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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Transcript Edit

And so we return once again to another installment of the series that beats its chest like a pirate with anger management issues: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, or CODAW. I'm sure there's a joke in there relating to that one character from Game of Thrones, but nah, how can a huge retrograde lumbering idiot capable only of constantly spouting the same phrase possibly relate to Game of Thrones? Ha ha ha ha.

If it seems like I can't take Call of Duty seriously, it's because I bloody well can't! How did we get from World War II shooters to the sci-fi future again, 'cos this is exactly what happened to the Jason films! Next it will be Call of Duty vs. Pinhead or something.

CODAW starts off on the right foot when we're introduced to our hero taking off his helmet to reveal that he's a white dude with awful facial hair. We then turn to his best friend who takes off his helmet to reveal that he's the exact same identical white dude with awful facial hair. Then they start talking about their dads because it's always dads, isn't it? There are no mothers in Call of Duty's world. Soldiers are birthed fully formed from the tail pipes of their father's restored Cadillacs.

Shortly, our friend who's identical to ourselves dies in a very heroic and insecure way, and at the funeral, we are introduced to his father, Kevin Spacey, who is the only white guy in the plot who doesn't have atrocious facial hair which I suppose means he's the baddie. I'd spoiler that since he doesn't properly villain it up until a ways in the game, but come on! It's Kevin Spacey, of course he's the villain. He's got two faces, "smartarse" and "recently punched for being a smartarse." His character looks over the soldiers at the funeral and picks you off the shelf as his new surrogate son, hiring you for his company, which is of course a PMC.

And you know, PMCs being the main villain in a modern war game feels like slipping back into an old comfortable sweater. The whole Call of Duty title speaks to a sort of inherent righteousness of fighting for one's country, and that sentiment loses something when the enemy is a real life foreign power, presumably motivated by the exact same Call of Duty as you, white boy. But PMCs? Fuck those war-profiteering assholes! Call of Loot-y, more like!

I know you're probably here to watch me give the bullying jock of the AAA games industry playground another well-deserved spanking, but I find I'm considerably better disposed towards CODAW than I was towards Ghosts, say. The plot moves at the usual breakneck pace like it's speed-reading the back of a Tom Clancy book. We go from funeral to joining the PMC to destroying all terrorism in the world to the PMC becoming evil with scarcely a pause for a piss break, but it's almost lovable for that.

And Kevin Spacey essentially becomes a G.I. Joe villain. The usual anomalously organized terrorist strike cripples most of the world, so Kevin Spacey rolls in, takes the credit for ending terrorism and becomes the most powerful corporation on Earth. And then, having essentially conquered the world with money and minimal force, Kevin Spacey decides his next course of action will be to invade the United States. Yeah, this is where I sort of lose his train of logic. I mean, he practically runs the world already at that point, but I guess conquest just doesn't feel like conquest 'till you've stuck a flag in someone else's shit. And he openly announces his intention to take over the world in a speech to the United Nations, after which the world turns against him, and I want to know what the fuck he was expecting would happen after he stopped talking, pyjama party?

I'm focusing on the story a lot because I might as well. It's not like anyone expects the gameplay to do much more than connect the dots, and by "dots", I mean bullets being connected to faces with considerable force. You've probably seen a screenshot of the "Press F to Pay Respects" moment from the funeral scene; I shouldn't have to explain why that's hilarious. It might as well have said "Press F to Be Sad". And this sort of thing needs a name so I'm gonna call it a "slow-time event". They don't even have the quick-time event's anorexically slim justification of being a reflex challenge, they're just "Would you like us to continue this glorified cutscene?" prompts to make sure that you're still awake.

As is usually the case with COD, the whole campaign is like being herded along a little path to the sheep dip. There's almost always an NPC support character whose actions we are instructed to mimic exactly, always fun when you're crawling and getting a faceful of flexing mud-spattered bum cheek. And what would modern warfare be without tech-wank? Using new vehicles and gadgets precisely once before they're forgotten about or more likely crashed just as you're achieving something important, like Windows Movie Maker.

But while CODAW isn't above making us fly a jet along a linear canyon for one brief mission because apparently we've officially regressed as far back as Space Harrier, there are some game mechanics we can go hog wild with, like the jet thrusters we've got strapped to our body we can use to double-jump and slow-fall and with which I see no safety issues whatsoever, as long as we're not carrying anything flammable or explosive- Oh wait! Or the grappling hook launcher that shifts us slightly closer to the Batman singularity, the hypothetical point at which all characters in every video game are Batman. These can be used to speed around somewhat open-ended areas for the combat advantage and actually adds something to the game. Kind of arbitrary which missions we're allowed to use them in, but it's something. Probably make the multiplayer interesting, not that I know.

And there's a section towards the end that I quite enjoyed where your arm's broken and you have to get by with one-handed guns without reloading 'cos it's a twist on established mechanics that raises the stakes and makes you vulnerable, although the game continues to handhold like a creepy prom date and your support character insists on pointing out every single spare gun that are always lying around like cigarette butts.

So just to reiterate, I did like CODAW more than Ghosts. In other news, I also enjoy Chinese water torture more than the hobbling wheel. At the very end, we and a support character resolve things by showing up at the enemy stronghold in matching power armor and wrecking up the place, and my first thought was "Didn't Modern Warfare 3 end this exact same way?" Yes, I remember, because it also made me wonder why we didn't just do this in the first place. All these CoD story campaigns feel like they're running through the same checklist:

  • Here's the bit where you snipe
  • Here's the bit where you use a drone
  • Here's the grizzled morally flexible frequently British commander.

It's like what I said about Assassin's Creed turning into a line graph. Call of Duty can now be considered a contemporary of FIFA and Madden; same shit once a year, different hat, with a "Press F to Pay Respects" qualifier implying the narrow possibility that the series has started to consciously take the piss out of itself. But if you have, Call of Duty, then don't take a great big gulp on that piss and then try to give me a snog!

Addenda Edit

  • Staying frosty: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Sadly UN pyjama parties have fallen out of favour after that one time Kofi Annan rented Mamma Mia
  • Press F to have very much enjoyed this video

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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