The lights are on
Since the reveal of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's multiplayer a few hours ago, we've been hearing the same chorus sung, refrain after refrain. "Call of Duty is just like Titanfall," is just one variation of something that has been echoing since 2013, when the script was flipped and people accused Respawn of aping its own history. The truth is, if you narrow your focus tightly enough, most games can be made to look identical. And if that's the case, the opposite can be accomplished taking a reductionist approach, as well. So is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare exactly like Titanfall, or is it completely different? Yes.As early as its reveal at E3 2013, Titanfall was accused of being "Call of Duty with mechs." That rumble of internet discontent began to quiet as more people had the opportunity to play the game and see that Respawn was taking well-worn, core first-person shooter gameplay and molding it into something new. To understand where those criticisms originated, it's important to understand the timing. The shouts of "cloning" and "copying" were loudest when gamers only had gameplay trailers to go on. Both titles have guns, fast-paced gameplay, and standard genre modes like deathmatch, domination, and capture the flag. When viewed so narrowly, it's easy to lay one on top of the other and see a traced image.Now, just 14 months later, Sledgehammer has introduced new traversal mechanisms into a heavily trafficked Call of Duty formula. These jet-pack powered double jumps remind people of one of the things players can do in Titanfall. In Advanced Warfare, players can now cloak themselves or increase their movement speed with Exo abilities. Both of these elements are present in Titanfall.
Supply drops are earned in a match and among the things inside them are single-use "reinforcements." According to some, those are just like Titanfall's burn cards. Again, players are making sweeping judgements based not on hands-on experience or even viewing a full match, but on a glitzy gameplay trailer.When you squint, both games blur enough to look pretty darn similar. According to some, that's enough to make them exactly the same. With eyes wide open (and with a full rundown of features and hands-on time with both), they are two entirely different experiences and it's a discredit to both Respawn Entertainment and Sledgehammer Games to engage in the circular intellectual laziness of shrugging them off as clones of one another.The two titles do share a heritage. Infinity Ward ward founders Vince Zampella and Jason West, creators of the Call of Duty franchise, started Respawn Entertainment together. It was inevitable that there would be some similarities.When we played Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare last week and again this morning, we noted that the boost jump would reasonably draw parallels to Titanfall. Titanfall augments its double jump with wall running and climbing atop friendly and opposing titans. The movement is still the fastest of the modern shooters, with players chaining jumps, wall springs, wall runs, and rodeos together into a ballet of parkour from one end of the map to the other.Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's gameplay is certainly assisted by the inclusion of a double jump, but it still isn't quite as fast as Titanfall. Instead of wall-running and a fluid mantling system, Sledgehammer has opted for boost dodges and slams that create a dogfight feel that is less poetic and more strategic than Titanfall. In short, they feel very different.As for the Exo abilities, cloaking, shields, stimulants, and other features have been found in titles that pre-date both Titanfall and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Crysis offered a variation on this theme, with a rechargable battery that made the abilities more common on the battlefield. Titanfall, too, uses a cooldown that sees players pop in and out of cloak or show enemies on the minimap. Advanced Warfare's battery runs out and cannot be replenished until you respawn.These may sound like minor differences, but they have enormous impact on how you use the abilities and what battle feels like. I found my use of Exo abilities in Call of Duty to be much more reasoned than in Titanfall, because I saw the rules in action first hand.As for reinforcements, those one-time use items that people immediately linked to Titanfall's burn cards, you can put fears to rest. First, reinforcements are extremely uncommon. You won't be starting each match with three in your hand, just waiting for your next death.Second, the execution is completely different. Burn cards grant you a benefit when you want it and as soon as you respawn. Reinforcements come in the form of orbital drops at a pre-determined time during the match.You'll call it in like any other scorestreak, wait for it to land, and retrieve the random perk or scorestreak inside. If you happen to die before collecting it, the drop pod is vulnerable and can be destroyed by enemies.Again, this seems like a slight difference on paper. In execution, the feel is completely different, as is the frequency you'll be granted one for use.
As for the titans themselves, the only analogue in Advanced Warfare is the Goliath. This is Sledgehammer's Juggernaut. It's a scorestreak that may or may not be in a player's loadout, and you likely won't see many of them during any single match (unlike Respawn's mammoth walking tanks).It's natural to look at a first gameplay trailer and use familiar points of reference to understand what you're looking at. What isn't logical is to extrapolate those reasonable touchstones as the sum total of a complex experience.Your first thought might logically be that Titanfall is exactly like Call of Duty (and now, that Call of Duty is the same as Titanfall). I can only urge you to push past the completely normal need to quantify and qualify new experiences based on familiar ones. Or, you can continue to believe that Call of Duty is exactly like Titanfall. The choice is yours.