November has arrived once more and with it comes another iteration of the Call of Duty first person shooter franchise. Given the disaster that was last year’s Call of Duty: Ghosts on the PC is there any reason to be optimistic about Advanced Warfare. As it turns out there indeed is. Activision has added a third development house to the effort in the form of Sledgehammer Games. The idea seems to be that the last few CoDs had issues because the developers (Infinity Ward and Treyarch) only had two years to develop their respective titles so by adding a third publisher they can now devote three years to development per studio and still put out a new CoD every year. In theory, having a third year should allow them to polish the game till it’s flaws are few and far between and Sledgehammer is the first studio to have three years to get it right. So do they?
If you’ve been reading SEB for any length of time then you already know I’m a huge fan of the Call of Duty series from Activision even if I have been somewhat disappointed with a couple of the directions the series has taken with its multiplayer game. The fact that CoD tends to be one of the games I play the most in spite of whatever disappointments I may have with it says a lot about how much I love the series. The last iteration, Call of Duty: Ghosts, was from Infinity Ward and it showed that the company hasn’t completely recovered from the loss of its founders and the subsequent mass exodus of top talent that went with them (they started a new company called Respawn Entertainment and put out Titanfall). It’s also clear that having two companies develop a CoD game every two years (Infinity Ward and then Treyarch) wasn’t leaving either company with enough time to really polish the final product.
That’s why this year’s game is coming from Sledgehammer Games who will be the third company producing CoD games from now on giving each team three years to work on their title and ensuring Activision still has a CoD game to put out each fall. Activision just put out a reveal trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare showing a bit of the plot from Sledgehammer’s debut effort:
OK, they have my attention. Kevin Spacey appears to be playing (what I am guessing is) the villain for this next incarnation and the plot revolves around the growing using of Private Military Contractors (PMCs). Spacey’s speech alone has me wanting to play through the campaign. Activision also teamed up with the folks at Vice to put out a short video on PMCs and how they’ll be the focus of the next CoD:
While I am excited by the reveal, there’s still a lot of reasons to be hesitant about Advanced Warfare. The first is not knowing what engine they’re using to run the game. All CoD games run on variants of the same engine ever since the first one was released, but with Ghosts they tried to rewrite major chunks of it and ended up with something that only ran really well on a handful of hardware. When I first started playing Ghosts I was running it on a Radeon HD 7770 and the start of every level/multiplayer map had at least 10 to 30 seconds of lag because the video card was struggling to cram it all into the 1GB of video RAM it had. When I upgraded to a nVidia GeForce GTX 760 it started running smooth as silk. That’s in spite of the fact that people I knew with even better video cards were still having issues with the game. Much like the Call of Duty app from Beachhead Studios, if you don’t have a specific set of hardware then you couldn’t expect Ghosts to run all that well on your system.
The engine in this trailer looks a lot like the one used in Ghosts and being Sledgehammer’s debut CoD game it wouldn’t be surprising if they just made use of what was already on hand. After all, Treyarch’s World at War seemed to take the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine and just re-skinned it for the WWII setting. Treyarch has since developed the engine quite a bit on their own and it actually feels different than how IW’s engines feel when you play their games (enough so that I know of CoD fans who won’t play Treyarch’s versions of the game). If AW is using Ghosts’ engine then I hope Sledgehammer has used the time they’ve saved in doing so to really polish the hell out of it so it’ll run well on a wider spectrum of hardware. The player count for Ghosts on the PC dropped quickly after launch and now, six months later, you’re lucky if there’s 2,000 players in-game during the weekdays. Hell, there are days that Black Ops II and even Modern Warfare 3 have more people playing them than Ghosts does and I think that’s largely due to how little hardware it runs well on.
Still, it’s hard for me not to get excited at the prospect of a new CoD game from a new publisher who will be bringing their own ideas to the series. The plot for AW is certainly intriguing and they’ve obviously attracted some big name talent to the voice cast. It’s also clear that it’s a good looking game based on the trailer. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the multiplayer given how customizable loadouts in Ghosts became. I’m eagerly looking forward to the multiplayer reveal in the months to come.