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“Welcome to Atlas” you hear, thrown into the world of Private Military Companies (PMCs) after an accident during your time in the military. PMCs in reality are presented as they should be – gritty, real and often brutal. So as you walk through this crazily clean and expensive-looking facility, you have to wonder if this is actually the future of PMCs.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s decision to take on the idea of PMCs originally looked like a chance for the Call of Duty series to finally break free from the “OORAH MARINES” vibe the previous games have set. I was expecting some harsh realities, some shocking moments, maybe even the game having an affect on me afterwards in a similar fashion to games such as The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite. After a fair bit of playtime, I can safely say the story isn’t what I was expecting – but it’s still fun.

As the plot goes, your character Jack Mitchell enters the Marine Corps with his best friend, William Irons. The events of this “initiation” mission lead Mitchell to being dismissed from duty after losing a limb and dealing with the grief of losing his friend. After a rather ridiculous “press button to pay respects” moment, you’re confronted by Will’s father Jonathan Irons, who asks you to join his private military ‘Atlas’ and not let his son’s death be in vain. Atlas fix you up with a bionic arm, put you through a trial run and boom, you’re shipped out to deal with real situations. As I was playing and experiencing the first few hours of the game, I could help but feel disappointed with just how military-like Atlas is. That said, Sledgehammer definitely worked hard to create an impressive futuristic environment. Without spoiling it, the first mission you do with Atlas features an impressive simulation segment.

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Ah, but the big draw of Advanced Warfare; Exo suits. These suits give you a multitude of new abilities such as cloaking, shields, boost jumps, stims and more. Honestly, the exo suits are such a huge addition to the game that ALMOST make the game feel fresh. It still has that traditional Call of Duty feel, but the exo suits add a whole new way to play. For example, you can strafe to dodge bullets or pull out a shield to get close and melee the enemy. In multiplayer, there’s even more possibilities. Cloak yourself to sneak behind opponents, take fire with the shield to give your team a chance to gun attackers down, etc. The exo suits are available in all three of the game’s modes. While playing the campaign you can finish small challenges such as acquiring kills as you play, that allow you to unlock bonuses for the Exo suit. My personal favourite gamemode, Exo Survival, is all about utilising that exo suit. Think Nazi Zombies from the previous CoD games, but against people. You can buy new weapons, upgrade your exo and abilities, call in killstreaks and acquire perks from supply drops. Exo Survival is the most fun I’ve had in a Call of Duty game since World at War.

Alright, that’s enough about the campaign and such. Everyone really cares about Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer modes right? The multiplayer as a whole is nothing special. It’s your typical CoD experience. The same gamemodes, the same lobby system, and an almost identical class customization setup (the difference being the exo suits). That said, I still found myself fully invested in the game, especially when playing with friends. The matches actually feel faster now, making the gameplay quick and intense. There are less guns overall, but each gun has hugely noticeable differences now. There’s heavy weapons that fire bullets, lasers, single shot bursts of energy, or that can even be dual wielded and planted into the ground for accuracy. There’s a pistol with power on par with a railgun, blasting through people. The guns are a hugely integral part of the gameplay that’ve been tweaked and designed to feel fun, while being well balanced with just the right amount of power. The exo abilities are all extremely useful-

Wait a minute. I have to cut myself off. The hover exo ability is absolutely useless. I’ve yet to find a use for it besides making myself an even easier to shoot target. It would be nice if some of the future DLC maps were given areas or paths that are easier/only traversable with this ability.

Anyway, where was I? The exo abilities are MOSTLY extremely useful, adding nice variation to the gameplay while being pretty unique. You can even use a wildcard to combine two abilities (at the loss of your grenade slot), creating even more powerful combinations. One of my favourites is cloak and overclock – stealth and speed.

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In all three gamemodes, Advanced Warfare is solid shooter. Gunplay feels great, the tiny amount of bullet drop means even accurate guns can be swift, and overall the controls just simply… work. It all fits together like a nice jigsaw puzzle with a bit of glitter thrown onto it.

The campaign has some of the most stunning visuals I’ve seen in a next-gen game so far. Some of the set pieces are absolutely mind-blowing, providing a great cinematic experience. The previously mentioned simulation segment mentioned before is a great example of this – as the simulation ends you’re suddenly taken from a dark open area scene at night to the middle of Atlas training centre in mere seconds. A later mission ends with a huge tower falling down with rubble flying everywhere and wind whipping up a sandstorm. These visuals combined with the great sound design of the weapons, vehicles and environments, provide a stunning experience that I urge players to check out.

As the saying goes, “Another year, another CoD”. That’s how it goes right? Well… whatever. Advanced Warfare feels like a small step forward for the CoD franchise. It’s familiar enough to series fans, while providing a few new features to lure in new people. Personally I’ve dipped in and out of the Call of Duty series and as of this game, Advanced Warfare has managed to dethrone my old favourite World at War. I implore you to pick this game up when you can. It is by no means perfect, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great experience.

This review is based on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare provided by the reviewer and Activision.

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