Monday, May 23, 2016

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review

    This game sucks. That's pretty much my opinion on the subject in a nutshell. It's not even that it does anything particularly wrong, though it does quite a bit wrong, it's that it is painfully generic in many places and outright boring in others. I thought Ghosts was a tremendously flawed game and an inferior successor to the Black Ops. games but this is worse.

    Have I been harsh enough yet?

    It's a shame too because I really had high hopes for this game. Kevin Spacey is a better quality of actor than is typically found in video games and actually has enough meat to act in. I also am a big fan of cybernetics, megacorporations, PMCs, and other pseudo-cyberpunk elements. Instead, the game seems actively averse to any sort of actual storytelling and the gameplay is marred down by gimmicks which take away from the gameplay rather than give.

The war against North Korea was an interesting level and could have lasted the entire game.
    The premise is it's the near-future and exo-skeletons have been added to most modern militaries. After North Korea has apparently rebuilt its economy enough to launch a full-scale invasion of South Korea, our protagonist Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker) and his best friend Will Irons are sent in to deal with it. Will is KIA while Jack loses his arm in the process. Unofficially adopted by Will's father, Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), he joins Iron's company Atlas in order to get a cybernetic replacement for his arm.

    Jack is soon hooked up with a new team and sent after a Chechan Luddite terrorist group called the KVA. Atlas grows in power as the KVA brings the rest of the world to its knees. Shockingly, to anyone who hadn't seen the trailers which spoiled this fact, Jonathan Irons turns out to have been the main villain all along. The rest of the game is spent attempting to take down Atlas as it shows itself capable of fighting the entire world at once.

"Press X to pay respects" is pretty much this game in a nutshell.
    The plot is, in simple terms, dumb. It's a straightforward Black and White Morality tale with the big revelation (i.e. Atlas is evil) being so blindingly obvious I'm not sure why they bothered to pretend otherwise. It's also a story with few major deaths, pathos, or any real storytelling logic. I had a hard enough time buying Russia was capable of invading the entire world in Modern Warfare but the idea of a megacorporation being able to do it, no matter how powerful, is just silly.

    Indeed, a large part of the story is undermined by just how safe it wants to play it. We have enough generic white male protagonist who is facing a fictional evil corporation plus a bunch of terrorists who hate technology (which is not an ideology many video game players are likely to get behind). As bad as Call of Duty: Ghosts was, it had a couple of moments where I cared (mostly related to the dog).

Honestly, I'd work for Atlas. Evil or not, they can't do a worse job than the current administrations of the world.
    The worst part of the game is, sadly, they've managed to make one of the most solid of all gameplay styles in video games into something frustrating. None of the "Advanced Warfare" gadgets like the enemy identifying grenades, power-suits, or other super-technology gadgets are very enjoyable to use. The combat just doesn't feel any fun half-the-time and the other time it's like the game is annoyed it has to interrupt its cinematic action sequences with gameplay.

    Kevin Spacey delivers a passable performance as Johnathan Irons but his character is mostly lacking depth, being a dime-store megalomaniac who never really shows all that much in the way of emotion. His subdued performance is exactly the wrong sort of thing for a man who rules Neo-Babylon and controls an army of mind-controlled soldiers. Troy Baker gives a somewhat uninspiring performance as the lead, who treats everything with a minimum amount of emotion. He's prone to narrating what he feels, which is just terrible.

Frank Underwood, err Jonathan Irons, for World Dictator.
     The supporting characters are a mixture of cliches with Gideon (Gideon Emery) being a poor man's Jason Statham impersonation, Iona (Angela Gots) being an action girl with no mode other than tough, and  Hades (Sharif Ibraham) being a collection of gravely Slavic growls. It's really bizarre that the Zombie mode for this game with Rose McGowan, John Malkovich, Bill Paxton, and Bruce Campbell is arguably a better story for the game with deeper personalities. That doesn't change the gameplay still stinks, though.

    In conclusion, I think this is a bad game. Modern Warfare is a hard act to follow, admittedly, but Black Ops was able to live up to its standards. I even liked Ghosts more because at least I wanted to finish it. Also, it had a dog. Here, it just felt like they were half-assing it throughout. It is a hundred million dollar video game movie without an ounce of soul. The irony is the game charges forth with complete confidence it will get a sequel when this is very obviously a one and done deal.



  1. Alright, here's an idea:

    COD: Classical Warfare

    It'll take place in the American Civil War! And now, we can combine inexplicable rapid healing with guns that take 20 seconds to reload.

    1. I could see that working. You'd have to steal the pre-loaded guns of a lot of your dead fellows, though. :)

    2. Yeah. It'd be like COD, but with (essentially) shotguns, and you only have one shot before you need to reload, which is difficult. In fact...this might actually be kind of a cool idea.

      Also: Postmodern Warfare: Victory is subjective!

      On a more serious note, I think a problem that COD has is that it can't really settle on a theme. It's not really modern. But it's also not really science fiction, either. This means that it comes across as being along the lines of somewhere between a generic Sci-Fi and a very generic Techno-Thriller.

    3. I agree a great deal. Of course, I think part of the issue is it suffers by comparison. CODMW4 did a lot of pretty daring things for its time which shocked players and now COD is the definition of generic safe shooter.