Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Multiplayer Preview
We get a first look at multiplayer action in the next Call of Duty
It was on a crowded rooftop in San Francisco that I and about sixty other journalists and YouTubers had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the Xbox One version of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the first to be developed on a three-year cycle. It's also the first title to be fully handled by Sledgehammer Games. After a forty five minute presentation in which many of the new features, modes and maps were detailed I had a chance to try them out for myself despite a somewhat inadequate number of gaming stations for the number of people at the event. While boasting a few much-needed upgrades to the audio-visual presentation alongside some interesting albeit unoriginal new mechanics and features, the core gameplay that made Call of Duty such a success remains mostly intact. Whether or not that is a good or bad thing will likely hinge on how much battle-fatigue you have from previous installments.
The first and most obvious place to start when talking about the game is the Exo-suit and jet-pack that all soldiers come equipped with. These add a layer of mobility and tactical versatility to the game that is very much akin to what the Nanosuit provides for the Crysis games. While the full extent of what the suit will change in the game wasn’t made entirely clear at the reveal, we did get to play around with some of its features. The most interesting change that also represents the biggest upset to the core gameplay is the jet-pack that lets you double-jump and reach higher ledges. It also lets you dash quickly from side to side or forward and back, and also preform quick mid-air dashes and slam-down on opponents if you are above them in the air. Every soldier gets to use this as a standard piece of equipment and it definitely breathes some life into the increasingly stale gameplay of the last few installments.
Apart from the jet-pack, the bonuses the suit provides largely depend on what and how many Exo-related perks and wild-cards you use. We had a limited variety of these at the event, with an invisibility cloak being the main suit-related boost available. Others that were available granted things like a temporary on-foot speed boost, a temporary increase in health regeneration and the ability to briefly hover in place while in the air. Exo perks are separate and include things like the ability to reload while sprinting as well as extra energy to power the abilities. You can also choose to duel-wield heavy weapons due to your increased strength, although the efficiency of this tactic was questionable in my experience.
How much you utilize the new suit will also depend on how you choose to allocate your weapons and abilities in the Black Ops 2-inspired “Pick 13” system. As in Black Ops 2, you can choose to deck out your primary weapon with several attachments while sacrificing perks or grenades. Kill and score streaks are included in the thirteen, so you can opt to have none of these in favour of more perks and weapon attachments, or select a large number of kill and score streaks while using less attachments and perks. Speaking of kill and score streaks, you now have the opportunity to modify kill-streak rewards with the example given at the presentation being a regular turret being turned into a rocket-turret. On top of this, co-op score streaks have been added, allowing you and another player to work together to earn score-streak rewards that only one of the two players will be able to use once earned. You will also earn “Reinforcements” which are one-time use low-level score streak rewards and extra perks, which will be received as Supply Drops.
This is not the only area where customization in Advanced Warfare has been fleshed out. Soldier customization returns from Ghosts, but with more options for individual pieces of clothing such as gloves and boots, alongside your choice of gender and facial appearance. Most customizable items including weapons and clothing can be fine-tuned with the new “Supply Drop” system. After each game, you have a chance to receive a random loot drop. The loot will be a variation on existing gear with slightly altered appearance or stats and will come in three levels of rarity. For guns, the changes usually involve slight tweaks to the base stats, like increased damage but decreased accuracy. For cosmetics, there are variations in item appearances. This system adds a Diablo-esque addiction factor to the game and along with the “Operator” soldier customization and pick-13 systems you will be able to fine tune your loadout more than ever before.
While the Call of Duty series has been slowly creeping into the future, Advanced Warfare feels like the first game to really embrace a science-fiction premise as reflected in much of your arsenal. Some weapons like assault rifles feel more or less the same as in previous games, but others like shotguns, sniper-rifles and the all new Directed-Energy weapons feel distinctly more sci-fi. When you fire a shotgun, you see a sort of energy wave blasting out from it, not unlike the pressurized air guns from Dead Space 3. The snipers have a similar effect, but the Heat weapons are like nothing seen before in a Call of Duty game. They do not use traditional clips but instead a battery that will drain when you fire and slowly recharge when not in use. The Heat weapon available at the event fired a solid beam that was quite accurate, especially when fired from the hip.
One clever addition that lets you play around with these new weapons and loadouts is a quickly loading “virtual firing range" map that's full of moving and stationary targets to get a feel for your loadout before jumping into a match. Between matches you can also have a detailed look at what your opponents’ loadouts are in a system dubbed “virtual lobby.” This is great if you were getting dominated by another player and want to see exactly what setup they were using.