GOTY 2014 - Top Ten - #9

Here it is: our list of the top ten games of 2014. The result of dozens of hours of preparation, discussion and debate, this list represents our consensus on the ten best and most-significant games of the year. Don't miss out on any of our Game of the Year coverage. Check out our full schedule here, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for instant updates.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Sledgehammer Games | November 4, 2014 | Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Activision may be one of the most successful pariahs in the brief history of games. The publisher has been a presence in gaming since the early years of Atari, but it's known in the 21st century as the company that fostered incredibly original and groundbreaking series such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Guitar Hero...and then proceeded to run them into the ground. Since 2006, Call of Duty has been an annualized game. Most people expected it would eventually find itself in a similar predicament to the aforementioned Activision games. It started to certainly look that way in 2013 with the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts. While not a bad game, it was a textbook example of been there, done that.

Activision wanted a new Call of Duty to revitalize the franchise the way Modern Warfare did seven years ago. Developer Sledgehammer Games has been working with the series for years and was rumored to be working on a spinoff, but plans went south. Finally Sledgehammer, a studio founded by ex-Visceral Games staff, has the opportunity to prove themselves with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. What Sledgehammer did for Call of Duty in both the single-player campaign and multiplayer gives the franchise the kick it needed.

Advanced Warfare is set decades in the future, giving it the familiarity it needed to stay relevant while allowing some speculation in terms of technology. The result is the Perfect Dark to Modern Warfare's GoldenEye 007. Players can see through walls, toss homing grenades, and use nanomachines (or whatever modern sci-fi magic Solid Snake usually has available). The significant change to Advanced Warfare, however, is the mobility. First-person shooters have been slowed down significantly since the days of Quake III and Unreal Tournament and it appears developers are starting to realize that lumbering across a map with bullets flying isn't all that fun. Now players have access to boots that allow them to boost laterally, double-jump and perform slow descents from tall heights. It sounds like a gimmick (and it probably is), but it fundamentally changes the way Call of Duty plays. These changes make their way into multiplayer, too, and help produce a frenetic online experience.

These additions wouldn't matter if Advanced Warfare lacked the gameplay to back it up. This is especially true on the single-player side. Sledgehammer managed to create the best CoD campaign since Modern Warfare 2. Advanced Warfare's future manages to stay down-to-earth despite the new technology, and it doesn't require you to watch a Ken Burns documentary on PMCs the way Metal Gear does. The campaign is like the first season of a Tony Scott-directed Netflix original with Kevin Spacey chewing scenery so hard you'd think he was a famished koala on a eucalyptus plantation. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare might not be the deepest game on our top ten (hell, it might actually be the shallowest), but it is tremendously entertaining and accomplished the insurmountable task of making us care about Call of Duty again. – Tyler Martin