In Depth

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare review: critics praise 'brilliant' return to form

After disappointing sales for its predecessor, critics say Advanced Warfare will be a huge hit

With gargantuan budgets, Hollywood-inspired visuals and the backing of one of the biggest games publishers in the world, Call of Duty is the Michael Bay blockbuster of the gaming world.

But will this year’s offering help to steady the ship after comparatively disappointing sales of the series’ previous outing – Call of Duty: Ghosts? Early reviews suggest Advance Warfare is likely to be a huge hit.

Star power

Hollywood stars such as Gary Oldman and Kiefer Sutherland have featured in previous Call of Duty games, but Advance Warfare features a turn from lauded House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey as the game’s arch-villain. "Bringing in a double Oscar winner shows a true sign of intent," says The Independent’s David Crookes.

So how does Spacey do? Jeff Gerstmann from games review site Giant Bomb says that the whole production benefits "enormously" from his performance, "which looks extremely realistic in cut scenes and only slightly less realistic in-game." Polygon’s Arthur Gies is rather less convinced, however, declaring Spacey’s turn in the game "over-the-top."

Graphics

Every year, the graphics in Call of Duty take another step towards realism, and this year is no different, reviewers say. IGN’s Brian Albert notes that "pores, hair, and creases in skin are all rendered in great detail, to the point where I knew, just by seeing how a character’s face displayed shock and horror, that bad news was coming."

The game has been designed "to look fantastic on the next generation consoles," the Daily Mirror notes, with high-resolution graphics that take advantage of the more powerful hardware of the Xbox One and PS4.

Advances in warfare

Gamespot’s Miguel Concepcion says that for all of the predictability of the game’s single-player storyline, Advance Warfare offers "a deluge of action-film bravado, and it’s difficult to not be carried away by its tidal forces."

Concepcion praises, in particular, the addition of jetpacks, which offer players huge new mobility. Joystiq’s Ludwig Kietzmann agrees: "The futuristic EXO suit that encases your soldier in strong metal limbs and a boosting backpack lets you juke, bounce and dash aggressively through the air like a rocket-powered bayonet. It feels truly three-dimensional and liberating – and punchier than Titanfall, if you care to compare."

Expectation

Since the Call of Duty series began in 2003, it has sold over 140 million copies. Expectation for each new game in the series is so high that when Ghosts, the last game in the series, didn’t raise $1 billion on its first day of release it was regarded as a disappointment.

Some critics have suggested that the game may in fact have reached its peak. Industry analyst Sterne Agee told The Independent that he believed Advance Warfare would sell 15 per cent fewer copies than its predecessor "which in itself sold fewer than Black Ops II despite the franchise becoming one of gaming’s most popular e-sports," Agee said.

To try to push early sales the game’s publisher Activision released a Day Zero Edition of the game "to give its most rabid fans a 24-hour jump on the less hardcore gamers", Fortune reports.

Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Securities, told Fortune that if Activision’s strategy works, Advance Warfare could sell 21 million copies this year, and up to 3 million copies more in 2015. That would allow Call of Duty to retake the "biggest entertainment launch of the year" bragging rights, which were stolen by Take-Two Interactive’s Grand Theft Auto V last year.

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