Ever since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the entire franchise has stretched itself across the bounds of modern warfare, trying to tread a thin line between realistic war and the grand theatrics of their series’ WWII origins. Now, with the jump to Advanced Warfare, veteran studio Sledgehammer Games has taken the task to take the series to brand new heights -- so at this point in development, how is it going?
Activision’s E3 preview for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare took us to two Kevin Spacey-less levels from the upcoming first-person shooter -- the first was a battle on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, and the second a stealth-focused infiltration jaunt through a forest in Bulgaria. Both levels did show off some new features, but some obvious Call of Duty mainstays were there as well.
The Sledgehammer developer took control of Mitchell, a Tier 1 operative suited up in an Exo -- power armor designed to enhance the user’s strength and give them access to superhuman abilities like double jump or cloaking. The return of the double jump to the first-person shooter genre is amusingly grounded in realism in this Call of Duty, and so far maintains the regular feel with the level design. On the Golden Gate Bridge, both Mitchell and his enemies used it to launch themselves to the top of trucks, which restricted versatility on the battlefield.
After a player-controlled car chase -- where the computer gunner seemed way better at hitting civilian vehicles than hitting enemy ones -- Mitchell and his buddy Gideon chased after a mysterious van that everyone seems very interested in blowing up as fast as possible. Enemy Exo units shouting in American accents stood in their way, but were mowed down easily by the developer. Some new tactics -- like the ability to switch grenade types to a tactical grenade that reveals all enemy positions, were useful. Others, like grabbing a car door for a shield, didn't seem to have a dramatic impact.
After using a laser to shoot down some drones, the level ended with the Golden Gate Bridge sinking into the San Francisco Bay. While I remained underwhelmed at the dramatic reveal, it certainly provided a hell of a fireworks show.
Moving on to Bulgaria, we joined Mitchell and Gideon shortly after their chopper was downed by an EMP. After dodging a helicopter for a while, the two activated their cloaking devices and snuck through the jungle in a level I swear played in "All Ghillied Up" back in Modern Warfare 4. Tools like a sound muffling bubble are cool, but only seem to be short set pieces rather than player-driven tools.
The Bulgaria mission ended with a hot-headed Tier 1 operative named Cormac ordering Mitchell to commandeer a hovertank and blast their way out, which, unfortunately, also felt ripped from any given tank level from some of the other shooters on the floor.
With nary an appearance by Kevin Spacey, I unfortunately admit this Advanced Warfare preview disappointed my somewhat raised hopes for the new Call of Duty. Yet, the focus on American enemies and an out-of-control PMC system does remain intriguing. If new set pieces can take further advantage of the Exo concept, hope remains for this game. But for now, this preview definitely warrants a wait-and-see approach.