We called, they ‘Advanced’

Living in the age of remakes and sequels, the creators of movies, TV shows and now even video games are sometimes too afraid to take risks or craft something a bit different. Ever since the release of “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” back in 2007, gamers have received numerous sequels or spinoffs throughout the years.

Now gamers are split into almost two defined groups: those who love the shooter and those that hate it. Despite the polarizing properties of the franchise, gamers all anticipate the next addition to the series every year. Waiting to either trash it or love it. So here it goes, is today the day to spit on “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” or praise it?

It became pretty obvious the “Call of Duty” franchise needed some sort of change, and just the premise of “Advanced Warfare” gave gamers a glimpse of hope. This game’s biggest change is very apparent from the beginning. The “Exosuit.” Each soldier is equipped with an Exosuit that enhances player’s mobility and strength.

This addition might be a big enough change to bring gamers back to the franchise. Yet, there are still a lot of qualities from its predecessors, enough to keep its old fans happy. The game doesn't try and become something new, but rather makes some necessary additions to the series’ aging blueprint.

“Call of Duty” prides itself on multiplayer, and developer Sledgehammer Games even states this within an in-game message when first booting it up. But don’t forget there is a campaign within this game, too. Usually the story is forgotten, yet this campaign is definitely something one shouldn't overlook.

This game has massive star power: Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”; “The Usual Suspects”; “American Beauty”) as well as the talented Troy Baker (“The Last of Us”; “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor”; “Infamous: Second Son”).  These stars help tell a futuristic story and the dangers of private military units.

The best part of the campaign may be the characters; older titles made the playable character an empty shell in which one views the current war. But “Advanced Warfare” creates a likeable character actually affected by the world.

The game’s cut scenes are something to truly marvel at, where one finds themselves questioning if what being watched was filmed or not. Despite never seeing such impressive cut scenes, like most games they look far better than the in-game character models.

During a funeral sequence it was almost appalling these were PlayStation 4 graphics; it looked like something out of an old “Madden” game. Other than this singular departure from quality animation, the rest of the game is very impressive.

Along with the cast, each of the story’s 15 missions are filled to the brim with incredible set-piece moments: they almost live up to “Modern Warfare’s” Nuclear Strike. These improvements are only a portion of what makes the campaign a worthy experience.

The biggest improvement is having the ability to upgrade the campaign character after every mission. The upgrades consist of traits that increase the characters’ reload speed, health or even how many grenades one can hold.

In order to upgrade, one needs to complete in-game challenges, which add just a little test to each level. However, a favorite addition is by far the use of vehicles. There are many times throughout the story where one drives a car, flies a plane, or shoots people with an awesome tank.

These missions add some variation to the usual running and gunning gamers have come to expect from “Call of Duty.” While there are some incredible improvements to the campaign, there is still the occasional cringe-worthy dialogue or the awkward “let’s explain something to the player” conversation.

Yet these are only slight missteps in the campaign, and is considered the favorite since “Modern Warfare.” Plus, if still not convinced, here’s five words to change one’s mind. Kevin Spacey is in it.

Another mode that is usually overshadowed by the beloved “Call of Duty” multiplayer experience is the survival mode. This time around it’s called Exo Survival, the latest version of the inevitable wave-based survival mode players have already seen. Exo Survival doesn't offer much in terms of ingenuity.

In fact, Exo Survival feels exactly, cut and paste, like the survival mode of “Modern Warfare 2.” It relies on the players love for wave-based survival, but has no appeal beyond that. It feels like the show “Girl Meets World,” one will only like it if having enjoyed what came before.

The game type is basically just fighting off endless waves and upgrading the Exosuit and weapons. This description is pretty indicative of just how boring this game mode is.

One might bet if a “Call of Duty” game was released without a campaign, many gamers wouldn't even mind. “Advanced Warfare,” like every “Call of Duty” since the first “Modern Warfare,” revolves around its own competitive multiplayer.

Sledgehammer Games has redefined the “Call of Duty” multiplayer experience in almost every way possible. Within multiplayer each person is equipped with the Exosuit, and this one little addition allows for so many new variables within the multiplayer.

Now every player has more speed than ever before, among other things, but most importantly everyone can use the Exosuit’s double-jump, which brings a whole new feeling of verticality to the maps and gameplay. This probably doesn't sound super important, but it seriously is.

Just like Obi-Wan Kenobi told Anakin Skywalker: “I have the high ground.” The high ground is the new weapon, and the Exosuit is what allows one to take advantage of it.

“Advanced Warfare” doesn't attempt to change up the ranking system which gamers love, instead it’s filled with even more things to unlock. One particularly enjoyable feature is one can customize the multiplayer soldier.

Players will receive aesthetic loot for completing different challenges and leveling up, and can then add those rewards to the soldier people see online. Plus, every so often one will receive a supply drop, which contains a little present, mainly costume pieces of armor, but sometimes players can get lucky enough to receive some weapon variants.

That’s right, weapon variants. Weapon variants are one of the coolest aspects to “Advanced Warfare”; each weapon now has multiple versions that contain slightly different stats. For example, let’s say one is using an assault rifle, and the gun has 13 damage and 14 range.

Then one receives that same gun, but this time the damage is 15 and the range is 12, plus it has some cool name like Roadkill or HogHopper. This adds some variation to rewards, and provides more options when it comes to weapons.

Another wondrous customization tool, is of course, the Create-A-Class system, but this time, much like the “Black Ops II” “Pick 10” system, it’s now a “Pick 13.” Which means one has 13 slots to equip essentially anything: guns, grenades and attachments. This evens out due to the fact one’s score streaks take up some of the picks.

An even bigger game changer is each score streak is customizable too. Adding a longer duration to one’s unmanned aerial vehicle is possible, but it will take even more points to earn.

“Call of Duty” has shown sometimes it’s the little things that count. For instance, at any time in the lobby one may enter a firing range with just the click of a button, without any load time. Talk about awesome. Right? Right.

Awesome is really the word to describe the multiplayer. The game’s 13 maps are beautifully built and really focus on the series’ new speed, from medium to small in size, it manages to never feel too crammed. There’s really only one downside to the multiplayer of “Advanced Warfare,” and it’s perfectly fixable—the lag.

Playing on Playstation 4 has become somewhat difficult at certain times throughout the day. The lag can get so bad it makes the game almost unplayable, but Activision has claimed it’s fixing this issue.

It’s no lie that for so long “Call of Duty” games rode on the “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” policy, but time caught up with them and the series needed something new, that is where “Advanced Warfare” comes in. The Exosuit, and the speed that comes with it, take the game series to new heights, literally and metaphorically.

The game’s campaign is superb and is only beaten by the legendary campaign from the first “Modern Warfare.” Kevin Spacey brings the star power a game like this deserves. Not only is the campaign a game, it’s a blockbuster. Sadly, Exo Survival may just be a mode that feels uninspired and a waste of space, but that is not what this game is about.

The multiplayer is at the top of its game; there are incredible changes to the format, plus it’s followed by the immense amount of unlockable content that will certainly keep gamers playing for a while. “Advanced Warfare” took a big risk heading to the future, but it certainly succeeds. Eight out of 10.

Jake Burke is a student at Sonoma State University who runs a video game blog. To view more of his work, visit amplifiedgaming.blogspot.com.