The term ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ has been thrown around for as long as many of us can remember. It’s a term which first came into the public’s eye during the late 70s, often being used in relation to humanity’s incessant need to make everything better when it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes things do have to change. One major criticism that often lands within the realms of Call of Duty is that every year its fundamentally the same. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s arrival does have to make you wonder whether Sledgehammer Games will stick to that old ideal of iteration over innovation or bring the franchise kicking and screaming into a new era.
As far as new eras go Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare doesn’t mess around showing us a near-future world without venturing too far from realism. The recent Black Ops 2 took us to 2026 and the even more recent Ghosts only went one year further. Advanced Warfare takes players into a much more distant time of the late 2050s. A world where everything sort of looks the same but with a hint of science fiction about it. Floating jetbikes and laser rifles sit side by side with concrete buildings and soda cans. While likely a pure artistic design choice, adds a tangible element to the world which gives everything a very real feel.
While on the subject of art it has to be said that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare pulls no punches in the visual department. It isn’t a game that could be described as a photo-realistic flight of fancy as some textures do fall woefully flat. This is a shame because for the majority of Advanced Warfare you’re treated to an aesthetic parade of quite gorgeous visuals and outstanding artistic direction. Scattered files actually look scattered. Broken glass appears to be shattered randomly. Car parts seem to launch themselves into the air with afforded randomness.
One may expect this of any big-budget release but they usually feels as though four weeks was spent deciding the height of Venetian blind number 14. This is the case, of that there can be no doubt, and yet everything still feels natural. Its a quality that is often lost in the artistic design of games, one where something looks to have fallen of its own accord but hasn’t. One where it has in fact been scrutinized and meticulously rearranged over a series of months in the hope of belying that history.
It brings the late 2050s to life in a way one would never expect to see even in cinema (although the cinematic nature present in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is one to be discussed later). Being honest though, making something look realistic doesn’t bring it to life. What brings it to life is the characters who inhabit the environment. This is without a shadow of a doubt where Sledgehammer’s flog at the Call of Duty horse excels. The writing may not be perfect and there are a fair helping of plot holes so large you could squeeze another game into them but the passionate execution of the cast paints over these with a glossy sheen.
Of course the big name everyone knows in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is American Beauty‘s Kevin Spacey. Credit where credit’s due, every time he is on screen or even speaking, his character Jonathon Irons steals the show. This is in part thanks to incredible acting but that would be a disservice to the animation and motion capture used to bring his character to life. Attention will without a doubt focus on Spacey’s character for good reason. What it will do though is overshadow the incredible voice work by Gideon Emery, Angela Gots and that other guy. What’s his name. You know, the one that isn’t Nolan North. Oh yeah, Troy Baker.
These factors all come together to create a – mostly – tight knit and well presented tale throughout the single player. It tops out at around 6-8 hours but the story does take you through enough to keep up the entertainment value.