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While piloting Sledgehammer Games’ vision of a future soldier, I couldn’t shake the thought of The Six Million Dollar Man.
“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better … stronger … faster.”
That iconic line, uttered 40 years ago in the opening credits of a sci-fi TV show, could have just as easily been said today of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer Games’ first turn at the helm of Activision’s multibillion-dollar franchise.
You can draw obvious parallels between the two, most notably in the exoskeletons adorning every tech-savvy operator in Advance Warfare. These machine-powered supersoldiers jump higher; they boost, dodge, and slide in every direction; and they deliver life-ending melee blows with sickening pneumatic force.
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But that analogy goes a little deeper: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is itself a six million dollar man. It’s powered by new-gen technology and Activision’s capabilities to support a new three-year development timeline — it’s Call of Duty, but it’s also a welcome and decidedly different experience. Whether it’s the Sledgehammer thumbprint on the series, the crossroads of technology and added production time, or some combination of it all, Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer is a faster, stronger, and from what I saw, a better experience for it.
During our playtime ripping through multiplayer opponents with future tech across new maps and modes, the obvious emphasis this time around is on mobility, variety, and customization. Much has changed, and some has stayed the same. But in light of today’s full reveal of the multiplayer mode, we’re running through the major points and changes in Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is slated for a Nov. 4 release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Here’s what you need to know.
According to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the soldier of the future sports a high-tech, battery-operated exoskeleton (exo) complete with a variety of attachments and functions. These have huge implications in multiplayer, as every player can upgrade every exo with abilities, and these also empower you with unparalleled mobility. Exos by default modify the familiar Call of Duty movement through propulsion boosts.
As your operator hangs in midair after a jump, you can boost up to attain new heights. Or say you’re a sitting duck suspended in a predictable trajectory; now you can boost dash through the air for more speed or back down to the ground when gravity just isn’t working fast enough. Or if you’re in handshake distance, you can employ your exo’s boosts to slam down into your opponent with a crushing airborne melee attack.
Back on the ground, most of that functionality carries over as well: Quick dashes are surprisingly effective in throwing off an opponent’s aim, giving you a precious second to turn the tables. It all adds up to a totally gratifying and fluid movement system that allows you to outmaneuver pursuers, quickly cut objective routes, and generally get creative as second-to-second decisions unfold in the classic Call of Duty multiplayer frenzy.
The multiplayer maps
During our tour of Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer, we tore through a small slice of the new maps that will be available at launch. As you might expect, the four currently announced maps all emphasize verticality to a greater degree than ever before, accommodating the mobility your exo brings into battle. Most maps on display also feature some sort of dynamic element that takes place in a specific area or adds obtainable functionality for players based on the map’s theme.
A classic take on the traditional three-lane design, Ascend is set in a futuristic space elevator terminal that emits an airport vibe, its walls covered with glowing informational signs. Tiered platforms and catwalks add a ton of verticality and open space, providing long lines of sight across the entire map. A central hallway that runs down the middle allows for vision toward both spawn points, making it the perfect place to set up shop with a sniper rifle.
We ran a match of Capture the Flag on Ascend — with good reason. The distinct clean lanes and opposite spawning areas lend themselves quite well to flag defense and route running. Yet the verticality that’s on display in Advanced Warfare enables you to boost over walls and partitions from one lane to another for creative routes and shortcuts to try to stay out of the open. Ascend also features a dynamic turret system that can be activated with a map-based killstreak.
Another take on the three-lane approach, Riot takes place in a concrete prison after the eponymous uprising shattered large portions of the structure. The two outdoor spawning areas meet on both sides of the building, while the central route takes you into the prison itself where teams collide in the large, rectangular, two-story cellblock. The entire prison is also rigged with a map-based killstreak reward that follows player movements — the Inmate Tracking System.
Hallways and catwalks snake in and out of the main prison while secondary buildings dot the compound. The outdoor openness and massive interior cellblock promote long lines of sight for medium to long-ranged engagements throughout the majority of the map, but blind corners and the smaller structures around the prison add plenty of opportunity for close-quarters combat and capture points in area-based objective game modes.
Set on the coast near San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, Defender is a mostly open hilly map that features a number of graffiti-covered broken concrete bunkers. Though long lines encourage distance engagements, the majority of the map is a maze of tiered platforms well-suited to run-and-gun tactics. Zipping in and out of buildings and boosting from one level to another and across gaps make for frantic medium-ranged encounters. The marquee feature is a tsunami that pounds into the seaside of the map, flooding the beach and low-elevation areas and sending a booming spray into the air.
A collection of buildings housing vats full of suspended people, Biolab primarily supports close-quarter engagements in its many small to medium-sized rooms. Though there’s an ample outdoor area in the snowy compound, most of the action gravitates toward the center of the map in the tight hallways and buildings. The added verticality enables you to boost up to second-level rooftops and catwalks for quick flanking maneuvers.
The multiplayer game modes
Sledgehammer Games’ has confirmed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has 12 game modes. Among the list are many old favorites and series staples: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Search & Destroy, Kill Confirmed, and Domination. Advanced Warfare also marks the return of Hardpoint, the capture-and-defend community favorite which plays just as competitively as ever with the added mobility to approach an objective from unique angles.
Two new modes were also unveiled, which will be brand new to the series in Advanced Warfare:
Uplink is an objective-based team mode where a neutral satellite drone is dropped onto the map. Both teams fight for control of the drone and attempt to get it into the opponent’s uplink — a floating sphere of light that hangs above each team’s spawn area. The catch is that when you’re holding the drone, you can’t use weaponry, which makes you somewhat helpless and reliant on your team for support.
Fortunately, you can pass the drone at any time or even throw it for greater distances. Passing the drone to an enemy player is a great tactic as they automatically grab onto it, rendering them helpless as you quickly gun them down and pick it back up. When you reach the opponent’s uplink, you can throw it in for one point, or jump it through for two.
Momentum is the spiritual successor to War, in which two teams attempt to control multiple territories on the map. The game mode was abandoned in previous Call of Duty titles, but Momentum will bring the experience back to the series with similar rules. Only one of the five control points that dot the map will be active at any given time, and either side fights for it during this period. The more points you capture and kills you secure, the faster you’re able to capture the next point, and on and on — building momentum. However, should the opposing team capture a point, your momentum meter will be reset and you’re back to square one.
Though some incarnation of Deathmatch or free-for-fall was missing from the list of supported modes, it’s a safe bet that’ll be in here. As for the other few modes that will complete the even dozen, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Pick 13 system
Sledgehammer Games has gone back to the popular Pick 10 system, expanding it by an additional three points to accommodate Scorestreaks. But before we jump into that, let’s do a quick overview of everything you’re going to be dumping points in:
- Primary weapon: The tool of the trade. Primary weapons come in five categories: Assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, shotguns, and heavy weapons (which includes the new directed energy weapons).
- Primary attachments: These vary by weapon class but usually two available attachment slots for use. Purchasing a wildcard unlocks a third attachment slot.
- Secondary weapon: No surprises here. Secondary weapons come in Pistol and Launcher classes.
- Secondary attachments: Some secondary weapons — but not all — support attachments.
- Perks: These are once again separated into three different groups. You can unlock additional perks from a single group by purchasing a wildcard. Advanced Warfare introduces a few new perks that specifically augment the effectiveness of your exo abilities.
Exo abilities: These are a new class of powerful talents that include gear or modifiers attached to your soldier’s exoskeleton. From portable shields to cloaking, exo abilities are battery-powered and can only be used for a short time before they must be recharged. They are as follows:
- Exo shield: A quick-deploy shield attached to your exo’s arm.
- Exo overclock: Increased footspeed.
- Exo stim: Temporary health regeneration beyond normal level.
- Exo cloak: Short duration visual concealment.
- Exo hover: Short duration hovering in place.
- Exo ping: Shows enemy movement and weapon fire in the HUD.
- Exo trophy system: Destroys incoming grenades and rockets for a limited period of time.
Exo Launcher: The Exo Launcher category has essentially replaced both the tactical and lethal grenade slots — because in the future, your supersuit should throw grenades for you. As your tactical grenade function has now been replaced with the exo ability, you’ll have to choose one type of grenade to bring with you into combat. You have more choices than ever, including flying, player-seeking grenades, and variable grenades that allow you to scroll through stun, EMP, or target-marking payloads.
Sledgehammer Games has also included the ability to customize Scorestreaks, by adding modifiers to the base benefit while increasing the cost. For example, if you select the XS1 Vulcan, you can call in an area bombardment with a powerful laser by earning 600 points without dying. But if you were to customize it with the Light Show module for an additional 200 points, when you earn 800 points that same Vulcan bombardment becomes four lasers swirling across the area for greater effectiveness.
Another new element added in Advanced Warfare are cooperative Scorestreaks. Though we didn’t get a chance to run them in tandem during our time with multiplayer, Sledgehammer has teased certain Scorestreaks will be pilotable by two players simultaneously, like the futuristic Warbird helicopter. This offers players who aren’t able to regularly rack up the points a chance to try out some of the more potent and lethal perks of the job.
Customization is a main emphasis in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, from the classes that you create, to the items that you wear. To drive that point home, Sledgehammer Games has incorporated an all new loot system dubbed Supply Drops.
You earn Supply Drops in matches for time played, along with meeting in-game challenges. Each drop has custom weapons, gear to kit out your operator, or reinforcements. This gear comes in three distinct rarities: Enlisted (green) is the most common, Pro (blue) is rarer, and Elite (brown) is the best of the best.
Custom weapons are uniquely named weapons with attribute, attachment, or aesthetic modifications over the default type. For example, I received the Bear Fist (that’s an awesome name) in a supply drop. It’s an HBRa3 assault rifle, but it comes with a sight already attached, a colored skin, a two-point bump in handling, and a one-point drop in both accuracy and range. It’s this give-and-take relationship in custom weapons that seem to keep things from getting overpowered, but who knows what crazy contraptions could be resting at the bottom of a supply drop.
Gear, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. It’s completely cosmetic and can be used to dress your soldier for combat through the Create-An-Operator feature. Though there are no gameplay advantages to donning the rarest armor, Elite gear generally tended to look a little more lively than Pro and so on.
The last type of rewards coming out of supply drops are Reinforcements: one-time-use items that can be activated during a match. The options include perks and basic score-streaks, and they also come in three rarities.
Create An Operator
For the first time, Call of Duty players will be able to create the custom look of the multiplayer soldier. You can choose from several male and female personas, which you can then further customize through a staggering array of aesthetic gear found in supply drops. Check out the video above for a look at the system in action.
The Virtual Lobby and Firing Range
New to the Call of Duty series is the ability to test out created classes on the fly in the virtual firing range. No longer will you have to go into a match to try out a newly created class, unlocked weapon, or attachment setup. In Advanced Warfare, you’ll be able to hop right into the firing range to see if you like what you’ve put together, directly from the class creation menu or even between matches.
Lastly, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has made all of this customization meaningful with the virtual lobby. Rather than staring at a list of player names between matches, players in your lobby are completely accessible, enabling you to view their operator and loadouts. You can quickly slide between players and get a glimpse at any custom weapons, gear, or reinforcements they might have picked up in a supply drop.
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