As much as I respect Treyarch for carving out their own niche within the series, aiming for frantic Zombie horror and looking into its crystal ball for the future of military tech, Infinity Ward will always be my personal Call of Duty A-team. Even after the franchise visionaries left the studio in a huff, I found that I had played more of Modern Warfare 3 than I had Black Ops 1 and 2 combined. Something about Infinity Ward's entries feel snappier, quicker, more instantaneous. That still rings true in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
I have to say up front that Activision paid for my travel and lodging, allowing GameRevolution (and some of our sister sites) attendance to the massive Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer reveal event this week. I have to say that because, while I've already been kind of critical about Ghosts and how little the addition of female soldiers matures the franchise, I'm also incredibly excited by the game and the changes Infinity Ward has promised, iterating further than I had expected on gaming's juggernaut first-person shooter.
Why did I expect less than Activision has promised? Probably because Ghosts is the first "original" title in the series since 2010's Black Ops from Treyarch. Infinity Ward finished its Modern Warfare trilogy in 2011 and maintained more than it added in the final entry of the sub-series. MW3 had a wave-based mode that pit you and friends against relentless enemy AI, but that felt a lot like Treyarch's Zombies mode, and therefore a little too safe. Modern Warfare 3 was so safe that many gamers anticipated a fourth Modern Warfare title that returned to Soap and Captain Price.
As usual, multiplayer in Ghosts still pushes combatants to rack up as many kills as possible. You'll have your choice of perks, from those that increase your running speed to those that increase your defense against enemy explosives. There's still a perk that allows you to hide from enemy radar scans and it still comes with a little ninja icon to denote the added stealth it offers. You can equip your gun with a fancy red dot sight and you can chose which red symbol appears within. You can swap your gun's paint job for fancy digital patterns or the typical blend of earthy browns and grassy greens. Despite those similarities, Ghosts pushes Call of Duty multiplayer forward by offering scores of interesting tweaks on existing modes, in addition to the standard rebalance of perks, equipment, and assorted weaponry.
Perhaps above all others, the new Cranked game mode exemplifies the way Infinity Ward hopes to push the franchise forward. Cranked operates like a standard team deathmatch where two teams spawn and respawn hoping to rack up enough enemy bodies to win the game. Where it diverges from your standard TDM is in the persistent countdown clock that starts after your first kill. Eliminating one enemy player gives you increased speed and enhances the rate at which you can bring your weapon up to aim-down-the-sights. To balance this, you'll have to continue fighting aggressively and earn at least one kill every 30 seconds, or else self-detonate and respawn with less-than-superhuman speed and ability.
Cranked effectively eliminates campers from Team Deathmatch altogether. You can't sit in the back of the map with your sniper rifle waiting for someone to spawn. Maybe in the first 10 seconds after a kill, you can crouch and peak around corners, but eventually it'll dawn on you that 20 seconds might not be enough time to find another opponent. We also played another entirely new mode called Blitz that we're not allowed to talk about in detail until Gamescom.
Standard modes like Search and Destroy and fan-favorite Domination are returning, but they've also been tweaked into new modes as well. Search and Rescue plays just like S&D except now you'll have to collect your enemies dogtags after killing them (as is the case in another returning mode, Kill Confirmed) or else risk allowing that player to respawn should one of their friendlies pick up those tags. Again, camping out in the back of the map as you might be accustomed to in S&D won't work because the enemy team can continually respawn after collecting their comrade's tags. I can only guess at how Domination will be changed.
Flipping frame by frame through the multiplayer trailer Activision released, you can see other modes titled Infected, Hunted, Safe Guard, and Grind, all of which I'm completely clueless about. Even if new weapons and perks don't impress you, Infinity Ward have certainly pushed themselves to invent new types of competitive play that just might capture the Call of Duty fan base and replace TDM or Domination as a favorite.
What's more, lots of changes have been made in the way players will traverse over terrain, with a big focus on maintaining momentum where appropriate. If you're lifting yourself up to a ledge from a dead stop, you'll recognize the animation and weight from previous games, but sprinting and mantling over a low wall will continue your speed going forward. It feels fluid and intuitive, even if the sliding maneuver doesn't. Sprinting and then holding the crouch button in other Call of Duty games allowed players to dive to prone, but the same inputs will allow you to slide to cover in Ghosts. I tried this mechanic several times unsuccessfully, but possibly because I'm so accustomed to the dive.
Players can also lean around cover by way of an automatic animation that senses how close you are to the level geometry when aiming down the sights. To test this for myself, I equipped the lone sniper rifle available for use and attached an ACOG scope to it so that the range would shorten from long-distance to somewhere in between long and mid. One of the maps featured a high-traffic area in the middle with semi-trucks for cover. Standing at one end of a semi, I could peer around each side with perfect lines on the alleys each truck formed against the rest of the level. Pretty soon, I had made a target of myself for the enemy team, but by leaning around cover I was able to survive entire magazines of ammunition emptied in my direction.
Infinity Ward promised even more new stuff for Call of Duty during yesterday's presentation, including a Squads mode that pits all of your custom characters against those of another player (among other options for interacting with your Squad and those of other players), but I'll write more about that in a separate post because so much is theoretical at this point. We'll also have more on what makes Call of Duty: Ghosts a next-generation game, no matter which system you play it on, soon.
While much of what was promised this week remains to be seen, Ghosts does enough to the formula to keep things fresh and leaves enough the same to scratch the itch longtime fans have for the series year after year. We'll have to wait for November to know for sure, but Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg called the game's release window an unspoken international holiday, "Call of Duty Time," and I'm inclined to believe millions will take the necessary vacation days off to celebrate privately.
But what do you want to know about Call of Duty: Ghosts? I got over three hours of hands-on time, so it'd be impossible to capture every detail in this preview. Simply ask your question (about the event or the game) in the comments and I'll answer over the next week.