In-depth at E3: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

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You can tell Activision was a tad more cautious concerning Call of Duty at this year’s E3. In the media-only section, it was Destiny, Destiny and more Destiny. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was in a single, solitary viewing room, and once inside, we were shown the game through a video rather than a real-time presentation.

Now, before you get it in your head that Advanced Warfare is something that Activision is ashamed of, think again. The video presentation, be it ever so humble, didn’t waste twenty minutes showing off the perfect circles that the game’s engine could produce. Instead, it put its money where its mouth was, showing off gameplay almost immediately.

Or so we thought.

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As we watched a soldier bark orders to his men, he broke the fourth wall and began to speak to us media types. In a two minute sequence, he showed us the detail in his face, the way his pupils could dialate and so much more. All in-game. It looked glorious, and was far more effective in showing us what Advanced Warfare could do without wrapping it up in a big ball of hype.

Activision is learning.

We were treated to two levels of straight gameplay afterward. In “Collapsed”, American soldiers were using their exosuits’ boost jumping ability to gain the higher ground – quite literally – on the Golden Gate bridge. This level was all-out action, with bullets flying and explosions going off left, right and centre. We got a look a future weaponry, with my favourite of course being the future-tech grenade that could be toggled to frag, smart and more. A rifle that put a red highlight on baddies as they entered the gun’s crosshair was pretty awesome too. As in the Xbox media briefing, we saw the car door-as-shield thing a couple times too. Combat is Call of Duty with some iterations, exactly what should happen with a new game.

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The whole while watching the gameplay video, I had the distinct impression that Advanced Warfare looked much prettier than Ghosts. Best yet, I didn’t have a developer trying to drum that idea in my head by repeating that fact over and over and over.

The next level, “BioLab”, showed off stealth within Advanced Warfare. The exosuit can cloak, and the effect is damn cool. Enemy drones – of course – can detect said cloaking signature, to the level is a cat-and-mouse game at its finest. Drones seem to play a very important part in the game, with a variety seen in both of the levels we had demoed. I won’t ruin what they did, but let’s just say they’re damn versatile.

My favourite part about “BioLab” was something I was prepared to drag Advanced Warfare over the coals for. Rappelling down a cliff face, I couldn’t help but notice a very distinctive copy-paste job on the trees of the forest below. Thankfully, before I could write, “so much detail in officer’s faces, but they can’t model a couple different trees,” I found out the joke was on me. The “trees” were nothing but a holographic canopy, and as we passed it, I saw the ‘real’ trees of the forest underneath. They were unique. Varied.

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Sadly, in the next sequence, inside an Atlas (that’s a dig at Titanfall, right?) facility, I heard my NPC officers shout out, “take out that sensor!” about fifteen times. It was exactly the same recording. You can’t win ‘em all, eh?

The level finished off with a super-awesome future tank, more gunplay and the distinct impression that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare might place Sledgehammer Games at the top of the Call of Duty pecking order.

For the first time in a long time, I have high hopes for the game. We’ll see if those hopes are met when Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is available from 4 November on Windows PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.