While the campaign as a whole still feels very bitty and staccato, as a shooter Advanced Warfare definitely improves over Ghosts. It's much less of a duck shoot, with enemies actually moving around the map and employing some basic tactics. There's a point very early on where you're fighting inside the stone circle of a fountain, with the enemy encroaching from a building in front of you, spreading out and flanking. Sledgehammer like to surround you with the enemy, to let them slowly creep down your sides like spilled treacle. It hardly rivals Halo or F.E.A.R in terms of enemy A.I , but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
The individual missions are certainly not short on ideas either, and amid them there are a couple of gems. The Antarctica mission is strong, but the best of the bunch comes toward the end. I'm going to issue a spoiler warning for the rest of the paragraph, just to be safe. The mission sees your team captured by Irons, who gives you the standard Evil Genius monologue before bashing your artificial arm into a mess of wires and plastic. Managing to escape, you spend the first half of this mission at a significant disadvantage, unable to reload and forced to pick up weapons from your enemies each time your clip runs dry. Then, about halfway through, you gain access to a big stompy mech suit, and the power relation is reversed. Using cluster missiles and a minigun, you mow down enemies in their dozens. The shift from being underpowered to overpowered is deeply satisfying, and it's one of the few moments the game impressed me through clever pacing instead of sheer bombast.
Sadly, for every smart moment of play the Call of Duty campaign has, there's another where it pulls the game from under your feet, forcing you into a quick-time event or a cutscene. At least half of these see you knocked onto the ground for dramatic effect, to the point where you begin to wonder whether Mitchell was also given robotic legs but nobody thought to tell him. For all its advancements, it's still resolutely Call of Duty in all the worst ways.
Multiplayer fares better; the mechanics which only feature sporadically in the singleplayer campaign are present permanently online. The ability to skid around corners like an excited dog on a linoleum floor and boost-jump onto rooftops and vantage points radically alters the experience. Above all it helps to level the playing field. Experienced Call of Duty players will need to adapt to these changes as much as new players will, while the game relies less on who has the fastest trigger finger and more on who best utilises the 3D map design to their advantage.
The multiplayer is also generous in the size of its offering. Character customisation is extensive. Alongside the familiar weapon attachments and perk options are interchangeable killstreak bonuses, "wildcards" that carry abilities such as letting you carry a primary weapon in your secondary slot, and special powers for your Exosuit such as temporary shields or health boosts. The range of game modes is equally impressive, although most of them are variations on the usual deathmatch, capture the flag and domination themes.
Many of these alterations, especially the greater emphasis on movement and verticality, are clearly inspired by Titanfall. Unfortunately, in direct comparison to Respawn's shooter, Advanced Warfare still comes off as inferior. Sledgehammer's changes are tweaks compared to Respawn's more comprehensive overhaul, and it's a shame that Advanced Warfare will likely have far more sticking power due to the multiplayer legacy it inherits from previous games. Still, this isn't to say it's a poor job. Definitely worth picking up if you're into the CoD multiplayer scene.
The move from a two year to three year development cycle for Call of Duty has clearly benefited the series, and Sledgehammer have done a better job with Advanced Warfare than either Infinity Ward or Treyarch have managed in years. But in my opinion, for Call of Duty to return to Modern Warfare standards of greatness, more fundamental alterations are needed. This will not be easy, as many of the problems I complain about here become more central to the series' identity with every passing iteration. Still, I live in hope. Until next year!