Call of Duty: Ghosts was a low point for the franchise. Questions concerning the franchise’s longevity were raised. Did Infinity Ward poison the Call of Duty well with their lack of effort? It may very well have for the general public but I’m too curious not to check out what the newest member of the Call of Duty rotation had in store for this long running franchise.
Sledgehammer Games’ first crack at this multi-million dollar franchise was a success on the campaign front. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s campaign easily ranks among the franchise’s best.
The annual Call of Duty cycle begins with a campaign walkthrough at E3. I don’t usually plant the flag down for a pre-order after seeing these walkthroughs but after seeing digital Kevin Spacey pull off a House of Cards-esque speech to the viewer, I was sold and was ready to see how Sledgehammer incorporated his talents.
Call of Duty has a history of hiring known actors to lend their voices. Some worked, some didn’t and some were Snoop Dogg. Black Ops’ Reznov was brought to life by Gary Oldman and his performance elevated the characters beyond the franchise’s usual castaways. Advanced Warfare utilized its actors just as effectively.
Kevin Spacey as Atlas PMC CEO, Jonathan Irons, was captivating but thankfully so were the other actors and characters. Gideon’s performance was especially good despite his role as objective dispenser. The combination of stellar motion capture technology and quality voice work drew my attention to every cutscene. My only wish was for every bit character to be rendered with equal precision though.
Treyarch’s Black Ops 2 had a great vision for the near future but the guys behind Dead Space clearly showed their experience with science fiction and delivered a wonderfully slick look into the 2050s. My only gripe was the presentation were the legacy Call of Duty touches that they just had to include for their target audience. Having spoken with people who pick up the occasional marquee holiday release, permanent objective markers are a must — even in a seemingly linear first person shooter. It’s a shame they didn’t create an in-universe function like what they did in Dead Space or allow experienced players to remove that nonsense.
There’s nothing especially remarkable or offensive about the fire fights in this game. The enemies are still idiots and any challenge comes from their deadly accuracy and their numbers. By now, I know not to come to Call of Duty titles for their gunplay.
I play Call of Duty titles for their scripted spectacles and fancy toys. The newly introduced exoskeleton suits were supposed to offer never-before-seen freedom and mobility in a Call of Duty title. It’s true that I was able to leap onto single story buildings with a single bound but I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything that I wanted. I had to stay within the mission areas or risk getting killed by the game. Then there was the matter of suit power restrictions for every mission; some missions felt like any other Call of Duty mission because of the lack of power-ups like boost jumping. When I was finally given the boost jumps, I quickly realized that playing on “Hardened” difficulty meant I was better off staying put and taking shots from the safety of cover and not air dashing everywhere.
Sledgehammer told an easy to comprehend and straightforward story. It was methodically paced well with appropriate highs and — more importantly — appropriate build up. There wasn’t an iconic AC-130 moment and it didn’t seem like they were trying to reach for those heights again by shoehorning in big ideas without an effort to justify it within their fiction.
Many of the story’s touch points will be familiar to anyone who followed world events over the past decade and a half. The use of private military corporations, U.S foreign policy and the world’s reliance on technology were prominent themes and to see someone like Mr. Spacey’s character take a swipe at them with conviction and believability was refreshing. Modern Warfare wouldn’t even acknowledge which Middle Eastern country the game took place in and now we’re taking jabs at the U.S.
Sledgehammer Games were working on a third person Call of Duty title that was eventually scrapped after they came to Infinity Ward’s rescue and helped cobble together Modern Warfare 3. I guess they proved themselves to Activision then. However, I wasn’t sold until now. With the release of their very own Call of Duty title, they’ve proven themselves to me. If the franchise is indeed in decline, it wouldn’t be for the lack of trying on their part. If this is was their first effort, I can only imagine their second effort in 2017 would be even better.
For more information on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, visit the official website.