Editor's Note: This Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review was written by Dealzon user Brian Walker, who purchased a copy of the game for his Xbox One. Reviews at Dealzon are written by fellow gamers, with reviewed titles played during launch time unless stated otherwise.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, as with past COD installments, Advanced Warfare will likely get bombarded with balancing patches and fixes over time. Accordingly, elements addressed in this review may change for the better (or worse).
Sledgehammer Games really decided to shake up our conception of Call of Duty games with this release.
Sure, every year numerous fans request changes to the game because they want something new and refreshing. But if the original formula changes, is it really still the same Call of Duty? We get such similar installments year after year because they simply work. Why fix what isn't broken, right? Well, Activision's latest studio decided to take that risk, and the result is something that's actually invigorating to a long-time Call of Duty gamer.
Single Player Campaign: Advanced Call of Duty
When I first saw the Kevin Spacey campaign trailer, I was more than confused. Would this really add depth to the Call of Duty campaign? Let's be honest: previous campaigns of the series have been nothing more than afterthoughts - lackluster experiences that most owners of the game won't ever even play. The developers are well aware of this shortcoming.
This time, the situation is a little bit different. I jumped into the campaign with my "oh great, here we go again..." face on, but was quickly surprised by how solidly executed it is. I wouldn't call it any less linear than past installments, but it has new character.
The voice acting is surprisingly good, and there is actually a little story to the progression. This combined with the fact that everyone is always curious about futuristic elements in anything makes this campaign well worth the play-through. I was stunned at the number of "Oh, shit!" moments I had.
One particular scene has you throw an enemy from a moving bus into a large pillar. A lot of the scenes are controlled via Quick-time events, which make for a more interactive experience -- almost like an action movie that you control. I've always been a sucker for these ever since I played Resident Evil 4. I think it's safe to say this title offers the best campaign in the series.
Multiplayer: The Real Meat
While the campaign is solid, the majority of players know the series' true strength lies in the multiplayer portion. It's what made the franchise what it is today - one of the most successful in the industry. It's where excitement and rage mingle side-by-side, and friendships are burned to the ground.
Sledgehammer decided to take several risks here, the biggest being the fundamental change in movement. Being able to double-jump and dash is a series first. This was a real risk taken by the developers, as sales can easily be impacted when you deviate from the traditional formula.
Fortunately for them, the Exo-suit implementation was an absolute success in my opinion. It's amazing how fluid and natural the additional movements are. It's like I've been doing them my entire life, yet in actuality, this is my first attempt...
This Exo-suit is arguable the foundation of the game in general. Almost everything you do is tied to it in some way - from the way you move to your chosen abilities and launchable weapons. (Grenades and the like are no longer thrown.) There are many abilities to choose from, including temporary health, speed boost, cloaking device, and even a shield.
While the Exo-suit's abilities might appear overpowered at first glance, the developers tempered them by limiting the suit's use to once per spawn and only for a handful of seconds during activation. As an example, I've had no problems whatsoever picking out cloaked enemies, unless I'm really not paying attention to the screen. The abilities are an awesome new addition that the developers really nailed without putting a big dent in the balance of combat.
Weapons: Good and Bad
Weapons on the other hand are not quite as successful. While they look and feel very satisfying, the balance is off. This is no surprise to long-time players of the series. It's safe to say that no Call of Duty game has launched with anything close to perfect weapon balance.
Assault rifles are BY FAR the most dominant class of weapon, and anything else puts you at a fairly moderate disadvantage. The submachine gun category is practically worthless next to any one of the assault rifles, and heavy directed energy weapons like the EM1 are an absolute joke.
The EM1s are very cool in theory, but in terms of practicality, they aren't even worth thinking about. You can, however, gauge the effectiveness of these new weapons with the added addition of the the "in-lobby" firing range which allows you to test out weapons before going into battle.
Fortunately, not everything is as unbalanced as the weapons. Sledgehammer did a fantastic job balancing perks in proper tiers, but Scorestreaks are more interesting.
At first glance, you might not think there are very many options, but a deeper look into Scorestreaks reveals something we've never seen before in the series: Scorestreaks are UPGRADEABLE!
Yes, you read that right. You can now add to or alter your Scorestreaks at the cost of adding to the score they take to acquire. Again, Sledgehammer knocks it out of the park here with the added diversity and complexity to the game. Sentry guns can now be upgraded to fire missiles, the Paladin gunship can be upgraded to allow another player to man its weaponry, etc. It's an amazing inclusion that adds a great deal to the game.
Speaking of amazing, the create-a-class has once again been blessed with the "Pick" system. Like Black Ops 2's Pick 10, Advanced Warfare takes it a step further with Pick 13. The only real change here is the Scorestreaks are now included in the "Pick" system, but you can forgo some or all of your Scorestreaks in favor of a more powerful character. With a wildcard, you can even ADD an additional streak. This is the best class customization we've ever seen in the series, hands down.
The customization doesn't stop here. You can now truly alter your character's appearance. There are seemingly endless options you can unlock just by playing matches.
Basically, this year's Call of Duty now has a loot system of sorts, and if you dig customizing your characters, you'll love this aspect. You can also unlock variations of each weapon in the game. Don't like the fire rate on a certain gun? Perhaps you'll find a variation that shoots faster at the cost of accuracy or range. There always seems to be some give and take in these variations, so you can almost customize your own gun, even if it's not from scratch.
Multiplayer Maps: Vertical Additions
Maps in this game are quite solid. Most (or all, now that I think about it) use the traditional favorite three-lane format, with none of them feeling oversized. The distinction in this game is in the Y-axis. A lot of buildings and portions of the maps have multiple floors, leading to a constant battle for the high ground.
Between the focus on verticality, the rather strong aim assist, and a spawn system I can only describe as "atrocious", it's easy to die... a lot. Players often seem better than they should be thanks to these factors, and I've noticed it's much harder to have standout performances in comparison to past incarnations. Ego aside, I'm an amazing public match player, and I'm finding it unbelievably hard to boast Kill/Death ratios that in the past would be described as "really good".
Gameplay Modes: New and Old
When it comes to gametypes, Sledgehammer subscribes to the theory that more is better. All of the classics are here, and they brought back favorites like Hardpoint, War (renamed Momentum), and Search & Rescue.
There is even a ranked playlist for competitive players. The new hit that everyone is raving about is Uplink, a gametype that is basically Call of Duty's version of basketball (or almost any other ball-related sport).
In Uplink, there are two goals and one ball, a satellite drone. Throwing the satellite in the goal nets you one point, while jumping the satellite in grants two points for your team. You can pass the satellite to teammates, and even to enemies, rendered without use of their weapons. This gametype really emphasizes teamwork and strategy, and it's glorious.
In typical Call of Duty fashion, there is a third game mode: Exo Survival. This feels just like every other survival type mode in previous titles. You fight off waves of enemies with friends, buying weapons and upgrades along the way.
While not groundbreaking in any way, it's a nice co-op party game if you're frustrated that you're, errrhmmm...not performing as well in the PvP matches as you think you should be.
New and Missed Features
While Advanced Warfare is pumped full of innovative features like double-tapping for a faster reload at the cost of the remaining ammo in the magazine, a lot of simple features seem to have been overlooked.
Being able to see anyone's stats via their combat record should be a standard by now, as it was introduced back in 2010 with Black Ops. Along with the lack of stats, there is no quick way to look at the lobby leaderboard, which blows my mind.
Are they trying to keep player stats a secret?
Speaking of standard, where is the theater mode? How can they leave out such basic functionality that we have come to expect from the series?
While I'm ranting, another thing that really bugs me is the noise made when you get a medal during a match. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't get a medal for almost every kill or action in general. My ears are constantly wrecked by an overly loud, never-ending wave of "DUHN" - so frequent so that it's often hard to hear what's actually happening in the game.
The Visuals of Advanced Warfare
Let's talk visuals. I only have experience so far with the Xbox One version, and it looks fine overall. Granted, it's a little weird because of the odd resolution of 1360x1080 (PS4 version runs at native 1920x1080), but it's not usually too noticeable, even for a pixel junkie such as myself.
What DOES blow me away is the lack of anti-aliasing. The aliasing is literally so bad, it's often all I can focus on when I'm not in a fast-paced situation. Every...little...edge... is just full of blocks.
The character models and weapons look decent, while the environments are fairly sub-par. But I can't bash them too hard on these two particular points. One of the defining factors in the franchise has always been the goal of a constant 60 frames-per-second, and in that case, they do a good job, especially considering how underpowered the "next-gen" consoles are.
I've also heard tales of how awful the PC port is, which doesn't surprise me. It seems normal for this series, as its fan-base is heavily skewed towards console players.
There may be some minor complaints in this review, but Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is incredibly refreshing. It's bold and addicting, just like a new game should be.
Advanced Warfare is incomparable to any previous installment, but if you're in the mood for a new-feeling chapter to a series that truly does attempt to break the mold, then this is for you. It's satisfying, it's frustrating, it's Call of Duty.
Score: 8.5 / 10
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