Videogame review: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, by Sledgehammer
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
When the mere mention of a game franchise inspires mass hysteria, the temptation is to shift things down gear and cruise along on past innovations, safe in the knowledge the game will sell millions of copies worldwide no matter what.
This is where I should list a series of guilty parties before expounding on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's refusal to perform such a disservice. But it's only half-true: the first-person shooter series truly hit its stride in 2007, with the game-changing fourth entry Modern Warfare, and even die-hard fans will admit each subsequent release has suffered from stagnation. New settings, updated graphics, fresh maps - but the same old, quickly tiring gameplay.
However, as the subtitle of the latest entry suggests, the inspiration here is based on what initially worked. Gamers are sent forward a few decades to 2054, when the possibilities of advanced weaponry can be fairly accurately predicted. And it's that clever balance between the series' trademark realism and the possibilities of future combat which pushes Advanced Warfare into the kind of adrenaline-fuelled overdrive that initially made the series so exciting.
The "exo-suit" is the true asset here, an outfit that wouldn't look out of place on Iron Man. Initially it allows you to quickly boost and dash across warzones and go high into the air, but eventually offers near-superhuman strength. Climbing buildings, ripping off car doors to use as shields, hooking onto passing aircraft before sabotaging the controls and bailing out to watch the blaze of glory light up the sky - the possibilities feel limitless.
Unfortunately, with all that innovation frontloaded, it's the oh-so-clever story that suffers from a lack of narrative follow-through: the plot follows the staid American interventionism angle of WMDs, corrupt congress and the like. It's messy, to say the least, although Kevin Spacey puts in an admirable turn as the villain.
It's funny how adding a robot suit can change the structure of an entire series, but it's the way the developers have unified its abilities and range of options alongside all three modes (single, co-op and multiplayer) that makes Advanced Warfare feel like a huge step forward. It should be an example to developers: you don't need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to pump some air into it once in a while.