Call of Duty has a particular feel to it that you can't find in many other games. There's a sense of speed about it you just don't really find elsewhere -- you move, aim, shoot, kill, die and respawn quickly. The reason the series is enjoyed by so many people worldwide is because you're only ever moments away from being in the middle of a fantastic firefight, and because it's easy to pick-up-and-play.
After spending half a day playing Call of Duty: Ghosts, I can tell you two things: it's getting faster, and, more importantly, it might also be getting more complex.
When your movement isn't speeding up thanks to perks or the game mode (more on Cranked in a little bit), you're traversing maps quicker thanks to faster vaulting and knee sliding. If you press crouch while sprinting you'll slide along the ground on your knees, which would add “Nasty Gravel Rash” to your fictional soldier's problems post-match -- but might at least let them see
Meanwhile, adding complexity to your game are things like the auto-lean system -- move to the edge of a wall and right-click/left trigger for your iron-sights and you lean around the corner automatically. This seems simple, but what it does is make it even easier for players to camp corners -- highlighting IW's curious approach to combatting their number one challenge, campers.
Map events, which change the landmarks of a level, will also make the game harder to master for new players. On some levels, like the urban Strike Zone, the entire map changes once a player triggers a K.E.M. Strike -- the basic layout of the area is familiar, but the map is very different. The K.E.M. Strike itself is only earned by completing one of the game’s new additions -- Field Orders.
When First Blood is drawn, the fallen player drops a briefcase -- if you run over the briefcase you acquire Field Orders, a brief meta challenge designed to force you to think about how you kill your next enemy. It's an interesting element, because the challenges aren't terribly difficult -- "Kill 2 Enemies While Crouched" or "Melee Your Next Enemy" are things you might have done anyway -- but with it painted as an objective on your screen, you run the risk of over-thinking yourself into a quicker-than-usual demise. As an aside, "Humiliate Your Next Kill" refers to Tea-Bagging (or Taco-Bombing, for the ladies
) a downed opponent.
It's a great way to get people playing just a little bit outside of their comfort zone -- the only time I usually pick up someone else's gun is when I'm out of ammo on my primary, but I'll grab one immediately if it's a Field Order. That it leads to the sometimes game-changing care packages is simply an added bonus.
Not all Map Events change the map completely -- some are... underwhelming. On the desert level Octane, which features two highlights -- a fuel station and a strip club -- the player can blow up the fuel station, collapsing its roof and changing a few routes throughout the map. The way the roof of the fuel station comes down is underwhelming -- if we learnt anything from Zoolander, it's that fire and petrol stations have explosive consequences, but this universal truth is not present in Ghosts.
The game modes can also increase the complexity, if only because Infinity Ward has tweaked some classics to make things more interesting. Search and Rescue, for example, takes the dog tags system from Kill Confirmed and puts it in the Counter-Strike-esque Search and Destroy -- the twist here being that if you deny a kill by picking up a teammate's dog tags, that team member will respawn instead of sitting out the rest of the round as they normally might.
It's an interesting change, as it makes longshot kills a riskier proposition and puts an even greater emphasis on teamwork. Better teams stick together in close tandems to try to keep as many players in the fight as possible -- buddy system strategies were already naturally forming even at the Ghosts event -- and a last minute revive of a player could lead to the sort of comeback they make Disney Sports movies about.
Blitz is an interesting zone capturing mode, most immediately similar to Capture the Flag, except instead of grabbing a flag and jetting back to your own, players simply enter the other team’s Blitz zone to capture it and find themselves teleported back to their starting area. The zones never move, but upon capture they go offline for 10 seconds. You can't chain six quick caps together almost instantly, but if you time it well you can still keep up a steady stream of capping.
If any game mode combats complexity, it is Cranked -- a game mode which takes inspiration from the Jason Statham movie of a very similar name. In Cranked when players get a kill a countdown timer begins, in 30 seconds time, the player will blow up. The only way to avoid this death is to kill again. And again, and again.
It's not all bad though. To facilitate your newfound bloodlust you're given a speed boost. When Cranked you sprint faster than ever, allowing you to get from one side of the map to the other extremely quickly. Beyond these basic elements the mode is simply Team Deathmatch, but the addition of the speed boost and timer add an element of recklessness to the game you don't see in T(e)D(iu)M. Camping simply isn't an option when Cranked, so those with a more sedentary playstyle will either have to deal with killstreaks of one or step outside their comfort zone.
Cranked really is the embodiment of the ideal Call of Duty spirit -- it's as fast as possible, it's about moving constantly and it willingly sacrifices realism in favour of fun wherever necessary. It's also exceedingly simple to pick-up-and-play, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Cranked spend a lot of time at the top of the most played modes list.
Ghosts' character customisation is pretty easy to understand, taking many cues from Black Ops 2's Pick 10 system. Create-A-Soldier begins with you customising your appearance -- cosmetic elements like your helmet, face, camo and gender are all defined by the player now instead of randomly generated.
Afterwards, you put together your loadout -- typically selecting a primary, secondary, grenades and specials, though you can sacrifice any of the latter elements in favour of more Perks. Following the weapons loadout you get to pick your Perks -- and here you have eight points to spend (or potentially 11, if you give up everything except your primary). The Perks on show at the event were all favourites from previous games, letting you remain hidden from SatComs (the new UAV), Sprint longer or reload faster -- it would have been nice to see something new, but those who need to know if they can run silently can rest assured that it's in there.
After putting all of this together you will have a complete soldier, and that soldier will add to your Squad. Squads bleed into a brand new AI-focused multiplayer mode for Ghosts which sadly wasn't being shown at the reveal event -- this is where the coop Survival and Spec Ops type missions will exist when the full game comes out.
Call of Duty fans will get a lot out of Ghosts -- the typical buzzwords like 60 frames and 1:1 controller movement and all of that don't really get my motor running, but things like melding Kill Confirmed and Search and Destroy most definitely do. Still, during my playtime yesterday I noticed that Fire Rate still appears to be the king weapon stat, and while I didn't get to see all of the perks or weapons that will be available in the final game, I'd be disappointed if the P90 with Rapid Fire wound up being a top tier weapon again
Otherwise, I don't have a lot of concerns for Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer. Cranked is the perfect mode to let players familiarise themselves with the occasionally changing maps and elements like Field Orders, and through it Infinity Ward buys themselves the space they need to up the complexity elsewhere. Ghosts multiplayer is a game created by a team no longer burdened by the spectre of having to 'live up to' Call of Duty 4. As a result, Infinity Ward has used this freedom to breakdown and rebuild Ghosts in the game's own image, and the results -- so far-- are great.
We'll have even more Call of Duty: Ghosts-related content coming from this event and Gamescom, so stay tuned.