The lights are on
Gamescom 2014 hasn’t officially started yet, but Activision has kicked things off with the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer reveal. In addition to our look at nine big changes to the competitive modes, Dan Tack and I went hands-on with the game to compile our thoughts on this year’s entry.In a candid conversation, we break down the modes, features, pacing, and other tweaks to Call of Duty’s familiar multiplayer mode. For more, be sure to visit our coverage hub from the June 2014 issue.Mike: I’m glad you had a chance to get some play time in, since I was alone at the press event in San Francisco. Now that you’ve checked out Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer, I’m curious to hear what you think, especially about what you feel the biggest changes are.Dan: While I love the new gameplay elements that the exo armor brings to the table, I think the biggest and possibly most important changes are in the realm of cosmetics and customization. We all love unlockables and avatars, and the supply drop system makes every game have that virtual carrot on the stick, even if you aren’t nailing kill streaks and topping the charts. That chance to get a rare weapon or some spiffy goggles after any given game is a lot more powerful than any prestige system, and I’m happy the implementation allows it to work alongside the traditional level-up unlock system.Mike: I think they’re also balancing things so that challenges can unlock the weapon variants, which should assuage some concern I expect to hear from the competitive community (a place where luck-based weapon unlocks are sure to be frowned upon). I love the supply drop system (and even more that Activision doesn’t seem enthusiastic about monetizing it further). As far as gameplay goes, the exo is the core of the changes. The boost jump, air dash, and side dash completely change the pacing and flow of a match. More than once, I dashed laterally to break line of sight when under fire.
Dan: I love the boost jump and the rest of the exo abilities. Combat feels massively changed from prior CoD iterations. The changes almost make the medium-sized maps feel tiny, as you can get from point A to B incredibly fast. On the non-cosmetic customization side, “Pick 13” is a big deal – I like having the option to have one point streak or no point streaks at all, or even to go without exo abilities (like shield or cloak), but instead with some crazy-hyper sprint-while-shooting-shotgun build that just wades into packs of opponents and tears them apart. I know, I tried it.
Mike: At the same time, exo abilities are limited by a battery that doesn’t recharge. You can’t stay cloaked forever. Your shield will have to come down. Even a hover exo comes crashing down eventually. I found myself running with shield or cloak, two IED-type lethals, a primary weapon with three attachments (thanks to a wildcard), and three perks. The big win of the day was pulling an Elite (rare) sidearm with a built-in scope that didn’t count as an attachment against my 13 points. The customization feels a lot deeper this time out now that scorestreaks are flexible. Did you find that there were some modes better for more/fewer streaks?Dan: I like the scorestreak system. Even if you’re the kind of player that’s never getting multikills or top place, you can find a build that will work for you. It’s probably the perfect spot for the tried-and-true system – it gives players a ton of options to work with. It could be a little intimidating having all these points to place right away, but the new shooting gallery is great for testing weapons out before you take them into a match.Mike: That’s how I found my assault rifle of choice. I prefer burst fire weapons, because otherwise I end up shouting, “SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!” (and then respawning). The new energy-weapon shotgun was a lot of fun to use, especially in conjunction with cloak. That combination was better for team deathmatch and hardpoint, but the faster pace of capture the flag and uplink pushed me toward a weapon with a bit more distance. Speaking of uplink, it’s a combination of basketball, one flag CTF, and blitz from Call of Duty: Ghosts. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or a bust.Dan: I liked uplink, but I think it’s only going to be interesting in small doses. I think that’s true for a lot of the modes, and most people will gravitate toward team deathmatch and kill confirmed. They’re nice to have though for a change of pace. I love the energy-weapon shotgun. The map elements like the tsunami, sensor-beams in Riot, and exploding gas-test tubes were some flavorful but not game warping additions that gave a little life to each map.Mike: We know there are 12 modes at launch, and I think these are the safe bets: Deathmatch, team deathmatch, kill confirmed, domination, capture the flag, hardpoint, uplink, momentum (an update to World at War’s War mode, but not one we’ve played). That leaves room for blitz, gun game, cranked, or some other new things we don’t know about yet. We also don’t yet know what the “third pillar” is. It won’t be zombies (that’s Treyarch’s), and it certainly won’t be Ghosts’ extinction mode. Could Spec Ops come back in a form? Maybe… Spacey Ops?Dan: Yes. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing the Underwood map – It’s set in an underground arboretum in complete darkness, and everyone has flashlights and they play as Kevin Spacey. It’s Spacey on Spacey crime and only one will be standing at the end of Underwood.Mike: I like it. That mode would be a real American Beauty.