Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Preview
Ben Sheene / Aug 11th, 2014 No Comments
It’s well known that one of the biggest complaints hurled at Call of Duty over the years is that each new entry does little to change up the formula. No matter how many new guns, modes, perks and adjustments are included, there’s a definite group of players that can’t see what all the fuss is about. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, like its name suggests, is advancing what players have come to expect from the classic FPS experience by changing some of the very fundamentals of the game.
At a small event in San Francisco, Activision invited Gaming Illustrated to check out an exclusive preview of Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer. While the Kevin Spacey-infused future looks cool, the futuristic technology is bringing sweeping changes to how players will experience multiplayer. Though Sledgehammer Games is drastically changing it up, the team is still maintaining what makes Call of Duty one of the biggest franchises in the industry.
Exo Suit Up
Call of Duty has always been a game about getting the drop on opponents with quick kills, superior weapon strategy and a great knowledge of map layout. Experienced players will use their skills to rack up kill streaks and devastate the opposing team. But as frantic as the action can get, playing online has always been a linear affair. Throughout the series’ history, players get the upper hand when they find the perfect vantage point on a map. Looking down at another team from on high or peeking around a corner provides players with the best ways to target others.
The exoskeleton brings game-changing momentum to every aspect of the classic Call of Duty experience. Every mode of Advanced Warfare is influenced by the ability to boost jump, boost slide, boost dodge and boost dash. With a simple double tap of the jump button, players can shoot up into the air and experience the familiar in a completely different way. Player movement has been completely overhauled with new possibilities for getting into and out of combat situations. The first few moments of boost jumping up and over a wall, picking off another playing and boosting away are exhilarating.
Surprisingly, the mechanic barely takes any getting used to. A game like this requires precise timing and tight controls but the exoskeleton is quite forgiving. Often a jump doesn’t look like it can be made or a wall can’t be scaled but players will successfully vault the gap. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of using the boost to navigate levels and lets players focus on their scorestreaks. A great feature is the ability to press crouch while boost jumping to perform a boost slam. This move acts as a melee attack where players can rain down vengeance from on high. While boost dodging is a great way to dash out of an opponent’s line of sight, performing the action can be strange. Clicking the left stick and promptly grinding it in the desired direction makes sense from a controller perspective but takes awhile before making sense to the thumbs.
The beauty of the exoskeleton is that it constantly changes the flow of a multiplayer match. It’s up to the players when they want to use the boost abilities and no one is tied to either the ground or the sky. In past Call of Duty games, the only time players needed to look up was when scoping out a potential player on a high ledge or second floor of a building. Now, nowhere is truly safe. Camping out behind a wall is much riskier now that another player can suddenly boost up into the air and attack. In a way, having to consider every possibility makes multiplayer that much more exciting and potentially funner for newcomers.
Loot has become an increasingly valuable bullet point to several games. Borderlands popularized the idea of seeking out that new, special weapon to tackle foes with. Destiny looks to do the same next month. And now Call of Duty is trying its hand at a loot system with Supply Drops. As the newest branch of customization, Supply Drops grant players a variety of custom weapons, character gear and reinforcements. Awarded through ranking up with XP, completing challenges or just playing, Supply Drops come in three rarities: Enlisted, Professional and Elite.
Weapons players receive through Supply Drops are custom weapons that feature both cosmetic modifications and attribute bonuses. An easy-to-understand listing of any weapon shows how its stats compare to the one being held. But what do stats matter to the actual experience of shooting the gun? Thankfully, Sledgehammer decided to add a virtual firing range where players can try out their new loot from the Create-a-Class menu or between matches. This brilliant and practical implementation seems like it should have been a given in past entries but it’s finally here. Even better, the virtual firing range is immediate and allows players to get a feel for the weapon without having to fumble around during the match.
Like opening up a present on Christmas, getting a Supply Drop only makes players want to earn more. It helps that some of the weapons found in them are both powerful and look cool. One particular favorite of mine was an Elite gun that fired powerful three round bursts. It was slow to fire but could mow down opponents with enough accuracy and even damage them through walls. Despite their strength, the custom weapons are balanced just like any other gun in the game. Players will find what works best for them in a given situation and run with it. Reinforcement Supply Drops are one-time-use items that are activated during the match. Acting similar to perks or low-level scorestreaks, Reinforcements also have the rarity classes and can add something new to a match.
Pick Your Perks
Pick 10? That was so last-gen. Advanced Warfare introduces the Pick 13 system to dole out perks and provide even more customization options than ever before. The system acts just like it did in Black Ops 2 and doesn’t pigeonhole players into a certain build. Coupled with the virtual shooting range, Pick 13 makes figuring out what customization works best a breeze. Being able to test out weapon attachments and whether they are worth using up one of those thirteen precious points will only make players better and more efficient soldiers. Scorestreaks are also customizable and Advanced Warfare introduces co-op scorestreaks. These help players who aren’t always the best at racking up kills to experience the deadlier, more expensive scorestreaks.
Because the exoskeleton is so crucial to the multiplayer experience, it should come as no surprise that players will be able to use Pick 13 to design an exo loadout tailored to their needs. More than just a method of enhanced mobility, the exo suit has a few abilities that can be used until the Exo Battery is depleted. Exo Shield can deploy a shield from the exo suit’s arm, Exo Cloak provides visual concealment, Exo Hover allows players to hover in the air momentarily and several other abilities augment players’ traditional arsenal.
Those abilities are also supplemented by perks that makes boosting quieter to not show up on the enemy team’s mini-map, extend the life of the Exo Battery or reload while sprinting and shoot while sliding. Players who want more variety outside running and gunning will be able to use Pick 13 to make themselves the ultimate exo soldier.
New Maps, New Modes
What would Call of Duty be without an amazing set of maps and modes to let players tear into each other? Favorite modes like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Hardpoint and others return and they are made even more entertaining by the exo suit’s abilities. One of the newly revealed modes was Uplink, where teams try to take control of a satellite drone and must race with it in hand to the other team’s uplink. Any player that picks up the drone can score one point by tossing it into the uplink or score two points by boost jumping into it. Throwing the drone at an opponent will make them unable to use weapons temporarily and leave them open to be killed, only for you to reclaim the drone again.
Uplink, like any of the event’s playable modes, was insane fun. New strategies evolve on the fly for cutting enemies off at the pass, dodging gunfire and regrouping with the team. Because of the exo suit, there’s no doubt that most players will take a few days to adjust to the “advancement” but even after a couple hours, experience pays off in fun. The same modes that players have tread before can now make even the most inexperienced players feel quite good. But an swift trigger finger is still required.
The four playable maps Biolab, Riot, Ascend and Defender all sung with the common threads of any good multiplayer map. There are still environmental hazards to take care of, tight corners to bump right into other players and create close quarters chaos, or just big open spaces to find that perfect line of sight. Sledgehammer had to go the extra mile by creating an appropriate synergy between the boost jump and the vertical planes of a map. On the snowy stretches of Biolab, many structures looked as if they could be boosted onto, yet after scaling them a message saying “out of bounds” quickly popped up. It isn’t always clearly communicated as to what can be scaled and what can’t, something that will probably be ironed out in time. Adventurous players will no doubt test the limits of the exo suit’s traversal capabilities during multiplayer and hopefully this doesn’t result in too much annoying camping.
A Modern Advancement
Multiplayer in Advanced Warfare is confident, just like you would expect from any Call of Duty game. Instead of sharply veering off the path, Sledgehammer Games has introduced a few new touches to make multiplayer feel different and fun rather than stale and reliable. The exo suit is an incredibly exciting mechanic that players will love wrapping their heads around. The momentum and customization it brings to the core Call of Duty experience is enough to deserve attention.
Sticking with the Pick 10 model was a great call and helps show off all the additions to Advanced Warfare. Supply Drops add more to matches than just K/D ratios and trying to prestige. The promise of a new gun or even a new piece of armor is likely to be the subject of many long hours sunk into a gaming session. The virtual lobby and gun range are smart ways to integrate class loadouts and their many possibilities. While players eye each other during matchmaking you are likely to be testing out that newly customized assault rifle.
In the months to come, it will be exciting to see what else Sledgehammer has in store for Advanced Warfare. The small taste we had was enough to realize that this kind of change will only help Call of Duty grow as a series. When players hop into their own exoskeleton, the future of the franchise will be quite clear.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare releases Nov. 4 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and PC.
tags: activision , call of duty , Call of Duty Advanced Warfare , preview , Sledgehammer Games