Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is the latest entry in one of the most popular first-person shooter franchises on the market. The Call of Duty games are known for their great graphics and contemporary realistic military-action feel. Advanced Warfare is a bit of an anomaly because it’s set roughly 40 years in the future. But even with the sci-fi setting, it definitely still feels like a Call of Duty game, and it’s not something I particularly enjoyed.
Gameplay and Story
One of the first things the uninitiated should probably know about the Call of Duty series is that the reason for its popularity is not brilliant story in the campaign mode. People (young men and teenagers especially) flock to Call of Duty in droves because of the competitive multiplayer. Personally, there is one major thing that I dislike about Call of Duty style PvP, but before I go into that I feel I should say that since the franchise is so incredibly popular, obviously not everyone feels the same way. That said, the part of the realistic military shooter that I don’t like is the realistic part. Namely, if you get shot a few times you die. If you get attacked, you’re probably going to die within one second. Because of how quickly you die in Call of Duty, basically whichever player is spotted first is the loser in any exchange of gunfire that might occur. It isn’t really possible to get attacked and somehow escape or kill them before they kill you through quick thinking or particularly precise shooting. The winner is the one who finds the best places to hide. Getting good at Call of Duty means learning the maps so you can figure out where to best spot enemy players before they spot you. Camping intelligently is rewarded, especially since it’s not actually that difficult to hide if you find a dark corner and don’t move. I don’t like it. But, like I said, obviously a lot of people do.
With that out of the way, the other thing that people who aren’t familiar with the Call of Duty series should know is that the stories written for the campaign mode are, without exception, extremely jingoistic and pro-military. Call of Duty 4 has literally been used by the U.S. Army as a recruitment tool. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s story is no exception. It’s also extremely predictable. Major spoilers in the next paragraph. I’m about to ruin the biggest plot twists in the game for you.
The game stars Troy Baker as Private Jack Mitchell. Mitchell’s appearance is even modeled after Baker’s. Mitchell enlists in the Marines and serves together with his best friend Will. Big surprise: Will dies heroically at the end of the first mission. At Will’s funeral, you meet his father who happens to be the head of the world’s largest private military corporation, Atlas. His name is Jonathan Irons and he is played by Kevin Spacey. Call of Duty is very much a big budget, AAA franchise. Anyway, Mr. Irons derides the U.S. military, calling his son’s death unnecessary and telling Mitchell that he deserves to “fight for a military that’s as effective as you are.” So Mitchell spends about half the game fighting terrorists as a soldier for Atlas. After a while, it turns out that Irons actually has so little confidence in the competence of the U.S. government and governments in general that he wants to take over the world, and he isn’t afraid to kill several thousand innocent people if that’s what it takes! Gotta break a few eggs if you want to make an omelette, etc., etc. Yes, it turns out that the guy criticizing the U.S. government is evil.
However, if you don’t let any of the pro-military bluster bother you, the story is about as entertaining as that of any average action flick. The gameplay is much the same way, really: pretty shallow, but good for some entertainment. Advanced Warfare does a great job of breaking up the monotony of shooting bad guys, finding cover when they shoot back, and then repeating. There are cool gadgets like rocket boots (which facilitate a double jump, basically), guns that highlight enemies in red when you look down the sights, target-seeking grenades, and more. There are high-tech boats and hover-bikes to escape from bad guys on. There are remote-controlled drones to fly around and shoot bad guys with. There are a few missions where you get a Batman-esque grappling gun to play around with. There are even a few Quick Time Events that I enjoyed a little, which is saying something because I normally hate Quick Time Events. You’re never doing the same exact thing for too much time straight, and that is quite welcome because these days first-person shooters really need some kind of spicing up to avoid being completely predictable.
ESRB Rating and Platforms
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is rated M (17+), mostly for intense violence. There’s blood and gore, drug references, and lots of other content that justifies the M rating. It’s available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
All in all, I’m not sure that I would recommend buying Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare just to play through campaign mode. If you love first-person shooters and predictable-but-entertaining action movies, then it might be worth playing. If Call of Duty’s style of competitive multiplayer sounds like fun to you, then it suddenly becomes a lot more worthwhile. After all, they’ve been perfecting it with their yearly iterations for a while now, and Call of Duty has long been the most popular realistic military shooter for a reason.
Parents thinking about letting their kids play this game have the level of violence and the propaganda-like tone of the campaign’s story to consider. You spend most of the game killing human beings, they do die messily, and the narrative (reinforced by amazing graphics, by the way) does its best to justify and even glorify your actions.