The Call of Duty series is perhaps one of the most popular yet widely criticised franchises in the modern era of gaming. Fans of the brand adore the game to its core, playing every iteration for countless hours on a quest to reach the maximum prestige; others feel quite opposed to the series and the impact that it has made on the gaming industry as a whole. We were lucky enough to go hands on with the latest entry Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare at Fan Expo Canada in late August, and gather our first impressions of the title. But is this the revolution that hardcore players want and deserve, or is it a desperate attempt to recapture the hearts of fans lost?
We were able to sample the release for a total of six matches: four of which were Team Deathmatch, the other two being Hardpoint. Between and before matches, we had the opportunity to personalise classes and really see all of the new customisation features that developer Sledgehammer has been touting since the game’s announcement.
With that in mind, let’s start with the features outside of the player-versus-player matches. We were given the chance to customise our classes and experiment with all of the weapons made available during the demo. The class system is very reminiscent of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 formula, with the Pick 13 system.
Essentially, this assigns you 13 points to select gear, attachments, equipment, and perks to accompany you into the battlefield. Here, the studio has also incorporated killstreaks into the mix, bringing the max total of points up from Treyarch’s 10 to 13. This means that you can perhaps run zero killstreaks and gain more available slots for perks and gear, while others can take four killstreaks, but sacrifice in these areas. Ultimately, this system should really keep the game fresh for those eager to explore all of the available tactical options.
There were many weapons available to us to experiment with in our short time with the game. We could choose from run-of-the-mill assault rifles, submachine guns, and shotguns – or spice up the battlefield with one of the new ‘heavy weapons’. Although we didn’t get a chance to experiment with every weapon available, the ones that we did play with felt very controllable yet balanced. None of the firearms seemed to be forcefully overpowered or unbeatable, and all of the options proved effective in situations designed to accommodate their special traits.
Moreover, the perks are an area that we feel the developer has nailed. No longer are the days of Call of Duty: Ghosts with 35 possible perks: the developer has returned the game to its roots, reincarnating the three tiered perk system with a handful of perks in each category. Although pro-perks are not returning, the perk system feels more barebones and simple, which in this case is not a negative. The selection is quite small compared to previous titles, but each perk is much more valuable in the sense that it’s useful in many more situations. This creates a wide variety of possible setups, which you can customise and tweak to fit your playstyle.
The greatest feature that is noticeable from the moment that you pick up the controller are the advancements and changes to the movement mechanics. In short, it’s completely different to any other Call of Duty to date. The gameplay moves insanely fast, and the new jumping and movement mechanics change up the flow of the title immensely; from the jump dodge and double jump to the dash – all of these features change up the gameplay for the better.
Furthermore, this new movement will allow for veterans to experience a feeling that they have not felt since their original Call of Duty experience: a learning curve. While some fans won’t admit it, when they first got hooked on the brand, most did not top the lobby scoreboard and didn’t win every gunfight. As the years went on, players improved, but since the core mechanics of movement and aiming never changed, their skills were never tested. Now, with Advanced Warfare, the system is dramatically different. You’ll need to learn the movement system again, and this will allow for that feeling of freshness that made previous titles so addictive.
Indeed, with this new movement system comes some new challenges. Aiming is incredibly difficult, especially due to the fast nature of constant motion. You’ll be jetting around, jumping, and dodging bullets, making aiming very challenging and weapon choice even more important.
Fortunately, the maps feel very fitting and designed exclusively with the movement system in mind. Two maps were available to play: Biolab and Riot. Riot features your typical Call of Duty map design, incorporating one centre building with flanking routes on either side. This plays very well, with weapons designed for long distances, such as assault rifles and snipers. On the other hand, shotguns and SMGs are still useful within the centre building, where much of the action is filtered towards. Biolab, on the other hand, features a similar core design, but is much more close quarters centric. Shotguns and SMGs shine throughout almost the entirety of the map, but assault rifles are still a viable option in certain situations.
Supply drops were also available during the demo, and are yet another feature that will improve this game’s replayability. The supply drop takes the form of a variable loot system, and provides you with unique loot at the end of matches or via challenges. The loot is unique for each person, and really encourages you to continue playing. Say, for example, your friend receives an awesome helmet via a supply drop – the only way for you to obtain is to play one more round.
It may seem that our first impressions of the first proper next-gen Call of Duty game are very positive – and that’s because they are. However, this is a series that’s unique in the fact that impressions and opinions develop over a long period of time; this game requires much more than a one hour demonstration for a positive or negative decision to be made. Once the maps are learned and the guns are mastered, the flaws, if any, will then shine through the cracks. Until then, though, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is looking mighty promising indeed.
[ Thanks to Charlie Intel for some of the above images ]
Are you excited to enter Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s futuristic fray? Do you like the sound of the changes being made, or would you have preferred some less drastic adaptations? Show us your gadgets in the comments section below.