Remember when Call of Duty had a double jump? No no, not that lethargic jetpack boost from Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare. I'm talking about the bassy, air-powered mega leaps of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the 2014 CoD game that birthed "press F to pay respects." The meme has become its greatest legacy, but the first Sledgehammer-led game in the series deserves a lot better than that.
Advanced Warfare's inventive movement system and freeform loadouts still rank it among the best "forgotten" CoDs of its time, and I can't shake the feeling that now in 2021, Sledgehammer is making a sequel to the wrong game. It seems all-but-confirmed that we're getting another WWII game in November and it's a damn tragedy.
I really liked Advanced Warfare back in 2014, but I was worried it wouldn't hold up after seven years of FPS evolution. I'm glad to say the campaign still kinda rules, even if Kevin Spacey as a shady, manipulative PMC father figure is harder to watch today. Of course, you do get to drop him off the top of a skyscraper Hans Gruber-style by chopping off your own prosthetic arm with a knife, so that's pretty neat. With Advanced Warfare we were still in the era of CoD's shooting feeling a bit stiff and dated (Modern Warfare changed that in 2019), but its novel futuristic arsenal including a sonic shotgun and "Smart Grenades" that can toggle functions on the fly helped keep things fresh.
I also forgot that you play as Troy Baker, like, literally. The game came out at the peak of the voice actor being in basically everything, but this is the only Baker role I can think of in which he lends his voice and his face (it's a nice face).
Broadly, Advanced Warfare's campaign is yet another take on 2007's Modern Warfare, with some advanced tech thrown in for flavor. Those futuristic details are exactly what makes the whole game worthwhile. I enjoy the relatively believable 2050s future that Sledgehammer decided on—a world where the latest tech lets people leap 20 feet in the air or scan bodies through walls, but space travel and robots are still at the edge of science fiction. Treyarch took a similar near-future approach in Black Ops 2, but Advanced Warfare is a more grounded (and increasingly more likely) look at what's ahead that successfully turns those ideas into gameplay. It's not unbelievable that a fancy exoskeleton can make you run faster, jump higher, or cushion a hard landing.
A few cool campaign moments I had completely forgotten about:
- That part where you boost jump over to a truck, super punch the windshield, crack the driver's ribs, and throw them into a pole at like 90mph
- This other part in the same mission where you set up x-ray sensor pucks on a wall and "clear" a room without entering it
- A later stealth mission complete with detection meters, whistling to lure enemies, and a snazzy grapple hook (a precursor to Sledgehammer's larger stealth efforts in WWII)
Dead game :(
Of course, the four and a half hour campaign isn't what made Advanced Warfare one of my favorite CoDs ever. Like many, I was getting pretty burnt out on Call of Duty's increasingly samey takes on multiplayer by 2014. I wasn't expecting much from AW, especially after the original Titanfall had briefly caught fire earlier that year, but the entire exosuit concept really came into its own against other players. Everyone having a boosted jump by default allowed for more verticality in maps while making it effortless to get where you wanted to be. I often heard the complaint that double jumping made fights too chaotic, but in my experience, hopping around randomly would just get you killed. It often felt like a literal leap of faith to dive into a gunfight midair (though it was handy for sudden flanks over high walls).
The best trick in my arsenal, and the mechanic that I truly miss in recent CoD games, is the lateral boost that propels you left, right, or backward. I absolutely loved how the sudden adjustment transformed what would otherwise be one-sided firefights.
You know that annoying, extremely Call of Duty moment where you get blasted by someone that recently spawned behind you before you even know what's happening? Mastering the reflexive boost to the left or right could quickly duck you behind a wall long enough to get your bearings and fight back. It wasn't an instant get-out-of-jail card (you still had to win a fight on the backfoot), but it transformed Call of Duty's random cat-and-mouse dynamic into a hydraulic dance of agility and aim. In fact, the lateral boost was such a neat idea that 343 took a similar approach to Master Chief's revamped movement abilities in Halo 5.
Instead of building off the lateral boost, Treyarch ignored its better predecessor in 2015 and came up with Black Ops 3's laughably puny jetpack boost and wallrunning that was so restrictive and slow that it felt pointless. The next year, Infinity Ward tagged in and did, bafflingly, the same exact thing.
The real shame here is, jumping back into AW this week, I learned that the PC community is completely dead. I was a bit shocked considering a few months back I took a similar trip down memory lane with Call of Duty: Ghosts and found a small, dedicated bunch that were still playing the worst CoD in a decade. Clicking on Team Deathmatch in AW and getting a quick response of "No Games Found" made my heart sink. It's old, I get it, but I was expecting to find a few stubborn stalwarts still carrying a torch for this unique footnote in CoD history. I guess it speaks to just how strongly the fanbase tends to reject anything that goes beyond 'boots-on-the-ground'.
I'm not trying to relitigate ancient history, but I think it's fair to say that Advanced Warfare deserves a sequel that it never got. It was discouraging to see Sledgehammer get swept up in the recent resurgence of WWII shooters (I blame Battlefield 1 for being good).
I guess I'm just bummed that, apparently, Activision would rather go back to the bone-dry well of WWII than maybe try out that future stuff again. Especially with Warzone becoming a larger priority for the series, integrating slightly futuristic weapons sounds a lot simpler than trying to make 90-year-old guns make sense in a modern-day battle royale setting.
As a fan of acrobatic shooters, I should be used to this pain. It hurt to watch Titanfall 2 sell poorly and, ultimately, see some of its coolest mechanics stripped out of Apex Legends. Remember that Halo-like FPS with portal guns? I played hours of that! Hell, I was a big LawBreakers believer. We all know how that went.
But hey, if wanting to boost around a corner, mantle up a wall, and leap 20 feet into the air is wrong, I don't want to be right. That sounds a whole lot better than reloading an M1 Garand for the billionth time.