Activision's first-person juggernaut had been trading on many of the same ideas for some time, and last year's Call Of Duty: Ghosts saw the inevitable slump.
Ghosts was a totally competent package with still-great multiplayer action, however it featured an uninspiring campaign and did little to herald the new generation of consoles. It was fine – but fine doesn't continue to sell tens of millions of copies.
Fortunately, the bounce-back appears nigh: this autumn's Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare represents the biggest shift in the series in ages, including a totally new engine and a far-future setting. For the first time in a while, we're truly excited to see what CoD has to offer.
As well as reading our full preview of the game below, you can jump straight to our hands-on impressions of the multiplayer element right here.
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gamescom 2014 live stream
Want to see Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare in action? Check out the live stream from Gamescom above.
A Grim Future
Recent CoD entries have dabbled with near-future settings, but Sledgehammer Games' stab at redefining the formula pushes things much further – into 2054, to be precise.
The game takes place some time after a massive, global terrorist attack in which nuclear reactors on five continents were all targeted at once. World leaders turned to a private military corporation (PMC) called ATLAS to fight off the threats and rebuild their cities, and in turn granted the company extensive amounts of power.
You'll play as Jack Mitchell, a recent recruit into the organisation who lost his arm as a United States Marine – but lo and behold, there's all sorts of tech available to make up for that missing limb when it comes to dominating the battlefield.
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More after the break...
Power Changes Everything
That is the game's tagline, and it refers as much to the crazy futuristic military tech as it does the appetite of intense ATLAS founder and CEO Jonathan Irons, who sells his company's services to the highest bidder. The good news is that Activision found an actor who can really nail the role: Kevin Spacey, who not only provides the voice but also the likeness, and did performance capture to complete the illusion.
It's been one of the biggest hooks for the storyline thus far, but another is that protagonist Jack Mitchell is the only playable character this time around – a big shift from the rotating heroes of past entries. We're also interested to see how the dynamic works between the rich, powerful guy up top and the well-equipped grunt you play on the frontlines.
Sledgehammer Games worked with a group of futurists to predict what kind of military gadgets would reasonably be available in 40 years, and the results look spectacular.
For starters, how about an exoskeleton (think Matt Damon in Elysium) that enables wearers to jump further, punch harder, cloak themselves, and rip off car doors with ease so they can be used as shields? In early demos, Activision has shown the player punching through a tank, grabbing the driver, and tossing him a dozen metres away like it's nothing.
How about climbing up walls, as if wielding the sticky gloves Tom Cruise uses in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol? That's a breeze too.
Assuming the standard Call Of Duty mission formula remains mostly intact, we imagine a lot of this stuff will be available in certain situations rather than making each stage feel like a playground of possibilities. Still, we're excited to feel the power, even in well-manicured moments.
Also on tap: hoverbikes, grappling hooks, jetpacks, gun-mounted armor suits, and threat-detection grenades that paint outlines on enemies. There's also a mobile barricade that drives in front of you, shifting with your movements and dropping its shield for a moment when you want to fire. And we can't forget the pulsing red laser weapons that are wildly powerful and therefore probably limited in use.
Drones play a big role in Advanced Warfare, too, with the released footage showing insane swarms of them whipping around the environment. That appears to be one of the more inventive threats this time around – good thing you can rip off a car door when you need a makeshift shield.
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