Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Free Weekend Shenanigans and Impressions

This weekend there was a free weekend offer on the new Call of Duty game, Advanced Warfare. As both an Unreal Tournament player and a Call of Duty 4 player, I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded it, all forty gigabytes of it, and dived right in. My expectations were low, considering I thought that every Call of Duty game apart from 2 and 4 were utter trash, but I wanted to see the new movement mechanics.

Firstly, the free weekend extends to the multiplayer and only the multiplayer. I have not played the single player and I am quite glad about this, in all honesty. I believe that the campaign is just going to be more of the same dull, boring story archetype with some message about power corrupting and how Captain America an American soldier has to fight against it all. He will probably be a white male too, because every damn Call of Duty game is fronted by a white guy with a military background, though I could be wrong on that point, I largely stopped caring after Call of Duty 4. It will also probably feature a plot twist involving an obvious betrayal that we all could see coming from a mile away. However, that’s not what I am here to rant write about; I am here to write about the multiplayer experience.

The first thing that I did was… Customise my soldier. The customisation mechanics are nice, I will admit, and I spent a good long amount of time making my operative look great and spent some time putting together my emblem. Also, like Call of Duty Ghosts, female soldiers have been brought back in Advanced Warfare and don’t look like Battlefield Barbie (which really appeals to my can-do feminist attitude). A day later (and about a dozen test games in) and I have settled with my operative’s appearance and calling card:

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It was a necessity to show these Call of Duty players that a member of the Valve crowd has graced them with her presence!

So, weapon in hand I hop, skipped and jumped into multiplayer, fast abandoning any notion of using a sniper rifle or heavier weapon in favour of an assault rifle or simple submachine gun. The whole reason I was interested to try this game out was due to the enhanced mobility given to players in this installment, after all, so why squander the gift? I must say that the new movement mechanics add a lot to the Call of Duty multiplayer, it adds something that Call of Duty has always lacked: three dimensional gameplay. Enemies can come from the front or sides, sure… But also from above and below. As an Unreal Tournament fan and long time player, this concept is not a new one to me, but it’s really nice to see it in a Call of Duty game for once. This alone makes the multiplayer worth playing, because otherwise it’s standard Call of Duty multiplayer. However, the jetpacks make movement such a huge factor and it’s also where Advanced Warfare stands apart from the rest. It is not without problems, however. Firstly, it uses matchmaking, or as I like to call it: the devil’s gaming mechanic. I detest matchmaking more than I detest the other Call of Duty games (2 and 4 not included!). Matchmaking is an abomination that should be banished from the PC gaming scene. Privately owned dedicated servers are the only way to go for a multiplayer shooter. Call of Duty 4 did it so right, so why have none of its successors followed suit? It’s infuriating, but it’s something to do with online rankings and unlocks (two other aspects of the game that I care very little for) and the fact that it’s largely designed for consoles first and PC second. You can tell by the obviously console-friendly UI in the screenshot above. The matchmaking itself is buggy to add insult to injury here, often making me join games that I then can’t connect to, leaving me staring at the loading screen for about two minutes before telling me that I’ve lost connection. Combine this with the fact that you cannot alt-tab whilst in a lobby or a game (loading screens included) and this becomes infuriating. Some of us have dual monitor set ups! Also, the lack of dedicated servers causes laggy games and irritating host migration if the original host disconnects for some reason. Perhaps I could understand such cut corners in a free to play game, or at least a cheaper title but Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a triple-A title with a triple-A price tag. There is no excuse!

The co-op mode is your standard wave defence against hordes of enemy troops. It’s… Too easy and incredibly boring. My first game where I was suffering from horrendous lag spikes and three out of five of the original players left early I managed to make it to wave 96. I only stopped because it was approaching 4am and I needed to go to bed!

First game and I reach here on the scoreboard. This is not a challenge, it is a test of patience.

First game and I reach here on the scoreboard. This is not a challenge, it is a test of patience.

It only starts to get a bit challenging at about wave 90, but it’s still not all that challenging given the level of upgrades you have at that point. Also, the heavy class is so incredibly broken beyond belief. I was playing the Light Exo and I was doing okay, but my team mate was running a Heavy Exo and was dismantling waves by himself. Getting to wave 90 took about two hours and twenty minutes, meaning you have to wade through waves of easy enemies for about two hours, unable to alt-tab out when you get bored or need to change music, before it starts getting a little bit engaging. Most people pick up a shooter for a quick hour of fun when they get home from work or after the children have been put to bed, so the fact that a single match will take upwards of two hours (with no pause mechanic or ability to alt-tab to check Twitter or put on a different playlist) is inconvenient. In an upcoming DLC they will be adding a zombie mode to the co-op which will be more of the same that we’ve seen before, only this time with jetpacks. If I want a zombie game, I’ll go and play Contagion (which is great and has a price tag of about £15) or Left 4 Dead; funnily enough, both of those games are probably around the same price as the DLC that will have zombie mode in it. Yep, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has Call of Duty pricing which makes Games Workshop look reasonable by comparison; at least their products are good and expensive, where Call of Duty DLCs are just expensive. Out of interest I went to the top of the scoreboard to see the lengths of some of these matches. I think the numbers speak for themselves: you’ll never catch me playing a match for these figures!

9 hours? 17 hours?! Seriously, the human body needs to sleep and eat and use the bathroom!

9 hours? 17 hours?! Seriously, the human body needs to sleep and eat and use the bathroom!

I want to love Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The jetpacks make multiplayer so enjoyable and the level of customisation for your operative and calling card is truly wonderful, but there’s far too much against the game, especially considering that it’s a triple-A release. I would pay no more than… £20 for this game, and that’s only because I’ve seen that the campaign features some heavyweight actors like Kevin Spacey. Without that, I wouldn’t pay more than £15 at a push. With privately owned (and user-managed!) dedicated servers, more maps (user created maps is a good way to get more quality maps, though that needs to go hand in hand with point #1), much lower DLC costs and a co-op mode that doesn’t bore and take multiple hours without purposefully throwing the game I would probably pay more, but the fact of the matter is that none of that is going to happen, with the exception of the last part that -might- happen.

So my final verdict? Fun. I would go as far as to say “incredibly fun” if it had more maps, but it’s not worth the price tag as it has far too many problems that won’t be fixed. This is due to the fact that they aren’t all code related problems, but business and implementation problems as well. I can’t recommend this game.

Now I need to pick up Titanfall and do a comparison. I think that Titanfall may leave a better lasting impression than Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (especially with its lower price tag now that it has been out for a while)