It's that time of year boys in girls; the air begins to get cold, the trees begin to change, and our yearly release of Call of Duty has arrived. While it may have been getting stale of the last 3 to 4 iterations, Activision and Sledgehammer have really raised the stakes with this one. Not only is it in the future, and includes some nifty new weapons, they have called on yet another A-list celebrity to help drive the title into a story you care about. Well, maybe, because I honestly can't remember much about the story.
!!Warning: Spoilers contained in this review!!
The year is 2054, and war has finally changed... enough to no longer be Modern Warfare. You play as Private Jack Mitchell (which I did not realize he had a first name for quite some time) of the USMC, and you begin your trek of blood and carnage in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea has finally invaded, and being the United States, we drop our troops in to help. You can tell that this is the future by the new drop pods the Marines have, which have a built in display on the roof so you can see what is shooting you from below! Your best bud is Will Irons, and is Jonathon Irons (Kevin Spacey) son, and he will obviously not be alive for long. You make some comments back and forth through the opening cutscene, as well as some face time in the beginning of the mission, but other than that he is another soldier on the ground telling you to shoot the enemies so he can hide behind the wall.
That is one thing I have noticed about C.o.D. this time around; the enemies hate you, and only you. They will do whatever it takes so only you die. Your comrades will get shot a few times, but once you jump into the picture, all that fire goes towards you. Now I did finish the campaign on Veteran, so that might be the main reason, but even on Regular they still fire at you, almost like moths to a flame.
...Anyways, the other big change in this annual release was the Exo suit; a mechanical exo skeleton that grants the user extra strength, speed, and capabilities that normal soldiers do not have. The extra abilities, like the dashing dodge function and double jump, were a breath of fresh air for the title, but felt like ideas taken after play testing Destiny.
Your mission is a bitter sweet victory, as it leaves your best pal KIA (SHOCKED!) and you with a severed arm. Mitchell goes on to talk about the causalities of war, and why people die for a cause, which in turn feels like you are controlling a "human" character. Ultimately, it is used for waiting on load times between missions, and can easily be forgotten as you move onto your next mission. Of course, the only way to cement that Mitchell isn't another mute soldier, we are placed in the center of Will's funeral (in which you must press Square to pay your respects), which honestly isn't as bad as a lot of people have made it seem to be. It wasn't disrespectful of Activision summarize showing your respect for a fallen comrade by pressing a button, but showed us the side of war that not many games do. Although it is short lived, you are presented an opportunity to join Will's father PMC, Atlas, and a chance to reclaim your arm back. High tech weaponry and black labeled experiments help give Atlas the advantage over government organizations, and is called in for support to the highest bidder. Mr. Iron's tells you one sentence that summarizes a PMC to it's core; "We don't sell policies, we sell power." Atlas will fight anyone, anywhere, and anytime if they are cut a check, and it is apparent during the later missions.
The biggest threat to Atlas is a terrorist sell called KVA, which is lead by a single head that goes by the name Hades. While they don't go into much depth with the cell, they only give you broad threat; technology hating organization that wishes to reset the world to it's natural state. How you may ask? By launching a massive scale assault on major U.S. cities. Very familiar tactic for being a futuristic battleground. That is another problem I have found with this entry; nothing entirely fresh being brought into it.
C.o.D. hasn't been truly groundbreaking since the release of Modern Warfare, although they each bring their own innovations. Black Ops let us go back to Vietnam and deal with government cover ups, Black Ops II gave us futuristic combat, Ghost gave us a German Shepherd, and finally Advanced Warfare's futuris.... Exo suit. Out of all of them, A.W. is the closest to going back to the Modern Warfare formula that helped C.o.D. make the jump into the juggernaut that it is today. Sure the Tac 19 shotgun adds some interesting effects, and the EM1 laser canon is, well, a giant laser cannon, they aren't enough to add something amazing to the singleplayer experience.
After the barrage of cliches and your typical list of C.o.D. events (stealth, giant vehicle scene, assault on bases, etc.), you are presented with an experience you come to expect year after year. The campaign is never the main reason to pick up these titles, but I remember when they used to be able to stand on their own.
After the surprisingly enjoyable Extinction mode from last years Ghost, I was hoping for another cooperative experience that added more than just surviving waves. Exo Survival fails and succeeds in this criteria. Exo Survival is, as you guessed it, a simple survival mode we are used to with the zombie mode from previous titles. It is able to differentiate itself from zombies by adding certain criteria every once in a while. Some waves you have to defuse bombs, while others you have to collect dogtags that are spread thin across the map. You have defending point A, take down drones, kill all enemies, and even attacking enemy Goliaths. It is fun, but also incredibly tedious at times, and your success lies on teamwork.
What differentiates Exo from zombie's is the ability to select and change classes, giving you the option of either Light, Heavy, and Specialist. Light Exo is the fastest class, giving you the ability to do the Exo dodge ability as well as the UAV drone for you special. They are not the best class to choose if you are in either a small group, or in an awful group, since you can easily die after wave 8 or 9. The Heavy Exo is the best for either new players or those in a group of two, and starts you off with the EM1 laser cannon. You are slow in a painstaking manner, but you can survive almost anything, and granted with the Goliath special ability. The Specialist Exo is in the middle, where as you are not slow or fast, weak or strong, and definitely given the short end of the stick in weaponry. You start off with a shotgun, which isn't ideal for survival in my book, as well as the PDW side arm for more range assaults. I found that adding a red dot on the PDW helps out a lot, but ultimately too weak after wave 10.
The biggest plus in the Exo survival is the ability to upgrade your Exo class with new stats and abilities, and use up your conveniently named Upgrade Points. These points are granted after each round, and the amount you get is determined on how many points you score in each round. Most upgrades cost you 2 points, which is easily granted after the first wave, but your stats cannot be touched until after wave 5. The stat options you can choose from are Weapons Proficiency, Armor, and Exo Battery. Weapons and Armor are a must once you are able to upgrade them, and battery is nice once you have points piling up. While you can upgrade your armor, and your weaponry, the skillstreaks can be upgraded as well. The Goliath, for instance, can be equipped with a pinging system to show enemy locations on your HUD. This options gives your specials a bit more meat in the later waves.
All in all, Exo is not the best entry to the series, but not the worst. It builds on the foundation that Treyarch started with zombies, but fell a bit short after playing Extinction. The Left 4 Dead style gameplay was as engaging, if not more, than straight up multiplayer.
There are two things I wish to say about the multiplayer in A.W.: It has engaged me more than any other C.o.D. multiplayer in the past, and it is incredibly broken. The video above shows some of the hacks and mods people have been using online, and it is incredibly annoying when you are thrown in a match with entire teams of these players. Sledgehammer has banned some players already, but they are still rather rampant online, and will make you rage quit. As I stated above, I haven't really been enthralled with C.o.D. multiplayer before, and the last time I played extensively online was with the release of the first Modern Warfare. I heard of how people were hacking console versions to get the upper hand, and Black Ops was the biggest victim to these ass hats, but Advanced Warfare is definitely getting there. Of course you won't run into this every match, but the number of hacks are definitely growing.
Now that I have finished ranting about how broken the multiplayer is, now it is time to get to why I got so hard and heavy to begin with; Supply Drops. There is one thing that always makes me want to play a game more, and that is the slim chance of receiving something new, shiny, and rare. Advanced Warfare has a slew of goodies that your operative can acquire, ranging from; helmets, gloves, Exos, and all sorts of weapons. Not only do you get weapons, but you get special weapons. Intrigued?
Look at that flavor text!
As you can see, weapons and items come in three different flavors other than bland vanilla, ranging from; green, blue, and amber.
The only greens I have acquired have been armor related, and they are just new options for you operative to choose from. They don't add any boost, but they do give you some bragging rights depending on what you get, but the weapons begin to change. Each weapon gets it's own surname, as you can see above. The weapons will have certain advantages/disadvantages, and can definitely make a world of difference. Added range or fire rate is much more appealing than additional magazines of ammunition, plus they look different from your standard arsenal you begin with.
Blue items are when things begin to get fun. Helmets and armor begin to look different, but still nothing new for perks, and weapons still have the same advantages/disadvantages as their minty brethren, but now they will come equipped with an attachment. Whether it is the grenade launcher for your Noob Tube, or maybe the ACOG for the Guardian (shown above). If you are wanting to have 3 attachments equipped on your primary or secondary, these are the best way to go.
Amber items, or Elite, or the top tier that I have received. My helmet, for instance, is a full mask with the shark teeth pattern similar to an A-10 bomber plane. Other than aesthetics, it is the same fair. Weaponry begin to add two advantages/disadvantages, on top of the attachment. Shown above, the ASM1 now has +2 to fire rate, while -1 to range and damage. Obviously a better choice for those who need to kill quickly.
While the drops seem to slow down the higher rank you get, they are still obtainable through campaign and Exo survival. They aren't enough to keep me interested in this game for the long run, but it kept me around for more than a week after it's launch.
C.o.D. delivers everything you would expect it to, be it either positive or negative. Sure you have power armor equipped, but can feel lacking at times. The co-op is fun for a bit (and even has a special reveal after you complete all 4 tiers), but in no shape or form holds up to Extinction. If it did not have any trophies, it is safe to assume I would not click on the option. Multiplayer is the same shit storm it has been for years, and the amount of hacks and mods are definitely enough to make even the calmest player rage quit half way through a match. The campaign is nothing to write home about, and easy to determine the outcome after a few missions. Kevin Spacey does a great job acting for the game, which is a definite plus towards cutscenes featuring his character.
...But after all that, it is still a solid experience. I wouldn't say it is $60 worth, but it ate up enough time for me to not feel totally cheated. Friends are the definite way to go when playing online, and obviously playing with a solid team will make your experience more enjoyable. You won't think to yourself "Man, now that campaign was as memorable as Modern Warfare, or Call of Duty 2's!" but instead tell yourself, "Eh, at least it wasn't as bad as Black Ops II... I guess."