For those who regularly play first-person shooters, it came as no surprise when Activision announced that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare would release worldwide 4 November 2014. Developer Sledgehammer Games has all the tools needed to make this the most innovative Call of Duty since Modern Warfare debuted in 2007. Besides actor Kevin Spacey and a batch of new maps, what will this title offer that previous games didn't? Are we looking at a fresh take on an old formula, or is this the same game in a shiny new box?
Let's see what's under the hood
Some people may remember claims that Call of Duty: Ghosts was built on a brand new engine, a statement that turned out to be a bit of a public relations snafu. Ghosts was developed on an upgraded IW Engine, a beefed-up version of the same technology used to make Call of Duty 2 in 2005. With Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, however, the engine was built from scratch. While we still don't know what it's called, it will fea-ture new rendering, animation, physics and audio systems that show their benefit in the gorgeous gameplay trailers Activision teased its fans with.
Speaking of trailers, if you had an opportunity to see any of them, you might recall an incredibly lifelike Kevin Spacey in one of the single-player videos. Playing a character names Jonathan Irons, Spacey takes on the role of CEO and founder of the largest, most advanced private military company in the world. Story details are few, but the technology behind his facial animation uses the same system as James Cameron's Avatar. In fact, so far, all of the in-game animations are incredibly detailed and realistic. Simply put, even though we've yet to see a lot of footage, what's available looks stunning.
The future of technology
Making video games is not something that can be done quickly, especially if you plan to be innovative and push the creative boundaries. For many years, the Call of Duty that gamers received each fall, while fun, was strikingly similar to its predecessor. That was partly due to the fact that the series was on a two-year development cycle, with two studios alternating who created the games each year. Now the franchise is on a three-year development cycle split between three studios. That may sound like a lot of unnecessary technical information, but what it means for the average person is that each Call of Duty game that comes out from this point forward will have been in development for three years, rather than two. That's more time to enhance graphics, build multiplayer maps and polish the game to a level that wasn't possible with previous iterations.
To give you a few examples of how this appears to benefit Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the studio already stated that the additional devel-opment time allowed it to create a near photorealistic world, unlike any Call of Duty before. While we aren't certain of all the locations that will be experienced in the game, a 2054 version of South Korea certainly backs up the developer's claims.
No more boots on the ground
While development cycles, new engines and Kevin Spacey are great, the thing that everyone wants to know about is the gameplay, with several features confirmed. From multi-purpose grenades to energy weapons, don't expect to find the same old arsenal that you're used to. Even movement has gone through a complete rebuild, introducing a system that appears heavy on parkour mechanics. If you find yourself stuck on top of a tall building, no problem, just use your boosters and gently de-scend to ground level. Looking for a tactical advantage over your opponent? Jump on top of a bus, scale a wall or even double jump and shoot them while you use your boosters to hover above the chaos.
In addition, the HUD was revamped and appears to be much cleaner. Rather than take up precious space in all four corners of the screen, you can now see remaining ammo by looking at the weapon itself. What you're left with is a sleek design that integrates that need-to-know information with what's already on-screen, rather than the overlay approach we've all been used to since the beginning of first-person shooters.
The innovative gameplay mechanics don't stop there, however. The studio recently talked about the game's Future Tech and Exoskeleton features. While Future Tech will include things like the previously mentioned multi-purpose grenade, as well as the ability to use a mobile barricade that will deploy and retract based on player interaction, the Exoskeleton will play a big part in the parkour we mentioned, plus add the ability to temporarily increase movement speed or even cloak to hide from enemies.
The best is yet to come
If there is one thing that Call of Duty can be counted on, it's a solid mul-tiplayer experience. If you're looking for proof of that, consider that the franchise is the reigning King of eSports, a community with so much riding on solid "Netcode" they can't afford to mess around with the second best option. With this in mind, it would be nice to see some online footage in the near future, to catch a glimpse at what is to come.
Judging the game strictly on the information at hand, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling that accompanied Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The graphics look absolutely stunning, and the gameplay appears to provide a hybrid experience that falls somewhere between Battlefield 4 and Titanfall. With a leaner HUD and two top-notch voice actors in Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker, the campaign is sure to be an action packed, emotional roller coaster. While Call of Duty games are always fun, this one has us thinking we might be in for the best experience in franchise history.