The multiplayer aspects of Advanced Warfare stay close the familiar to the franchise. The cooperative “Survival” mode returns from Modern Warfare 3, though it is no more interesting now than it was in that previous title. The addition of “Exo Zombies” in the Havoc DLC equates it with Treyarch titles in terms of fun co-operative play. The only thing that distinguishes both co-operative play and multiplayer play comes from the additional functionality of the Exo Suit. The zombies in “Exo Zombies” are gifted with Exo suits to make them more than simple cannon fodder, making for a somewhat refreshing take on that particular mode.
The Exo Suit shines in the new map designs. Call of Duty maps, while typically well-balanced, had always lacked any real verticality. While some maps toyed with the concepts, the lack of any real jump always limited the number of possible vantage points. However, with the increased maneuverability that Exo provides, Call of Duty experiences some of its first true vertical warfare. Maps feature easy-to-access catwalks, rooftops, ledges, and rooms; all of these new terrains provide a literal “leg up” in firefights. For players willing to take advantage of the higher vantage points, they can gain a real edge on players sticking to the more typical Call of Duty play-style. This forces all players to adapt or die to a completely different style of play which enhances the traditional Call of Duty experience.
The different Exo abilities also add a different flavor to combat. Whether by silencing your footsteps and jumps, completely cloaking you, or making your Exo a portable trophy system; the new abilities make for interesting new ways to kit out a player. Many have already found very creative ways to take advantage of the new abilities (such as two players teaming up Exo Shield with Exo Stim, for example).
The Exo also makes for the best player customization in a Call of Duty title to date. The many different Exo suits available, coupled with the different fatigues, armor kits, and headgear make for a feeling of uniqueness that has been incredibly rare up to this point in the franchise. I found myself on numerous occasions perusing the Exo suits of other players in the pre-match lobby, admiring their creativity.
This customization plays directly into the new loot system in Advanced Warfare multiplayer. Players earn loot drops while playing that contain random pieces of gear, as well as special customized weapons. Some unlock and are available permanently while others are only available for a few hours after dropping. The randomness of the loot drops, while frustrating, create a feedback loop that adds into the gameplay much the same way as random drops in loot-focused games such as Diablo or Destiny.
The weapons that are found in loot drops do little to spice up what has become a very stale weapons formula. Aside from the few novelty weapons such as the EM1 heavy laser or akimbo XMG, the weapons in Call of Duty games essentially standardized over the last few releases. Assault rifles will always include something akin to an AK47, a single shot marksman rifle, and higher ROF variants and so on and so forth. The random weapons dropped in loot tend towards variations of the standard version of a particular weapon, gifting higher ROF, better aim, more maneuverability, etc. The improvements might occasionally be worth mentioning, but overall don’t deviate from what has been common in the series up to this point.
One very small variable that Sledgehammer introduced that flew under the radar was the ability to customize killstreaks. Now instead of one UAV variant that could be unlocked after a certain point total, you can customize UAV to ping more often and to show the direction of enemies on the mini-map, all without taking an extra killstreak slot. An additional point total becomes the only cost for the different customization that must be reached to unlock the killstreak in game.
The game modes that are available don’t add much. Advanced Warfare presents an interesting new “Momentum” mode, where two teams vie to control all five flags that are spread from one side of the map to the other. The new “Uplink” mode gives us an interesting take on “Capture the Flag” where a satellite uplink must be take to the enemy base to score. However, these playlists don’t get the kind of traffic that standard offerings do, and aren’t quite as fun as they sound on paper. Call of Duty as a franchise has never really been able to successfully color outside the lines with gametypes (outside of the ridiculously fun Wager gametypes in Black Ops) and Advanced Warfare is no different.
Overall, Advanced Warfare adds enough to make for a breath of fresh air into what is quickly becoming a stale brand. While the sales figures steadily decline (though are still impressive none the less) through every title, Advanced Warfare has done at least as much if not more then other recent titles to bring a fresh take into the series. The Exo suits are the real stars of the show both in terms of gameplay and customization options. Rightfully,Advanced Warfare leans heavily and successfully on them to draw in players. For a Call of Duty veteran like myself, Advanced Warfare makes the cut of “good” Call of Duty titles and has given me a great gameplay experience.
Perhaps the franchise should take a gander at Colossians 3:23
…22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.…
Paul is speaking to slaves who work for their masters and encourages them to work both sincerely and to work hard, as if they were serving the Lord instead of their earthly masters. It is hard to figure, even with three studios working on three separate timetables, how the Call of Duty franchise can keep working sincerely and hard towards a new future for the franchise if they keep up the release schedule they are on. Perhaps if they were to rethink their work and do it “as unto the Lord”, then maybe we could get the real fresh air that this series desperately needs moving forwards.
We in turn, have to view our own lives through this lens as well, whether as writers, editors, gamers, ministers, bankers….whatever it is that we do. treating our work with the reverence of one who is working not for an earthly master, but for a Master in heaven.