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4:41 PM on 11.10.2014

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare | Review | PS4

Before we jump headlong into this review, there are two things you should know about me:

  1. I am at best, a casual Call of Duty fan. Therefore, this review is probably not for you hardcore fans who've probably forgotten more about Call of Duty than I will ever know. I've played all the Modern Warfare Games. But, I've only owned Call of Duty 2, Modern Warfare, Black Ops 2 and now Advanced Warfare. I am by no means a semi-pro player who can explain why an AK12 performs better in one game over another.

  2. I've been in real combat and often have trouble suspending my disbelief when I'm thrust into some of the more dramatic "Hollywood" approaches Call of Duty takes in delivering its tactical situations during campaign play.

In the interest of full disclosure, please also understand that Activision provided me with a review copy of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

To answer the question, "Is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare worth your time and money?" I'll be breaking theAdvanced Warfare experience into categories that I believe represent all of our unique playstyle preferences (Here is a Link to my review system explained):

Action Junkies

Players who enjoy fast-paced, non-stop action, should have a ball with Advanced Warfare's campaign and multiplayer modes (aside from some seemingly widely experienced server lag issues that we'll cover in more detail later). The campaign offers the Hollywood roller coaster you're used to riding, but offers enough diversity of play to keep things interesting. I personally had a great time riding hover bikes and taking out guards using a drone to support my team's assault on an enemy compound. Sledgehammer did a great job removing the tedium from these segments to keep them fast and fun.

Call of Duty's campaign modes usually annoy me after the first few missions as the ridiculous tactical encounters often place the player in situations that go against conventional wisdom. Example: sending two people to fight off an entire company of soldiers in an attempt to assassinate their leader. However, the future setting and the game's newly introduced Exo Suit went a long way to help suspend my disbelief by evening a playing field that's always stacked against the player.

Advanced Warfare's campaign is not all smiles, though. Many of the missions have the same annoying pre-determined path you're supposed to take in order to succeed. While the maps may open up a bit to allow you to maneuver, rest assured that there is still a critical path you're supposed to be on. And if you veer off of it, respawning bad guys will always be all to happy to return you to the prescribed course. This is a facet of Call of Duty's combat that I've always hated and it's exacerbated by the fact that your artificial intelligence controlled squad mates are about as helpful as taking your pet hamster into the fight.

Multiplayer modes keep the action rolling with varying degrees of chaos. You of course have the classic 6-on-6 Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed battles. But you also have the highly chaotic kill fest that is Domination (it's basically a virtual killing version of King of the Hill for those who don't know).

What truly sets Advanced Warfare's multiplayer apart from its predecessors is the verticality afforded by the Exo Suit. This is not what I'll call "superficial" verticality a-la riding an elevator to the 90th floor of a building in Battlefield 4. The Exo Suit adds a layer of speed and diversity to the combat never before seen in Call of Duty.

Unfortunately, I can't help but wonder if technological limitations kept the developers from making the maps larger and more traversable than they are. The constant "Out of Bounds" error message that pops up when you attempt to reach certain rooftops really didn't make sense to me. I felt there was no reason to constrain the player in this fashion when games like Battlefield 4 encourage this type of maneuvering.


By now, everyone should know that the Call of Duty franchise is really all about the online multiplayer. I'm happy to report that Sledgehammer really did a solid job with not only continuing the legacy, but providing a much needed evolution of play. The Exo Suit abilities are by no means revolutionary. But, the variety of play the suit affords is an absolute must for an aging franchise on life support.

The ability to traverse the length and width of a map in seconds and the game's perk system really allows the player to be creative in how they issue out justice on their competitors.

Unfortunately for PS4 players, there have been widespread accounts of server lag and spotty hit detection. Rumor has it that Activision did not deliver the promised dedicated servers for PS4 players and instead has gamers going head to head on peer-to-peer servers. Whether this is true at the time of this recording, I have yet to see. However, I can vouch for several matches where I was killed hiding behind an impenetrable wall on my screen because I was still out in the open on my opponent's screen. I imagine patches and upgrades will be forthcoming to address these issues. But, it is frustrating to see games this popular suffer from issues the company clearly has the resources to address.


Call of Duty has always been more Chinese Checkers than Chess. Players who prefer tactical shooters like the ARMA or Delta Force series, may find Advanced Warfare a bit too arcadey. In multiplayer, the only consistent tactical advantage you have is your ability to memorize maps, learn enemy player tendencies and keep it moving. Attempting to hold a single piece of terrain will certainly get you killed as every position on a given map has multiple access and egress routes. For years, this approach was the main reason I didn't enjoy Call of Duty games. However, I've learned to adapt my play style to the game's more arcade-centric style.

I don't want to imply that Advanced Warfare employs no tactics or that it's just a free-for-all shoot people in the face simulator. You just have to understand that the tactics that work in real life don't apply hear. In fact, the tactics that work in real life are exactly what will get you murdered in Call of Duty games. If you can't turn off the conventional tactician portion of your brain, then Advanced Warfare is certainly not for you.


Players who enjoy leveling and customizing their onscreen personas should find quite a bit to love with Advanced Warfare. Your created operator still levels by gaining experience points in competitive play and you still unlock various weapons, armor and accessories by completing goals in battle.

What I found really interesting and enjoyable was the fact that you also build your character in campaign mode. The execution is a bit stifled in that many of the campaign missions don't allow you to use all of your abilities. But, it did add a nice touch of progression to what's typically a very linear shooting gallery with dumb AI enemies.


Players who enjoy playing cooperatively with friends will find a functional co-op survival mode. I've always felt that co-op modes felt tacked on in these types of games. Advanced Warfare didn't do too much to help change this sentiment. What I really want to do is tackle the main campaign with a friend, not play a soulless horde mode.

Fans of the Zombie Survival modes in older Call of Duty games will get a brief taste of Zombie mode in the main release if they can survive long enough. However, keep in mind it's just a taste. A full Zombie Survival mode will only be available via Downloadable Content.

Audiophiles and Visualists

Advanced Warfare most certainly shows off the capabilities of this current generation's hardware. Textures are sharp and clean, color is plentiful and the draw distance shows decent improvement over the last generation. You should immediately notice that the graphics are a bit more vibrant in single-player mode. The cut scenes in this game are especially excellent.

Advanced Warfare's sound is best showcased by the superb voice acting. The entire all-star cast nail their roles with outstanding delivery. In multiplayer mode, I was also pleased to see that sound was used to play a significant role in determining enemy proximity. Everything from muted gunshots in the distance to footsteps creeping on your 'six' work perfectly to set the tone for battle


You may find it strange to hear me give significance to Advanced Warfare's story, but I believe it bears mentioning. Make no mistake, the plot is just as grandiose and ridiculous as it's ever been in any Call of Duty game. However, the writers very smartly chose to focus on the story's characters. Thanks to the excellent voice acting I spoke of earlier and the writers not trying to make the story into shakesperian quality prose, you should definitely make an emotional connection with the protagonists from beginning to end. And thanks to some clever presentation at the game's end, you'll even come to connect with the story's villain.

I'd also like to quickly mention that I absolutely love the fact that one of the main characters is a woman with strong character and convictions, who's not paraded around as some type of scantily-clad sex object on the battlefield. Aside from Troy Baker's rendition of Mitchell and Spacey's role as Irons, Russel Richardson, Gideon Emery and Angela Gots really conspire to steal the show as Cormack, Gideon and Ilona respectively.


Advanced Warfare won't change the world of gaming or even revolutionize the first person shooter genre. But, I believe Sledgehammer was very smart to enhance the genre's already existing strengths to make a highly enjoyable, if familiar experience. If you hate the series, I don't believe Advanced Warfare can change your perspective. But, If you've enjoyed Call of Duty in the past, you will certainly find enough to love about Advanced Warfare to warrant a purchase.


5:39 PM on 02.07.2014

A Pimp's Guide to Saving Nintendo

A pimp is nothing if not resourceful. I would argue that they are masters at minimizing expense while simultaneously maximizing profit. Dismiss the negative connotation for just a moment and consider a pimp's role in business. Pimps, or Madams if you want to be politically correct, are expert recruiters. They find the best talent in their sphere of influence and 'encourage' them to work for their enterprise. Pimps and Madams are quite possibly one of the most prominent examples of CEOs that maximize revenue while limiting their output. Their employees carry the brunt of the workload while the Pimps and Madams look for new talent in new regions.  To thrive (and to save the struggling Wii U), Nintendo needs to think like a pimp in their approach to business. No, they don't need to overwork their employees or send them out on the streets to turn tricks. They instead need to look at the gaming industry as a hotbed of opportunity and employ a sense of hustle in the areas their company has begun to atrophy.

[b][u]Nintendo Partners with Sony
In our most recent Flawed Logic Podcast, my good friend Patrick and I discussed his ideas for a partnership between Nintendo and Sony. You'd think the coming together of two prolific Japanese companies would be a match made in heaven. Over the last 10 years, one of Nintendo's greatest struggles has been to get new, first-party titles to market in a timely fashion. The Wii U is over a year old and we still don't have a proper next-gen Zelda, Metroid or Smash Bros. game. Were I in Mr. Iwata's shoes, I'd begin to think strategically about the performance of future Nintendo IPs. I'd bin my games into three categories:

1. Guaranteed Blockbusters (Think - Wii Sports, Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros. U)

2. Mid-Range Performers  (Think - Donkey Kong Country Returns, Zelda Windwaker HD, Luigi Games)

3. Casual/Experimental Titles (Think - Pikmin, Animal Crossing)

Why not license all of the Experimental Titles and a significant number of Mid-Range Performers to Sony for development and distrubition on their consoles? This would free Nintendo up to focus on developing their Guaranteed Blockbusters. This approach has three major benefits that outweigh all of the obvious challenges.  

1. Guaranteed Blockbusters get to market more quickly leading to an increase in Wii U console sales

2. Mid-Range Performers licensed out and kept exclusively also get to market more quickly. This leads to higher software revenue since some of them will launch on four consoles (Wii U, PS3, PS4, Vita) instead of one (Wii U)

3. Casual/Experimental titles gain a greater audience and see increased revenue since they will launch potentially on four consoles (Wii U, PS3, PS4, Vita)

1. More people might be inclined to play The Mid-Range and Casual/Experimental games on Sony machines instead of the Wii U

2. Consumers may begin to lose faith that Nintendo will support the Wii U long-term

A pimp wouldn't waste a ton of time trying to help an under-skilled or under-performing employee perform better in his or her market. They would instead accept them as they are, collect what revenue they can and focus their attention on their stellar performers. I think the fate of the Wii U is sealed. Current hardware sales are hurting so bad that a potential dip in console sales caused by the partnership with Sony would be negligible when compared with the potential for increased software sales. The Wii U will never be a true competitor for the PS4 or XBO, so it should not attempt to be such. Support the Wii U with your best endeavors to garner favor with your core consumers. Outside of that, let your less stellar performers spread their talents across as many markets as possible to maximize the revenue they can bring to the table.


[b][u]Mobile Strategy
I don't care what Nintendo says about mobile, they need to start developing for that platform ASAP. And not just commercials geared at selling their wares on their in-house platforms. I'm not suggesting that Super Mario 3D World belongs on tablets and phones. I'm suggesting that Nintendo use their popular IPs as a launchpad to propel new IPs specifically designed for mobile devices. As Patrick said in our podcast, Super Mario 3D World would suck with touch-screen controls. So why not create the next Angry Birds style game using Nintendo characters? It would sell like gangbusters Mr. Iwata and you know it.

The best pimps in the world know how to grow into new markets. Iceberg Slim, for example, didn't just work in Chicago. And after finishing his imprisonment, he realized that he could still make money legally off the enterprise by writing about it (he worked to have several books published).

Granted, with the newest Nintendo news about jumping into the health and wellness industry, I wouldn't accuse them of not trying to diversify. But the mobile option to me is still a no-brainer.


[b][u]Prepare for the Future
As I stated earlier, Nintendo does not need to abandon the Wii U. However, they do need to start working on a proper next-gen console. Imagine five years from now when PS4 and XBO start to show their age. Nintendo could bring out a true next-gen console with specs that can outclass Sony and Microsoft's aging boxes. This part is indeed a gamble, but I'm suggesting it based on the fact that I believe PS4 and XBO are Sony and Microsoft's last consoles. Either way, this approach gives the Wii U five more years to grab as much cash as it can before Nintendo can bring a true competitor to the market. And once they do, many people who purchased Nintendo games on PS4 will be intrigued to see what the publisher can do with true next-gen specs.

Nintendo also needs to also take a page out of Microsoft's notebook and learn how to build a legitimate online ecosystem. The Nintendo eShop is pretty and well organized, but if Nintendo really wants to sit at the table in the future, they have to think about collaborative and competitive gaming that is easy for gamers to jump into, find friends and start playing.


[b][u]The Bottom Line
Nintendo needs to stop relying on the status quo that's brought them to this point. They always dare to be different. I'm all for that. But, being only for the sake of being different leads you to put out two inferior consoles over a 10 year period that tank either in software sales, hardware sales, or in the case of the Wii U, both.   read

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