Acting upon a sense of urgency for no particular reason, this year has seen me completing many of the games that have populated my backlog for ages. Singularity and Syndicate, a pair of narrative-orientated first-person shooters, each with unique gameplay hooks, are two such games. While it misses the mark on alliteration, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare otherwise fits the bill, scratching that itch for what I want in an FPS. Published by Activision on November 4, 2014, it was Sledgehammer Games’ second entry in the series, following their co-development of Modern Warfare 3 alongside Infinity Ward. Additionally, Raven Software (the studio behind Singularity, coincidentally enough) developed the multiplayer components while High Moon Studios handled the previous generation versions.
Now, it’s somewhat disingenuous to refer to more recent entries of the Call of Duty series as narrative-orientated since their multiplayer components are so popular, but their single-player campaigns are often the video game equivalent of summer blockbusters: lavish action-packed thrill rides rife with impossible odds, admirable heroes, and charismatic villains. Advanced Warfare is no different, as it follows Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker) from his virgin battlefield experience as a Marine in Seoul circa 2054, to his years as Jonathan Irons’ (Kevin Spacey) hand-picked protégé within the latter’s private military contractor Atlas Corporation, and finally to his tenure with the secretive multinational Sentinel Task Force. Truly though, the narrative revolved around Jonathan Irons’ megalomaniacal desire for world domination and the appalling means by which he obtained, and retained it.
With the conciseness of the campaign, there was little room for subtlety or character development; the narrative played out on a global scale at a lightning pace, and most characters were fully formed upon their introduction. Aside from Kevin Spacey’s devious turn as Irons, the standout character/performance was Gideon (Gideon Emery), Mitchell’s commanding yet personable superior for much of the game. I was also partial to Cormack (Russell Richardson), the resolute leader of Sentinel. Their character models were astonishingly lifelike and in cutscenes, I actually had a hard time discerning whether they were the actual actors or virtual representations. That impressive level of visual detail was present throughout the game as well. It’s understandable why these games require so much time, money, and manpower to make.
In addition to the fast-paced, lock-on gunplay the series is known for, this entry introduced a host of near-future abilities courtesy of a military exoskeleton. Their availability varied from mission to mission and for the most part, were used infrequently and in certain situations. The most impactful permanently enhanced my range of movement, allowing responsive double jumps and air-dashes. I had so much fun zipping around the battlefield and when I played a few matches of multiplayer, immediately thought of the dashing in Unreal Tournament on Dreamcast, a favorite from my teenage years. Nearly every mission also offered a bombastic, memorable one-off gameplay experience, like a hover bike escape through Detroit or a jet fighter canyon run outside of Baghdad.
Unlike many, I didn’t come to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare for its addictive multiplayer, although I did dabble with both competitive and cooperative components and immediately enjoyed both. Instead it was the single-player campaign, headlined by Kevin Spacey, which allured me. The globetrotting, world-saving narrative was propelled at a rocket’s pace by a myriad of action-packed missions and memorable one-off gameplay experiences. The series’ trademark responsive, lock-on gunplay was exacting and exciting, and further complemented by an array of near-future abilities, the most influential of which impacted my movement. I had a blast dashing and double-jumping around, taking out enemies with lightning efficiency. Remarkable, incredibly lifelike character models and an insane level of graphic detail wowed me throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of Advanced Warfare’s single-player campaign and consider it a high-water marker for the genre, alongside the likes of Singularity and Syndicate.