Comparisons to Titanfall were inevitable after Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's multiplayer was revealed last week, but Sledgehammer have been playing with Advanced Warfare's jump-thrust move shortly after finishing work on Modern Warfare 3 in 2011, and Tribes fans will tell you that Titanfall hardly has dibs on the jetpack shooter. While the new exoskeleton movement options are interesting, I'm more excited about what they can do to refresh the design of Call of Duty's multiplayer maps.
The Call of Duty multiplayer experience has remained largely unchanged since the dawn of the Modern Warfare era. The opportunistic run-and-gun through flat, crumbling maps started to feel rote back in Black Ops 2, a game that could have done with a map like Advanced Warfare's Riot. Granted, it's also a crumbling concrete facility a prison, in fact but it's built around tiered structures and guard towers that make use of the exoskeleton's new jumping abilities. Like a couple of the other maps Sledgehammer showed, there's a quirk: The prison's high tech inmate monitoring system is still active, which means sensors at the top of guard towers draw laser pointers to passing soldiers.
Riot was actually one of the plainer maps. The others showed at Gamescom move away from the bleached urban aesthetic to something shinier, reminiscent of some of CoD's quirkier, more colourful DLC packs. There's a map set in the terminal of a space elevator which is bright, airy and layered with gantries and intricate spaceport corridors. Advanced Warfare will include a mode that bans exosuits, but I wonder if these maps will still be fun if you're flightless. The need to cater to the legions of fans who love the standard CoD formula is understandable, but once you've experienced extra speed and super-jumps bursts of flight, why go back?
This year you can customise your soldier with with dozens of facemasks, armour plates and colour schemes and tailor your loadout with a "pick 13" system, mirroring Black Op's "pick 10". You get 13 points you can devote to weapon attachments, special exosuit abilities like cloaks and shields, and kill streak rewards. More options can be unlocked by ranking up.
Leveling systems in shooters can hide the game's most interesting weapons and strategies behind layers of grind (see Battlfield, Payday 2), but the sheer amount of stuff packed into Advanced Warfare's customisation system is encouraging. As long as the leveling curve is fast, the expanded unlock system could provide valuable context and rewards for each 10-20 minute battle for those who don't care about 'prestiging' the practice of reaching the CoD's level cap and then resetting for a badge.
I'm quite excited about Advanced Warfare this year, for the multiplayer, at least. The single player may have Spacey, but in spite of the high-tech gubbins the set pieces look samey and predictable. I've never had a fun game of Battlefield 4, Battlefield Hardline leaves me cold and Titanfall is great, but lacks staying power. CoD could sweep the board this year. On the multiplayer side, it's the most exciting entry in the series for years.
Advanced Warfare is due out on November 4.