Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: seen at E3 2014

By Steve Watts, Jun 13, 2014 8:30am PDT

I'm afraid the explosion-to-plot ratio in Call of Duty may be veering wildly out of control.

In a demo at E3, Activision showed off a few of the action-packed stages in the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It had it all: car chases, ripping doors off of cars to use them as shields, teeth-rattling gunfire, cloaking technology, and the coup de grace, the hijacking of a futuristic tank. So why was it all so boring?

I certainly don't begrudge the bombastic action of Call of Duty, but this just became so predictable. Of course the van held explosive drones, and of course they immediately go after the Golden Gate Bridge supports to collapse it. The demo even ended with a character realizing he had foolishly left something not-exploded, only to have another character helpfully chime in: don't worry, I exploded it. Cue boom.

The tools of the shooting gallery look enjoyable enough, and Sledgehammer Games certainly has a knack for both visual and sound design. Bathed in a booming sound system, each gunshot sped off with the ferocity of a real gun. The future they've envisioned seems just a hair's breadth past science-fiction, but not so forward-looking that it becomes believable. To their credit, the idea of technology advancement leading to a new arms war could be an intriguing one.

The studio also made impressive use of the new generation of consoles. Characters look and animate better than ever before, and the sheer scale of the Golden Gate bridge sequence was startling. A short tech demo, presumably not found in the game, used one of the characters to speak directly to the audience about the advances in facial animation, and "he" was right. The facial expressions look fantastic. It even made a point of showing his pupils dilate.

A portion of cloaking tech provided a slight change from the constant firefight, and actually had some tense moments in which our heroes were almost discovered. I do wonder why a soldier with cloaking technology would ever turn it off, since even near-invisibility would make for a huge tactical advantage. But of course, this was for the sake of another set-piece, albeit a quieter one.

Sledgehammer Games is new to the Call of Duty mix, but it appears to have picked up the torch with aplomb. That means adopting all of the series' best and worst traits. Objectively speaking, it's an impeccably designed roller coaster ride. I'm just not sure this ride really thrills me anymore.

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