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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Gamescom 2014: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Hands-On Preview – Multiplayer Boosting

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It’s that time of year again, when the cold nights start to draw in and the inevitable deluge of games is thrust upon us (and our meagre wallets). Some games seem a little more inevitable than others and seeing Call of Duty on the shelves just before Christmas is hardly a shock. However, something feels a little different this time around. Sledgehammer Games is acting as the lead developer for the first time, the series has FINALLY got a shiny new engine to run on and the introduction of the exo-suit finally shakes up the tired old gameplay. Could Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare be the shock to the FPS system that the first Modern Warfare game was all those many moons ago? We went hands on, and chatted with Lead Multiplayer Designer Greg Reisdorf, to find out.

The most obvious change is the exo-suit itself, which is increasingly de rigueur for modern sci-fi, and adds a whole new layer to combat that instantly changes how you play. In the past you had to make do with linear levels and limits to how much you could explore and how you got from A to B. Now that’s no longer an issue.

The suit lets you boost jump - a platformer style double jump in effect - so you can soar over the battlefield and quickly clamber over rooftops. You can also dash and slide along the ground to get around faster, or try and outrun your foes. The boost can also be turned into a dodge in midair with a mere flick of the stick, so the defensive capabilities are on hand to offset the fact you are floating out in the open like a sitting duck.

As soon as we dove into a match players were jockeying for position in the skies, and during modes like Capture the Flag or Uplink, gaining an aerial advantage meant a much better chance of running down those pesky opponents. Often dropping down on them from above, with a slam attack that can easily finish off an unwary player, or sliding past their teammates to get to the carrier. It instantly feels intuitive and, surprisingly, not like a CoD game at all. Sure the gunplay is still as satisfying as ever but the suit adds a more tactical element to the usual run and gun fare and it feels pleasantly intuitive.

The suit can also be kitted out with a range of additional skills, rather like the recent Halo games, so you can add extra health, more manoeuvrability, a handy shield, the ubiquitous cloak and even mini-map markers that show whenever and wherever anyone else is using their suit's abilities. It’s a smorgasbord of new ideas and gear that help to freshen up an online experience that was at risk of becoming passé. As for how those skills might tip the balance of the game, Reisdorf was optimistic that all the bases are covered, “There is more there to deal with, but we have a lot of backend systems that help us to balance things a little easier within the design itself. How we do the weapons, how we do the mechanics themselves and what our limiters are. So we have dedicated people whose job is to make sure things are perfect and things can’t be exploited.”

So how did most of these changes come to pass? According to Reisdorf it was simple. “We wanted to figure out the fun, to make sure to prioritise enjoyment.” Certainly the maps and modes we saw back that up, with Sledgehammer offering traditional areas that emphasise close combat with outer vistas and rooftops that were a booster's paradise. “How do we bring something new to the game and make sure we’re keeping it interesting for players as the franchise has been around so long?” says Reisdorf. “What else can we do to keep players engaged and what do we, as fans, want to see in the game?”

The key for the team was to keep what worked, such as the gunplay and intensity, and then mix up the rest. As Reisdorf put it, “it was what can we change outside of the core of the game, how much of the core is sacred ground so to speak (laughs). We looked at that and it’s all about gunplay with CoD, that’s where it’s at. So as long as we don’t mess with that and keep that together we can look at what else is there. It came down to movement and finding ways to use the controller and buttons, because there’s nothing left (laughs). So you get a lot of modifiers, so you can double jump, boost and dodge off the stick.” Certainly the increased movement and verticality made matches a lot more diverse and led to plenty of unexpected moments.

Another neat new feature that is sure to please anyone with a sense of OCD are the loot rewards for completing matches, specific challenges and so on. After the match you get to open a crate and admire your swag, which could be a new weapon (from generic to legendary drops) or new outfits and kit. “The supply drops are creating functional rewards, as with title cards and calling cards. I love them, but you can’t use them in any way other than showing them off,” Reisdorf points out. “But now we give players loot weapons, to really reward the player for doing a multitude of things and being able to say 'here’s something cool go and try it out' and then, you know what, to try out all these weapons then head to the firing range. So it kind of just built itself over the three year cycle, all from the ground up about how we wanted to push this and make it better.”

The firing range he speaks of is another clever addition. Players can horde a multitude of weapons and each has their own unique rating, though rarer ones won’t be drastically overpowered with the focus more on the look of the guns to differentiate on that level. In the lobby, and after you snag a unique gun, you can press a button and hop to the range to test it out. A handy way to see if you like the range, recoil and fire rate of your newest toy or whether you can safely throw it out. But not so fast, as even rubbish guns have a use according to Reisdorf. “Weapons are specific to each player, but you can also redeem them for XP. So if you get a bunch of duplicates you can get XP there and then or horde them and cash them in as you get close to prestige.”

Also in the lobby you can tinker with your loadout, check out the look of your character and use the Pick 13 system to tailor what you take into combat. The system is a twist on Treyarch’s Pick 10 scheme from Black Ops II and also includes your scorestreak choices as well. So you can choose up to four scorestreaks alongside your gear, or have none at all and take a bunch of extra grenades and perks instead. The combinations are huge, especially when paired with the bevy of unique guns that you will find along the way.

Of course it helps that this is the first Call of Duty in a long time to feel the benefit of a brand new engine, especially as the old one had started to creak under the pressure of fan expectations. Reisdorf agrees. “It gives us a bunch of stuff. For one it makes the game look amazing, and the EXO movements and all that are running at 60fps. Once you’re up in the air you have longer sightlines and it creates a better lobby experience that we couldn’t do before.” Though he argues that they can’t take all of the fan feedback on board all of the time, “We do take feedback constantly, but the amount of influence it has on the game depends on our vision for the game. We really want to move the game forward. So we take on board the feedback and ask does it fit with our vision? If it does, cool, we can take it on board. If it doesn’t then we’re not going to make everyone happy. We’ll certainly try, but at the end of the day we think we’ll make more people happy if we put out the game we want to do.”

As for whether the studio was feeling the pressure with this being its first full run at a Call of Duty title, Reisdorf is pretty open. “Oh yeah. We have to show up, this is Sledgehammer's first lead game and we need to do something for the fans and we need to do something for ourselves and really just prove ourselves in a lot of ways.” Is there a wight of expectation to meet the record sales that Call of Duty seems to rack up each year? “It’s a lot of pressure on that. It is big, there’s a lot of fans and to impress them each year and make them interested in the game each year is tough to do. The current vibe is great to see.”

Still at least Sledgehammer has had the relative luxury of a three-year development cycle, as it was previously two years when duties were split between just Infinity Ward and Treyarch and Reisdorf feels it will have been time well spent. “Oh yeah, especially since we’ve had the EXO movement for three years now. We had that suit within the first two months, but have then had three years to tweak and tune it which has just been great.”

Of course, Sledgehammer is purely working on the current-gen builds for PS4 and Xbox One. Developer duties for the Xbox 360 and PS3 have been left purely in the hands of High Moon Studios and it’s unclear whether there will be any disparity. “We see builds from them all the time and it’s looking great,” Reisdorf states, refusing to be drawn on whether or not the game and multiplayer in last-gen versions will have ALL of the features that his team have packed into their own builds.

“You’ll need to speak to High Moon for that.” Potentially hinting that the ideal platforms if you want the optimum experience will definitely be the Xbox One and PS4. Reisdorf also refuses to be drawn on whether the delay to Battlefield, one of their biggest rivals at this time of year, is in their best interests.

“Development is crazy as it is, so we’re just heads down focused on our game to make sure it’s the best we can possibly ship and whatever is around us, is around us. We’re gonna make our game and it’s going to be awesome.” But he's certainly more optimistic and hopeful about where the series might go from here. “I would love it [Advanced Warfare] to be a series (laughs), but I’m not a business guy. I just make the game.”

The multiplayer aspect of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare feels fresher and more interesting than it has in years gone by, and as someone who has never been sucked into the online modes in the past, I left the demo actually wanting to play some more – which is the best praise you could possibly want. But with plenty of rivals circling the same pool of players it remains to be seen whether the tweaks will bolster the CoD community or fracture it as previous offerings have.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare will be out on November 4th for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PS3.




 
 

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Game Info
Publisher:
Activision
Genre:

Release:

US November 04, 2014

HDD Space Required : 45.84 GB
Price: $59.99USD
Collection:856
Wishlist:62
 
 
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