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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Hands-On Preview: scaling new heights

on 11 August 2014

Last Wednesday appeared to be a typical evening in downtown San Francisco: traffic bustling, people leaving work and some hitting nearby bars and restaurants. But at one particular building, dozens of game journalists like me awaited the reveal of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer. To anyone remotely familiar with the series, they know that online multiplayer is what keeps Call of Duty selling year after year. Before the press lay a small stage with a large steaming, mechanical doorway projected onto the wall that felt like the beginning of a ride at Universal Studios. As cheesy as the setup was, it was hard not to be excited about what was about to be unveiled.

Soon the fake metal doors opened and the explosive multiplayer trailer (which many of you have probably already seen by now) began to roll. Skeptical eyes stared at the screen followed by moments of cheers during slick in-game kills. Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield, co-founders of developer, Sledgehammer Games, took to the stage to brief us on the basics of the new multiplayer before we could jump in. Advanced Warfare appeared to be a different beast than last year’s Ghosts and definitely for the better.

Easily the most drastic change to Advanced Warfare gameplay arrives in the traversal department, thanks to the new exoskeleton your character is equipped with. Double jumping can be used to reach that high ledge or avoid incoming fire. You can also further confuse opponents and evade damage by dashing backwards or to the left or right side in mid-air. The exoskeleton can boost downward to the ground, as well, to pull off a damaging melee attack or to avoid sitting in the air and being an easy target. These new movement options did not particularly flow as fluid as say, Titanfall’s jetpack-assisted parkour, yet were responsive enough to prove themselves useful. The very mechanical and slightly clunky feeling very well could be what Sledgehammer was going for from an aesthetic standpoint. I reveled most in the new ways to travel through the battlefield and how a new strategic element was added into predicting opponent’s movements.

Exoskeletons aren’t only changing the way you move, but are also adding new abilities. Defensive players can use the Exo Shield to deploy a riot shield from their arm for protection or Exo Stim for improved health regeneration. A tactical stealth approach can benefit from the active camouflage provided by Exo Cloak or seeing enemy movements and firing positions in their HUD with Exo Ping. For the travel-minded, Exo Overlock boosts your foot speed while Exo Hover allows floating in mid-air. The Exo Trophy System is perfect for ballsy players who want to run headfirst into combat as it obliterates oncoming grenades and missiles. Your exoskeleton’s ability is powered by a battery that faces a cooling down period once it’s been completely expelled. Many of the abilities have been featured before in games preceding Call of Duty, but I found them to be welcome additions to the franchise.

Customized loadouts, now a multiplayer staple for the industry, were made popular by Call of Duty so it’s great to see the latest entry move forward with the Pick 13 system. The added freedom that many enjoyed with Black Ops II’s Pick 10 system is back and better than ever. For those unfamiliar, each weapon, perk, accessory, or exoskeleton ability will use up some of the 13 points you can spend on a loadout. Rarely use your grenade or sidearm often? Remove them to equip more attachments to your primary firearm or load in more perks. The added customization and flexibility is enjoyable to have back again and allows loadouts to be constructed based on how I want to play. Best of all, at any time in the loadouts menu, I can enter a virtual firing range to immediately test out my new combination without risking a bad performance in a match from going in blind. Lastly, customization continues on the aesthetic side as players can now change pieces of their character’s uniform gear, from sunglasses and helmets to boots and pants.