This November brings the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise; Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. We've seen the evolution of combat in our Call of Duty games from the Beaches of Normandy in WWII through Modern Warfare's Nuclear threat, to the near future with Black Ops II and Ghosts. The upcoming game as described on the official website gives us a glimpse even further ahead. "Advanced Warfare envisions the powerful battlegrounds of the future, where both technology and tactic have evolved to usher in a new era of combat for the franchise." So, has Sledgehammer games taken the franchise one step further with the developmental growth of Call of Duty or diverged from the format becoming something entirely new?
We've heard of "revolutionary new gameplay" and been let down before. Most recently, the release of Titanfall, which was said by some to be "Call of Duty with mechs", has successfully integrated new features in FPS combat. The game added parkour elements with jet boosted jumping to reach high places, advanced weaponry, invisibility cloaking, and of course...giant robot mechs. While Titanfall has met with success it has fallen way short of many people's expectations. So here we are again. Call of Duty with new features...boost jumping to get to high places, advanced weaponry, invisibility cloaking, and well...armor suits. Uh oh. I can't help but think; Are we set irrevocably on a course running up that ramp, ready to jump out over that pool of sharks this fall? Only time will tell.
One of the hallmarks of the Call of Duty games has been an enjoyable single player campaign full of action and plot twists. The addition of Kevin Spacey to the talent pool adds another point of interest that shows this is something big. This gives CoD: Advanced Warfare an advantage over Titanfall by not only adding more content to be experienced but also to help ground the players in this new world and acclimate them to the technology there before taking on Multiplayer.
So the futuristic features stretch the limits of what we've come to expect for FPS. How do we know this isn't just going to be another Titanfall? Thankfully we received more information at the Advanced Warfare Multiplayer World Premiere by Sledgehammer and Activision at Gamescom on August 11th. Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield (both Studio heads and co-founders of Sledgehammer) provided more insight into what we can expect with this new release.
The character creation system, which is the foundation for your loadout strategies is based on the familiar "Pick 10" system introduced in Black Ops but has been bumped up to "Pick 13". Players will pick their primary and secondary weapons, attachments, perks, EXO abilities (See below), scorestreaks, and any Wildcards.
The addition of the power assisted EXO (exoskeleton) is the most radical feature. This new bit of kit allows you to add extra customization and allows you to "boost". Boost allows for jumping vertically, sideways, backwards, sliding and a powerful melee attack that lets you drop on opponents from above and smash them. The EXO suit is where you would choose between different features like the cloaking shield, tracking drones, and a power shield. The EXO uses a battery system that powers certain items like the shield where use of that item will deplete energy.
The addition of the EXO to the game has fundamentally changed the way Call of Duty will feel. This change is intentional and forces new tactics to be learned. During the Gamescom reveal, both Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield repeatedly used the word "verticality" when describing movement, level design, and player control. With such a heavy emphasis on the new toys, the feel of ground combat may have permanently changed. (On a side note: Michael Condrey did also tell the press at Gamescom that they would include a multiplayer playlist with the EXO disabled to fit more traditional players expectations.)
Once loaded up, a new feature: The Test Range will be available to players to pop in and test things out before going into a match. Set up like a virtual firing range with targets, the player can warm up with a few rounds to get the feel of a weapon before bringing it in to battle.
Like recent Call of Duty games, XP is the backbone of how players progress but Sledgehammer has developed an additional incentive system called "Supply Drops". The idea is very much like the Battlefield 4 Battlepack system where players will receive a "grab bag" of 3 randomly selected items. These items can be gear for soldier customization, single use perks (like burn cards in Titanfall), or even weapons. The items are also ranked by a value system ranging from common to rare. Supply Drops are awarded by time played in game and certain in-game challenges. Sledgehammer's Michael Condrey summed it up saying: "Imagine rolling in with fully geared weapons and instantly you're the most bad-ass on the battlefield."
One new innovative change being introduced is the customizable scorestreak system. In Advanced Warfare you select your scorestreaks in your loadout. As you earn score points in game you make your scorestreaks available to deploy. In past games this has been a set amount with a single effect. With the new customizable scorestreaks you can choose to modify an item by adding capabilities...for a price. For example: Let's say you select a gun turret which is 600 points (get 600 points in a match to call it up) and then you modify it by adding a rocket turret for 100 points. Now when you score 700 points in a match you deploy your modified turret/rocket launcher mega scorestreak. This ability to tweak the scorestreaks and new features to enhance them gives the player some creative options. (Like adding another modification to detatch that rocket turret and go mobile.).
There are even scorestreaks that allow teammates to go "co-op" allowing players to join in with another player in controlling certain scorestreaks. An example would be the "Warbird Gunner". One player deploys the gunner streak and takes control of a mounted gun. The other team player can look up, access the aircraft and instantly take position in the same aircraft providing target tagging or additional gunfire.
So with these additional features and other improvements it does seem that the developers have tried to make a more enriched experience. Fans of the games will continue to flock to the Call of Duty banner ready to do battle while newcomers will enjoy the wealth of options. New features will help keep the game fresh, but only time will tell whether this latest iteration of the series is the next step in it's evolution or whether it has become something new and independent.
...Perhaps there will be mechs after all...