You got your Titanfall in my Black Ops 2
When Call of Duty: Ghosts was announced last year, Activision spent a lot of time talking about the game's technological achievements. Phrases like "dual render" and "displacement mapping" were tossed around, and we were inundated with close-up screenshots of perfectly rounded scopes.
Unfortunately, terms like "gameplay," "mechanics," and "storyline" were noticeably absent from most of Activision's advertisements, and this probably should have made us nervous. We were being asked to purchase Ghosts because it was an impressive piece of software engineering, not because it was a good game.
But Activision's rhetoric is noticeably different this year. After spending a couple of hours chatting about Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare with a handful of folks at Activision, I realized that I hadn't heard a single piece of hyper-technical mumbo jumbo. However, gameplay mechanics and storyline were discussed ad nauseam.
It was refreshing.
Advanced Warfare is kind of like a mashup between Black Ops 2 and Titanfall, which shouldn't be surprising considering the industry's current obsession with the future. It obviously doesn't contain any 50-foot robots (at least, not that I know of), but who needs robots when you've got exoskeletons?
The futuristic exo suit is the centerpiece of Advanced Warfare's gameplay. It grants super-human climbing abilities, an "exo push," a cloaking ability, and gives players the strength of a 1980's action hero. At one point, Private Mitchell, the game's protagonist, ripped a car door from its hinges and used it as a shield. You could practically smell the testosterone.
However, the game's parkour mechanics are what will inevitably draw Titanfall comparisons. The exo suit gives players the ability to double jump and dash-boost while continuously firing their weapon. The added altitude and hang time means that gunfights have a newfound verticality, and duck-and-cover-style tactics are less effective.
It's a huge step outside of CoD's comfort zone, one that has the potential to alienate the hardcore fan base. But, as Battlefield fans often point out, Call of Duty's trademark formula is getting a little stale.
Gameplay isn't Advanced Warfare's only futuristic overhaul, though. The interface has been almost completely redesigned, and, from what I can tell, it's a major improvement. Most of the standard HUD information has been peeled away in favor of an augmented reality display (think Dead Space). A handful of the game's weapons feed information back to the display as they interact with the environment. The IR grenade, for instance, explodes with a burst of infrared energy that tags nearby enemies so they can be easily picked off.
At the end of the day, though, Advanced Warfare looks and feels like a Call of Duty title. The gunplay is reminiscent of Black Ops 2 and the map designs reminded me of Modern Warfare 3. It's definitely an evolution for the franchise, but CoD's DNA is fully in tact.
Until Activision shows off the multiplayer component, though, this single raised eyebrow on my face will continue to communicate skepticism.