Call of Duty tends to get bashed by gamers, and I myself have poked fun at the franchise too. But despite that, as well as the split opinions caused by the mobility-boosting features of some of the futuristic entries, 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - which I played fervently during the period of my SPM exams - remains my most memorable and fondly remembered multiplayer shooter experience.
I say “fondly”, but in truth, I probably swore just as much as I actually enjoyed the game. The games may get mocked for being casual fare, but no other multiplayer game or portion has stirred the competitive spirit in me as much as Advanced Warfare, even when I mostly just played Team Deathmatch. That’s partly because I sucked quite a bit when I started out - I hadn’t played a lot of Call of Duty before this - and even when my skilled improve every match was still a test of my consistency, and a battle for my pride.
The other reasons behind my cussing stemmed from two sources - one game-related and one player-related. The former was due to issues of balance. It’s a topic I’m not exactly great in, but it became clear that some loadouts were - especially as a receiving player - frustratingly effective. Later months saw a prevalence of players who combined the game’s akimbo submachine guns with a perk that enabled them to fire them even while sprinting. Throw in laser sights for added hip-fire accuracy and I would often die from the mere sight of them.
I myself ended up using this loadout sometimes too, though my results were less consistent. Still, it was satisfying to annihilate enemies with it, especially if they were the ones who inspired me utilize it in the first place. But personally, I much preferred hopping and dashing around with the ridiculously accurate laser-beam-like EM1 and the TAC-19 energy shotgun in lieu of the akimbo SMGs.
The other issue was far more irritating. As Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer player count on PC dwindled to a pitiful amount, it became extremely common for me to cross paths with a pre-made party of skilled players in my nightly sessions. I’d played against some of them before. There was one in particular that I disliked severely, ever since the time he drop-shotted me after I tried to do the same to him and mocked me for it. Oh, the rage and shame I felt. Dealing with him and his party was even worse, with my team of randoms and I getting hopelessly slaughtered almost all the time.
But even with these frustrations, I still loved and enjoyed the gameplay. As clunky as Advanced Warfare’s exo movements could feel, and as much as they could make aiming difficult for me, the mobility offered by them still felt gratifying and liberating. It was also the last Call of Duty game - as of now - to feature one-hit-kill melee attacks (outside of equipping a melee weapon). Even better: instead of a knife, the attacks came in the form of a loud, super-powered-like punch. I remember that the PC version needed some tweaking for the ragdoll physics to come into play, and before discovering that most of my matches provided the sight of punched bodies hovering mysteriously in the air instead of crumpling gloriously. It diluted the thrill of punching someone a bit, but landing a successful punch still felt like the best thing in the world. Missing one, on the other hand, felt downright soul-crushing, especially when I got punched by my target due to a difference of milliseconds.
The combination of boost jumping and punching resulted in one of my favourite multiplayer moments. Once, I found myself boost jumping over a wall at the same time as the enemy player from the opposite side. We tried to punch each other in mid-air, naturally, only to miss. We turned and went for another attempt, but ended up missing again. This went on long enough to make wonder if my stubbornness would cost me, until my punch finally landed and I grinned in delight.
When I played Black Ops 3, one of my biggest disappointments was that the maps felt so constrained and obviously three-laned. In Advanced Warfare, the maps for the most part, felt more spacious and interesting to navigate, especially the ones that mixed in a good amount of verticality. The DLC maps seemed to take this even further, but alas I hadn’t bought the season pass as I did with Black Ops 3, so I didn’t get to try them out. I could still get it and battle against bots, which I wouldn’t mind, but the RM90 price just feels like too much.
Advanced Warfare was also my introduction to the series’ loadout customization, in this title’s case the Pick 13 system. I spent hours fussing over my loadouts, comparing attachments and perks and deciding what to do with my 13 slots. The Pick 13 system helped, because it meant that I could ditch Point Streak rewards I could never hope to get in favour of much-needed attachments. Speaking of attachments, I was always annoyed that the quickdraw attachment that allowed aiming-down-sights to be done much quicker required ten headshots to unlock, and that was on a weapon-by-weapon basis.
While I understand why Call of Duty: World War 2 was necessary for the franchise, a part of me had wanted to see a sequel to Advanced Warfare emerge, in the hopes of getting a familiar but improved multiplayer experience. That could still happen, but it would be in 2020 at the earliest, when it’s Sledgehammer Games’ turn to release a Call of Duty game once more. Even if it releases later than that, I’d wait for it.