New Call of Duty finally addresses major esports concerns

The newest iteration of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been pegged as a "make or break" title for the series' future in competitive gaming

Image via Activision

The newest iteration of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been pegged as a “make or break” title for the series’ future in competitive gaming. After a multiplayer reveal earlier today, it’s clear the game’s developer, Sledgehammer, is listening to the fans. Advanced Warfare’s is bringing a slew of gameplay changes that should make it a much better esports title.

The rapid development cycle of the Call of Duty franchise has always been challenging for the title’s esports community. Yearly releases, changes in game mechanics and weapons, and the disparate commitment to esports between developers has left the players and fans staggering from great titles to bad and back again.

Call of Duty: Ghosts, in particular, has often been derided by professional players, despite its inclusion in competitive events.

“Call of Duty: Ghosts is the worst Call of Duty in the franchise,” prominent community figure and team Optic Gaming member Matt “Nadeshot” Haag said in an interview with Redbull Esports. “Collectively everyone realizes that this is a game that doesn’t have a lot of longevity.”

Since the announcement of Advanced Warfare, competitive players and esports fans alike have been waiting with baited breath. Frequent rumblings about Sledgehammer’s commitment to esports helped stoke the flames.

My source told me that @SHGames plans to have good e-sports support and good post launch e-sports support. That is what they want to do! 🙂

— Drift0r (@Drift0r) March 4, 2014

Early play-tests by professional players were also positive.

I got to go to @SHgames for an eSports inside look… #AdvancedWarfare is something to be extremely excited for! Minds about to be blown!

— RayRay (@Rambo_nV) May 31, 2014

Sledgehammer also made frequent appearances on Reddit to solicit feedback from the competitive community, including a large Q&A thread where players were openly requested and discussed.

Today, Advanced Warfare showcased several features that suggest that Call of Duty’s future could be brighter than ever. For one, it’s now introducing the game modes Hardpoint and Capture the Flag, requested specifically by fans due to their compelling competitive play. Familiar game modes like Search and Destroy and domination were also included in the reveal.

Advanced Warfare will also feature a new broadcast mode and LAN lobbies. Broadcast mode allows commentators to spectate the action, pulling up camera angles and statistics on demand. LAN lobbies allow players to connect and set up games on a local network connection, meaning competitions can run with virtually no delay between player input and in-game action.

It’s not clear how a few other new play types might pan out in competitive play. These included Uplink, in which two teams must fight for possession of a satellite relay in the shape of a ball, and guide it to their opponent’s floating, spherical goal to score.

Most notable, however, is that Advanced Warfare will improve on speed and mobility from previous iterations. Player characters now possess “exo-suits”, which give them a whole range of abilities, from better jumping and dodging to floating, partial invisibility, and powerful new air-to-ground melee attacks. Sledgehammer’s team commonly referred to the “verticality” of Advanced Warfare, noting that this would open new dynamics in multiplayer. Haag was enthusiastic about the changes:

The change in movement speed and the pace of the game will definitely create a wider skill gap in #AdvancedWarfareMP

— Nadeshot (@OpTic_NaDeSHoT) August 11, 2014

Competitive teams were also pleased to see the inclusion of a ranked playlist and league play. Both of these arenas allow professional and casual players alike to match with players of their skill level, making practice time more valuable for competitive teams.

While Sledgehammer didn’t mention esports-specific features by name, today’s reveal showed the company is listening to the competitive community. For fans and competitors alike, Advanced Warfare represents a breath of air for a title in desperate need of it.