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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Hands-on

Sledgehammer Games has to be feeling pretty about the way things are shaping up right now with their upcoming release of Call of Duty: Advance Warfare.After three years in the making and due this fall as the next chapter in the phenomenally successful Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is getting some serious attention. Last week at a press event in San Francisco we got a chance to try out the multiplayer on the Xbox One and learned a few things.

First, while most people have been talking about Kevin Spacey’srole in the single player game but the real star of Advance Warfare is the technology.The game is set 50 years or so into our future so every soldier has quite a bit of special technology at their disposal, least of which the powered Exosketelon (aka Exo) is used to augment their movement, strength, boost combat abilities with shields or cloaking and can also incorporate a arm mounted grenade launcher.In short, it’s pretty sweet. Also for the first time we get to play around with directed energy weapons. All this new tech means that players can jump farther, dodge faster and hit harder when mixing it up with the enemy and during the matches I witnessed (and was on the receiving end) of some pretty cool moves.

Second, since we are speaking of the matches, Sledgehammer revealed that there will be twelve multiplayer modes available on day one when the game launches. These include the usual variety of death match we have come to expect but returning this time is capture the Flag, Search and Destroy as well as the fan favorite, Hardpoint. A new mode is called Uplink where teams must retrieve a downed satellite and take it to delivery spots scattered around the map. Think of this as modified version of Rugby as players can toss the satellite to the others as they move. The trick here is that whoever is holding the satellite is unable to use any weapons. This adds some additional strategy to the game mode as when I was holding the satellite and running for a goal, an enemy player came around the corner raising his gun. Somehow I was able to toss the satellite to him, thereby denying him the ability to fire on me, blow him away with my shotgun and then pick the satellite back up along the way. It would have been even cooler had I managed to score, but I was cut down almost immediately afterwards. This mode should be a big deal for Esports.

After having my butt repeatedly handed to me by the other more console savvy players, I jumped into the Create an Operator menu to customize my avatar. As you play you will unlock Supply drops that have different levels of loot: Enlisted, Professional and Elite. These include weapon loot that allow you to modify the base stats of your arsenal and include some custom weapons and gear that you can use to change the way your solider looks. In past COD games you could customize your character but in Advanced Warfare other players in your game can check out those customizations as well. This adds some extra swagger and bragging rights by letting you show off that elite piece of gear you earned through an in game challenge. The third thing I learned is that other changes are more than skin deep.

The pick 10 system that players were previously familiar with has been replaced with the Pick 13. While this may seem a bit like channeling Spinal Tap’s ‘This one goes to 11’ guitar amp, Sledgehammer said that this change allows players to better balance the perks and gear they choose to customize their solider. These perks include score streaks, Exo abilities, weapon load outs and deployables. Some of these perks can be further customized like adding additional features to the score streaks (like the drone or the turret) or modifying your side arm load out. With these additional rewards and tweaks available to the player, Sledgehammer claims there are billions of possible combinations. That should keep even the most OCD player busy trying to find the perfect build to dominate the multiplayer battlefield.

Fourth, players are going to need all the help they can get as the battlefield itself is changing. Some maps feature dynamic elements that change the terrain and the game play as the round progresses. Case in point is the video that shows the map Defender, set in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge where a tsunami crashes into a beach littered with cargo containers. When this first happened in the game I was playing I actually stopped to witness the spectacle as an enemy player disappeared under the encroaching water. I lingered too long as shortly thereafter he leapt out of the water, assisted by his Exo suit and planted a knife in my chest.

Chalk up yet another thing to keep in mind while playing: don’t stop for long. In all I got to play on four of the maps including Riot, which is set in a Prison that has seen better days, Ascend and Biolab which show influences of this later day technology as they have high tech environments and technology scattered around. While it is not clear yet how all these maps lend themselves to the main storyline that should be revealed soon enough. For now the environments were varied enough that players could use their augmented abilities to dodge, leap and dash around the map to secure their goals.

The fifth and final thing I learned was not a new lesson: I suck when playing multiplayer shooters on the console. I am glad I was able to provide a ego and Xp boost to the other players as I died quickly and repeatedly in each round but the gameplay was such that I did not mind too much. However I am looking forward to the first chance I get to try mixing it up again on a PC. Things should be very different then. When that happens or when we get some more time with Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, we will pass those details along. But for now, things are looking up for the fall.

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