‘Advanced Warfare’ slightly revives franchise

‘Advanced Warfare’ slightly revives franchise

By Austin Miller

The “Call of Duty” franchise is one of the best-selling games of all time. But within the last three years, the war simulator has been received with fatigue and lukewarm reviews.

Last year’s “Call of Duty: Ghosts” has a 2.5 user rating on the review aggregator site Metacritic. This continued a decline that started with 2011’s “Modern Warfare 3,” which has a 3.3 and a 4.6 for 2012’s “Black Ops 2.”

Gamers have expressed publisher Activision is just annually dumping out barely upgraded titles to cash in on the brand loyalty, but how can you blame them?

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When “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” was announced earlier this year, fans thought this might be the year the franchise finally tries something new. The game is set entirely in the future, which is a first for the series.

The campaign puts players in the shoes of Jack Mitchell, a Marine who loses his arm in battle trying to stop a North Korean invasion of Seoul, South Korea.

After being discharged from the military, Mitchell is offered to join the private military corporation Atlas, controlled by Jonathan irons, the father of Mitchell’s best friend Will Irons. In Greek mythology, the titan Atlas had to support the weight of the world on his back. During the game, Irons’ Atlas grows to have the same responsibility.

Irons is played by the incredible Kevin Spacey, who provided full motion-capture acting for this role. As can be expected by Spacey, he crushes the part. He is essentially playing his Frank Underwood character from “House of Cards,” minus the southern accent, but it is truly effective. Spacey commands the screen, just as he has done in movies like “Se7en,” “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty.”

Even with the terrific performance by Spacey, the story leaves you wishing for just a bit more. “Advanced Warfare” had a perfect chance to condemn the real-life themes of the game like private military corporations and expansive drone programs. Instead, it falls into the repetitive “stop a corrupt dictator” game, which it has been for 10 years.

The missions of the campaign are also very reminiscent of previous Call of Duty games. There are battles and scenes that are eerily similar to Call of Duty 4.

Also, nearly every mission requires the player to participate in a quick-time event. Examples would be “Hold X to pay respects to a dead soldier,” “Hit A to jump on moving car,” “Hold X to open door.” If only developer Sledgehammer Games could have held X to develop a more creative structure.

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The futuristic setting gives players all sorts of cool technology that make the campaign more enjoyable than it probably should be. A metallic exoskeleton, or Exo, grants new abilities like double jumping, invisibilty, or a shield. Those abilities add a new wrinkle to combat, making the mundane shootouts a little more fun.

Aside from the campaign, there is the multiplayer mode, which is the main reason people buy these games every year. I have not enjoyed Call of Duty’s multiplayer since the original “Black Ops” came out in 2010, but was intrigued with how the futuristic abilities would affect the game style.

The truth is, they really don’t. Players have access to different abilities, but they don’t add or subtract anything to the experience. They are just there. The double jumping was supposed to change how players navigate the map, but the map is not designed with that in mind.

A game from earlier this year, Titanfall, made by the original creators of the Call of Duty series, has mechanics based on free-running, wall climbing and zip-lining. Each map in Titanfall was designed to be quickly traversed, so gamers can get away from the giant titans coming after them.

“Advanced Warfare” seems like any other map from the series, but now you can jump a little higher. The game should have committed to either fast traversal, or the standard walking, not wallow in the middle.

If you are a fan of the Call of Duty series’ last six online modes, you will probably enjoy this one.

Despite these negatives, the game is actually pretty enjoyable. This has been able to be said a few times, but the saving grace for this “Call of Duty” is the campaign. It is repetitive and cliché, but there are some fun elements that have not been present in last few games. There is a foundation for a really good game, which the developers will hopefully build upon—because of course there will be a sequel.

Is this the revolutionary shooter for the new generation of consoles, like “Modern Warfare” was? No, “Titanfall” has a better claim to that. But “Advanced Warfare” has a chance to get in the conversation with an improved sequel.

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