Power changes everything
Call of Duty games live or die on the passion of the online community. These dedicated masses continue playing long after the campaign's over to satiate an unbridled passion for shooting strangers (and friends) in the face. And after playing it for about four straight hours, I'm happy to report that the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer experience looks like it'll live a long and fruitful life. That's not just because it's more Call of Duty--it's because of how different and fresh it feels when compared to its predecessors.
Like the name advertises, this warfare is advanced, thanks to the metal Exoskeletons (or Exos for short) that every future soldier wears 24/7. Even in the shower, presumably. The Exo abilities impact the multiplayer environment to a staggering degree, enhancing the fast-paced running and gunning that CoD is known for with new twists and methods of movement. So what's new, and what's old? Here's everything you need to know in preparation for owning noobs in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
Verticality adds a new dimension to combat
If there's one thing that's being prioritized in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's multiplayer, it's verticality. This word is going to pop up time and again in Advanced Warfare's PR speak, and for good reason: it's a game-changer. The propulsion of your Exo's boost jump drastically affects the way you play; no longer is CoD all about hoofing it around the map and shooting at eye-level grunts. The aerial mobility granted by the boost jumps, which vault you one story up into the air, change the way you move around the maps, as you're constantly glancing up to spot the next level or rooftop you can leap to. If youve played Titanfall, this feels pretty similar.
You'll also have to look to the skies in fear of enemy soldiers. Literally getting the drop on your opponents is now a huge deal in firefights, with air-to-ground body slams and easy kills set up by nimble boost jumping. You can also use your boosters defensively, quickly strafing out of danger with a lateral boost dodge or putting distance between you and a mad knifer who's hungry for your blood. And boost sliding is easily the most entertaining mode of locomotion in a CoD game yet. Mastering the art of agile boosting will be crucial to success in Advanced Warfare, a skill that should feel refreshingly new and different for veteran CoD players. It's a hell of a lot more interesting that simply going prone all the time.
The maps are designed to maximize your movement
Call of Duty's map are typically well designed, with the right mixture of choke points, open areas, side avenues, and vantage points over the action. That's all well and good when you're staying close to the ground--but your Exo's movement capabilities add another layer (or two) on top of the traditional map layouts. Instead of mostly flat surfaces with a few stories stacked up here and there, the four maps currently available in Advanced Warfare demos all make great use of vertical space, and encourage players to constantly jump around and discover new pathways.
Vaulting up to the rooftops is a cinch, and smoothed-out ledge-grabbing detection ensures that you shouldn't experience many embarrassing falls to your death. Unlike Titanfall, I didn't see any wallrunning or overly fancy acrobatics. However, I actually prefer Advanced Warfare's very reliable jumping distances, and the fact that you never really hover in the air (unless you've chosen the Exo ability that enables hovering). The map layouts, combined with the increasing mobility, make traversal both easy and incredibly fun.
Map hazards finally feel significant
CoD: Ghosts had some decent map-changing abilities, but they didn't convey the kind of full-scale transformation as, say, Battlefield 4's crumbling skyscrapers or tropical storms. But Advanced Warfare aims to match--temporarily, at least--the kind of map makeovers that totally change the flow of the round. On the Defender map, which takes place directly underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, things start off fairly standard with a shootout amongst shipping crates. Then the tsunami hits.
Midway through the match, a giant tidal wave of Bay Area water floods the map, completely submerging anyone on the coast. Luckily, soldiers wearing Exo suits can still swim just fine--but they're sitting ducks compared to anyone smart enough to boost jump up to higher ground. Suddenly, the map briefly becomes a challenge in platforming, as you hop around hoping to blast enemies out of the sky. It's an awesome turn of the tides (pun intended), and I sincerely hope that more of the maps feature these kind of exciting set pieces.
The Virtual Firing Range lets you test loadouts with ease
One problem that's plagued CoD for years is the uncertainty that comes with making your custom loadouts. In the past, you've had to craft the loadout you thought would fit best through guesswork, then join a match to take it for a test run. Half the time, you realize that your "overpowered" build is actually terrible for your playstyle, and you've essentially just wasted 15 minutes of your precious time. Advanced Warfare feels your pain, and it's going to make it all better.
The Virtual Firing Range is a new mode that's easily accessed via the lobby. This neon shooting range lets you instantly test out your weapons and loadouts on demand, letting you discover the nuances of your chosen equipment without the pressures of trial-by-fire in a real match. This should make finding your perfect loadout way simpler and quicker--and the faster you find the loadout that suits you, the sooner you'll be enjoying the multiplayer to the fullest.
Pick 13 offers even more customization
CoD: Black Ops 2's Pick 10 system was a stroke of genius, giving you the power to create your perfect loadout. Using 10 points of customization, you can select any combination of guns, equipment, and perks that you so choose. Inspired by BO2's smartly designed system, Sledgehammer is taking it to the next level for Advanced Warfare. Say hello to Pick 13.
It's not just three additional points: you also have new ways to deck yourself out with customizable scorestreaks. The scorestreaks all come with modular, optional add-ons that let you tailor your favorite reward for maximum effect. For example, a remote turret normally comes with a regular ol' machine gun--but with the right modules, you can make the turret shoot rockets, or enable the option to lift the turret off its base and carry it around like a walking tank. Pick 13 also benefits from raised caps on your arsenal, with up to four scorestreaks and three wildcards available (provided you calculate your points correctly). These extra layers of customization add even more of a personal touch to your loadout.
Exo abilities will be integral to your playstyle
That intimidating metal exoskeleton isn't just for show--they grant an additional ability that could completely change the way you CoD. For instance, some Exos grant you the ability to cloak yourself, going invisible to set up some stealthy melee kills. Or maybe you just want to go fast; there's an Exo that temporary juices up your sprint speed so you can run circles around your enemies. You can check out every Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Exo to see which one suits you best.
Exo abilities act like perks, helping you tailor your loadout to a degree of "just right" that would make Goldilocks blush. And the change in tactics is equally impressive; not knowing how your adversaries will approach combat keeps you on your toes and ensures that no two fights feel quite alike. I'm just waiting for the moment that an entire team coordinates a full Exo cloak squad and descends on their opponents like a horde of invisible, angry ghosts.
Supply Drops are a new way to score gear
Ready or not, Call of Duty is about to get post-match loot crates. But don't freak out--Supply Drops should only add to your increasing cache of weapons, without taking away your options, "The XP progression still exists; it's the backbone of our progression," says Sledgehammer Games co-founder Michael Condrey. "But with Advanced Warfare, we're rewarding players in a new way."
Supply Drops are essentially post-game treasure chests, with at least one item of value (and sometimes more) awaiting inside. These items can be weapons, Operator customizations, or Reinforcements (more on those in a second), and they come in three levels of rarity: Enlisted, Professional, and Elite. And before you scream bloody murder, don't worry--these Supply Drop weapons act like side-grades instead of absolute upgrades, and they all come with a balance of upgrades and drawbacks.
Reinforcements give beginners a taste of ultimate power
This one could be exciting or depressing, depending on how skilled a player you are. Reinforcements are one-time-use items that could potentially turn the tables in your favor, granting scorestreaks to those who can't earn them through traditional means. Reinforcements are found randomly in Supply Drop loot crates, but to ensure that you're not hoarding them, they'll be automatically activated in the next match you play. Additionally, they're balanced by how they behave: they drop down like your typical care package, meaning your opponents can potentially steal them.
If you have trouble racking up a killing spree in the average match, Reinforcements could act as awesome joyrides, giving you temporary access to all-powerful tech that would normally be outside your skill level. But if you're the kind of player who can consistently snag these scorestreaks the old fashioned way, you might feel like less-skilled players are getting undeserved handouts. If I'm being honest, the Reinforcements system is probably for the best; lord knows I've wanted to know the almighty power of dropping a nuke, but I'm not willing to camp for the self-preservation kills.
Extensive character customization makes you stand out from the pack
Until now, CoD lobbies didn't get much more complicated than admiring impressive customized emblems and appreciating just how many CoD players have a love affair with marijuana. Ghosts adds the ability to customize your soldier's look, but the general lack of clothing options means that everyone looks pretty much identical. Advanced Warfare bucks the trend with incredibly customizable soldiers called Operators that can actually stand out in a crowd.
Helmets, gloves, pants, exoskeletons, shirts, goggles, chest gear, boots, shin guards--just about every aspect of your character can be customized to fit your personal style. Want to be a gritty future soldier just like the dude on the box art? Sure thing. Are you more interested in flaunting a fully purple combat suit on your trooper? Go for it, provided you've acquired the rare Royal gear. You can also unlock new face designs, which have a nice variety of races for both genders. Every time you join a lobby, you're able to view all the other players' Operators. Even better, you'll be able to see how they acquired each piece of gear, so you can know what to strive for in the quest for the perfect look.
The 12 multiplayer modes mix old and new
Sledgehammer Games seems to have a good bead on what long time CoD fans want from multiplayer. Thats good, since its what most people will spend their time playing. The 12 modes in Advanced Warfare include all your old favorites, like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (which was sadly absent in Ghosts), Kill Confirmed, Search & Destroy, and Hardpoint. But there are also some new (and refurbished) modes in the mix.
The fan-favorite War mode from CoD3 and World at War is back, with a few modifications and a new name: Momentum. Then there's Uplink, which plays out like high-tech rugby or Halo's Grifball mode. Here, two teams try to grab a spherical orb of data (or something) and dunk them into their respective uplink zones. The ball carrier can't shoot, but they can throw the orb to their teammates, or toss into an enemy's hands, gun them down, then pick it back up. We'll have to wait and see about what the other modes will be about, but the current ones are an excellent mix.
Get ready to adapt to new weapon options
All the gun types you'd expect from a Call of Duty game are here--assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, and heavy weapons. But this being the near future, there are some new additions to your arsenal that should let you switch up your style. Things like laser guns. In Advanced Warfare, you can equip directed energy weapons, which expend heat instead of ammunition to mow down your enemies with a focused beam of light.
"The weapons are based on actual research and prototypes we're seeing today," says Sledgehammer Games co-founder Glen Schofield. One example is the EM1 directed energy weapon, which falls into the heavy weapon category. And speaking of heavy weapons, the extra strength from your Exoskeleton will make some players' loadout dreams come true: akimbo (dual-wielded) heavy weapons. When you've got a gigantic heavy machine gun on each arm, you'll feel like a walking tank of death.
Scorestreaks are back, and they're what you'd expect (with some exceptions)
Black Ops 2 got the concept of streaks so right. Killstreaks are too frustrating; Strike Chains are too confusing. Sledgehammer has recognized the genius of the scorestreak system, because its bringing it back for Advanced Warfare. With scorestreaks, anything you do that contributes to the team helps build up points towards powerful, tide-turning rewards, whether you're killing fools, capturing objectives, or blasting enemy air support out of the sky. As long as you're doing something productive, you're helping both yourself and your team.
While Sledgehammer still hasn't revealed the full list of the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare scorestreaks, the ones I see are pretty standard fare--not a bad thing, since familiarity means easier learning curves. There's the classic UAV, Orbital Care Packages with random scorestreaks inside, or the high-end prizes like the almighty Paladin gunship. That said, there's also some awesome new tech, like the XS1 Goliath mech (that acts similar to the old Juggernaut streak reward) and the giant laser of doom shot down by the XS1 Vulcan satellite.
Buddy up for co-op scorestreaks
Not only can you customize your scorestreaks--you can share them. Co-op scorestreaks are amazing for coordinated duos; a pair of players that agree to grant access to one another's scorestreaks. This should be incredible fun for skilled players who are trying to get their less experienced buddies involved. Rather than deploying that airstrike yourself, you can let your sidekick take over and feel the raw power of calling down missiles of death from up high.
Like Reinforcements, this will also be an easy way to help spread the love when it comes to the harder-to-obtain scorestreaks. Like it or not, the majority of players can never experience the high-end scorestreaks--like the almighty Paladin airship--on their own. But if they buddy up with soldiers who possess sick-nasty skills, they can finally get a taste of how the other half lives. It could also benefit the better players; you could essentially make your buddy a drone-controlling lackey, giving them the keys to your scorestreaks while you rack up even more kills on your own. Anything that encourages this kind of dynamic duo cooperation is excellent in my book.
Lock and load(out)
Can't hardly wait to dive into Advanced Warfare's multiplayer? Me too. Might I recommend plotting out your perfect loadout ahead of time by consulting our complete lists (of everything shown so far, that is) for the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Perks, Exos, and Wildcards and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Scorestreaks and Exo Launchers. Knowledge is power, and this early info could give you a leg up on launch day.