Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare preview: Invisibility, guns, grenades and jetpacks in 2058
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sees Activision throw everything at the latest instalment in its first person shooter franchise. This time around CoD fast-forwards 44 years. And in 2058 soldiers don super-strength exoskeletons which can temporarily render their wearers invisible. There's also a badass collection of guns and futuristic grenades too.
At the demo at this year's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, we were shown a behind-closed-doors play-through of two different levels - named Collapse and Biolab respectively - on Xbox One delivered through a sound system so loud that machine gun rattle and explosions literally shook the walls. Talk about impact.
But does Advanced Warfare have the same kind of impact, or is it just yet another Call of Duty game struggling to find anything new to add to the series?
The formula is familiar, but then for CoD to neglect its roots would be to undo its very premise. Collapse begins in San Francisco where you run, drive, shoot and even launch yourself around using a jetpack booster. We're not talking Titanfall levels of flow through the cityscape though, just big jumps in order to get atop tall vehicles that block your path.
As with many next-gen titles, Advanced Warfare seamlessly blends between cutscenes - complete with characters rendered using HD facial capture for added realism - and the live gameplay action. So after flipping a car and ending up in a crash on the Golden Gate Bridge while chasing down an enemy van there's no pause for loading. It's all nicely integrated.
The shooting action in Advanced Warfare is much the same as its predecessors, but the exoskeleton changes your human abilities by providing super strength. Grab a car door and rip it off as a makeshift shield; throw it at enemy drones to take them out thanks to the hydraulic-like power assist. Robocop eat your heart out (even if your name is Mitchell).
One fun new feature is the ability for single grenades to hold multiple abilities. Select "threat" for a blast wave which marks out enemies (much like in The Division) or toggle over to "seek" and you'll see grenades hover in the sky before flying like hunter-killer missiles to human targets. Very cool.
Add in Max Payne-style slowdown for enhanced temporary precision and the game does add new elements to the franchise, but they're not distinctly new elements of play for the genre.
The scale of it all is grander though. Advance Warfare goes ballsy and sees the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed while you're on it in a manic scene that, typical Call of Duty style, is cheesy as heck in parts. But that's all part of the fun.
We're then accelerated forward the Biolab mission later in the game, complete with demo of the exoskeleton's cloaking feature. Yes, invisibility is here and this stealth assist makes you undetectable to enemy eyes, but it can't last indefinitely - meaning stop-start moments to deactivate and charge the power back up.
"Watch your energy cells - moving will wear them out," explains your comrade in the field. In addition "seekers" and drones have blue detection rays that can spot you, adding to the stealth element of the game.
Hereafter there was lots of shooting, explosions, alarms, and even a stint in a T740 hover tank - "it can't be that different from the 600!" - where carnage ensues. We were less impressed with this section of the game as the tank's apparently never-ending supply of ammo, explosives and EMP weaponry make you seem unstoppable.
The game's sound isn't quite right yet either with the same commands spouted out again and again. "Use an EMP on that chopper," became a jarring expression to our ears when it repeated three times, while footsteps that considerably mismatched walking pace added amusement. But we're months away from release, so that's unlikely to be an issue come completion.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare adds new elements to the franchise and some of the weapon and lighting effects are a particular visual treat. It's not reinventing the first person shooter, though, and with titles like Destiny imminent the CoD franchise is going to need to watch its back to maintain success.
All that said, there are moments of cool that will hook you in like a Hollywood movie, so for spectacle alone Advanced Warfare is one of the must see next-gen titles of 2014.