E3 First Look: Combat takes a high-tech turn in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
“Power changes everything.”

We’ve noted before that the tagline for Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a key idea to keep in mind as you process new details on this latest entry in the shooter series, and that definitely holds true after our E3 first look.

Related: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review

Call of Duty has officially transitioned into science fiction, albeit a very near-future (and grim) vision of the genre in which corporations lock horns with first-world governments and boost-assisted soldiers spring around the battlefield like never before. For those that constantly demand fresh ideas in their annual Activision shooters, look no further. Advanced Warfare appears to deliver.

Story/Concept

Don’t mess with Texas Instruments. The key focus for Sledgehammer in crafting Advanced Warfare‘s story is showcasing the rise of the privately-owned military force. Imagine a present-day “military contractor” like Academi (formerly Blackwater) growing an army large enough to challenge one of the world’s superpowers. How would that play out?

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sets its story in the mid-21st century, with the PMC known as Atlas, run by Jonathan Irons (Kevin Spacey), declaring war on the United States after numerous failed attempts to convert foreign nations into democratic societies. Irons is fed up with so-called peace efforts, and he seeks to shift the global power balance in his favor.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

A soldier’s journey. Advanced Warfare features a single protagonist, Mitchell, with the story following an eight-year trajectory that begins in Seoul, Korea with an invasion by northern forces. Mitchell enters the fray as a young Marine in this opening level of the game, the one showcased during Microsoft’s E3 press conference. A later level, demoed behind closed doors, picks up with Mitchell and his squadmates investigating a suspected bio-weapons facility.

It begins with one of the series’ trademark sneak-and-follow sequences, with Mitchell and his CO advancing on the suspected facility — deep in a remote forest — under the cover of night. The level picks up just after the two are spotted by a sniper while a spotlight-equipped chopper circles above. Their mad dash to safety ends with a scramble up a rock face, followed by a slow creep past enemy forces with the help of high-tech cloak suits.

They eventually link up with two more squadmates and make their way into the facility to complete their data theft mission. A triggered alarm escalates the tension in the final third of the mission, with a rushed firefight through the facility and an escape that puts Mitchell at the controls of a powerful hover-tank equipped with a cannon, machine guns, cluster rockets, and an EMP blast.

Gameplay

Suit up. The heart of what’s new in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is realized in every soldier’s exe-skeleton-enhanced Exo suit. Enhancing standard movement controls — in single-player, multiplayer, and co-op — are boost abilities that allow for powered high jumps and boost-assisted strafe dashes to the left, right, and back.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

It’s a subtle shift, and one that’s going to require proper hands-on time to really get a sense of, but there’s promise here for a very different approach to Call of Duty’s action than we’ve seen previously. The Exo suit has other abilities as well that allow soldiers to more easily scale surface, drop from high places, and — as seen with the cloak — stay out of sight, but some of these appear to be contextual.

Sledgehammer didn’t get into the specifics, but Advanced Warfare‘s single player story does feature — for the first time in a Call of Duty game — an upgrade system that allows you to spend accumulated points on improving different Exo abilities.

Toys of war. There’s also an assortment of new gear to play with in Advanced Warfare. Players can dig into a whole new class of directed-energy weapons, which fire sustained, laser-like beams. They don’t use ammo in the traditional sense, but you can only fire for so long before the weapon needs a few seconds to cool down.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

We also got a peek at a couple of the game’s new grenade options, which fill both tactical and offensive roles. Threat Grenades popped up during the Microsoft press conference demo; they highlight any nearby enemies as red silhouettes, providing intel on the surrounding area. Seeker Grenades hover in mid-air for a few seconds after they’re thrown before homing in on the nearest enemy. And Contact Grenades — as you’ve probably gathered from the name — explode on contact.

Presentation

The art of advanced war. The little we’ve seen of Advanced Warfare looks sharp, if typically Call of Duty. There are visual improvements that take advantage of new console hardware, but more immediately noticeable is the sci-fi future style that pervades everything.

The HUD-free interface in campaign mode imparts information to the player in a more organic way than we’ve typically seen. Augmented reality is what’s key here. Holographic displays deliver all of the vital details, from the ammo count displayed on your gun to the all-purpose grenades with a scrolling marquee that informs you which type is currently armed.

Takeaway

Seeing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in action for the first time gives a clear sense of what Sledgehammer is trying to accomplish with its near-future vision of warfare. The team has a tough balance to strike here in delivering the familiar flavor of action that’s made the series such an enduring success while introducing new control mechanisms that change up the gameplay in not-so-subtle ways.

There are many more questions to be answered before the game bows on November 4 for PlayStation/Xbox consoles and PC, but our first impression after seeing Advanced Warfare in action is that — as first promised — power does indeed change everything.

Gaming

‘Fortnite’ removes the Infinity Blade weapon after player backlash

Following player backlash over the Infinity Blade weapon's inclusion in Fortnite's battle royale mode, Epic Games decided to remove the weapon from the game completely. It was not limited to a special mode.
Gaming

Find the perfect weapon in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' multiplayer with our guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has several different guns to choose from in its multiplayer mode, and they're split across multiple classes. Here's a guide to all of them and when you should use them.
Gaming

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Gaming

Relive Nintendo’s handheld golden age with the 25 best Game Boy Advance games

The Game Boy Advance was the swan song of the Game Boy era. It also happened to have a boatload of amazing games. We decided to countdown our 25 favorite GBA games. Check it out and let us know your favorites in the comments below!
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.
Gaming

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.
Gaming

Kanye West wants to meet ‘Metal Gear Solid’ creator Hideo Kojima, for some reason

Rapper Kanye West wants to meet video game designer Hideo Kojima in New York. Nobody knows the reason behind the meeting, but fans are speculating that it may have something to do with Death Stranding for the PlayStation 4.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!