Our yearly installment of Call of Duty is upon us, and while I'm taking a couple of days to play Advanced Warfare's multiplayer the way it was intended before posting my review, I have conquered campaign mode, and learned so much in the process.
It took me around six hours to make it through Advanced Warfare's futuristic tale of military adventure, and I absorbed every Spacey-soaked moment of the campaign. They say no one plays Call of Duty for the story, but it's generally the part of a COD game I look forward to the most — even if that's because it serves as a buffer between my fragile self-esteem and the online hordes.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead, most of which have already been revealed in the course of the game's lengthy marketing campaign. If you want a spoiler-free look at the story, stay tuned for the full review later this week.
It may take place four decades and change in the future and the toys have undergone drastic upgrades, but a Call of Duty story is a Call of Duty story. A man possessing a fierce patriotism on a mission to stop bad things from happening uncovers a plot to do incredibly bad things.
He must stop the bad person from doing the bad things, a goal ultimately realized after killing hundreds of people in a variety of exotic locations. Along the way, military men say things that have been said hundreds of times before.
Actually, this particular line is hilarious, given the context. He's the guy from the game demo vid released earlier this year who gets his arm caught in a door and then explodes. Maybe hilarious wasn't the word I was looking for.
No, I had it right. Hilarious.
While Advanced Warfare's story does possess that same old Call of Duty flavor, the future setting actually affords the single-player experience a fresh science fiction slant. Kevin Spacey's Jonathan Irons is CEO and founder of Atlas, a Private Military Corporation that's grown far beyond headline news into a household name. His men wear advanced exo suits, which grant them enhanced strength, the ability to double jump and hover, and several other nifty upgrades to boring old humanity. They drive hover-cycles. They pilot relatively tiny mech suits. When his men are at the ready, he's the trigger.
Advanced Warfare manages to stay true to the series' established formula, while at the same time being the most fantastical entry to date.
Within the first 15 minutes of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare the player plunges out of the sky in a dropship, tosses grenades that highlight enemies on the battlefield or propel themselves at targets using jets, hovers their way down deadly drops and across wide chasms and gets to deal with something called a "Drone Swarm."
The player also learns to double jump using their exo suit's jets, which is the best thing to do in any first-person shooter. Destiny, Titanfall and now Advanced Warfare have ruined me for single-jumping first-person shooters.
It's a maneuver that really opens up the game's story levels. Sadly the story levels are often reluctant to open up, rewarding explorers wandering off the beaten path with "leaving the mission area" warnings. A double-jumper must jump, my friends. You cannot hold a double-jumper back.
Advanced Warfare's story introduces players to some pretty awesome tech. Magnetic climbing gloves. Mute bombs. Insect-sized spy drones. These neat little bio-sensors that can be placed on walls in order to see enemies beyond them.
So many cool toys to play with, but only at specific points in the game's story. Some of them see play once or twice, others just get the one chance to be incredibly cool before wandering off. This must be how James Bond feels.
Thank you for obscuring a huge chunk of my vision, Kevin Spacey. This is exactly while we're giving up on Google Glass.
Pardon me while I nitpick. Jack Mitchell and best friend Will enlisted in the Marines six months prior to the game's opening battle. It says so right in this cutscene.
Best friends who always have each other's backs. This is a fact that is incredibly important, due to the whole arm/explosion bit I mentioned above. So why are they telling each other why they enlisted before going into battle? This bothered me far more than it probably should have.
In the middle of the third chapter of the story, Mitchell gets to enjoy a game of Frogger as his Captain, Gideon, gently encourages him.
When I first played through this level, I looked left, looked right, and then I loudly proclaimed "Go fuck yourself." I got hit by busses, cars and bullets many times before finally making it across. You wouldn't believe how many times I heard Gideon telling me to cross.
Next time he goes first.
Time and time again as I played through Advanced Warfare's story, I found myself marveling over these character's hair. The faces are pretty great, the animations spot-on, but without proper hair they might as well be stick figures.
This is some of the best digital hair I've seen, period.
Just look at this man. They tried to toughen him up for his role as Jack "The Player" Mitchell, but prominent voice actor Troy Baker is just to lovely for the battlefield. It's like fighting terrorists with a majestic monarchy butterfly.
Maybe it's been in a trailer I missed. Perhaps you've all seen it already, but there was this one moment in the game's third chapter that had my young nephew and I exclaiming "holy shit" in unison, loud enough for the two impressionable three-year-olds in the other room to hear.
Yes, it's just a quick time event, a series of timed button presses, but it felt pretty spectacular to be pressing those buttons, and really drove home the fact that this was unlike any Call of Duty that had come before it.
Look for more on Advanced Warfare's single-player campaign in my upcoming review. For now, it's time to get shot at with fake bullets by real people.