Game Reviews

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Ascendance DLC Review

by William Schwartz

At first glance, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s second bout of downloadable content seems like more of the same.  Ascendance indeed features four new maps, a new weapon, and episode two for the Exo Zombies mode, but changes within that content and the addition of a new ability that allows players to use a grappling hook, really make this second DLC feel like the first big expansion for the shooter.

This new DLC for Advanced Warfare does follow a similar pattern to the release of the Havoc DLC from earlier in the year.  Core modes are front and center, with Core Team Deathmatch and Mosh Pit options available within the dedicated playlists for the content.  Those looking for Hardcore modes will need to jump into a Hardcore Moshpit which features other maps as well.  Something entirely new is a grappling hook playlist, which allows players to use a grappling hook as an Exo Ability, allowing players even more freedom of movement than before.  While this second set of four new maps are certainly an improvement over what we saw in Havoc, many of them were built with this new grappling mechanic in mind, meaning their are parts of the map that are much easier to access with the new ability.


There’s a good mix of small and large maps in Ascendance on the competitive front.  Climate, a man-made enclosure has players fighting through a circular map that has a center island area that plays well for objective modes like Domination.  Around the island there’s water, but during the match it will turn to poison, killing players who dip their toes in.  There’s some cool effects here as well.  Dead fish float to the top of the pool, something small, but still pretty cool nonetheless and showing that Activision is still paying attention to detail on these new maps.

Another small to medium sized map is Perplex, which feels like one of the taller maps that’s even been released for a Call of Duty game.  This modular structure is multi-tiered, and a perfect map to use the grappling ability on.  Perplex works well with the regular Exo boosting abilities as well, but watching players zip around the complex with their new modifications it’s pretty clear that this map was designed with the new ability in mind.  Chop Shop, a medium sized map that plays mostly within interior structures in a black market exo skeleton industrial complex is probably the least ambitious of the four.  Though the map streak can throw some strategy into the mix, giving players a repulsion turret that looks awfully familiar to what we saw in Black Ops 2.


Site 244 is the biggest map of the bunch, and probably the best looking.  Set at Mount Rushmore, Site 244 takes place on the crash site of a spacecraft.  Debris from the massive ship is strewn across the map, with interior structures being part of the vessel.  There’s a lot of variety in this map, so you can bring just about any type of weapon or play style to Site 244 and do well.  Long sight lines, elevated positions, or narrow jagged paths, this one is a lot of fun to play.  There’s also quite a bit color with most of the wreckage on fire, as well as cargo crates that contain some sort of foreign substance that glows green, exploding into a cloud when shot.

The four maps are a lot of fun to play in any the modes, and it’s nice that Sledgehammer already added these new maps to the Hardcore playlist.  The Grappling Playlist is going to be an acquired taste, the new mechanic feels like it ups the speed of the game yet again.  Giving players the ability to zip all over the map and use the Exo abilities can be quite chaotic. The grappling hook is only able to be used on the Grappling Playlist, but working surprisingly, we wonder whether Sledgehammer will add any of the other maps to this list down the line.  A new weapon, which has been live for Season Pass holders for a while, is pretty fun to use.  Considering recent weapon balancing that increases player movement speed when using Heavy Weapons, the OHM is a pretty viable option, especially in Core Modes.


For those looking for more cooperative fun, Exo Zombies mode really feels like its coming in to its own in Ascendance.  While the same core gameplay is found in this DLC, an even more diverse group of areas in this content, traps, and actual enemy types make it feel better than the first offering.  You’re still looking to survive, and to do it you’ll be opening doors, turning power stations on, grabbing weapons, upgrades, and finding an Exo Suit to better your odds.


The big difference is that episode 2 feels more varied than the first, and much larger. There are more zombie types first off., with many having different effects like spewing acid or electricity. Certain rounds will also see survivors surfacing that need to be escorted to a getaway spot, which if successful, will earn you upgrades for your weapon. Survivors spawn randomly, so each round can play out differently if you want to get that upgrade. You’ll need to hold out at the getaway point while the survivor is lifted to safety.  It’s not a huge change to the game, but it’s something to mix it up, other than just throwing more zombies at the equation.

There’s also a nice variety of environmental traps, like a crocodile that will snag zombies caught in the sewers and help you out for another round.   A zombie with Goliath armor drops into the map during round 10 to give the mode something that feels like a boss battle, which the first episode could have used.  All in all, Exo Zombies’ second offering is probably what needed to arrive with Havoc.  Throwing these actors into something that was as boring as the first episode just doesn’t seem right.

The Verdict

Ascendance is a good DLC pack for Advanced Warfare, and hopefully we’ll see more of this going forward.  The competitive maps are fun and varied, and the grappling playlist is an entirely new way to play the game.  Exo Zombies got the shot in the arm that it needed, feeling less sterile and more fun.   With two packs to go for Advanced Warfare, we’ll see what Sledgehammer has up their sleeves for the second half.



Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

  • Available On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC
  • Published By: Activision
  • Developed By: Sledgehammer Games
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: March 31st, 2015
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Seeing improvements in all facets and some unexpected inclusions, Ascendance is a good DLC pack for Advanced Warfare. Hopefully we’ll see more of this going forward."
Review Policy

The Good

  • The new grappling ability is fun and useful
  • Zombies mode improves

The Bad

  • More playlist options at launch would be nice
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