Best PS4 Game I’ve Played – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Review

cod-advanced-warfare-reviewI don’t want to give away my age, but let’s just say when it comes to video games, I’ve been around from the beginnings. In previous generations, video game ads and promotional materials would really try and upsell the graphics and eye candy. In the past, it was an industry standard to show off all the cutscenes, rather than actual in-game footage. Back in the day, if you thought you were getting what you saw on the advertising, you would be sorely disappointed. The reason I mention this at the start of my Call of Duty Advanced Warfare (COW AW) review is because of how this game looks and feels. I can safely say the next generation of video games is here and COD AW sets the bar for expectations.

The gaming community really slammed the Call of Duty franchise about last years Ghosts game. There was extreme pressure on Sledgehammer Games with this years COD game. In a way, the entire franchise was depending on them to deliver something special. I think they have pulled it off.

The campaign single player is vast, wide ranging and engaging. I don’t think I’m the first reviewer of COD Advanced Warfare to say that it’s just like playing in a movie. To my point in the opening, this for me is the first time where I watched a cutscene that integrated seamlessly into the gameplay. It’s not like the cut scenes are graphically more spectacular than the gameplay graphics. This is for me, something special. The game is so lifelike that it’s going to feel like you’re in a movie. More than just watching cutscenes, COD AW keeps you on the edge of your seat because they throw you a curve ball. You might be watching a scene and then suddenly you need to react by pressing a certain button or tapping a certain button. Fail to do so in a timely manner and you will fail. It’s a terrific way of engaging you in the storyline.

I don’t often or ever put emphasis on a games story. The Halo story? I couldn’t really tell you anything about it even though I’ve played every game in the franchise. In this case, perhaps for the first time, I was interested and I was able to follow the story. I’m not sure if that’s a first, but I’m about the most thick headed when it comes to story lines in video games. If you like story lines, great voice acting, and plot, then COD AW will deliver for you.

The campaign single player missions offer a vast array of environments and experiences. From this perspective, I don’t think you can play just the first couple missions and have a clear understanding of how rich this game is from a graphics perspective. As I progressed through the story, there were many wow moments. If you stop in-game to look around at the environments, it’s quite a site to behold. The details and lighting is most impressive. The draw distances are vast. The enemies are plentiful.

codaw-box-back-sideYou’re not just shooting guns. As in typical Call of Duty games, you will take command of things that fly, things that go on water and things that drive on land. If shooting is getting stale, the single player has great timing for when to change things up. I must say that taking control of drones was quite spectacular. You can really put down a lot of enemies in short order with many of the assault vehicles and equipment especially on the games regular difficulty. This is not a bad thing at all!

Speaking of baddies, this is a great feature of Advanced Warfare. There are a TON of bad guys to shoot. They are everywhere! Think about GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 and all the baddies coming for you. It was almost endless. In COD AW, perhaps it’s the horsepower of the PS4, but there are a lot of moving objects to shoot at. The AI is good, although I found my support group to be a little suspect from time to time. Nothing glaringly bad, but can’t they help out a bit more? The general rule of thumb is that you will need to rely on yourself most times for eliminating the enemy.

The campaign also offers up challenges to complete which allow you to upgrade your EXO suit and abilities. A nice touch as you can become even more powerful, the better you play. If I had more time in the day, I certainly would like to go back and replay some of the missions.

Yes, the campaign and single player is great, but Call of Duty relies on multiplayer to ensure staying power in the market place. I’m going to give an overall perspective on the multiplayer, rather than a complete dissecting of the maps, weapons and gameplay.

First, AW multiplayer is a lot of fun. Online or in co-op mode, there is no shortage of replay value. It’s great. That said, the maps for me don’t provide anything out of the ordinary. The COD AW maps are good, but I personally can’t say these are better than anything I’ve seen in a COD game. If you took Ghosts multiplayer maps and put them up against Advanced Warfare multiplayer maps, I don’t see a clear winner. I still think that Modern Warfare 3 had the best designed Call of Duty maps. I’m not suggesting COD AW maps are bad, it’s just that they aren’t spectacular. I will say though that the changing environment on some of the COD AW maps, mid game, is quite interesting. I won’t spoil it, but some maps take on a new look during a match.

Weapons are interesting, although the community seems to find their favorites and if you want to win, you are looking at using what everyone else is using. The SMG selection is nice, but seems a bit out of balanced. At the time of writing, I would suggest it’s Assault Rifle or bust. Patches and updates will be rolling out to improve balance so I can’t say for certain what the future will hold. It’s called nerfing and buffing.

The exo suits and abilities are an interesting wrinkle in multiplayer. You can sense that this will offer some longevity to this arm of the Call of Duty franchise because there is more room for creativity. When it comes to integrating into multiplayer, I quite enjoyed trying out the various abilities. After some time, I decided to actually remove the abilities for the sake of better weapon attachment and perks. I’ve been doing better in multiplayer so perhaps I’m onto something. It’s not in the “spirit” of the game of course, but hey, online multiplayer is about winning isn’t it?

I should also give mention to audio and music. Most times music is music, but COD AW has some great menu music in comparison to other games. When you take notice of something you otherwise notice, it’s because it’s impressive. Guns too are wide ranging and realistic from a sound perspective.

Advanced Warfare vs. Halo

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some similarities between AW and Halo. I’m not sure if it’s the sniper rifle that makes me think Halo or if it’s the jumping aspect of AW, but more than ever, you could see some gameplay crossover. It’s just an observation and certainly not a negative point. This would makes sense and is almost inevitable considering that Halo is futuristic and AW is the most futuristic game of the Call of Duty franchise. So long as Advanced Warfare doesn’t get into aliens, then Call of Duty AW should be safe from meaningful comparisons. To me the sniper rifle in multiplayer brings me back to Halo and I find some of the maps, buildings and objects and similar in a sense to what Halo has been doing. Jumping has always been a big part of dominating multiplayer and with the Exo suit boost, COD AW is treading those same waters. We can have a discussion in the comments below if you agree or disagree with my take!

Blood, Violence, and Realism in COD AW

I want to also comment Sledgehammer in their ability to make the game incredibly life like, but without making the game a gore fest. This proves that even with incredibly life like FPS games on the PS4 and Xbox One next generation consoles, it doesn’t mean that the blood and guts needs to be as realistic as the rest of the game. If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. If the game makes the deaths as realistic as the rest of the game, then we are going to have issues in the future with warning labels and dads having to game a midnight so their kids won’t be exposed. Advanced Warfare is no more gory than previous games. Yes there is some blood splatter. Yes there are spin-o-rama death animations. Yes there are melee deaths with knives. All that said, there is nothing outrageous. Frankly I prefer human baddies that Call of Duty uses. With Halo, you get aliens where the gore really doesn’t mean anything. Call of Duty needed to do something smart with this next generation graphical and realism power and they did a great job.

System Hack – The Worst Idea Ever

The worst idea ever implemented in a video game? If you’re not playing multiplayer then you won’t understand it. If you want to ruin the enjoyment of your online multiplayer experience, then just wait for a player to utilize the system hack. In comparison, do you remember the Perfect Dark N64 dizzy feature in multiplayer? That was right up there as being one of the worst ideas ever. That implementation was partially broken because when you respawned, you were still dizzy. Well, I would have to say that Sledgehammer has outdone that Perfect Dark feature by a large margin. If you want to ruin a game, then do what the system hack does. It’s only about one minute, but it’s such an irritating one minute and even though you make it through, chances are you will experience another one in a couple minutes time. It obviously depends who you are playing. Oh yes, you can use a perk that will save you from experiencing system hacks, but seriously, do I need that just because it ruins the enjoyment of the game? It’s bad, real bad. In fact, once you get this game and play online multiplayer and have experienced the system hack, please tell me your thoughts in the comment section. I’m not sure if this can be patched out of the game. I do know that from Reddit comments, I’m not alone on my feelings. I can’t be more descriptive other than saying that it’s stupid. Awful jarring sound, and your screen is pretty much scrambled. As I write this, I’m getting more frustrated by it. It’s only a game I know, but when you design something so well, it’s incredible that something so stupid can make it into the final product.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Development Team

If you’re able to make it to the ending credits, one thing that may impress you is just how many names will scroll. I suggest you let it scroll to really get an idea of how many people are involved in creating such a game. It’s nothing short of incredible. Game testers? When you start seeing 5 people with the first last name, chances are that’s an indicator of a large group of people. Perhaps it’s been a while since I last looked at a video games credits list, but to me, these next generation games require a ton of human resources. Personally it makes me not want to buy this game used because these people deserve to benefit from putting together such a great game.

Buffing and Nerfing Has To End

Are you familiar with the terms “buffed” and “nerfed”? It’s one of the double edge swords of technology and the ability of game developers to roll out game updates/patches after the initial launch. In the old day, you better get it right regarding balancing out multiplayer. Now? The trend is to dumb down (nerf) the weapons that appear to be overly powerful. The trend is also to improve (buff) weapons that frankly suck and nobody uses. The issue of course is how this affects the gamers themselves. I’m seeing a growing discontent and I’m hearing similar comments in game lobbies for COD AW. An example of frustration? How about searching online for the “best COD Advanced Warfare gun”. Do you think what you’re reading is still relevant? All the YouTube videos? So with each patch and tweak, so goes the accuracy of the tips and online articles. That’s bad enough isn’t it?

But the question becomes when does it stop? Once you settle into your favorite gun, how about noticing that you’re losing more than ever suddenly and that what you used to do, resulted in kills? You wouldn’t know what happened unless you tracked down what the developer nerfed in their latest update. What should they do? They should put up disclaimers after a patch to say “this gun now sucks” or “this gun is now less accurate” or “this gun now does less damage”, rather than us having to figure it all out by ourselves. If the rules keep changing, I think it’s a very slippery slope. I mean think about it. If a game developer can’t get the balancing accurate at launch, then they should just own up to the “beta” aspect of the launch. It’s hard to really understand the mentality of this trend but to me it’s becoming far too common. Perhaps it’s laziness because developers know that based on our data from playing online, they can work out the weapon balancing. So regarding COD AW, when will they stop fiddling with the guns? No idea on that.

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