Hoorah gamers, and welcome to my review so lets get amped and ready for action in this latest saga in the U.S. Fight on terror. In the near future of 2054. With the political world edging ever closer to global disaster, independent nations struggling to maintain control over their own domestic and social landscape The ATLAS Corporation - the world’s largest private military contractor -
Having surpassed all other countries to become the most powerful single state that is loyal to none and can be bought for the highest dollar. this is where we as the player come in as Jack Mitchell (Troy Baker), a former US Marine that gets discharged from service early on through injury and bereavement. ATLAS CEO, Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey) takes a liking and sees an opportunity in you giving you a second chance to fight for Liberty and aid your new impairment.
Here we learn how ATLAS work, dictate and determine the outcome of the political world through sheer power, money and having no chief to answer to. As you spiral into this web we learn more on Irons and Mitchell's relationship and connection in some glorious realtime and prerendered CGI cutscenes which I will touch on later.
But really the plot is a device to carry us through this action filled blockbuster and from one epic set piece to the next and some of them are spectacular, take the opening scene as viewed from the E3 reveal and is pretty much identical to the final version in game but there is another little something here I will cover later. Here we are treated to an exhilarating sequence as your pod is shot off course and crashes into a skyscraper leaving you stranded to fight your way down and through this war torn city. With great voice acting work and facial capture you can really see and understand the small nuances from characters that are displayed in these realtime scenes, once in Action we are in far more familiar and standard fps and most certainly COD campaign territory. Expect the normal drones of cannon fodder with little regard for their own well being or concept of cover, breach missions in slow motion. It all plays and feels very cod like, but with some small yet welcome additions.
The new evo suit is designed to enhance you, giving you boost jump, dash, slide and slam a new power mode that allows you to slam down a shockwave type attack near enemies. Being able to boost yourself vertically in and across all levels adds in more scope to the linear mission Structure and allows alittle more choice in path and attack plan. It also shows off the impeccable motion blur work in this game as you boost and dash which adds to the games already striking visual punch and also contests against its obvious older and design limitations, but more on that in my technical breakdown section. The only niggle here is that the abilities of the suit are cherry picked by Sledgehammer throughout the campaign and not always at your deposal, it would have been a nice touch to choose which 2 abilities say you could have each mission to add some variety but it is hardly a game breaking situation.
Visually this is a striking game in places and belies it's engine origins from the Quake engine it is based on -Although this a misnomer that is widely overused - but has since been extensively updated and again here Sledgehammer have had the code book out and re-written. Offering up big improvements in Sound, Physics but none more apparent than in Animation and Rendering. With the game sporting not only great facial, full body capture techniques but great lighting, skin including Sub Surface Scattering with possibly the best set and implemeted suite of Post Processing affects thus far. The use of DoF is great in places in-game when near foreground objects to within Cutscenes, Motion Blur is also impressive with it used throughout real-time cinematics and areas of the game that add such a great look & feel to scenes such as as shoot out in a Power Station that really show off the engine, again a cross-town chase on top a bus involves heavy use of the PP arsenal at Sledgehammer's disposal. With it not being a Screen space approach but using the depth, colour and velocity buffers to approximate a far more accurate and solid approach that reduces noise/artifacting along with sampling obscured backgound asset's better allowing them to show through the MB and become more opaque within the sample affected regions. Please check out my technical breakdown of the game to learn more, this also highlights that they have the aim spot on with all these never affecting performance on both consoles easily outperforming my AMD machine at equal settings with a far more consistent base which is smidgen better on the XboxOne but not to a level you would notice ouside of my Performance Videos found below showing a 1-2 fps difference in SP only at a couple of sections. Infact it shows that software is still very early with not only some effects changing after Post launch patches but also the framerate improving after launch, the X1 performance is helped by it running an adaptive V-sync that allows the screen to tear acros the top half sometimes multiple time a frame, where as the PS4 runs a solid V-sync option with no torn frames ever being presented. With a near as rock solid 60fps in both SP and Multi-player it not only looks the part to be a "Next-Gen" game but certainly backs it up with performance to match, a key factor in such a fast paced game as this. Some of the assets in the game can look less impressive and you can see where relevant corners have been cut on Polygon count to achieve the high performance needed and along with the Screen Space Reflection solution showing up large errors of your own view point appearing on walls, floors along with depth,perception issues can undermine the effect somewhat when this occurs, but these are minor niggles on what is an impressive looking and performing game that leaves IW and Ghosts looking even worse than we already knew it was.
From the opening swarm mission with very limited path design and blocked conflict structure to the far more exuberant highway chase & bridge battle they all deliver fast and short bursts of varied gunplay across a vast selection of battlegrounds. We even have a stealth mission that holds up well to the original classic All ghillied up from MW2 that is held in high regard by many, myself included. With a solid and well balanced if not memorable story, helped immensely by the gravitas of Kevin Spacey as the wild eyed world leader in each scene bringing with him his full deck of cards.... in some amazing and memorable scenes that for once you will mostly enjoy to watch, backed up by other great voice work that permeate a very high production value and effort. But it plays as you would expect and is far more enjoyable and longer than last years rather tedious Ghosts racking in for me on veteran at just over 7 hours, which is near twice what ghosts took me. As far as story goes with its epic set pieces, great voice work and pretty solid ( but not completely devoid of some cringe worthy scenes and sections) scripting it will entertain you long enough and train you well enough for the main course of multi-player which is where this games heart is.
And again this is where we see sledgehammer change but not redefine the series. Like single player we have the evo suit thrust upon us to shake up and break the status quo of cod's defining pillar. Again we have the Pick Ten system returns but now as Pick Thirteen, moving scorestreaks into your class loadout and makes them completely optional. You can equip up to 3 at a time, with an additional 4th unlocked by using the “Streaker” Wildcard.
Customizing your class can be tested out between rounds thanks to the new virtual firing range feature, which you can switch over to at any time while you’re in the lobby/create-a-class screen. And the lobby has also changed now being a oh la la Virtual lobby, long gone are gamertag lists, now you will see your customized soldier in addition to those of other players. The emblem editor returns and is similar to Black Ops 1 and 2. You’ll be able to show off you emblem on your Exo suit for all to see, admire and fear. Added loot in the form of supply drops which are rewarded at the end of matches,randomly or by completing challenges. Inside these supply drops you can get custom weapons, gear, and reinforcements. All of these drops can come in one of three different levels that are less or more rare on appearence: Enlisted (green), Professional (blue), and Elite (orange).
Prestige returns to keep you plodding away and it it at level 50 with the reset of equipment, perks etc as before with a max of leve 15. Custom weapons you’ve gained through the loot system will remain throughout presite but again are locked until you earn the base weapon again, unlock points also reappear that allow you to fast unlock an item again carried through as before further rises.Ranked playlists also work on your skill evaluated through placement matches and you will then be asigned an appropriate grade of compatants with each division having its own exclusive rewards.
Launching with a total of 13 maps with a season pass giving you one more Atlas Gorge, the rest fall out as:-
With a Horde/survial mode also appearing including a cooperative mode in the game of Exo Survival. Up to three others can fight and survive against Exo-equipped AI in waves similar to Modern Warfare 3’s survival. The huge array of enemies will befall you here along with random objective based rounds that penalize you if you don’t succeed. Zombies also make an appearance in this mode as a bonus, though do expect additional modes from DLC to hit later.
The online side is hampered still by some noticeable lag and netcode/hit detection issues. It feels no worse than previous cod games but does not feel really any better either. With all 3 versions and I am sure last gen running across the same Activision servers initialising a peer to peer gaming session with one chosen player being the host, this is a great shame and corner cut for a game of its stature and revenue. We should really be seeing dedicated servers here to keep control of the game balance and stop Cry's of "Host advantage" and the like. It is a process that works well and lobby times can be long sometimes but mostly it is pretty quick and solid to get into a game across all 3. Expect the amount of games and players to take a big boost once the Christmas noobs join in, with the balance now for score steaks and the evo suit meaning that attack's can come from pretty much anywhere which does help with the tent,fire and sleeping bag crew familiar in CoD, but it will never stop it completely. Quick scoping is now pretty much reduced but as you can see from my opening shot and others in the video you can still use a sniper rifle in open combat if you are proficient enough.
All in the great single player with it's fun/fast and improved multiplayer all supply a game that will be loved by many but is more a decent upgrade and feels suitably improved on now gen hardware to feel like ,at least, hardware is being used unlike Ghosts, if not a dramatic change as per Battlefield 4 feels like, more so now after a year out most of the unfinished game (see beta) is now complete on consoles at least. PC was never quite as bad to begin with. The visual punch is removed somewhat on MP with all motion blur and DoF pretty much removed but this makes sense for the rock solid performance of 60 you get and much more so the fact too many pp effects would interfere with the game.
Anyone looking for a long lasting MP title that will deliver an action game on the level of any Michael Bay film will feel certainly entertained and delighted with this offering that attempts to make small but impactful changes to the formula whilst not affecting the core aspect. For this it deserves some credit for making the most about of change since Black Ops but it fails to offer up much more than previous titles outside of the huge visual improvements. But the Multiplayer alone will certainly deliver its core value.