Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Preview

Ned Jordan
In Short
A firsthand look at multiplayer battles in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's vision of what warfare will be like forty years in the future.

At a press event in San Francisco, Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey of Sledgehammer Games were finally able to reveal the multiplayer mode of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to outside eyes. We've all known about the game's futuristic setting and the exoskeleton armor that gives soldiers superhuman athletic prowess for a couple of months now, but how that would all affect the multiplayer modes has been a mystery until now. After being given a thorough rundown of all aspects of the game's multiplayer modes, the event's attendees were then able to take the multiplayer modes for a test drive getting some hands-on time in local matches. So what follows are my impressions from both the presentation and the time I was able to spend with the game.

Not too surprisingly, the advanced exoskeletons from the game's single payer campaign make their way into the multiplayer game. The exoskeleton gives you access to boost-assisted moves ' Boost Jump, Boost Dodge, Boost Dash, and Boost Slam. Boost Jump opens up new levels of verticality to the game as you can quickly leap over walls and onto rooftops with ease ' it's very easy to control and quickly feels like a natural part of your movement. The height is limited, so you won't be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound and will still occasionally have to make use of a ladder, but the ability to chase someone down while moving across rooftops or getting the drop on someone by leaping over a wall are awesome and really open up the game. There hasn't been anything like Boost Slam in Call of Duty before. It's an entirely new way to perform a deadly melee strike on an enemy, this time from above. And yes, while Boost Jump does mean that some players may bunny-hop like mad, you can also use Boost Dash yourself while in mid-air opening up all kinds of new ways to avoid, and then attack, your enemies ... I'm wondering how long it will take someone to come up with some Boost variant of an Immelmann turn to quickly score a kill from behind.

The exoskeleton can also be augmented through its own optional set of enhancements known as Exo Abilities that you can make a part of your custom loadout. Exo Shield greatly increases the amount of damage that you can take through the use of a click-deploy shield, while Exo Trophy will destroy incoming grenades and rockets. Detection is modified through Exo Ping which allows you to see nearby enemies and their weapons-fire through walls and Exo Cloak will turn you invisible for a short time. Well, mostly invisible, because if you're watching carefully you'll be able to see the brief shimmering that indicates that there's a cloaked enemy nearby. The last set of Exo Abilities is made up of what are essentially ability boosts, Exo Stim (faster health regeneration), Exo Overclock (greater speed while sprinting), and Exo Hover (more air time). Since these are a part of the custom loadouts, players will want to take advantage of different ones for different game modes ' Exo Cloak and Exo Overclock are a nice combination for CTF.

These Exo Abilites are all pretty strong so they're each powered by a battery that drains out after a short time. The battery does recharge afterwards, but the recharge rate is very slow, so you'll want to be judicious as to when you use one of these abilities. It's quite possible that you'll be taken out before the battery gets around to recharging itself, but at least you'll spawn with a full charge each time.

The boost abilities gained from the exoskeletons makes the games play very fast. Players can quickly cross the map, scale obstacles, and just in general move faster (and in more directions) than in any of the Call of Duty game yet. If you've considered the Call of Duty games to be twitched-based shooters, Advance Warfare is a twitch-based shooter on overdrive. Gameplay is lightning fast and very kinetic ... and in my all too brief time with the game, a blast to play.

Let's take a step back from the gameplay for a moment and look at what's new with the pre-match activities. As expected for a Call of Duty game, you have a lot of freedom in selecting your loadout and perks. The Pick 10 create-a-class system ' in which you are given a limited budget to spend selecting you weapons attachments, perks, secondary weapons, etc. - has been increased to a Pick 13 system. Obviously, this increases the number of possible load-out combinations significantly. New with Advanced Warfare is the ability to create custom scorestreaks, including new co-op scorestreaks which allow players to team up to earn the high-end scorestreak awards they may have trouble earning on their own. These do count against your Pick 13 selections, though.

You'll still be able to earn new weapons and attachments to add to your arsenal through level progression, but Advanced Warfare's new loot system known as Supply Drop will give you the opportunity to earn unique weapons and gear after every match. You'll earn supply drops during matches, and after the match finishes you'll be able to open your supply crates. It wasn't entirely clear as to how these are earned, but without fail I had one to three crates waiting for me at the end of every match. The weapons, gear, and reinforcements that you'll earn come in three rarity levels ' enlisted, pro, and elite - so you'll have a chance to get your hands on some powerful weapons long before you're able to get similar weapons through level progression. And what are reinforcements, you ask? These are one-time use items that are activated during matches and include bonus perks or scorestreaks.

And if you score a new weapon in a Supply Drop, a new feature in Advanced Warfare will allow you to try out before using it in a match. You can access the virtual firing range instantly from the match lobby and test out the weapon's accuracy, speed, and other characteristics against moving virtual targets. Each of the firing stations in the range creates a new virtual target environment, so you'll be able to test each weapon in several settings and at different ranges. It's a great way to see if a weapon works for you without having to waste match time finding out that it's a poor fit.

And you'll probably want to hit the range right after you get your hands on one of the game's new energy weapons ' Advanced Warfare's futuristic equivalent of the blaster or phaser. These weapons don't require ammunition, but they can overheat with extended use, and so you'll have to handle them differently than your traditional firearms. The first time you see them in a match it will be a little surprising as the brightly colored beams they fire are different than anything you've seen in a Call of Duty match before.

Some of the loot that you'll earn, the gear, is purely for aesthetics. Every piece of clothing from shoes on up to your headgear is interchangeable and can be combined in any way that you'd like ' in fact, it seems that your ability to create a unique look for your soldier is now approaching that of an RPG. Each player's avatar, called operator here, will hang out in the new Virtual Lobby between matches, letting you show off your gear and check out other players' looks (as well as their weapons of choice), too. While on the topic of operators, I should mention that the game continues the tradition started in Ghosts and allows you to create female operators as well as male.

Getting back to the gameplay, there are twelve modes in the game. These include some of the expected traditional modes such as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, as well as returning Call of Duty favorites Domination, Team Domination, Search & Destroy, and Kill Confirmed. New modes announced include Momentum, which is a return of sorts of the War mode from Call of Duty: World at War. In this mode, teams compete for capture points on the map, only one of which is active at a time. The better your team does, the faster it can capture new points, hence the name 'Momentum.' Uplink is a new mode in which two teams fight for control of a drone that they must take to their opponent's uplink node to score. You get one point for throwing the drone into the uplink, two for jumping through the uplink while holding the node. It's a bit like CTF with one flag, except that you can pass the flag around ' you can even toss it at an enemy to force them to catch it and then shoot them while they are holding a drone instead of a gun.

I played through several rounds of TDM, CTF, and Uplink at the event. I enjoyed the chaos and speed of exoskeleton-assisted deathmatches and CTF was as fun as always, but I have to say that Uplink was especially fun. Some of that is certainly due to the novelty of the mode, but the way that the mode forced so much of the action to constantly converge on the drone made it pretty intense and adrenaline-inducing.

As for maps, as usual information on those will be doled out in pieces so we'll have to be happy for now with the reveal of the first four. Biolab features the indoor intimacy of the lab itself surrounded by lots of outdoor terrain. Riot takes place at a prison facility that channels players into three main lanes. Ascend is set at a space elevator terminal that also features lanes but adds more verticality than Riot. Defender sits below the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and features an abandoned bunker and plenty of open areas. Each map is more than just a setting and each has a unique effect on the gameplay. Some of the defensive systems in the prison in Riot are still active and may have some unpleasant surprises in store for you, and the space elevator's turret defenses can be accessed by players. Defender has the biggest impact on gameplay as a mid-game tsunami will come rolling in and completely change the map itself. One thing I noticed about all of the maps, aside from the fact that they seemed as well-designed as Call of Duty maps always are, is that they are the most colorful maps seen in a Call of Duty game too date. The bright oranges of the lab and colorful graffiti on the walls of some of the maps make the maps pop with a level of color that's decidedly different for a Call of Duty game.

That's about everything that's been revealed and that I could learn in a few hours' time. We'll keep you posted here as more information is disclosed about Advanced Warfare's multiplayer mode and its single player campaign. For now the takeaway is that warfare will be lightning fast in the future.

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Transmitted: 5/21/2022 12:04:04 AM