Director: Glen Schofield (Dead Space) & Michael Condrey
Developer: Sledgehammer Games, High Moon Studios (Port), Raven Software
Plot: You play as private Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker) a U.S. Marine who is wounded from the ongoing Korean War. You are recruited by Jonathon Irons (Kevin Spacey) to join Atlas, a private military corporation in order to track down Hades, a technophobe and head of the KVA, a terrorist group in 2054.
Tagline: Power. Changes. Everything.
Review: There’s a new player in the game. Relatively new Sledgehammer Games who co-headed development on Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has been added to Activision’s development rotation which now spans 3 years. The studio is headed by Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey former executives/ creators of my favourite game “Dead Space” at EA Redwood Shores, now Visceral Games who are currently developing “Battlefield: Hardline”, oh how the times change.
What makes this Call of Duty installment distinct are several things apart from a new developer. The game engine is brand new with freshly mixed audio and a graphics suited for the new generation (Xbox One, PS4). You play as one soldier the entire game. Kevin Spacey brings in his star power and channels his ominous Frank Underwood persona from House of Cards to provide some narrative heft. The biggest change in gameplay however is the addition of exo-suits: providing the player with super strength, bursts of speed, and a jet pack.
There are a whole lot of other gadgets the player is outfitted with in the campaign that are rotated and used sparingly; wall climbing, grappling hooks, shields and cloaks. They allow the game to remain interesting throughout single player’s 6-8 hours to ensure boredom is never a factor, but as most other outlets have noted I was hoping the entire suite of exo-gadgetry was available rather than selective, as the sign of a great game is when the player felt is given the tools rather than a tutorial with the power to control (Modern Warfare, Black Ops II).
The storyline is serviceable with a typical blockbuster routine that coherently forms together. The campaign has momentum but falls short from overuse of the formula with a typical third-act plot twist and the use of a knife in the ending boss fight (typical Call of Duty fashion).
What really brings in players annually is of course the multiplayer. “Power Changes Everything” and in this case the application of the exo-suits adds greater speed and verticality to the formula. It takes a while to get used to the new style of play and part of me is disappointed in how far the series has shifted away from its military roots, but adaptation is a necessity and there’s no doubt this was good fun move. It’ll be interesting to see how Treyarch (next in the rotation) handles this new fun application.
No surprise here, the same small glitches and match errors are present as a series mainstay. Players can hide on certain maps at absurd vantage points or behind invisible walls. Fortunately in my journey to Prestige it did not have too much impact.
With Zombies, Spec Ops and Extinction modes offered as an alternative, Sledgehammer brings us Exo-survival. Honestly I played this a few times and found it rather difficult with little purpose. In short, not a lot of fun.
Overall: The Call of Duty franchise survives for another year. Bringing in a new developer on a three-year cycle has extended the mortgage on Activision’s money house. A step up in quality after Ghosts, a decent campaign and exo-suits to reinvigorate multiplayer is enough of an investment to warrant a purchase. I look forward to seeing what the A-Team (Treyarch) comes up with next year.