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Nov. 13 2014
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
4/11/2014ActivisionActivisionSledgehammer Games1-4?2-18
Media HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating

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Advanced Warfare is a pretty great title.
The release of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare brings with it several questions – is the franchise still viable, can a futuristic setting still be fun or will the power of the PS4 bring new levels of excitement to the franchise. Having said that, the biggest question revolves around how successful the introduction of a third primary developer for Activision's long-running FPS franchise has been. Founded in 2009 Sledgehammer Games' entire history has been set in the Call of Duty universe and includes a cancelled third person game, and considerable development assistance to Infinity Ward on Modern Warfare 3. Now the company has a chance to prove their worth, and it's fair to say they have done a fantastic job so let's get into details starting with the campaign mode...

Set in 2054 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare takes place in a plausible future in which technological progress and today’s military practices have converged with powerful consequences. In this carefully researched and crafted vision of the future, Private Military Corporations (PMCs) have become the dominant armed forces for countless nations outsourcing their military needs, redrawing borders and rewriting the rules of war. And Jonathan Irons (played by Kevin Spacey), the founder and president of the world’s largest PMC - Atlas Corporation - is at the center of it all.

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Playing the multiplayer Kill Confirmed mode.
Despite assertions that the campaign would be “Coming in longer than the last few” according to Sledgehammer’s co-founder Glen Schofield we can’t say that there is a considerable amount more than previous titles. Sure, there are probably more cut-scenes and non-interactive moments which really are gorgeous, but in terms of actual gameplay we’re probably looking around 6-8 hours for the majority of gamers to complete the fifteen mission campaign. While this is a little longer than previous games, it’s nothing to write home about.

In terms of gameplay Advanced Warfare is a FPS in every sense of the word and you have a range of weapons (pretty much every type of gun and grenade you can think of) however with the game set 40 years in the future there are a number of enhancements to your kit on the battlefield. Grenades now include Threat, which highlights enemies even behind cover, and EMP which disables electronic equipment such as drones. Then, there's a gun which is, well, a laser. Prior to playing the game we were concerned about the future technology getting in the way of the shooting action, but that isn't the case, this is very much a frantic hardcore shooter.

The biggest change which this game introduces is the Exo Suits - these provide extra abilities and powers to your soldier including a double jump, boost dodges, more powerful melee attacks or magnetic gloves so you can scale walls, a temporary shield, cloak or hover abilities among other abilities. It really adds a new dimension to the FPS genre while never becomes extreme or unbelievable.

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Setting up to ambush an approaching van.
As expected Advanced Warfare features a large variety of locations for missions, from America to Greece, South Korea to Thailand and even Antarctica even gets a look-in this year. With all these locations there is always something new to look at although, ultimately we were still a little disappointed in the linear, corridor shooter, styled missions. Perhaps when the franchise goes current-gen only and dumps the older PS3/XBox 360 hardware the levels will become more open, and may include more destruction which is notably lacking in Advanced Warfare. Shoot a car window and it might get a small crack, shoot a tyre and, well, it's bulletproof and won’t deflate. Shoot a computer screen and it keeps working. This is what we expected from the more powerful PS4, but it's missing.

As with previous games in the series we can expect plenty of DLC and map packs to be released in the months following launch and indeed the game likes to keep reminding you that a Season Pass, with four DLC packs due in 2015, is available to pre-order - at a price of $AU64.95! That's not chump change when the entire game is currently on sale cheaper than that at retail.

Multiplayer has always been a key component to the Call of Duty franchise, and yet again this component is more than enough to proclaim this as the best online shooter in the market. This year’s title includes the option to play Online, via LAN or locally (and yes, splitscreen is supported) and ships with 15 maps. As one would expect from this franchise there are some brilliant maps which offer a little of everything. Instinct, set in the South American jungle around some ruins offers plenty of camouflage and areas to hide, while Defender, set around the Golden Gate Bridge is perfect for sniping and using Exo Suits while a tsunami affects the entire map. Terrace is another personal favourite and is set around a shopping mall in Greece.

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Expect future tech in Advanced Warfare.
Of course the game modes are also play a key in ensuring the longevity of the online experience and Advanced Warfare is more than accommodating in this area. There are several classes of game modes including:

  • Standard Playlists: Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Uplink, Momentum, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, Search and Rescue, Capture the Flag, Free-For-All, and Ground War (which we believe is only on PS4/Xbox One and PC with older consoles missing out - although happy to stand corrected on this)
  • Bonus Playlists: Infected, and the pre-order bonus Atlus Gorge (which we suspect will be DLC one day)
  • Hardcore Playlists: Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Domination, Search & Destroy
  • Classic Playlists: Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Domination, Search & Destroy
  • Ranked Play: This mode allows you to compete against players of the same skill level and adheres to the eSport Ruleset and modes.

As you can see there are plenty of game modes there, and even a couple of hours in each will provide days, if not weeks of game time.

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Sledgehammer Games have made a visually stunning title in COD: Advanced Warfare.
As with previous games character customisation is a key in the multiplayer game. As with recent games you have a maximum number of points to spend - thirteen - which can go towards the weapons, attachments, or equipment. It's possible to put three attachments on your primary weapon, but adding the third one will cost 2 points which may result in you having to remove two grenades or dropping your Exo abilities. It's a fine balancing act but there must be millions of combinations so finding something that suits you may take some time. Naturally though you can save multiple load outs which can be customised to suit different maps or game modes.

We do have a few disappointments with the multiplayer however the first being that prior to release we were promised dedicated servers –this hasn’t really eventuated beyond matchmaking servers, but even then we found that some matches have people with poor connections which introduces some lag so a bit more needs to be done here. It’s also not a true dedicated server experience where there is no host who receives a every so slight advantage, but an advantage that can make a big difference on the scoreboard. Also disappointing is that the game is still stuck with a maximum 18-player match, we would have thought that the added power of the PS4 could have pushed the player count in Ground War modes up towards the 32-player count.

Finally there is a Smartphone Companion App available for the game. It shows stats, allows you to edit your emblem, find or join clans or, yes, go to the store to spend more money. It's a pretty weak App - why can't you customise your character load outs, look at other player stats, or perhaps even spectate other games. Still, at least it's free so that's a bonus.

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Kevin Spacey - now that's near photo realism!
One of the best modes in the game is the co-operative Exo Survival mode where yourself and three others compete to survive increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Essentially, plays like the zombie or alien extinction modes of previous games but what makes this year’s version different is that you're not defending a small area, or against the same enemies, but have an entire map on offer, and will face any of the enemies in the game which mixes it up quite a bit. Tremendous fun that will be returned to frequently.

Cut-scenes are simply jaw dropping with the pre-rendered visuals offering some of the most photo-realistic humans ever seen in a video game - and even put some CG humans in feature films to shame. These cut-scenes are also well scripted and have great cinematography. While the in-game graphics obviously lose some fidelity it's fair to say this is one of the busiest, most effect filled, gorgeous looking games ever seen.

Running on an all-new engine, Advanced Warfare, is a visually stunning title - in fact we would go so far as to say it's one of the best on the Playstation 4 with a 1920 x 1080p resolution from start to finish in all game modes. This puts it well ahead of the XBox One release which primarily runs at 1360 x 1080p (according to this article on Digital Foundry), however there is one small caveat. While the multiplayer mode runs at a rock solid 60fps the campaign occasionally dips into the 50fps range while the XBox One version retains a locked 60fps frame rate. To us, we'll take the very occasional dip in frame rate to have a much sharper image.

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Visually stunning, Advanced Warfare is a blast.
Just like the games before it, Advanced Warfare, is a sonic tour de force which will absolutely rock your home theatre with aggressive use of surround sound channels and sub-woofer throughout. The battlefields are full of gunfire, explosions and soldiers shouting while music is used to dramatic effect when required. Not to be outdone the dialogue is second to none - Kevin Spacey is fantastic despite never really being pushed as hard as we expected, while Troy Baker is great as your character Mitchell, Gideon Emery is great as Gideon (and sounds very much like Jason Statham), while Angela Gots is great as Ilona.

If you read gaming websites, blogs or forums then Call of Duty as a franchise is apparently on the decline, but that doesn’t really hold true. Sure in recent years sales have decreased, but that always happens during a console generation changeover. Some have said that the franchise fails to offer anything new, well that’s not the case here with a new era of warfare bring a host of new weapons and gameplay options – threat grenades are great and, yes, there’s frikkin’ laser beams! Then there’s the assertion that online gameplay hasn’t changed dramatically, and to an extent that’s true as we don’t have the 64-player matches as Battlefield 4 does on console, but then again, Call of Duty actually works.

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Sledgehammer have proven themselves as a great COD developer with Advanced Warfare.
Make no mistake about it, I’m a long time fan of Activision’s Call of Duty franchise and I'll continue to defend it against those that write it off, but for me this has always been the video game equivalent of a Michael Bay film; over the top and explosive. The campaign mode, while short, is a technical showcase with solid storyline and is a great introduction to all the new technology and gear – something which will is useful in co-op and multiplayer modes.

Activision's heirachy should be overjoyed with this release - it brings a freshness to the series not seen for a while, but more importantly Sledgehammer Games have proven they can develop a great Call of Duty title which now allows each development team (Infinity Ward and Treyarch) to move to a 3-year development cycle. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a release well worth picking up. Very entertaining.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSCertainly an impressive game visually, stunning character models. Multiplayer is locked 60fps, but campaign has occasional dips and stutters. Still, overall there's little to complain about.
SOUNDDefinitely one of the most aggressive, and impressive, audio experiences we've had with games. Brilliant!
GAMEPLAYDespite concerns that technology would ruin the core shooting experience, this isn't the case. The campaign is fun and varied with some great set pieces, while multiplayer ticks pretty much every box.
VALUEThis has a longer campaign than most COD titles, and a fun co-op mode, but it's the multiplayer in which the true value lies - you could be playing for weeks, months or even years.
OVERALLCall of Duty: Advanced Warfare is every bit the action packed FPS that we were hoping for. The campaign is longer then previous games, visuals are what we hoped from the new consoles, and the multiplayer, well, I'm going to spend weeks playing this. This is one of the best games in the franchise.

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