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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Advanced Multiplayer
Company: Activision

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is as close to a fresh start as any game in the series can get at this point. New developer Sledgehammer Games is using the seriesí now 3-year development cycle to deliver the type of run-and-gun experience fans expect of the series, while teaching the old war dog a few new tricks.

Up until this point, very little has been released about multiplayer, the seriesí most popular and, for some groups, important feature. When a game has as large, and vocal, a following as Call of Duty, any changes Ė no matter how small -- have the potential to unleash untold amounts of criticism from its fan base. Sledgehammer seems well aware of this fact, making sure fan feedback played a crucial part in the development of Advanced Warfare. During a multiplayer reveal event, the duo discussed using the gameís extended development cycle to get to the core of what makes COD multiplayer fun, while looking for ways to plus the experience.

As expected, Advanced Warfare ships with twelve match types, including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, and Domination, as well as returning types like Hardpoint and Momentum. Classic modes are joined by new types, such as Uplink. The mode is played similar to Capture the Flag, only instead of grabbing the other teamís flag, teams vie over a round satellite. The goal is to toss the satellite into your teamís uplink site, earning a point for each successful uplink. The catch is the player holding the satellite canít attack, leaving them completely vulnerable. However, players can pass the satellite to other players. This includes those on the other team, leading to the suggested play style of tossing the satellite to an opponent, only to quickly gun down the now helpless former attacker.

Along with expected additions like game modes, Sledgehammer is introducing a host of changes with the potential to open up players' gameplay strategies beyond what weíve seen in past games.

Chief among these changes is an exoskeleton, which brings a number of enhancements to how players move around the map and achieve mode goals. Using the attached jetpack, players can quickly move around maps using Boost Slides as well as Boost Jumps, adding verticality to matches. Both additions, which are regulated by a re-charging battery, may not seem like major enhancements, but when coupled with the normal flow of a multiplayer match, they add a completely different feel to matches.

Over the course of many multiplayer matches, it was very interesting to see just how these two additions completely changed how everyone approached different match types. Early Capture the Flag and Hardpoint matches followed well-worn ground strategies honed through multiple hours of multiplayer matches. This was understandable since, admittedly, the new vertical gameplay is initially a bit off-putting. Players were more likely to use the jetpack as a simple double-jump than a strategic option. I compare it to driving a new car; the first few drives youíre likely to drive it the same way you did your old car. But, as you become more comfortable with the new one, youíre more likely to try out the cruise control or other new feature with a little more regularity.

These differences are mostly noticeable in how modes work, as well as the design of maps. Here, Capture the Flag was played on a map called Ascend, which takes place in a futuristic space elevator terminal. Now that players can approach from any angle, youíre no longer just defending on a ground-based plane. Opponents can, and as the night progressed did, come from any angle. The same differences were noticeable in Hardpoint. While defenders were looking in one direction, aggressors either drop in from above with a few expert shots, or using the new Boost Slam ability, a new melee attack option that lives up to its name.

Maps have received a few improvements, taking the new mobility into account while adding both player-controlled and timed events to the otherwise static maps. In Riot, which takes place in a post-riot prison, the winning team can activate still-functioning defense mechanisms for an added advantage. In another, called Defender, a timed tsunami roars into the abandoned fort, flooding parts of the map. Mastery of the Boost Jump is critical to avoid getting caught up in the deluge.

The exoskeletonís base movement abilities are standard for all players, thought the suits can be further upgraded to allow for personalization, another of new facet Sledgehammer is bringing to the series.

Key to personalization is Pick 13, the evolution of the Pick 10 create-a-class format. The system works similar to Pick 10, only now youíre given three extra points for load-out customization. It may not sound like much, but the three extra points add a lot to personalization, especially when you factor in the new customization options. For example, you can add new abilities to your exoskeleton like Exo Shield, giving you a quick-deploy shield or Exo Stim, which ups your health regeneration rate. Additionally, you can add perks to your suit to further enhance its abilities, such as Gung-ho, which allows for reloading while sprinting, or a boost suppressor that both quiets the sound of your boost jets and keeps you hidden from opponentís radar while boosting, adding a new stealth tactic. You can also opt out of taking more Scorestreaks in order to spend customization points to enhance a single Scorestreak. Using some of your Pick 13 points, you can add rockets to the base Rocket Turret or, with a few more, remove the turret from its base for a heavy-duty, hand-held rocket turret.

Customization options are linked to Supply Drops, a loot-based reward system. Supply Drops, which are earned through play time and by completing in-game challenges, can contain new weapons, weapon upgrades, or new gear. Iíll admit Iím not the best COD player, though I was able to earn Supply Drops in nearly every match. The new system seems like it is tuned to reward players of all skill types, hopefully bridging the gap between expert and casual players, placing the outcome of matches more on skill than load-outs.

As an added incentive, Supply Drop items come in three rarities Ė Enlisted, Professional, ad Elite. Higher rarity items are something you will undoubtedly want to show off, leading to another addition, the Virtual Lobby. Rather than viewing a static player lists pre-match, you can cycle through players to sneak a peek at their load-outs. The virtual lobby is also a fun way to brag about your in-game accomplishments in a more visual way.

As someone who sat out on Ghosts because it felt like the "same old thing," the changes to Advanced Warfare have done enough to entice me into considering re-enlisting. The changes arenít massive, but sometimes they donít have to be groundbreaking to be interesting, just fun.

Disclaimer: Airfare and hotel accommodations for the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Event were provided by Activision.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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