Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is one of the finest online multiplayer first person shooters around, and I still find myself going back to it months after release, even if the selection of maps and guns is getting a bit stale by this point.
Which is why the game’s first DLC pack, Havoc, which launched on PlayStation platforms last week, is coming at the perfect time, with four new superbly designed maps showing off Sledgehammer’s ability to take Call of Duty to the next level. These maps will probably feel familiar if you’re an avid online shooter fan, with shades of Destiny and Titanfall reflected in two distinct maps, and the others bring back Call of Duty memories as they riff off Treyarch and Infinity Ward to create some new, yet familiar, designs.
Firstly, there’s a new gun in the form of the AE4, which blends old and new together perfectly, feeling quite similar to the SCAR but also featuring a cooldown rather than a straight-up reload. It’s very accurate, allowing you to shoot across the map easily without losing that fully automatic draw. With essentially unlimited ammo on what is already a powerful gun, it does feel a bit unbalanced and overpowered, but it also doesn’t get too annoying when used against you.
Personally, my favourite map – as well as the public’s favourite, judging for the strong votes in its favour every time it appears – is Sideshow. Part Wild West homage, part clown-covered motel, this will remind fans of Treyarch’s brilliant Nuketown map from the Black Ops games, as two distinct sides do battle with a trailer truck in the middle. Except that this time there’s an even bigger lot around the back, with bridges and plenty of cover to flank around.
Core is quite similar to some of Destiny’s greatest maps, which really isn’t a bad thing at all. This sandy, rusted scrapyard of ideas is filled with plenty of close-quarters action all of the time, funnelling players to centre stage for some superb shootouts and objective modes. It’s in contrast to Urban, which features two long flanks down either side and a selection of buildings in the middle, feeling more like a Titanfall map as a result.
Then there’s Drift, which doesn’t quite reach the height of the others, though remains very good map in its own right. This map channels Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare and Ghosts designs in a festive ski resort. There’s an avalanche during play which changes the landscape somewhat and acts as a hazards, which is one of the best ideas on show here.
These are, to put it simply, some of the best downloadable maps we’ve seen since Modern Warfare’s Variety Map Pack. Each feels unique and fresh, even if there are comparisons to older maps, and that’s definitely due to Advanced Warfare’s exo abilities genuinely shaking up the series for the first time in years.
Those exo abilities also extend to the other part of the DLC too. Here we see zombies return, although this time they’re former Atlas henchmen and have been transformed by a bomb meant to end the war. So, obviously, it’s up to a cast of characters including the likenesses and voices of John Malkovich, Rose McGowan, Bill Paxton, and Jon Bernthal.
What follows is cheesy, badly-written dialogue, pointless character traits, and some self-aware nonsense as you fend off hordes of zombies and sometimes their zombified mutts as well. Gone are the wooden barriers – we can only assume that’s a limited resource in the future – and in come lasers, care packages, and other security systems to defend yourselves from the undead, who can now come equipped with exo suits.
Those exo suits make them harder to avoid, as they leap towards you or up a platform to where you stand, and as the rounds go on your foes will become more formidable. Of course, you’ll unlock more of the area and pick up stronger guns too, as well as grabbing your own exo suit with upgradable abilities. As ever, it’s all about surviving as many waves of zombies as possible, and beyond the zombies having exo suits, it doesn’t really deviate from Treyarch’s tried and tested formula. It’s just a shame they’ve stuck to having only one map per DLC pack, as a second one would really be welcomed to launch this new mode in full.
The Havoc DLC pack only serves to push the notion that the biggest change in Advanced Warfare comes with the exo suit and its abilities. The new maps are designed for fast, high flying action, as you dart around the maps more than you would in previous games, with multi-level objectives on show. And then the exo zombies doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but will please existing fans. Overall, though, it’s a great bit of content which signals a strong future for Sledgehammer’s Call of Duty titles.