Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Why I Am (Tentatively) Excited About Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Robert Rath | 28 Aug 2014 12:00
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Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Screenshot

It Seems to Have One Theme Rather Than 20

You won't win any awards pointing out that the CoD series tends to have a problem with plot. But I'd argue that CoD's storytelling issues have less to do with plot than they do theme - and Advanced Warfare's theme looks strong.
The best Call of Duty games are built around a main idea. CoD4 argued that the grinding, grey-area nastiness of invasions and black operations were preferable to nuclear annihilation. World at War had a hidden moral choice system that commented on the ease with which soldiers fall into war crimes. Black Ops coalesced around the idea that the Cold War was a contest between two equally sinister, unfeeling military machines using individuals as their puppets.

Black Ops II on the other hand, felt scattered. It never focused on one theme. Is it about dangers of drone warfare? The tyranny of the mob? How America's interventionism during the Regan era spawned our current enemies? It had a lot of excellent ideas, but no central thesis. Ditto both MW2 and MW3. Let's not talk about Ghosts overmuch.

Advanced Warfare hammers that dangers of PMCs nail pretty hard in all the trailers, so I'm hoping's the story's backbone rather than just the loudest firework in the display. While there's been some eye-rolling at Kevin Spacey's casting, at least it means he'll play a large enough role to justify his cost, and hopefully be less than a pop-in, pop-out villain like Makarov or that mustache general from MW2. Sledgehammer knows it was a coup getting him in the recording booth, and I'm willing to bet they'll make his character the center of the story - and I look forward to seeing him eating the scenery with a knife and fork.

It Runs As Far From Call of Duty: Ghosts As Possible

Barring some backstory connection, Advanced Warfare feels like a rebrand. With a new studio, new engine, and an after-the-colon subtitle that can easily have a 2 or 3 appended, it's mirroring the transformation the series went through with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. This hopefully means the brand can cut off the last of the gangrene that was the underwhelming, under-selling Call of Duty: Ghosts and get on with being top dog in the shooter space. While it's true that there will probably be a Ghosts 2 at some point (if you suppressed a shudder there, so did I) I doubt Sledgehammer will be hurrying to connect their new beginning with Infinity Ward's senioritis-laden sendoff.

Advanced Warfare

Cool Weapons and Vehicles, And Yes, That Matters A Lot

You can talk all you want about story and character and depicting real-world events (and I do, frequently) but at some point you have to acknowledge that CoD is about the guns. Guns take up real estate on the screen throughout the game, and they're the primary method of interacting with the world.

So it's a big development that CoD can break out of the shotgun/SMG/assault rifle/sniper rifle/rocket launcher holding pattern that it's maintained for so long. There have been developments over that time, of course, but after all that time the guns all just act like guns, with nothing so brilliant as Titanfall's smart pistol or magnetic grenade launchers for variety.

But not anymore. Game trailers point toward a directed energy weapon, homing grenades that seek out enemies, and an exoskeleton that can rip off pieces of the environment as a shield. There are other mobility and defensive devices as well, including ballistic shields that mirror you and gloves that climb up walls. It's stuff that looks really exciting - provided they're gameplay tools and not disposable one-time gadgets like the wingsuits and grappling hooks in Ghosts.

And then there are the hovercycles. Hovercycles. While I suspect there will be little functional difference between these and the snowmobiles in Modern Warfare, there's a potential to do something new and different here, eve if it's just looser controls and the potential to go over and under obstacles.

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