Making the old new again – Raven’s attempt to push Call of Duty multiplayer into the next generation.

The year is almost coming to a close and people are anxiously waiting for the new line of next-generation consoles. It’s also that time of the year when the next iteration of Call of Duty is going to hit the market and after months of pure fanboyist hatred from the outreaches of space – I’m here to tell you why Call of Duty Ghosts has taken the biggest step in the series.

New Engine. New Toys

It was an early Friday morning and I’m sitting here in some warehouse entertainment place in Redfern, Sydney about to get my hands on with a multiplayer build of COD: Ghosts. Before we started – we had a little presentation about the new features and direction the developers are putting into COD: Ghosts.

COD: Ghosts is running a new engine that is designed to take advantage of different platforms the game intends to release on. Previously, Call of Duty was created on an average level so it will look the same across the board. If you’ve played COD on PC, you’ll notice the lack of difference between the platforms. The new engine allows the game to now scale to the platform it’s on. So if you’re planning to get it on the new consoles like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – you’ll be happy to know that COD:Ghosts will be taking full advantage of the available hardware.

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The new engine also allowed the developers to get more visual and audio details into the game. This is very noticeable when I had hands-on – the visuals are sharper and running a smooth framerate. Sound was much more clearer allowing better pin-point accuracy of where you were being shot from. The introduction of battle chatter also helped immerse the players into game while also notifying them of their surroundings. Not many people online will be as helpful in terms of voice communications so battle chatter will keep notified with distant yells and sitreps allowing you to get an idea where the enemies were. Screams of “Receiving fire down alley” and “Enemies spotted” really helped me decide what route to take or where to aim my rifle. A really helpful feature. Footsteps were also much more noticeable than it was in Black Ops 2 which allowed to judge and quickly flank enemies. It may not be a revolutionary engine in today’s line-up of games but for Call of Duty it was a big overhaul.

Smooth as Butter

One of the major improvements to the COD:Ghosts is the actual movement of players around the map. To make the game more fluid, COD:Ghosts has introduced better mechanics on how the player uses cover and mantles over barriers. It may sound like only minor upgrades but this helps contribute to the faster paced firefights in the game. Mantling over objects feels very Mirrors Edge style as your gun still remains holstered allowing you to easily transition over barriers without that slowdown seen in previous titles. This also allowed you to keep the pressure up as you hip fire while mantling. Similar to the dolphin dive, knee sliding is featured in COD:Ghosts which allows easier and faster transitions into cover.

COD:Ghosts also sees the implementation of a passive cover system which allows players to lean around corners. The lean function helps cover high traffic paths on the maps without fully exposing yourself. The problem though is that the cover system doesn’t snap – it’s automatically forced when you hit a corner or box. This makes it hard to judge whether you’re locked into cover or not as you can accidentally make the wrong move if you’re locked in. I would have preferred to see some sort of indicator or even have a button to snap into the cover so you know what your placement is.

Lock and Load

In the build we tested, the preview only showcased a handful of weaponry we can get our hands on. You’ll see the similar class weapons like Assault Rifles and SMGs make a return but also an introduced ‘Marksman’ class – which fits in between the sniper rifles and assault rifles classes. The marksman rifle unlocked in the build was the Brazilian Imbel IA2. If you have ever played the original WWII Call of Duty and remembered the M1 Garand. The IA2 feels exactly like a single firing Assault Rifle but with a ridicolous range and accuracy. Up close in ‘Close Quarter Battles’ (CQB) – the marksman is harder to tame as the medium to long range Marksman class finds it’s weakness.

Dress to Impress

 There’s a plethora of customisations in COD:Ghosts which will see players create some unique setups. Similar to the Halo series, COD:Ghosts finally allows you to create your own soldier. You can customise your looks with a whole range of equipment such as helmets/headgear, webbing, camo etc. Also as revealed before, COD:Ghosts allows you to change genders as female soldiers are now playable. I wanted my soldier to look like the most aggressive bastard out there so it was excellent to see that I was able to wear a devgru mask and shotgun ammo around my body in an all black suit. Don’t mess with me scrubs.

Support Assets

The similar perk system from Black Ops 2 makes a return in COD:Ghosts as you make a selection from the list till you spend all 11 points allocated. There’s a huge range of perks to choose from which can benefit anyone’s playing style. I like to play fast so my loadout consisted of everything speed and ammunition while others allows you to combine a more stealth or defensive setup. Some perks are more powerful which does cost more points. It took a while to finely tune my perk setup but there’s a lot to try out before finding your ideal loadout.

The killstreak rewards have also been setup (like before) to cater to the type of player you are. The Assault package is made to reward players with the most kills in a single life which unlocks assets such as your very own guard dog who will warn you of nearby enemies and even kill them for you. If you’re not that skilled to chain up kills in a single death, the Support package allows you to unlock things like the Night Owl – a sphere that floats around you pin pointing nearby enemies or the rocket launcher that homes missiles into enemies.

COD Ghost Female

Get Cranking

With the preview build, we were also treated to a variety of game modes introduced into COD:Ghosts. With each iteration, the developers go through hundreds of modes they thought up of and playtest pretty much the crap out of them before finding out what’s good and what’s not. With COD:Ghosts, they added 3 new (so far confirmed) modes called Blitz, Cranked and Search & Rescue. Unfortunately Search & Rescue wasn’t in the build but we did have a lot of fun with Cranked.

Cranked is basically ‘Call of Duty on Crack’ as quoted by the Raven developer during his detailed run through of the mode. It’s Team Deathmatch with a catch. For every kill you get, your character’s speed increases till you’re pretty much running around like a lunatic hip firing everywhere. The other catch is you’ll explode if you don’t get a kill within 30 seconds. This was by far the best new mode I’ve played in Call of Duty. It’s frantic and fast which allowed for some intense firefights that leaves no room for campers. So if you hate people pinging you from their nicely situated corner at the back of the map then this is your game mode.

We also had hands-on with Blitz which was a ‘football’ style game mode in COD:Ghosts. Each side of the maps features a zone where each team must run to. If a person goes into the portal zone, your team gains a point and a timer of 10 seconds counts down before another person is allowed to go through. Sounds fun in theory but not very well executed. It’s easily exploitable and un-fair on certain maps. Playing the defensive side can be tough on some maps as it’s almost near impossible to defend the zone because of the multitude of levels and paths the enemy can take. At one point, I even saw a guy drop from a window to score into the zone. It was frustrating playing it during our session but I would like to see how it plays out once it hits the shelves. So far, I don’t think many will find any interest with Blitz.

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What about the Maps?

Maps this time around don’t feel as symmetrical when compared with previous Call of Duty titles. They are more detailed with many more paths and multi-levels to flank your enemies. They also featured limited destruction which allows players to ‘kinda’ create new plays but overall never saw an opportunity to use them. It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it’s good to see some extent of destruction. Triggered events will also play a role on the maps but we didn’t see any of these occur in our preview build.

Do you buy it?

It’s an obvious yes for Call of Duty fans but returning fans or newcomers (if there’s any) may see COD:Ghosts as an interesting step in the franchise. The visuals are superb and the game much more refined. I would personally recommend it if you’re that person who enjoyed the Modern Warfare series as the multiplayer feels like a solid improvement over that. So far it’s shaping up to be a killer multiplayer title and it’s good too see Infinity Ward and Raven put much more of an effort this time around for an annual franchise. 

Call of Duty: Ghosts arrives November 5th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. It’s available day one of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch.