When the word leaked that the next Call of Duty game is called Advanced Warfare, there was just one thing everyone everywhere wanted to know -- will Advanced Warfare be as good as a 10-plus-year-old Game Boy Advance game with a name that sounds kind of like Advanced Warfare?
Sadly, the answer is "no."
Kevin Spacey < Nell
In Advance Wars (available now on the Wii U Virtual Console), you're playing as a military strategist working for the Orange Star Army, lead by a charming and heroic woman named Nell. She is smart, compassionate, and has an interesting backstory involving a rootin', tootin', sharp-shootin' defector named Grit. Unlike a lot of game characters today, she's not quick to over-share that backstory. She knows that you came to the battlefield to fight, not to hear her about her problems. She teaches you how to fight and aids you in battle with minimal intrusions. She maintains an engaging relationship with the player without relying on grandstanding monologues or anti-hero cliches in order to endear herself to us. She's just an awesome boss, the kind we'd all be lucky to have.
Advanced Warfare's boss is a creepy Ken-doll version of Kevin Spacey. Just like the real Kevin Spacey, he's over dramatic, anti-heroic, full of himself, and known for making sadistic sexual advances on production assistants on the sets of his films. Unlike the real Kevin Spacey, he's entirely made from plastic. If you were to rub him really fast, you would generate very little heat, as plastic Spacey is too smooth for friction. If regular Kevin Spacey is like a banana, Advanced Warfare's Kevin Spacey is like a banana wearing a condom, except the banana also is a condom.
Don't eat that banana.
Advance Wars is modest genius, Advanced Warfare is grandiose mediocrity
Advance Wars was first released in 2001, but it looks and sounds just as good as any other $8 downloadable game on the market today, if not better. The character design is just the right combination of cool, cute, familiar, and unexpected. The graphics are clear, clean, and expressive, with great care taken to render even the most incidental details with love and attention. The music is catchy while remaining appropriate to the setting. It's a game that knows it is a videogame, and isn't trying to look or sound like anything but. It aims to do things that only videogames can do, and it does them all with excellence.
Advanced Warfare tries to be a realistic drama, a near future sci-fi rollercoaster ride, a message about the evils of warmongering and a balls-to-the-wall tribute to killing people and blowing stuff up all at the same time. It aims to be worth more than it ever could be, like a billion-dollar bill with Paula Deen's face on one side, printed in Bobby Kotick's basement. It has the illusion of value, but is bankrupt of meaning.
Advance Wars is fair and balanced, Advanced Warfare is mostly bullshit
Advance Wars is a game of many variables. There are many types of units to command, each with their own stats, ammo, and fuel supplies. From there you also have environmental hazards to manage, funds to generate to build more troops/tanks/planes/battleships, the wisdom to know what to build and when, and of course the special Commanding Officer's powers to master. It's a military strategy game with some Sim City-style resource management and fighting game-style meter building and super-move execution all thrown together.
You'd think all those variables would lead to Advance Wars becoming something of a game of chance, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Thought, careful planning, and wise risk taking are all one needs to be a champion of Advance Wars. When you suffer a loss, it's always clear what you did wrong. The game is always fair. The player may feel regret and anxiety during a given challenge, but they will never feel short changed or flimflammed.
Contrast that with Advanced Warfare and you're pitted with a very different kind of challenge, one ruled by those who are most willing to build XP to gain access to game-breaking "perks," practice shooting people in the face, and generally abuse the system so they have an unfair advantage. When you die in Advance Warfare, you may not even see who killed you.
The kill-cam footage that shows your death from an alternate angle may show you that a sniper shot you from a long way away. What could you have done to prevent that? Not walk where you walked? How were you to know that it was dangerous to walk in that area? What are you being taught in this moment, other than you're wasting your time with game that will punish you at any time, regardless of whether you've done anything "wrong" or not.
Advance Wars is a lovable farce, Advanced Warfare is grimdark glorification of real war
Advance Wars originates from a culture that doesn't resonate with idea of "realistic warfare" as a potential avenue for fun. War is the most terrible thing in the human experience. It is the theft of belongings, of humanity, and of life. It is every form of crime and every type of abuse stacked on top of each other thousands upon thousands of times. There is literally nothing less "fun" than the concept of war. Yet, many love thinking about war. Fantasizing about fighting in this way gives them a sense of purpose, of potential heroism, of superiority, and of permission to be as terrible to other people as they'd like. Of course, in their fantasies, there is no real sadness or tragedy. Just drama, action, and power.
Advance Wars plays like a parody of that vision of war. It's light cartoon drama, where the Commanding Officers smile and laugh as the witness enemy soldiers being blasted to their deaths, and frown with embarrassment when their own troops are murdered. Instead of "dying" in the conventional sense, decimated platoons are blown into the air like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It makes the whole "war" thing a lot more palatable to imagine that every dead soldier in history is floating around in the air somewhere. Religious folks might call that concept "heaven." In Advance Wars, it's just everyday wartime physics.
While Advance Wars comes off like an Airplane!-esque parody of how the idea of war is softened and simplified into a palatable, marketable product, Advanced Warfare works to make war marketable without any irony or self awareness. It earnestly wants to be honest and unflinching in its depiction of the moral ambiguity of war while it encourages the player to get into a Gatling gun robot and murder a bunch of strangers in a realistic setting because it's fun. If you don't actually think war is something to be glorified, it's pretty clear which game will be more palatable to you.
Advance Wars innovates and experiments, Advanced Warfare stagnates and panders
Advance Wars builds upon many aspects of turn-based strategy games without detracting from the genre's capacity for balance and economy of design. It adds a story element and fighting game psychology to the genre in an effort to add personality and unpredictability to the equation, but in ways that don't betray the original concept of the title. In short, it feels like an evolution and not a compromise or a defamation.
On the other hand, Advanced Warfare is quite deformed, with facial features concocted from an amalgamation of sources. It's got Iron Man's War Machine for eyes, House of Cards power-hungry lead on its nose, the Conduit 2-enhanced soldier robots coming out of its ears, and Titanfall's parkour and mech "innovations" stuck in its teeth. It's a Frankensteining of various things that make a lot of money, sewn together into a makeshift, shambling horror. Where Advance Wars is beautiful and streamlined, Advanced Warfare is grotesque and bloated.
Pre-rebuttal to the Socially Advanced Justice Warfare Warriors
The longstanding rivalry between Advance Wars and Advanced Warfare has built up passionate followers on both sides. These followers are renown for their tribe-like loyalty to their game of choice and the fierceness with which they battle for their game's "side." I know that many of Advanced Warfare's most passionate defenders (the previously noted SAJWWs) will be upset beyond words to find that their game "lost" the now weeks-old battle between Advance Wars and Advanced Warfare. I'm sorry for that, but there is nothing to be done about it. One game is just better than the other one and that is that.
Some of you may be thinking "but Advance Wars just happens to fit with your developed tastes, temperament, and current total life equation. When a game fits with your preferences, it's much easier to see its good qualities and be unaffected by its lesser traits. This whole article is hogwash!"
That's an interesting theory but it's entirely unfounded, and does nothing to change the fact that Advance Wars is better than Advanced Warfare -- a truth that I just unequivocally proved by stating it as fact.
Still others may be thinking "How can you fairly assess a game that hasn't even come out yet? Shouldn't you wait until Advanced Warfare is out before you denounce it with such authority?" If you are thinking that, you're due for a dose of humility. How are you to know that I haven't played through all of Advanced Warfare three times already? You can't prove that I haven't, and therefore, I probably have.
More so, if you haven't played through both Advance Wars and Advanced Warfare to completion several times (as I may have), then you are truly in no place to judge. You have absolutely no right to claim that Advanced Warfare is even a little bit better than Advance Wars. Instead, you should be grateful for the factual information that I have imparted onto you this day, and sit in silence as you ponder the important truths that are now echoing in your mind.