courtesy of streetdojo.com