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Is this a new era for Call of Duty multiplayer?Available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Call of Duty: Advance Warfare release date 4/11/2014
Advanced Warfare is certainly the most radical reworking since Modern Warfare. Making its debut as the headline developer, Sledgehammer Games has taken the opportunity to transform the way you play Call of Duty.
It has done this through a mixture of fast, fluid movement, ridiculously deep customisation and – the big watchword for Advanced Warfare multiplayer – verticality.
It’s not so huge a reinvention that hard core fans will feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath them. But after several hours, four maps, four game modes and a whole lot of action we can’t complain that Sledgehammer has stuck too closely to the tried and tested approach.
The exosuit is – quite literally, for once – a game changer. It makes you stronger and faster too with the right add-ons. More importantly, it gives you this season’s shooter essential, a handy double-jump boost.
This works much like the jetpack in Titanfall. It allows you to reach high points quickly, take the high window instead of the low door or grab the top of a building’s wall and mantle onto the rooftop.
Advanced Warfare doesn’t go as far as Titanfall in its wall-running and jumping acrobatics, but the exosuit pushes Advanced Warfare further into the vertical axis than it ever has been before. The maps still have their lanes, open spaces and choke points, but you have to keep an eye out for players entering them from the sky. Or take your chance to ambush enemies from above, blasting downwards as you glide down into the fray.
The exosuit brings other capabilities too: a rapid dodge, a quick sliding dash, a rather brilliant air-to-ground slam. These are somewhat trickier to pull off than the jumping and sliding manoeuvres, but some of my fellow players didn’t seem to have much trouble. Think getting knifed in the back is humiliating? Get ready for the horrors of being pounded into the ground.
The suit even ties into the game’s deep customisation options. By default, it has one slot for an exo-ability and one for a launcher. The latter might fire a standard frag grenade, one of a selection of recon drones or just some cheerful sticky semtex on a timer. The latter is the perfect gift for the git who’s trying to give you an up-close facial with a futuristic shotgun.
Exo-abilities kick in with a grab of the left bumper, giving you a handy shield, faster healing, Predator-style cloaking, rapid movement or other perks.
It’s all tied into an adaptation of the Pick 10 system from Black Ops, though here – for reasons that will be obvious – it’s called Pick 13. You have 13 points to allocate to weapons, weapon add-ons, exo abilities, launchers and wildcards. The trick lies in using the points to create a build that supports your favourite play style. Or even one that’s particular suited to specific game modes.
The system starts deep, and only seems to get deeper the more you play with it. You can even use wildcards to switch one exo ability for an extra launcher slot or vice versa. It's pretty handy if you’re happy to drop grenades in favour of a combination of speed and cloaked stealth.
The weapons themselves give us futuristic variations on the assault rifle, SMG, shotgun, sniper rifle and LMG. Each is hugely customisable, and each has a high-tech spin. Your carbine might print its own ammo, quietly topping itself up as you fire. The XMG lets you dual wield a pair of wildly inaccurate, LMGs. But, a tap of the d pad transforms your exosuit into a lightly armoured, twin gun turret so that you can spray away at the enemy. A weapon that feels like a liability in many situations becomes a bastion in an inst.
We already have our favourites, ranging from the EM1 – a futuristic beam weapon with a crackling heat ray – to the TAC-19, a rather lovely next-gen shotgun that packs one hell of a wallop. Fancy a railgun the size of a magnum? Advanced Warfare is your game.
Each weapon also comes in a range of variations, unlocked through the game’s new ‘supply drops’ system. Advanced Warfare still has traditional CoD profiles, levels and XP, but new weapons and custom options are now dished out in these handy little bundles. They are not tied into skill challenges or kills, but simply into the time you put in. It’s an elegant way of ensuring that the less skilled players maintain some parity with the headshot virtuosi. It also means that you have a chance of getting something out of even the least rewarding match.
In fact, there seems to be a new focus on making CoD that little bit more inclusive. For example, you can share Scorestreaks with team-mates. Thus allowing players who aren't as skilled to experience the thrills. Some Scorestreaks even crop-up as one-use items in supply drops. Novice players are then given the occasional opportunity to walk into the match with one in the bag.
Sledgehammer has also talked to us briefly of a brand new mode designed as an on-ramp for new players. It has no kill-cams, no score tables, no trash-talk and a level playing field. Noobs will get a chance to try CoD multiplayer on for size without the traditional hours of humiliation.
Not that Advanced Warfare is short on modes, anyway. Classics like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag and Kill Confirmed all put in an appearance, as will some old favourites like Search and Destroy and Hardpoint.
They’re joined by Momentum, a new take on War designed to focus on the exosuit’s capabilities. There's also Uplink, an entertaining mode that combines FPS action with a kind of basketball. Players must attempt to grab a data drone and either throw or jump it into a spherical uplink point.
Uplink was one of the four modes on offer in an extensive multiplayer session. It feels great, adding a new end-to-end flow to the multiplayer experience beyond what you’d get in a more conventional Capture the Flag match. Beyond that we got a chance to sample straight Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and the returning Hardpoint.
Hardpoint is the last a great spin on more conventional domination modes that keeps players moving around the map from one temporary control point to another. Like all of CoD’s best modes, it’s all about speed, reflex, situational awareness and daring. And not finding a position to camp out in while you crank out cheap kill after cheap kill.
Maps-wise, we got hands-on with four. Biolab is a research facility in some snowbound, mountain territory. It gives you the chance to switch between standard close-combat in the labs and corridors. Or a more open environment on the rooftops and around the outside spaces.
Riot is an intense map set in a half-wrecked prison. Again it's full of spaces where you can experiment with the exosuit’s new capabilities. But, Ascend is set around a station for a futuristic space elevator. It's a natural for Capture the Flag.
Defender is set in the shadow of the Golden Gate bridge. A complex and deliberately messy map, it features a timed Tsunami event halfway through. It threatens to wash away reckless or unlucky players, but in truth you could play a whole match without even noticing. We’re not talking about anything as profound as Battlefield 4’s ‘levolution’ map-transforming events.
We like Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer. It adds a much-needed fresh approach to the competitive CoD experience without losing its signature snap and flow. We think it could revitalise interest both within the hardcore fanbase and outside.
It’s as fast, frenetic and twitch-heavy as ever, but you now have new tactics and approaches to exploit.
All the same, we have a few concerns. The new moves slot in well and become surprisingly intuitive quite quickly. We can see potential in the way you can chain sprints, slides, jumps and rapid turns together. All the same, right now it doesn’t quite have the velocity or flow of Titanfall; the game to which it will inevitably be compared.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody wants a CoD that doesn’t feel like CoD, and Sledgehammer was putting its ideas into practice years before Titanfall was announced. Just don’t go in expecting Titanfall in a CoD military style.
Where Titanfall has the intoxicating freedom and pace of its movement, Advanced Warfare seems to have the edge when it comes to depth. It almost has a Diablo-like virtuous cycle going on, as you get supply drops then rush to try the new gear out.
Helpfully, you have an instantly accessible firing range in which to do so, giving you the chance to try out your custom weapons on dumb targets before you have to use them in anger.
Sledgehammer hasn’t reinvented CoD multiplayer, but it stands a good chance of revitalising it. The exosuit and its new capabilities adding new movement options and new ways to shoot, slay and surprise.
It’s also the deepest and most customisable CoD experience yet. We can’t wait to try out new combinations of weapons, suit abilities and perks. Sledgehammer seems to have stamped its own mark on CoD multiplayer without too much risk of alienating a notoriously tetchy fanbase. If it can do the same thing with the single-player campaign, we could be in for a treat.
Read more: Xbox One vs PS4
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