Before I begin, let me note I have been a critic of E:TW and CA alike for a while now, and this game has completely renewed my faith in both CA and the Total War series alike.
The graphics, simply put, are stunning as they can be. The soldiers no longer are clones, the maps no longer look extremely generic and uninteresting, and the particle effects are spectacular. I actually enjoy looking around at the beauty of the map now! Also, soldier faces look excellent. They no longer resemble mutant demons like they did in Empire.
The uniforms do look a tad bit cartoony in my opinion.
Everything about the sound is better now, and I first noticed it at the menu. I was literally awestruck at how spectacular the music was. In Empire, we had some faint trumpet noises and the like, but in this, we have a full-fledged symphony! The music is very good as well, especially when compared to Empire.
The bantering among the soldiers is also a great new feature. The soldiers actually chat among each other at random (in their native languages of course, so no Russians chatting in English or anything), and they say a wide variety of things, from general chat to screams of panic. This may seem a bit insignificant, but this feature is revolutionary to the TW series itself. Before, in all games, it felt like you were throwing armed mannequins at each other until one side gave up, but now, soldiers actually have personalities, so it feels like you're leading actual troops rather than plastic Army Men figures. The fife music was beautiful, and I actually enjoyed listening to it.
The AI, both campaign and battle, is much better overall. It still has its faults at times, but it acts well. It holds it lines, flanks, and puts up a good fight. The campaign AI also acts better and is more active.
A grand improvement over Empire and now my second most-favourite TW game (second to Rome).