Call of Duty is one of the most well-known first person shooter multiplayer franchises available and the multiplayer component of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been met positively by both game critics and the community alike. I have always wanted to play more multiplayer games and matches, but as someone who does not have the experience and practised skill behind them, multiplayer maps fill me with a combination of nervous anticipation and dread.
There is something thrilling about outwitting, or in this case, out shooting, another person and just too much room for embarrassment and potential ridicule. I looked forward to the co-op options as well as the combat readiness program, i.e. multiplayer for the uninitiated with no scores, hoping these might provide some multiplayer fun with the potential for stress free improvement.
Exo Survival (Coop)
The cooperative game play consists out of four tiers of wave based gameplay that takes place on the multiplayer maps. It is made for up to 4 players. Each tier has four maps and once you have played 50, 75, then 100 matches on consecutive tiers, the final tier unlocks. At level 10 on the final tier Zombie Horde mode unlocks which when completed, rewards zombie themed customizations for your character that can be used in the multiplayer.
Each wave is harder and points are earned that can either be spent on this-match-only upgrades to the exo-suit or on weapons and weapon upgrades. Each wave has an objective and if not completed successfully, it carries a penalty for the next wave, like primary weapon is jammed, the map isn’t functional or the exo-suit has a glitch. These are usually timed, so if you think you’re going to miss the objective, keep one enemy alive whilst the timer starts ticking and eliminate him when the timer is up, thereby avoiding the penalty. There are three difficulty levels that should provide plenty of challenge for most levels of ability.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing the multiplayer maps and it provides a great opportunity to gain valuable experience with different weapons and suit abilities. I would highly recommend the co-op just because it’s fun, with the added bonus of being able to hone your skills and experience a bit more in preparation for multiplayer. The maps are the same, get to know them, find the good vantage points and hiding spots and get to know which weapons work best for you.
The multiplayer looks quite easy at the start, but with many different features that each brings something different to the table, it can get very complicated quickly. The best place to start is the character creation screen called “Create your own operator.” It is possible to choose male or female characters and a selection of cosmetic choices. There is nothing particularly difficult or complicated here and it isn’t a required step to play, but I find that creating my own character makes me more motivated to help them do well.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has a pick 13-system that lets you select your weapons, perks and attachments that suits your play style. Customizable score streaks have also been added, a much talked about new feature. I didn’t find it particularly difficult to find items that complemented how I play, particularly as I played the single player campaign and a few hours of co-op first. There is definitely a lot of room to boost your play style, but at the beginner level, just experimenting with different bonuses and seeing how it works is a lot fun.
Test your weapon
There is a target range to try out different weapons and see which one you prefer. I found it very helpful to try out the weapons first and know exactly what weapon I will have when I drop into a multiplayer game.
Pick a match: Combat Readiness Program
The Combat Readiness program is easy to access with a single button press. I played in the evenings and never spent more than a minute or two waiting to be matched. I did find it difficult the first time. I didn’t know the map, I didn’t the mode, I didn’t know the other players and I had no idea what to do. Thankfully, Team Deathmatch is what everyone is always playing and so there wasn’t much strategizing or cooperation involved in any match I played at the start. After the first evening though, now more familiar with the maps and general set-up, I craved more strategy and less mindless shooting.
I didn’t want either my team mates or opponents particularly more or much less skilled than myself, but without a scoring system, it is very difficult to figure out how well or how badly things were going. There were obvious other newcomers throughout the evening as players dropped in. They walked around aimlessly and mostly got shot within seconds, but a few matches in everyone moved faster and most got a few kills in before getting killed.
It was difficult to gauge how well anyone, including myself, was doing comparatively with no scoring system in place. Personally, I would have preferred a soft score system over no system. It doesn’t even have to track my current ability, but if there was some indicator as to how well I was doing compared to when I would be good enough to play the scored multiplayer, that would be awesome. As it is, there is no clear goal to work towards. I couldn’t tell if I was playing abysmally or if was doing okay. Without the numbers everyone looks at post-match, playing was without the primary motivator and felt rather pointless.
As the goal of playing in the combat readiness program is to improve enough to survive in the competitive multiplayer modes, I found it very frustrating not to be able to track my progress very far beyond a kill count. There is a little pop-out at the end of the match that gives me my own stats, but with nothing to compare it with, it was very difficult to tell if I was making progress towards my goal or not. Some sort of averaging system would have been a great add-on – at least show me anonymously the best and worst stats of the match so that I can work out where I fit in. It is important.
Design and visual accessibility
The call of duty co-op and multiplayer system is accessible to players with reduced or impaired vision. The menu system is clear text against a high contrast background of standard size. There are no flash or flicker in the menu and navigation was intuitive.
The game play was augmented with a voice over of statistics displayed on the screen and although some visual acuity is required in a first person shooter, with burst fire in beginner mode or against an AI, it is still possible to be highly effective even if you can’t see the reticule to get some headshots in. Bonus points may be less due to aiming for body shots, but I don’t think it makes a very significant difference.
It is a first person perspective, but the camera angle is smooth and sensitivity can be adjusted and I did not experience simulation sickness whilst playing, although I did find it visually intensive and needed to take frequent screen breaks. Matches are quite short as as rule, which makes it easy to fit those in.
There is a well designed colour blind mode that make colours used more distinct and easier to differentiate, however colour is used as the only indicator and it would have been ever better if instead of using colour, other elements were added that was not colour reliant.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can be played well without sound. Subtitles are available for all dialogue (turned off by default) and a radial indicator with arrows shows the direction of incoming damage. Game sounds cannot be adjusted individually, there is only one Game Volume slider, but that is a minor detail. Footsteps remain important in multiplayer and there is no visual indicator for these, however there are also abilities that will mask footsteps so that it is not something that can be relied upon all the time in any case. I played mostly with no sound and still enjoyed playing and did not feel as if I was left at a huge disadvantage.
A reasonable amount of dexterity, precision and timely reflexes are required to play, more so than throughout the single player campaign. Going up against other players in particular is mostly about speed, accuracy and precision. It is possible to play within the combat readiness program if these are not your strengths, but I am not sure it is possible to excel in competitive game play unless players work hard at cultivating a game style that play to their strengths (sniping is a good choice if precision comes easy but speed is a problem for example) and ideally, find a friend or two to help out.
Controls are not remappable on the PS4, but multiple different layouts are available to choose from. The vast majority of the game are easy to master and uses one button at a time of the easily accessible buttons like the triggers and analog sticks. Playing with one hand with a PS4 controller would be challenging as both analog sticks are used, one to control movement and one to control viewpoint, but this should not be a problem if playing on a PC.
Vibrate is automatically turned on but can be turned off in the Options menu.
Ease of Use
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer is easy to play with only a few buttons used regularly and a choice of weapons that best suit your ability. The multiplayer is quite complex with many statistics, bonuses and stackable advantages that are customizable, but players ignoring those should still be able to have fun in the combat readiness program where stacking bonuses are less important.
Very little reading is required and essential information is presented on the screen with icons and a voice over. Overwhelm may become an issue and the unpredictability other players bring to the game will be a problem for anyone with autism or similar conditions who struggle with the element of surprise.
The objectives are usually clearly outlined, as is the type of multiplayer mode being played and as long as players familiarize themselves with the options available, the approach is quite straight forward. There is no inventory, no navigation and limited freedom of movement within a small area, makes it easier to participate.
Multiplayer in random groups are usually played without voice chat, but voice chat is available so that when playing with friends it is easier to work as a team.
On a cognitive level, it has some inherent challenges. Some social interaction is required when playing with other people, even if voice chat is not used. There are many unexpected surprises, most often resulting in being stabbed in the back (or shot) and once a certain point is reached, it is vital to understand and apply the various bonuses gained from the exo suit, weapons, gear and score streaks to progress beyond that initial introductory point.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has great potential for beginners to get their feet wet and see if multiplayer matches might be their kind of game. The co-op waves are fun and the cosmetic reward at the end is worth an evening or two or three’s dedication to unlock that reward if you are a zombie fan. The combat readiness program is a great edition, quite accessible, but having some sort of vague scoring system that lets you know where your stats fit in the big picture, would be welcome, particularly if there is also the option to turn it off for those who just don’t want to know.
I found both the co-op and multiplayer quite accessible with a mild visual impairment and some hearing loss, however anyone with a physical disability that has a significant impact on speed and accuracy, will struggle to keep up with other players. I could not find many in-game options that allowed me to make up for my shortcomings by being clever. I can be pretty accurate with a sniper rifle, but I simply take too long. I can move reasonable quick, but I can’t shoot and move. Playing with friends do help. I can snipe whilst someone else is distracting and we can time our moves closely to provide me with the extra second or two I need for a head shot. Similarly, I make a great target whilst to focus on whilst others are flanking.
I have enjoyed both the co-op and the multiplayer matches. The system is well designed and navigating through the menus and lobby has been easy and effective. Playing with and against other people is a very different way of playing than single player campaigns and if you haven’t given it a go due to a lack of self confidence in your ability or fear of embarrassment, these two modes offer a good challenge without any pressure. Everyone expects everyone else to be pretty terrible when playing non-competitively and as the system locks out players who perform too well, there is a safety net against being the person who ends up being shot over and over again a few seconds apart. Try it. It’s a great place to start.
Product: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare | Developer: Sledgehammer Games | Publisher: Activision | Platform: PC (Windows), PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 | Genre: FPS (First Person Shooter) | Players: Single, Coop and Multiplayer | Version: Europe | Release Date: 4 November 2014 |Content Rating: PEGI 18+, ESRB M (Mature)