CALL OF DUTY®: ADVANCED WARFARE

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the best game in the series sinceBlack Ops IIas far as single-player campaigns go. It"s a far, far better game thanCall of Duty: Ghosts, and more interesting and memorable thanModern Warfare 3.

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Sledgehammer Games has put together a single-player experiencethat"s polished and fun, moving the series forward into the near future while still retaining the trademark Call of Duty experience. And while it shares a lot in common with its predecessors, it"s also a smarter game and one of the more enjoyableCall of Duty titles I"ve played in years.


Some spoilers will be included in this review. Reader beware.

The campaign opens up to you, the player, stepping into the shoes of Private Mitchell, voiced by the omnipresent (and always talented) Troy Baker. You"re a marine several decades into the future, heading into South Korea to prevent a North Korean invasion. Your buddy, Will Irons, is at your side. While you joined up as part of a family tradition, Will joined up to get away from his dad---Jonathan Irons, the CEO of Atlas Corporation, a high-tech, international private military contractor.

Read my review of the game"s multiplayer here.

One thing leads to another, and the mission goes south. Will is killed, and you lose your arm. At the funeral, Will"s dad Jonathan Irons---Kevin Spacey---offers you a job at Atlas, and a prosthetic arm. It"s a second chance, and one you jump after. Irons is irritated with your former boss, Cormack, a grudge that plays out in the future.


Anyways, Atlas is a big deal. It"s an international PMC with the largest standing army in the world. Irons explains that the company is more than just an army. They build infrastructure. They get things done. They"ve rebuilt Baghdad and turned it into a thriving, safe city. It"s all rather impressive, and Irons is quick to point out that it"s all possible because Atlas is corporate, not government. Politicians never get anything done; Irons is a problem solver, and a damn good one.

But there"s a terrorist organization loose, led by a guy named Hades, and Hades is out to destroy technology and liberate humanity from its clutches. He manages to blow up some nuclear reactors and Atlas becomes more powerful than ever, tasked with bringing the organization (KVA) down.

You, Mitchell, are at the heart of all of this, along with a couple of your buddy soldiers Gideon (voiced by Gideon Emery) and Joker (Jeremy Kent Jackson.) Gideon is your right-hand man through most of the missions in the game. Or, rather, you"re his right-hand man. You also tag along with the equally bossy Ilona (Angela Gots) and later, when everything goes to hell, Cormack (Russell Richardson) who is sort of the NPC hero of the game.


I won"t go into too many details about the plot twists and such, but if you want to avoid those here"s an extra spoiler warning.

Hades, it turns out, is working with Irons. This doesn"t come as a huge surprise. While Irons doesn"t come off as too despicable early on in the game, there is something sinister about Atlas and its boss. It"s also not hard to guess that Spacey"s character would be a villain.Call of Duty games aren"t exactly known for their surprising twists, andAdvanced Warfare is---sadly---no exception.

It would have been nice to avoid this twist. What if Atlas hadn"t been the bad guys after all? What if Spacey really did help the world become a better place by skirting democracy and leveraging the power of the free market and the efficiency of a PMC over a traditional military? I"m not even saying I agree with this sort of thing, I"m just advocating less boilerplate storytelling. It"s not that the story here is bad by any means. It"s actually really entertaining---just also really predictable, right up to the bitter end.

Still, Spacey"s acting and the motion capture and animation work on his character, and really on all the characters, is phenomenal. Mitchell looks a lot like Troy Baker, actually. Cormack looks like Richardson. Gideon looks like Gideon. Ilona is the spitting image of Angela Gots. The Sledgehammer team basically just paints the actors onto the screen. It"s enormously impressive. On the PS4 it all looks terrific.

Graphically speaking, the new engine, the three-year development cycle, and the new-gen hardware all pay off dividends.Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks amazing. There"s tons of variety in terrain, ranging from chases through city markets to shoot-outs in snow-swept Antarctica. You drive a hover bike, a giant robot tank thingy, a jet, a boat that can submerge underwater at will. All sorts of neat toys.

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You also make use of your Exo-suit which has a wide range of powers including the ability to slow down time, double-jump, boost forward in midair, bring up a bullet-proof shield, scale flat surfaces, and much more. It adds quite a bit to the way missions play out, but it never really takes away from theCall of Dutyfeel.

Fortunately a few things have changed inAdvanced Warfare. While level design is still largely very linear, levels themselves have opened up in places. Gunfights play out with more approaches available. You can take the upper level or the lower level. You can go through a building or around it to the left or the right. It"s not just a corridor, it"s a corridor with some branches going this way and that, making at least some parts of the campaign feel a little bit more like multiplayer in that regard.

There"s also a number of places where the game introduces stealth. It"s not really a stealth game and it never really embraces any deep stealth mechanics, but it helps change up the pace of the game a little bit when some levels aren"t just running and gunning, requiring a bit more patience and sneaking.

All in all, Sledgehammer has put together one of the betterCall of Dutysingle-player campaigns to date. Of the last fourCall of Dutygames---Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops II, Ghosts,andAdvanced Warfare---I"m hard-pressed deciding betweenBlack Ops II and this game. I think the story inBlack Ops II is a bit more unique.

Advanced Warfare has a final level that reminded me a lot ofModern Warfare 3 and a mission that reminds me a lot of one of the later missions inBlack Ops II.

And even though Spacey"s performance was really solid, I thinkBlack Ops II has the best villain of the lot.

ButAdvanced Warfare makes more use of futuristic technology that spices up gameplay quite a bit and has made huge leaps and bounds in terms of graphics even over last year. The game also handles really, really well, with a great array of guns and really solid shooter mechanics.

Nothing here is exactly new, but it all feels really tight which is nice given all the new gameplay mechanics at work here. Meanwhilelevel design feels like a step forward in terms of quality and complexity. The whole thing feels invigorated and more polished, which I think is largely thanks to that extra year of development and Sledgehammer"s new take on the series.

And yet all these little improvements leave me, in a sense, wanting something even bigger.

More than ever I"d like Activision to release an open-world, sandbox take onCall of Duty. I enjoy the action-movie style game. I enjoy that the campaign is fairly compact compared to more open-world shooters. And I realize that multiplayer is the heart and soul of the series.

But I"d really love to have all the Exo powers at my disposal in a game that let me figure out how to use them in any given situation, in a game that didn"t always have me tagging along with a superior, or answering to the voice communications of a detached supervisorpointing me in the right direction over and over again. I"d like to see whatthis vision of Call of Duty could be like with a more open-ended world to play around in, unleashed from its narrative constraints.

I know we probably won"t get that game, but I think all the right pieces, all the right gadgets and tools and mechanics, are here.

One way or another, Advanced Warfare isa big double-jump forward fromGhosts. And while it"s basicallywhat you"d expect from aCall of Duty single-player campaign, it"s also really polished, has some top-notch missions and some really challenging enemies, and is easily the best looking game in the franchise so far---the first truly new-genCall of Duty to date. It"s also not quite so over-the-top and bombastic asGhosts, though it"s a far cry from what anyone might describe as realistic. MoreDie Hard and less...well, everything but the kitchen sink.

The linearity and gameplay constraints placed on the campaign still make it feel like a great big cinematic tutorial in some ways, a red carpet wending its way toward the multiplayer experience. But I was still entertained from start to finish.

I"ve only played the PS4 version so far, but I"m hoping to give the PC version a whirl as well and will jot down some comparisons in the near future.