The lights are on
We've reached that time of year when Activision unveils the multiplayer component for the yearly Call of Duty title. Advanced Warfare isn’t Sledgehammer Games’ first Call of Duty game, but it is the studio’s maiden voyage as lead developer. The team built by co-founders Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield has put together a multiplayer experience that balances the familiar with the fresh.
BoostingNo, we're not talking about artificially farming XP. Boosting is a new method of traversal that is the single biggest change to how you’ll play Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Each player is equipped with an exoskeleton that serves as jump pack, tactical advantage, and weapons platform. Boost jumping, dodging, sliding, and slamming from above introduce a more vertical experience than the series has ever featured.
You won’t be wall-running like in Titanfall, but you will need to watch the skies and your corners while moving across the war zone. This has a profound impact on maps, as players move between tight corridors and more open spaces with crisscrossing lanes on different horizontal planes. For those that like the height advantage, one of the exo abilities enables a very limited hover.
Directed Energy WeaponsEveryone loves lasers, including Sledgehammer Games. The Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) doesn’t use bullets like other armaments. Instead, it generates and stores heat. These are sustained beam weapons that can be devastating in battle.
Scorestreaks Return (And About 25 Percent Go Co-Op)Black Ops II’s scorestreaks make a comeback. Instead of powering up your streak rewards with raw kills, everything you earn points for helps. This includes assists, flag capturing, domination point defense, etc. The scorestreaks are a vital part of this year’s create-a-class system.
For the first time, players can tag-team streak rewards. Some of them enable a co-op mode when activated, meaning any friendly player can help out. As an example, the Warbird streak puts the player in control of an aerial attack drone. A second player can assist by tagging players for the gunner.This leaves both players vulnerable while they are manning the drone. It’s a risk, but the reward can swing the pace and outcome of the fight (especially when the streak is modified to give the second player lethal capabilities via a modification). Approximately 25 percent of the scorestreaks are optionally cooperative.
Scorestreaks can also be customized. For instance, a manual turret can be turned into a rocket launcher, made into a sentry, become portable (by ripping its head off the tripod), or all of the above. All of the added features require additional points to activate the killstreak, creating a balancing act between power and frequency of use.
Pick 13Series fans will recall Black Ops II’s Pick 10 system. This create-a-class format assigns points to weapons, attachments, perks, wildcards, and equipment. Pick 13 makes a major change to that formula by making scorestreaks customizable.
You can choose to take as few as zero and as many as four scorestreaks into the fight. For those that die frequently, you can opt to dump extra scorestreaks and take more weapon attachments or equipment. You can also attach a support module to some streaks in order to keep your points across respawns.
Once your loadout is complete, you can take it into the virtual firing range (also available between matches) to try things out. You won’t be dropping into battle with an untested weapon and attachment combination anymore.
Supply DropsAt first glance, supply drops are similar to Battlefield battlepacks. Rewarded at the end of a match, each holds a combination of weapon loot, character customization items, and reinforcements. These come in three rarity tiers (enlisted, pro, and elite), and serve three very different functions.
Weapon loot gives players one of 10 variations on a standard weapon. Each family has a common thread (the first three bullets do more damage, the gun fires faster the longer you hold the trigger, etc.), and the loot isn’t random like you might find a game like Borderlands. Sledgehammer is actively balancing the weapon loot to make sure nothing is overpowered.
Character customization items allow you to trick out your operator with headgear, eyewear, shirts, pants, vests, exos, and more. You can show these off in the virtual lobby before each match. No longer are you staring at a list of gamer cards. Now can see your opponents as they'll look in the upcoming match, compare gear, and know what you’re up against.
We inquired if supply drops would be sold as microtransactions and were told that the intent is that they are earned for playing. The more you play, the more you get. There is a formula for unlocking them, but Sledgehammer isn’t giving details.
Exo AbilitiesIn addition to boosting and dodging, players can choose from a variety of abilities for their exoskeletons via Pick 13. We had a chance to play with cloaking, hovering, energy shields (similar to a riot shield), speed boost, health boost, and the trophy systems that destroys incoming grenades. These are powered by a single charge battery that doesn’t replenish until you respawn.
Even the cloak, which seems the most devastating to the game balance, is tuned to be fair. You’re still able to see a shimmer around the hidden player. Cloaking affords you a brief window before your opponent realizes what he or she is seeing.
The exo comes with a wrist-mounted launcher that handles both lethal and tactical equipment. Wildcards allow you to swap a launcher item for an exo ability and vice versa.
New ModesOf the 12 game modes launching with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, two are new additions to the family. Momentum is an update to the War mode featured in Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: World at War.
We haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but War tasked the two teams a capture point tug of war. Each game starts with a central point. When captured, a new one is activated closer to the enemy’s line. In order to move back the other way, the defending team must capture the point.
The other new mode is Uplink. It’s a combination of capture the flag and basketball (with a hint of Ghosts’ blitz game type). Players carry the drone to the goal, but can’t use their weapons when holding the ball-like device.
The drone can be passed to allies or thrown at an opponent for a tactical advantage. When it hits the opponent, they automatically pick it up, which means they lower their weapons. Throwing the drone into the goal scores a point, and jumping into it nabs you two.
Hardpoint returns in Advanced Warfare. This mode has been an oft-requested inclusion since its debut in Black Ops II. It’s essentially king of the hill with a capture point that moves at various times during the match. Points are gained when a team controls it, but if no one is standing in it, no points are gained.
eSportsCall of Duty: Advanced Warfare has a suite of broadcasting tools, including a broadcaster mode with enhanced oracle mode, ranked playlists, LAN lobbies, and more. Sledgehammer is designing Advanced Warfare to be very friendly for organized competitive play.
MapsThe maps may be slightly larger to promote vertical play, but still keep the classic close-quarters feel Call of Duty is known for. Some of Advanced Warfare’s maps include dynamic events, like a tsunami that sweeps through during matches on Defender. Some also include exclusive scorestreaks, like antipersonnel cannons. Playing capture the flag on Ascend, a map with overlapping lanes at different altitudes, was even more fun when huge guns popped out of the ground.
There are environmental hazards featured in some of the maps, too. Biolab, an arctic base with tight corridors inside and a more open expanse outside, includes conveyor belts carrying yellow liquid. Shooting the canisters causes splash damage for any player standing underneath.
For more on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, be sure to check out our coverage hub from the June 2014 issue.
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