Along with the return of players-versus-bot multiplayer, Advanced Warfare introduces the wonderful Combat Readiness Program, a mode where people who really suck at Call of Duty multiplayer can anonymously feel better about themselves.
There's no voice chat. There are no names -- soldiers are labelled either 'Friendly' or 'Enemy'. Not all of the participants are human. At the beginning of each Team Deathmatch round a number of bots and human players are randomly distributed between the two teams.
Players are given a batch of pre-made loadouts to choose from -- no worrying about building your own -- and shuffled off to war, like young children on the way to school.
Remember back when competitive first-person shooters were relatively new and we were all learning how to fight? The Combat Readiness Program is exactly like that.
- People standing still to shoot? Check.
- Unloading an entire clip of ammo on an enemy standing right in front of you and not killing them? Check.
- Getting shot at and not even attempting to get a bead on who is trying to kill you? Check.
- Sniping from an incredibly obvious position for the entire round, no matter how many times you're killed there? Check.
- Camping corners you think are blind while an enemy stands off to your side and watches you for several seconds before killing you? Check.
It can be quite beautiful, playing with other players who are just as clueless as you. I played for an hour on Sunday, enjoying myself thoroughly as my more 'hardcore' nephew looked on, offering sarcastic praise. "Oh yeah, you're doing great. That's totally impressive."
The mode gives players every opportunity to excel. Undeserved Killstreak rewards are doled out like candy, giving them a taste of the success they might not ever find otherwise. The medals flow like wine, only wine that disappears once the round is over -- none of this really counts.
But the Combat Readiness Program is better defined by what it lacks than what it offers. There are no organised bands of crack players, wiping the floor with the inexperienced. If you see a group of enemies together, it's probably just a coincidence. There's no one to laugh when you fall off the map for the third time in a single round.
Even that Call of Duty staple, the end-of-round chart of shame, is replaced with a summary of the player's performance, encouragingly highlighting new records. Were these kills bots or real players? Who cares, I killed some things!
The idea is that a new player can train in the Combat Readiness Program, becoming comfortable with gameplay before trying their luck at the brutal world of true online play. That's a nice thought. I think I'll stay right here, thanks.