Preview: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

The following preview is based on the Xbox One version of the game.

For the last couple of years Call of Duty has proven to be the go-to title for younger generations in each wave of fall releases. Providing some of the highest sales in the industry it certainly seemed there would be no stopping this behemoth of a franchise, but after Ghosts, Activision needed a new wildcard to keep it up and running before running into obscurity, and Sledgehammer’s first “real” next-gen interpretation of the Call of Duty IP may prove to finally introduce some much-needed change into the franchise. It may not be the first futuristic title in the franchise, as Black Ops II already holds that title, but Advanced Warfare does seem to provide a more technologically plausible take on its futuristic setting.

Set 40 years into the future Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare introduces the addition of the exo-skeleton, but will this addition prove to be the wildcard of the franchise, or will it fall into obscurity after just one title? We got to play a few rounds of Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer, and at its core is still the classic Call of Duty formula, but there are definitely some games layered over there that you might recognise in similarity.

After being set up at our demo stations we were introduced to the new lobby and customisation systems. The lobbies seemed pretty straightforward, and what we’ve come to expect from most first person shooters, but for the first time in the franchise you’ll be able to fully customise your character to adjust their appearance to your liking. After choosing a preset male or female character design you’ll be able to customise things such as your exo-skeleton, headgear, shoes, kneepads and pretty much all of the gear involved. Keep in mind that these customisations are purely cosmetic, and no character is stronger than the other. For some it might be a downside that gear doesn’t add any strategical advantages, but it offers a good sense of parity that certain players won’t be much more overpowered than others in this regard.

Next to this you have your standard load out systems, which still work like any other Call of Duty game. New weapons are introduced, as the setting pretty much demands as such. The most noteworthy addition to the arsenal seemed to be the EM1 Quantum, which is a battery-powered rifle that basically gives the player unlimited ammo. There’s a catch though, and if the gun is used a lot in rapid succession the battery will run out, and your primary weapon will be unusable. Next to this Exo Launchers were a pretty big deal, and rather than throwing your grenade for example, you’ll launch it off of this gadget on your arm, providing you with further range. Personally, I found whole idea behind the additional range to be a bit too much, considering the compact sizes of the maps, but luckily I didn’t run into too much trouble on this front.

Once gameplay initiated the first thing most players did was test out the new Exo-skeletons, which might be a thing many players will have to get used to at first. New additions such as jumping higher and such are pretty straightforward, but strafing and such will be gameplay elements that specifically long-time players will need to get used to. The addition of the Exo didn’t seem game-breaking, and honestly actually added some variety to the formula the game has been running on for so long. Your Exo also has some different abilities per class, which you’ll be able to use as long as your battery is charged, which isn’t that incredibly long.

During the demo session we started off with a traditional team death match, which plays like you’d expect it to be. It felt like Call of Duty and played like Call of Duty, albeit a bit fresher in the gameplay division. However after this round we were introduced to Uplink, a 2-round mode in which each team has to try to capture the satellite drone and deliver it to the enemy goal. Here teams will have to decide wether they’ll escort the drone runner or defend their own goal. Load outs and armour abilities are best customised to each gameplay situation, and you’ll probably want to change some stuff around to better adapt to your offensive or defensive position/play style. For instance, if you’re planning on being the runner you’ll probably want to use the speed boost ability on your Exo to gain some extra ground. You’ll definitely make the game much easier for yourself if you think strategically with your load outs, which this game mode seems to advertise indirectly.

Score and kill streaks now co-exist, and the addition of Pick 13 seems to give the player enough rewards for their success, though funny enough it seems a bit too much at times, and in my personal opinion it seems to interfere with the flow of the game, though opinions from avid fans of the franchise may differ on this regard, and in that way it shows how divided players are on these subjects, which is why playlists are a good thing. Sledgehammer games will also provide a playlist in the final game which turns off Exo-skeletons, to provide players with more classic gameplay, should they feel the need to play the game in such a way.

Whilst the campaign footage we’ve seen so far looked pretty impressive to me, the multiplayer is a different story. Characters and environments looked sharp, but the multiplayer didn’t seem to pop as much visually, and seemed like a slightly upgraded version of Ghosts, in the sense that whilst its sharp and well-presented, there’s nothing noteworthy to see. The game ran on an Xbox One, and there didn’t seem to be any performance issues present. I hadn’t noticed any issues with the frame rate. Here it seemed the game was set to a sensitivity of 6, which after adjusting to 14 seemed to play fluidly in my opinion. I personally can’t speak for the resolution, as I spent most of the time focussing on the gameplay. Sledgehammer Games has also refused to comment on the finalised resolution for all versions of the game, minus obviously the PC version.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare seems to be an interesting take on the franchise. The original formula is still in there, but there is some variety present that probably will speak to some, though at its heart Advanced Warfare is still a COD title, but it never pretends to be anything else. The multiplayer is solid, if not a bit visually disappointing, but it is well made and Call of Duty fans will most likely be pleased in this new instalment.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is set to be released on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on November 3rd.

Note: The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions have been developed by a different developer, and because of the lack of footage from those versions this preview can’t speak for things such as feature parity and performance on those consoles.