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    Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Time heals all wounds

    Activision has been forcing COD down our throats so aggressively over the last five months that the hype train looked destined to run off its rails. But with the game finally in our hands we can place all of the publisher’s posturing to one side and see Advanced Warfare for what it is. And you know what? It's great to finally receive a Call Of Duty game that isn't content with simply celebrating brand success every year with outdated design and all-around mediocrity. It doesn’t matter that Sledgehammer Games’ debut solo release is a package of carefully considered iterations disguised as innovations, nor that Kevin Spacey’s dead eyes continued to haunt us long after the end credits rolled, because it is just so damn fun to play.

    Advanced Warfare has made fundamental alterations to Call Of Duty’s mechanics and player movement, and it’s all thanks to the Exo. As the theatre of war shifts fifty years into the future, players now find themselves equipped with a robotic exoskeleton suit that enables them to run faster, jump higher and hit harder. Against all expectations, this isn’t some half-baked attempt to compete with the likes of Titanfall and Destiny. Instead, it has injected an unprecedented amount of speed,
    verticality and evasive manoeuvring into a series that had become all too reliant on a fatiguing formula.

    While the new setting has impacted the campaign in a positive way, it has more importantly ensured that the crown jewel of the package, the multiplayer, is the best it has been since Black Ops II. The Exo means that every player can now launch across the environment with double jumps, avoid enemy fire with swift ground dashes, and even utilise an array of Crysis-inspired future-tech abilities to try and turn the tide of an encounter in your favour. Truth be told, this could have quite easily broken Call Of Duty’s chaotic, albeit insanely fine-tuned, 60 fps gunplay. But the seemingly bottomless Pick 13 custom loadout system, adapted from Black Ops II’s very own Pick 10, combined with some of the best map design  Call Of Duty has ever offered, makes for a satisfying and rarely frustrating experience at launch, at least. Call Of Duty has always had a learning curve relative to how long after launch you wait to play, but it feels like Advanced Warfare’s could extend massively. Ground dashing, mapped to a double click of the left stick, can feel clumsy. This has led to many players ditching the manoeuvre making it a killing field for the player (us, sorry) that manages to power through that throbbing pain in their thumb.
    “The crown jewel of the package, the multiplayer, is the best it’s been since Black Ops II”
    Still, despite its offensive capabilities, the Exo encourages better defensive positioning. It has introduced the opportunity to inject new strategy into tired respawn routines and attack patterns. What’s impressive still is how it’s pushing silent players to organically work together in packs. Covering one another, responding to new threats with intricately designed classes and pushing forwards in unison.  Call Of Duty may have slowed down as a result, but it makes you feel like a soldier in a small-scale war instead of a lone wolf desperately searching for someone to pump virtual lead into.

    Surprisingly, the campaign in  Advanced Warfare isn’t just there to hold your attention on those rare occasions the servers go down this year either. The eight-hour single-player is undoubtedly the best since 2007’s Modern Warfare. It presents a constant escalation of power struggles and never lets up. Sure, Kevin ‘Academy Award-winning’ Spacey and Troy ‘too pretty for war’ Baker are great as the two leads, but there’s a lot to enjoy aside from the incredible visuals. The action is fast and frantic, the gunplay as good as ever, and the story isn’t completely terrible. It’s stupid and places more emphasis on bombastic action than anything else, obviously, but then again last year we had no major qualms with piloting a dog around a warzone in Ghosts. That’s videogames for you.

    One point of constant frustration, however, was how the game switches Exo abilities out between missions. Having our toys taken away was a pain, particularly because it often stripped away our capacity to double jump or use the awesome grappling hook. Sledgehammer gives you the ability to loosely upgrade your Exo increasing your haul of grenades or reducing weapon recoil but never goes as far as to let you chose your optimal loadout, which is a shame.

    Sledgehammer Games has had three years to work on Advanced Warfare and the results speak for themselves. The studio has looked back across the whole franchise, cut the chaff that fans have grown increasingly disinterested with following Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Ghosts, and placed laser focus on the series’ best elements.

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