Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – The Next Generation of Call of Duty
Written Wednesday, August 14, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Love or hate Call of Duty, you have to respect what the franchise has done this generation of consoles. Year on year, not only is it the biggest video game release in terms of sales and what not, but in the space of five or so years, it's propelled itself from a much-loved first-person shooter to become the biggest entertainment release of the year. It's a humongous franchise, and that's mostly down to its multiplayer. The pick-up-and-play, fast-paced action has not only got its fair share of core gamers sinking hours into it week after week, but it's been a huge hit with the mainstream masses too. Here we are then, on the vanguard of a new generation and today attention worldwide turned to Call of Duty's next-generation offering, and we went hands-on with it to see how it was shaping up.
The foundations that remain the core of COD's next-generation offering can be boiled down to three simple mantras: it's about your soldier; your world; and the fact that you can now take COD anywhere. You could say the latter was possible when Elite was thrusted upon us a few years back, but with Ghosts more has been done to allow players to have a second screen function accessible to them, allowing them to change loadouts on the fly, ready for your next spawn and what not.
Infinity Ward's approach to 'Your Soldier' is multifaceted. On the one hand, players are able to fully customise the look of their online character now, being able to choose their gender, change their head and body gear, etc., something Infinity Ward says is not purely cosmetic. We'll see whether that's the case in due time. Then on the other hand, there's the 'Squads' mode, which is also now tied to Call of Duty's famed prestige system.
Squads is a single-player/co-operative/competitive facet in Ghosts, broken down into various modes with hugely differing objectives and criteria from one mode to the next. You could be playing in a 1 vs. 1, Squad vs. Squad battle, pitting you and your squad against someone else and their squad – the AI is said to have been vastly improved too, with them able to slide and the like with their loadout even affecting how they play – or Safeguard – a 4-player co-op mode that is inspired by the wave-based Survival mode – or even Squad Assault, which is a 6-player co-operative mode, pitting you against an elite squad of computer-controlled AI representing someone else's squad. Just taking those three modes as an example, the diversity is already plain to see, and there's a load more modes to be announced too.
Your squad though? How is that worked out? Well, quite simply really. Instead of simply prestiging in Ghosts and restarting afresh with your character - losing all your progress in the process - now you prestige while keeping all your progress, but subsequently unlocking another member for your squad, which you can then prestige again to unlock another character, and so on and so forth. Being able to have a squad of up to 10 players now means you can prestige 10 times, effectively. You don't have to wait to prestige either to unlock your next soldier, you can use the points you unlock as you level up to unlock them too. Obviously, the more you play, the more you unlock, the stronger your squad becomes.
Let's breeze though a few important updates right now, otherwise this'll end up being longer than War and Peace! Ghosts is set to introduce 20 new killstreaks, 7 new game modes, 30 new weapons, now has dual render scopes, deathstreaks stay dead, it now has less air-based strike packages and more ground-based ones to make things a tad more tactical - like the dog sidekick, which is awesome when you unlock it - it introduces more perks and even a new weapon class: the Marksman, which is said to bridge the gap between the assault class and the sniper class. Think of Call of Duty 2's M1 Garand, that right there is what they're shooting for, and our hands-on with the IA2 Marksmen rifle concluded that was the case.
Speaking of perks, there's even a new way to select them, with them now being attributed a points value of 1-5 and players are given 8 points to spend on them – think of something akin to Black Ops' 'pick 10' – or 11 if they sacrifice a secondary weapon.
So what's changed on a minute-to-minute gameplay front? Well, Ghosts not only introduces a contextual leaning system, which actually works rather well, it also allows players to perform a knee slide going from stood up to prone, and has a new mantling system, allowing players to fire while they mantle. The new contextual battle chatter is a simple but rather effective addition, allowing you to get an update from the opposing team's character without them having to say anything as a player, i.e. “there's someone over by the totem pole.” Handy, and surprisingly effective.
We went hands-on with multiple new maps and modes, some of which show off the new dynamic map events, whether that's bringing down the gas station in the Octane map, or someone triggering a strike package in the Strikezone level, which then turns the map from a rundown set of interiors to a smoking shell of its former self. It's Call of Duty's first attempt at some level of destructible environments, and while it's some distance from being able to match Battlefield, it's definitely a worthwhile addition.
In terms of modes, we went hands-on with your usual team deathmatch fare, as well as the new mode, Search and Rescue, and when we say new, we mean tweaked version of Search and Destroy, which allows for respawns, provided a teammate picks up your dogtags before the opposing team does. It definitely promotes tactics and teamwork more, which can be nothing but a good thing, right?
The most notable game mode we went hands-on with though was Cranked, a mode obviously inspired by the movie action-fest, Crank. The crux of it is simple: once a player gets a kill, they are blessed with improved speed; the problem is, if they don't kill someone else in the next 30 seconds they explode. Quite literally. Kill someone though and it'll extend the timer. It's quick, it's frantic, it's a little bit mental... in a good way, of course.
In terms of maps, we managed to go hands-on with three maps: Strikezone, set near an abandoned baseball ground in San Diego with thin corridors and plenty of abandoned food carts to hide behind; Whiteout, an arctic map of sorts, with wooden cabins galore, a few caves and a shipwrecked boat stuck in the ice being one of the focal points; and Octane, a dusty map with a gas station primed and ready to be blown up, plenty of varied interiors, like a club, and lots of battles amidst abandoned cars in the main gangway of the map. They're all rather enjoyable maps, with nothing too far removed from the traditional Call of Duty formula, but the dynamic map events do actually make all the difference.
So how is it? Well, it's more of the same and then some, but that's kind of what we all expected. The new destructible aspects of the map do add a new depth to Call of Duty, perhaps the likes of that we've never seen before, and the new handling mechanics means the gameplay is even more fluid than ever. It's ripe full of new features that extend from character customisation all the way to second screen functionality, but the minute-to-minute gameplay is largely unaffected – and that can be said between both this gen and next-generation versions of the game too.
Activision is quite clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place though: if they change it too much they'll have the rabid Call of Duty fans biting at their heels, and if they don't change it enough they'll have the cynics declaring “I told you so!” It's a no win situation for Infinity Ward and Activision if we're being perfectly honest, but let's put it this way; it's the most fun I've had with a Call of Duty multiplayer game in quite some time. Take that how you will.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is scheduled for a November 5th release on the Xbox 360 and PS3, with a launch date to be announced for next-generation consoles.
Check back on Friday for a smattering of gameplay videos. Watch us fail - and sometimes perform - triumphantly on all three maps.