Call of Duty’s Bid to Stay on Top

Chris Watters checks out Call of Duty: Ghosts for the first time and sees how its competitive multiplayer suite aims to straddle the console generation gap.

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The next generation of consoles is nigh upon us and like many big games this fall, Call of Duty: Ghosts is releasing on both current and next-gen platforms. This puts the developer, Infinity Ward, in the tricky position of delivering equal experiences to consumers on both platforms; any perceived differences beyond the expected graphical gap are likely to be judged harshly in the court of public opinion. Infinity Ward must up their game to keep the venerable franchise relevant on the new systems without outpacing the aging hardware of the old ones.

Modest changes aren't going to cut it. The newly announced Cranked mode throws more fuel on the fire of the already frenetic action by amping up players' speed when they get a kill and then sticking them with a 30-second countdown; if they fail to notch another kill in time, they explode. Search and Rescue combines the tension of the respawn-less Search and Destroy mode with the dog tag collection from Kill Confirmed, creating a battlefield where teamwork is even more powerful. While these changes make for exciting matches, they are ultimately small variations on the theme, incremental tweaks to the action that players have enjoyed for years. At today's multiplayer event in Los Angeles, however, Infinity Ward and Activision revealed a few bigger steps that they are hoping will preserve Call of Duty's relevance--and dominance--in a changing world.

A New Engine

Just because it's on the same consoles we've had for the better part of a decade doesn't mean there isn't room to squeeze more out of those old systems. Infinity Ward has developed a new engine to power the speedy, silky 60 frames per second that the franchise so proudly touts. With baked-in technologies to make guns more realistic, textures more lifelike, and lighting more dynamic, this new engine aims to boost the visual fidelity of the action, even on the current gen.

It also creates some extra wiggle room to do things that Infinity Ward hasn't done before. Player customization was a big focus of the multiplayer debut presentation. For the first time, Call of Duty will allow players to design their own soldier by choosing from a variety of uniforms, helmets, face models, skin tones, and genders. This may seem like little more than playing dress up with dolls to some players, but a more visually diverse army will be a welcome changes to the randomly generated homogeneity of Call of Duty.

And it's not just about looks. Scoped-in players will now have some blurry peripheral vision to allow them increased situational awareness, thanks to a "dual render system." Furthermore, the new engine allows developers to add in dynamic events on multiplayer maps that open up new tactical routes, cause strategic destruction, or rework the structure of the level entirely. Similar events have been happening in online battlefields for years, from the environmental changes of Gears of War 3 to the destructibility of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. If Ghosts is going to carry the standard for the franchise into the next generation, it's going to have to build on the dynamic elements we've seen already in this generation.

Reaching Out to Veterans and Newcomers Alike

Ghosts introduces a new loadout structure which allows players to purchase multiple soldiers for their profile. Each soldier will level up independently and have their own loadouts; time playing with one does not benefit the others. This is meant in part to replace the prestige system. Rather than wiping your unlocks when you hit a certain level, you can preserve your kitted-out combatant and move on to a new soldier.

Aside from the obvious benefit of letting you keep all your goodies available, this system fuels the new squad play modes. In one such mode, a player faces off against another player in a five-on-five match. Each player only controls one soldier on their team, but the rest of the team consists of the other soldiers in his or her profile. You determine the loadout for your teammates and then the overhauled AI sends them into the field with a corresponding set of tactics. In another mode, you team up with other human players to take on an AI squad that someone has kitted out and placed on a map and mode of their choosing. You and your AI squad can also take on other AI squads if you prefer to be the only sentient player on the battlefield.

Growing the player base is more important than ever for Call of Duty as the new consoles tempt lapsed or new players into to world of gaming.
The squad system seems poised to offer something new to both veteran prestige-seekers and folks who haven't prestiged at all. Fighting alongside the soldiers you've put a lot of time into customizing seems like a cool way to keep all your progress relevant, while facing off against only AI provides the kind of accessibility offered by combat training mode in Black Ops. The pressure of online competition could be significantly abated when you know you aren't facing angry backlash from enemies or allies for a subpar performance, and this could be the kind of welcome that reluctant players need to enjoy the competitive action. Growing the player base is more important than ever for Call of Duty as the new consoles tempt lapsed or new players into to world of gaming.

Building on Treyarch's Innovations

In last year's Black Ops II, Treyarch reinvented the way loadouts work with the pick 10 system. Pick 10 was a great way to inject some life and flexibility into the aging loadout system, and Infinity Ward is taking what Treyarch did and applying it to an overhauled perk system. Perks are now assigned a numerical value from one to five based on how impactful the development team judges them to be. Players have eight points to work with and must calculate how to best spend them. Selecting a suite of perks to complement your play style is nothing new, but the flexibility carried over from Black Ops II should make for more diverse battlefields (especially if players opt to leave a weapon or two behind in favor of more perks).

Another Treyarch concept that Infinity Ward has made their own is COD points. Appearing only in Black Ops, this currency allowed players a certain degree of choice over what guns they unlocked, rather than setting all players on the same unlock path. For Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward is introducing squad points and removing the tiered restrictions imposed by COD points. Now, all a player needs in order to unlock any gun they want is enough squad points to pay for it.

These two iterations move player customization towards a more open, flexible model, creating some breathing room in a system that has long thrived on the tightly restricted doling out of rewards. Changes like these help these systems branch out further from the family tree. The fewer elements that remain largely unchanged from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the more it feels like Ghosts is actively plotting its own course, rather than simply riding on the coattails of its predecessors.

Bridging the Gap

Though players will be limited to playing only against opponents on the same console or system (as is appropriate, given the gulfs in processing power), Ghosts will bridge the gap between the console generations. Progress you make for your squad members on the PlayStation 3 can be transferred to your PlayStation 4, should you decide to upgrade (ditto for the Xbox 360/Xbox One). This is done through your Call of Duty account, which is a step up from Call of Duty Elite. All the stat-tracking and loadout customization options from that premium service will be carried over, along with the ability to continue progress within a given family of consoles. Of course, it'd be even better if you could carry that progress across console lines, but only time will tell if Activision is able to negotiate such a technological--and political--feat.

The fewer elements that remain intact from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the more it feels like Ghosts is actively plotting its own course…
Call of Duty is also keeping up with next generation trends by offering all of this data tracking, customization, and social media sharing through an app. This so-called "second screen experience" is developed by Beachhead Studio, the folks responsible for Call of Duty Elite, and includes such additions as a touch-based emblem editor and the ability to select, in-game, the loadout for your next respawn.

The app also contains a broader metagame called Clan Wars. Host to the robust clan system that aims to stoke the fires of competition, Clan Wars takes data from clan matches and uses it to inform a game of territorial conquest. Every two weeks, clans of comparable skill are placed in a group and challenged to fight over territories by playing different game modes in Ghosts. At the end of the fortnight, clans are awarded unlocks and other virtual goodies for successful conquests. Between Clan Wars and a partnership with Major League Gaming, organized competition is clearly a big part of Call of Duty's bid to stay on top of the heap in 2014.

This is a challenging year for developers, especially those working on yearly franchises, and it seems that Infinity Ward had this in mind when outlining their vision for Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer during the reveal event. The next generation of consoles holds the potential to be very disruptive for the reigning titan of the FPS genre, and it'll be interesting to see what new elements Activision chooses to focus on at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany next week, and in the months leading up to the November 5th release of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

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Written By

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Y

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Discussion

219 comments
pyro1245
pyro1245

cod cod cod meh meh meh. all these modern warfare games are meh. we need more sci-fi shooters or something. This genre is getting stale.

UKFX
UKFX

I love the BF series, and I've skipped many, many COD games over the years, mostly because I kept rebuying the same repainted works. However being away from the COD series means I haven't repeatedly bought the same thing anymore so I may go back. Reason? I got the Humble Bundle for PC and BF3 is great, but ORIGIN, O...M...LORDDDDDDDDDDDD, the worst piece of software to grace the planet. It is forgotten about, it is bare, it is buggy, downloads barely work and EA couldn't give a rats ass about it. This is seriously pushing me away from BF4. I don't care if it's got tanks, if I have a bug filled client and game that uses a browser and a seperate friends list (Battlelog vs Origin friends, so stupid), then I might not even get it.

COD on the other hand, graphics aside... not much of an innovation there, but if they can not be dicks this time round and actually add dedicated servers, then I will probably go for that.

Note I played MW2 on PC earlier first time in years. First room I went in, there was a hacker called... "Ghosts"... invulnerable, didn't appear on the list.... reminds me of how it was like when it was popular. So as I said before, since I've had such a long break from the series, if they add dedicated servers, I'm in. They've got me sold. EA can only blame themselves for not giving a shit about PC players. Their client is a chidlish response akin to "well if we can't deliver DLC ourselves, you're not having our games on Steam, na-na-na-n-na-naaaah" and it seriously shows.

Shame really, BF4 itself will undoubtedly be fantastic fun, but as BF4 gets more arcadey, though it is still way larger in scale than the COD franchise, unless they update that horrid client I'm not going anywhere near it.

To me, it is now down to either of them to do something right. Fix the Origin client, or announce dedicated servers for Ghosts. First one to achieve that wins my pre-order.


specter1890
specter1890

no thanks I'll just keep playing BF3 on my PC...brb 64 player servers...can't wait for 4. They are BRINGING BACK COMMANDER MODE FROM BF2 YEAAAAA BUDDY.

DullJackel09
DullJackel09

THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Techtroll
Techtroll

The matchmaking without delicates servers sucks not to mention the horrible connections to hosts every other game so called billion dollar franchise gives no shits about its customers and fans

TitanPolaris
TitanPolaris

Call of Duty is the Madden of the FPS genre. People will buy it regardless of how bad or contreversal it is these days.

It is a game that is so engrained in the American gaming culture now that it is a in my opinion, a indestructible franchise like Madden, because of the notoriety of the CoD brand. American gamers will buy it because of the name alone, no matter now bad it is. I just hope that a new comer can at least challenge CoD like Battlefield, because Activision is getting lazy with CoD, and the franchise is getting to be Madden in terms of having gamers under it's spell in terms of buying the game and hatred for the brand. If Call of Duty had the competition that it had when CoD 1 came out when it was against the vaunted Medal of Honor Franchise at that time, it would be an even better game than it is now, in trems of overall value for the money us gamers spend on our annual CoD fix.

jt3ldp
jt3ldp

what Eminem song is that?

Ramon Gonzalez
Ramon Gonzalez

No lie this looks more promising than black ops 2 ever did hopefully they do a good job and hopefully they remake COD4 in next gen so we can get a serious massive multiplayer game again COD4 was the best online game that cod has no care package none of that bs just uav airstrike and chopper simple straight to the point and fast

Garry J Maidment
Garry J Maidment

2007? nah, maybe 1998. but not 2007. don't give it more praise than worth.

Lukas Kristijonas Šalkauskis
Lukas Kristijonas Šalkauskis

I bought MW3 to play online with friends. Some time passed, most of them got bored and quit the game. I had to do the same because I can't babysit all those 12 year olds that play it! FFS.

murderek
murderek

Battlefield fans don't want unrealistic features such as leaning around corners, shooting while mantling, grenade cooking and dual render scopes. : P

Okay.. all kidding aside.. As a fan of both Battlefield and CoD, I have to say that Ghosts has a lot of great new features. The improved mechanics, squads, new game modes, etc. Not to mention that the maps looks great so far and my fiance can finally play as a chick. Ghosts is going to be badass and that's why the haters are so mad. Well.. that and because they have no lives.


Elann2008
Elann2008

I don't know.. I'm indifferent.  Call of Duty has been consistently, well... "Call of Duty" for as long as we know.  It will have a monumental moment where it could surprise the rest of us that haven't bought into the whole thing. Maybe one day, they will try new innovations, push for better graphics, but hell.. what am I even talking about. COD exists so that Battlefield could grow.

Thanks to it, Battlefield players and those that have joined it recently are there because of the jaded yet warranted perception of the Call of Duty franchise.



howiex89
howiex89

What is really annoying is not that it looks pretty much the same, even with the new engine. No the real annoyance is that I'll probably still buy this, yet I'm not sure why. It's no way near my favourite game but I suppose we all want an hour of mindless gun action, and as its so popular its still the only game which I can guarantee I'll be able to play alongside my mates. Okay maybe I did have a clue as to why after all that! 

reanor2
reanor2

So another COD4 type of multiplayer, whats the POINT? Thats why I dont buy shooters any more. They are all the same!

homeless_bob
homeless_bob

cant wait to noob tube all the homeless_bobs lol meaning i hate campers!!!!

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

they say new engine, it REALLY looks like COD 4 to me with nicer lighting.

zeusbark
zeusbark

Right now I'd rather play Hello Kitty adventure Island than a CoD game. I'm that sick of the franchise

zeusbark
zeusbark

I'm personally tired of Call of Duty, maps are to small, tactical action is very limited (everybody just runs like a chiken with his head cut off), Head shots don't kill people, f***ing Xbox getting the DLC one month before everyone else. I think I'm gonna pass on this one.

Bryjoered07
Bryjoered07

Just read on wikipedia, (not sure if this is accurate), but this game was originally said to have a new engine. They later clarified and said it was the same engine with "significant" improvements. THIS is why it looks the fucking same. FUCK these lazy fucking pieces of shit. SAME ENGINE SINCE COD4!!! GOD THIS COMPANY BLOWS DONKEY DICKS!!!

Wahab_MinSeo
Wahab_MinSeo

PC, Xbox One & PS4 will have the new Ghosts engine features
But For PS3, Xbox 360 & Wii U Will Have The MW3 Engine with new features it also follow some little bit from Ghosts engine.

labub_007
labub_007

same shit every year.... but who cares gonna play it anyway!!!

Gaz Mole Mason
Gaz Mole Mason

Dont get me wrong the multi-player, if you like fast action and competition then it does the job well, but is it next gen hell no.. there is nothing new here,

DarthLod
DarthLod

I have an idea. How about these stupid repainted rehashed COD/Battlefield/MOH game developers all get together and make one game per year, and stop with the CONSTANT MILKFEST OF THE SAME GAMES OVER AND OVER AGAIN? I am sick of seeing these all the time and the hype related to them I can't believe people actually BUY these.

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

I haven't bought a COD since Black Ops and MW2 but i bought those because of friends. Otherwise i haven't truly cared about the franchise since MW1. Dedicated servers on PC...50 people. On Shipment. Fuck yeah.

This one is actually looking to shape out well and i love the idea of the squad based modes as i am a teamwork person when it comes to shooters(unless we are talking Unreal then i am a dick).

But the main thing keeping me from investing after so long is no dedicated servers. Host migration will continue to be an issue and will ruin matches all dam day. And if am doing stuff with teamwork that is vastly more annoying.

So even if it ends up being the best COD ever that i would enjoy, no dedicated means no buy.

Or buy later cheap and play on cracked dedicated servers worldwide. Hell ill host one myself.

Btw what i mean by being a dick on Unreal is that i was REALLY dam good with the Biogun(slime gun). Ya i was THAT guy. Which every Unreal vet hated. Deal with it.

MVan86
MVan86

Personally I think it's a bit of a mixed bag.

Ghosts MP does look solid, potentially fun and doesn't seem to have totally on its laurels

...But once again the focus is clearly on the same old stuff - player appearance (even more so with 'squads'), killstreak items, perks, weapons, and how people get those things.

Yeah there's been some gameplay innovations with 'contextual leaning', 'dynamic events', knee-slide and mantling ...But all of those things have already been done by others - even 'contextual leaning' : Killzone 3 had a similar, button activated, mini-cover system - and overall done better.

Meanwhile necessary changes haven't been made;

~ The grenade indicator has still not been updated - yeah okay it used to be a class leader but by today's standards it is horribly imprecise. 

~ "Aim down the sight" still looks to be a heavy focus - sorry but come on if I'm firing an assault rifle at you from point blank range I'm gonna hit and kill you regardless of if I'm looking down the sight or not.

~ No real sign of an effort to keep perks, killstreaks and weapon attributes from unbalancing matches - aside from moving UAV to the more easily destroyed Sat Uplink.

~ No mention of work to improve the mismatches that can be created when working out teams for a match. 

Darkfall_05
Darkfall_05

GTA V + BF4 + Ghosts = Shitloads of cash.

This title should be "Call of Duty’s Bid to continue it's manipulation"

I'll be getting Ghosts for the 360. Boy will I be pissed if it is noticeably worse than the PS4/One versions.

GERMANY21
GERMANY21

Ok , now Im playing Blackops2 multi player and when the other version comes I will play it I mean Modern warfare 4 oh sorry  The Ghost ! FPS is FPS add  or remove some features is not really make difference !

MathLarose
MathLarose

COD is like the wheel, its been rolling since and will go on and on for years to come : )

Josiah Norton
Josiah Norton

Trust me. I wont..but im entitled to my opinion. So I gave it

ZProtestTheHero
ZProtestTheHero

This reveal reminds me of an episode of South Park "Simpsons Already Did It"




CptJohnnyRico
CptJohnnyRico

remain on top..... COD lost the throne long ago

playaflyin
playaflyin

@TitanPolaris Not me i canceled my 360 and xbox one preorder of ghosts because of no air support. Im not gonna get a stupid dog that barks over and over. Cod is junk without air support.

BrainFart01
BrainFart01

@jt3ldp its off his new album coming later this year. im sure its on youtube by now

Bryjoered07
Bryjoered07

@murderek The realism of cooking grenades IS debateable. The general consensus among the milatary community is no, in the heat of battle you do not cook the god damn grenade you just throw it. the other features are realistic, but NEITHER are realistic by any means to be perfectly frank.

Bryjoered07
Bryjoered07

@howiex89 That's just it man, I feel like most hardcore gamers haven't truly loved the experience since MW2, but we still buy it anyways. All of our casual gaming friends like it. We buy it even though we hate it. It's ironic that we want them to change it up when our money tells them not to every year. Thus is the nature of the consumer/producer relationship though.

Bryjoered07
Bryjoered07

The single fact that this company is so fucking god damned lazy and can't even build a new engine after COD4 in 2007 makes me furious!!! There have been 6 Call of Duties since then god damnit!!!! You know why? No matter what they do, how bad the game looks/how bad it actually is millions and millions will still buy it! It's the best selling game every god damn year without even trying, how could you even ask for a better situation in you're Activision? The least they could do is throw a bone to some of us smart hardcore gaming consumers once in awhile. But no, they shove their tired product in our faces every year and say "$60 more dollars please :)" and that's b4 all the RIDICULOUSLY overpriced map packs. FUCK YOU ACTIVISION!!!!!!!!

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

@MVan86  

You know you can kill from the hip pretty easily. You dont need to aim down the sights, it just helps.

jonnybutler11
jonnybutler11

@playaflyin @TitanPolaris really, is that the reason to quit cod? no air support? of all things to be angry about with the yearly releases... I disagree strongly but I believe there actually will be air support killstreaks so idk what the matter is

IncisionX
IncisionX

@Bryjoered07 @murderek Well technically, yes you can cook grenades in real life but as you say, no-one would really dare to ever do it or risk it.

I'm also hyped for Ghosts, adding most features I would have wanted.

jonnybutler11
jonnybutler11

@CptJohnnyRico @dono14 To corporations sales do make a game. Why do you think Activision rehashes the same crap each and every year? Because it works. Unfortunately, COD is still king, and I'm always on the fence between wanting the damn franchise to fail already (which it never will because the COD community has the insight of an eight year old, oh no wait) and hoping they actually improve it this year because with all of my soft-core friends buying it I'll probably invest my own 60 bucks and a good 30 hours of playing