Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare could be a real turning point in the Call of Duty franchise. It's the first title in the series from young developer Sledgehammer Games, and even critics of the series have had to sit up and take notice after the addition of Kevin Spacey to the voice cast, impressive gameplay demos, and use of exosuits and future tech which aims to change how players play the campaign and signature multiplayer modes. Sledgehammer promises fans an ambitious and creative Call of Duty title, and if it can live up to that expectation, it's exactly what's needed after the disappointment surrounding Call of Duty: Ghosts.
The addition of Sledgehammer Games as a third developer in the Call of Duty franchise was revealed in February, with publisher Activision promoting Sledgehammer from its previous supporting role in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's development. Given the slump in sales for the behemoth series, Activision hopes that this third studio - alongside Infinity Ward and Treyarch - could help turn the fortunes of Call of Duty around, whilst still keeping the yearly release schedule for future titles. Three developers mean each gets three years of dev time instead of the usual rushed two-year schedule.
According to Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, this strategy has gone exactly to plan. Hirshberg spoke with Joystiq at Gamescom 2014, the annual trade show event in Cologne, Germany, and explained that the three-year development cycle was allowing more creativity from the game creators. "That extra year of development time, particularly with the new consoles and the more powerful hardware, has really paid off thus far to iterate, innovate and try new things," said Hirshberg. That third year has given the developers time "to find out which things didn't work and have the freedom to fail in the creative process, so what goes on the disc is the best ideas".
Hirshberg continued by stating that this development cycle allows more ambition from the studios.
"The thing that the three-year development cycle allows is these games have gotten so ambitious, we're packing so many different modes of play onto the disc. The things that started off as flyers, like zombies or co-op became their own whole games".
If it's an ambitious look that Hirshberg wants, then Sledgehammer has been an astute choice. Sledgehammer Games is not a studio that has shied from trying new things with the Call of Duty series; the developer was initially brought in by Activision to create a third-person spinoff of the franchise. Although that project was eventually cancelled, Sledgehammer Games had apparently tried to incorporate some gameplay styles vastly different from what Call of Duty is renowned for, including elements akin to Uncharted and Dead Space.
Sledgehammer Games has promised a lot from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, with a story that took two and a half years to write and the "scale and scope" of four Hollywood movies. The addition of exosuits to the multiplayer looks like it could add interesting dynamics to that traditional Call of Duty gameplay style, but that in itself raises more questions and concerns about how well it ties in to the franchise. It's a fine line between creating a game too similar to previous iterations and overstepping the mark and leaving something unrecognisable. Let's hope the extra year of development has created a well thought out, exciting Call of Duty title.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will be released on November 4, 2014 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.