News Gaming Review Update : Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review – 6 Reasons It’s Awesome (And 4 Reasons It’s Not)

The day is finally here: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is officially now out in the wild, though if you remembered to pre-order the Day Zero edition, you’ve probably been playing for the better part of a day already.

The latest entry into the CoD franchise comes hot on the heels of what’s popularly regarded as the worst entry in the core series, Ghosts, which was pretty much just an uninspired Greatest Hits of the franchise without any invention of its own, and boy, it really, really didn’t feel next-gen at all, did it? 
It’s a pleasure to report, then, that Advanced Warfare is a significant improvement over its competent yet unoriginal predecessor, introducing a number of new elements to breathe fresh life into the franchise, all while course-correcting a number of the complaints people have with the series.

Sure, it’s still at its core the same CoD that sells tens of millions of copies per year, and some will inevitably have their gripes with that, but this latest entry throws down the gauntlet for Treyarch, who will presumably be developing next year’s edition.

It’s a surprisingly great game but far from perfect, so here are 6 reasons why CoD: Advanced Warfare is awesome, and 4 reasons why it’s not.
6 Reasons It’s Awesome…
1. Kevin Spacey :
And of course, who can forget the inclusion of one of Hollywood’s greats, Kevin Spacey, as the villainous President of Atlas, Jonathan Irons? Though the CoD series is no stranger to Holllywood talent (Gary Oldman, Kiefer Sutherland and Sam Worthington have all had significant parts in previous games), this is the first game to really harness an actor’s star power and make the most of it.
The photo-realistic visuals are a major plus for Spacey’s appearance, impressively recreating the actor’s facial expressions and, with a spirited vocal performance from the actor himself, help create a thoroughly believable villain. Though Spacey does have the odd ropey line of dialogue to chew through, he does so with admirable enthusiasm, and unlike so many celebrity voice actors in video games, clearly isn’t just phoning it in to pay off a yacht.

Plus, for anyone who watches House of Cards, seeing the video game-addicted Frank Underwood in a game (considering that he and Irons are rather alike) is just too deliciously fun to pass up.

So, that’s why you absolutely should be picking up Advanced Warfare this weekend, but what about the areas where it doesn’t quite measure up? Here are 4 reasons why AW isn’t quite so awesome all the time…

2. Firing Range :

A small but hugely welcome addition to the CoD series comes in the form of the firing range. Say you’re in the lobby waiting for the next match to start and want to try out a new weapon? Just select it, then hit the firing range button, and you’ll be quickly transported (without a single loading screen, impressively) to said range, where you can shoot the weapon to your heart’s content.
This is a huge improvement over having to simply pick a weapon and hope for the best, having to wait to try it out on the battlefield, which can be frustrating if it turns out to be a dud and you’ve made no other custom classes. It may seem like a tiny little fix, yet it says to gamers that Sledgehammer aren’t just interested in the big picture, but also the small things which, when added up, can be either supremely detrimental or complimentary to a game depending on their inclusion or exclusion.

3. Insane Customisation :

Customisation has always been a huge part of the Call of Duty franchise, with Infinity Ward and Treyarch trying to give players as much choice as possible about their load-out and how they head into combat. Sledgehammer have followed ably in their shoes, then, giving players more freedom of choice than the series has ever seen.
It’s fair to say that the game seems inherently more “open” because of the Exosuit and the numerous upgrades (invisibility, health augmentations and so on) that this invites, but even so, the developer has improved upon numerous aspects introduced in earlier games. The Pick 10 system introduced in Black Ops 2, for instance, has now been expanded to Pick 13, ensuring players don’t get frustrated with arbitrary restrictions and can build the set-up they desire.

Though the load-out screen might seem dizzyingly complex to a newcomer (and even for veterans, changing your load-out in between matches requires fast reflexes and a little good luck), it is, like the Exosuit, something you’ll likely adjust to after dealing with it a few times.

4. Vastly Improved Single Player :

Ghosts received a lot of flak for its, to be polite, unoriginal single-player offering. It was nothing more than a collection of the coolest set-pieces from the series re-skinned with a slightly different plot (albeit one you probably won’t remember). Advanced Warfare’s single-player, though still subject to many of the flaws that affect every game in the series, is a significant improvement, and absolutely worth playing through, even if you tend to skip this portion of the game.
For starters, the game is a massive step-up from Ghosts visually (though sadly this doesn’t carry over to the multiplayer), with a great deal of attention paid to particle and lighting details, while facial expressions (particularly Kevin Spacey’s) look more realistic and believable than ever. After so many people complained that Ghosts just didn’t look next-gen, at least the single-player portion of this game measures up to the standard set by last year’s similarly futuristic Killzone: Shadow Fall.

Another frequent issue with the campaign modes in this series is that they’re all woefully short. AW doesn’t break the mold hugely in this area, but it’s nowhere near the embarrassingly short 4-hour blast-a-thon that was Ghosts’ campaign. AW’s story mode will take most players 6-ish hours on regular difficulty, while on harder modes, it can easily take up to 7-8 hours.

Though the plot is still politically immature, there’s plenty of creaky dialogue and a number of familiar missions, it’s nevertheless a massive improvement over Ghosts’ rather pathetic attempt at a campaign.

5. Excellent Multiplayer Maps :

If Ghosts featured a relatively disappointing and forgettable array of maps, this year’s selection more than makes up for it. Sledgehammer have given us some ludicrously entertaining maps that are impeccably well-designed to fit the free-wheeling gameplay style that the Exosuit promotes. Terrace, a night-time, neon-lit hotel, is an instant classic, as is Greenband, a hedge maze-type map that will have you accidentally falling to your death numerous times if you’re not careful about where you boost to.
In fact, it’s hard to pick a bad one out from the bunch: Riot is an intense prison scenario, and Detroit is, well, Detroit (except even more of a mess). Though some are less memorable than others (Ascend, set in an airport, is totally forgettable no matter how many times you play it), but none of the current map selection elicit groans or sneaky lobby exits when they come into rotation.

Though the Exosuit itself inevitably takes a lot of the credit for making these maps work so well, that Sledgehammer had the ingenuity to design them so studiously in the first place shouldn’t be ignored.

6. The Exosuit :

Easily the biggest shake-up this year is the introduction of the Exosuit, a special mechanical exoskeleton which allows players to jump, boost and dodge during combat, adding an entirely new level of verticality and intensity to the typical CoD shooting mechanics. Yes, it’s clearly ripping off Titanfall’s much-praised gameplay (minus the wall-running), but you know what? It’s great.
The exosuit isn’t just a nifty new way to navigate the maps: it completely changes the way you play the game. Playing Kill Confirmed is now more treacherous than ever, because dog tags can be floating around 20 or 30 feet in the air, and Domination can see enemies flying at you from a dozen different directions, all desperate to capture your base.

The increased movement speed that the suit allows makes the already-frantic pace even more breathless, yet it somehow never becomes too overwhelming, and after a few games, most players should have adjusted to this insane new mechanic. Also, though it is only used intermittently throughout the single-player campaign, it certainly helps reinvigorate gunning down hundreds of nameless foes from time to time.

Needless to say, if next year’s game doesn’t feature the Exosuit, it will need to come up with something mightily interesting and innovative to fill the void, because after just a day of play, this feels like something that should remain a vital mainstay of the series from now on. It’s a genius addition by Sledgehammer.

And 4 Reasons It’s Not

1. Technical & Design Issues :

As previously mentioned, from a technical perspective, the multiplayer aspect of AW just doesn’t seem particularly advanced from Ghosts. While the single-player is a fine-tuned operation and the Exosuit is brilliantly implemented, running smooth as silk, the multi-player still feels stuck in the past from a technical perspective.

On the San Francisco-set Defender map, there’s a huge body of water which will occasionally transform into a tidal wave and spill onto the land. This gives players a chance to get their feet wet in the water, but if you decide to go prone, the game will stutter between its above-water and below-water visuals, which for a brand new game running on the PS4 and Xbox One, is laughable.

From a design perspective, there’s also the frankly bizarre choice to have the names of players talking over comms appear in the middle of the screen in an obnoxiously large font. Who needs to know that kanyewest_fan412 is the guy playing loud, distorted music over his microphone? The idents should be kept to the bottom right-hand corner of the screen where they belong, in a much, much smaller font size.

Have you been playing Advanced Warfare? What do you think so far? Shout it out in the comments!

2. Lack Of Small, Gimmicky Maps :

Though the map selection is on the whole fantastic and the Exosuit doesn’t really invite restrictive maps, the series continues to lack a single tiny, arena-esque map like the classic Shipment (Modern Warfare) or Rust (Modern Warfare 2). These maps (Shipment especially) were so small that you couldn’t go two seconds without seeing an enemy, and though chaotic, were hugely popular with fans (probably because they’re an easy way to level up),
Sadly, recent games haven’t included any similar, gimmicky maps (perhaps because Activision don’t want players leveling too quickly), and though the selection for AW is itself pretty great, the inclusion of just one small, intense map (even if it were an HD remake of Shipment) would make the rotation even better.

This one’s unlikely to come to fruition, sadly, but if it came along in a map pack DLC, it might actually be one worth paying for…

3. “Out Of Bounds” :

One of the more disappointing if not unexpected aspects of the maps is that they’re still as restrictive as ever. This is particularly problematic given the freedom that the Exosuit purports to give players. You likely won’t go a single multiplayer game without seeing that annoying, orange “Out of Bounds” warning sign appear, indicating that you’re flying too high.
But given that the Exosuit mechanic promotes this type of play, doesn’t it seem like a contradiction in terms? Plus, if there’s room in the sky to boost around, why give players the warning in the first place? It should only be used for the edges of the map, which are so poorly disguised you’ll know exactly where they are anyway.

Hopefully Sledgehammer will realise the problematic nature of constantly pointing out the limitations of the maps, and understand that gamers don’t need their hands being held. Above all else, make maps that cater even better to the high-wire thrills of the Exosuit, or at the very least, only warn players that they’re going out of bounds when it really matters (which is basically never).

4. It Still Doesn’t Look Next-Gen :

Though the single-player campaign looks sleek, sexy and shiny, the same can’t really be said for the multiplayer offering, which doesn’t look much better than Ghosts, suffering from the same muddy textures, jagged geometry and glitchy visuals. Is the above image, of a cracked bus windshield taken by us on the map Riot, really acceptable in a 2014 video game?
The excuse that the graphics needed to be toned down for 18-player multiplayer mayhem just doesn’t really wash, because EA have managed two visually stunning Battlefield games with significantly more players than that on the same hardware, so what is it about the CoD games that makes them feel perpetually a few years behind graphically?

Does it ruin the experience? Absolutely not, but it’s a shame the beautifully-designed maps aren’t accompanied by prettier textures, and it does result in the occasional wince-inducing moment when you come up close to an object (anything with writing on it is particularly bad), at which point the illusion of immersion is irreparably broken.
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