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Can Call of Duty: Ghosts’ multiplayer keep up with the dynamic age?

Thursday, 5th September 2013 08:41 GMT By Dave Cook

Call of Duty: Ghosts is a static arena shooter in an increasingly dynamic industry. VG247′s Dave Cook quizzes co-developer Raven Software on how it hopes to modernise the format going into next-gen.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts is the tenth core entry to the shooter franchise. It’s coming to PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U on November 5.

The game will also come to PS4 and Xbox One in due course. For this article I played on Xboe One at gamescom last month.

Infinity Ward, Raven Software and Neversoft have teamed up to develop Ghosts, and Treyarch is coding the Wii U edition.

You can check out a behind-the-scenes Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer trailer here.

We’ve also got a batch of multiplayer details and screens from gamescom here.

I was lucky enough to see all of the big next-gen shooters at gamescom last month. Across Titanfall’s bold attempts to shake up the arena shooter format, Battlefield 4′s dynamic Levolution gameplay and Destiny’s sprawling open world scope, there’s a clear and common desire to shake up what it means to be an FPS in modern times.

Then there was Call of Duty: Ghosts.

While there was plenty of next-gen innovation to be found in the muggy halls of Cologne’s Koelnmesse centre, I didn’t see a seismic shift in Ghosts. It didn’t feel like a next-gen leap when I sat down to play it on Xbox One. I think part of the problem is that Activision is now unable to shake-up the Call of Duty formula in its entirety for fear of alienating staunch fans. It’s a tricky situation.

In a bid to add new flavour to the mix, Infinity Ward has introduced dynamic maps, but I was disappointed to see ‘that’ exploding gas station topple the exact same way each time I saw it fall. Similarly, only some walls can be destroyed, and the baseball stadium in new map Strikezone can only be levelled by a special care package reward.

After a few matches it became clear why Activision has refrained from offering total, real-time destruction online. The way Battlefield 4′s environments corrode in real-time with every impact is mighty impressive, but to Infinity Ward’s credit I think if Call of Duty: Ghosts had the same level of decay where a player could tear down any wall they pleased, then it would cease to be a Call of Duty title.

I firmly believe that to take away the static walls and arena nature of the series would be to remove its base appeal, and while it confuses me whenever people decry Activision for sticking to its clearly lucrative and functional format, I agree that something has to give eventually. My gut tells me that whatever Sledgehammer Games has been working on all these years will bring about that big, next-gen change many of you yearn for, but it remains to be seen.

I also have to make clear that I’m not saying Ghosts is a bad game, but it is an overly-familiar experience. If you were looking for a big next-gen leap then you might come away with a sense of deja vu. While in Cologne I asked co-developer Raven Software how pressure from gamers to shake up the format with destruction stacks against the static format that Call of Duty has made its own.

Senior creative director Eric Biessman explained, “Call of Duty, at its core line is, we want you to learn the tactics of a map, we want you to be able to own that map, we want you to be connected to it. So we don’t want to have damage everywhere, we don’t want you to be able to blow up every wall because we want you to know ‘This is how I want to play the map, this is where I want to go, this is where I do really well.

“Additionally though, we did want to offer a little player choice and in some cases a lot of player choice if you’ve seen Strikezone where it totally changes the playing field. But that’s something you have to earn as a care package, you have to protect it as it falls and you have to call it in. So yeah there’s different variances as to how much change there is across all the maps, but at the end of the day we still want players to be able to know a map, control a map and really live a map. Player choice is a huge part of that.”

As a player who loves to run around Call of Duty maps with a light load-out, skirting around corners and screen-burning corridor lay-outs into my mind to help me get the drop on my opponents, I absolutely agree with Biessman’s approach. That said, while the Strikezone map’s big cataclysm is merely triggered event – rather than an organic transition – it does force you to learn two map layouts in the same environment, as the twisted mess that remains is quite different from how the location starts off. For some, this simply won’t be change enough.

I wasn’t blown away by Ghosts from a technical or visual stand-point, but seeing as it’s a cross-gen title you have to assume that there has been some compromise to allow for content parity over current and next-gen format. Infinity Ward isn’t alone in this as many studios are currently facing the same issue, so I asked Biessman for his thoughts on the matter.

He replied, “Yeah, I mean that is a huge consideration and the idea is we want people to enjoy the game. Regardless of what you’re playing on we want you to have a great time. We want it to be fun. The next-gen is coming but there’s still a huge market, there’s still a huge amount of fans that are playing on current-gen or their PCs – their lower PCs – and so we want to make sure they’re able to enjoy the game just as much as someone who’s buying a new system.

“I think that what’s great about the next-gen systems is they open up doorways, especially for us they open up a lot of artistic things that we can push like ACR lighting … I could throw a lot of technical terms at you, but really at the end of the day it lets us push the look. Conversely we needed to be extra careful about – especially in multiplayer where line of sight is important – we needed to be sure we kept it as beautiful as we could push it without breaking that gameplay.”

While you won’t be able to tear down skyscrapers or summon hulking mechs from orbit in Call of Duty: Ghosts, you will find that the map design has been kicked up a notch. The snow-filled Whiteout is one of the biggest CoD maps I’ve played in a long while, and it’s teeming with hidden routes, different layers and vantage points for eagle-eyed soldiers to exploit. Between its run aground ship, cracked ice fields and quaint fishing village, the locale caters to all styles of play from long, medium to close range.

I asked Biessman if this increased scope was indicative of a new design philosophy across Ghosts’ group of co-developers. “Well what we wanted to do was offer a lot of variety to players, so you can see some maps like Whiteout and some we’re not talking about yet that are on the larger scale. You’ll see some like Strikezone [which is] a very close map, so it’s all about that quicker, ‘Where am I going? What am I going to do here?’ I’m glad you saw that as it was one of our goals to offer a good variety of maps.”

Compared to the Modern Warfare 3 map set – which I personally found uninspired – the maps I played were already more enjoyable. What took me by surprise however, was the game’s pace. Ghosts is a fast experience, and I found myself slotted several times while trying to get my bearings. It’s a tough playing field, and this was made clear in new game mode Cranked, which sees your speed increase with each kill. The caveat is that you must get another kill within 30 seconds or your soldier will explode. It’s insane and is guaranteed to make you stress.

Field operations also add tension to each match. When you kill an opponent they’ll drop a briefcase icon. Pick it up and you’ll be assigned a task such as kill two opponents while prone or shoot an enemy with their own weapon. If you succeed you’ll earn a care package that might include anything from a dynamic map trigger to a Sat-Com, which replaces the series’ old UAV system. These challenges add another layer of consideration to how you move and act in the field, making the twitch format more chaotic then before.

With the expanded create-a-soldier system that removes identical avatars from online play, a hybrid load-out system that blends Black Ops 2′s ‘Pick Ten’ system and Modern Warfare 3′s Strike Packages, along with a move away from air-dominating killstreaks, Call of Duty: Ghosts is yet another solid franchise refinement, rather than a complete revision. It’s perfectly fine and enjoyable, but as Activision’s competitors offer new alternatives to tried models, I’m wondering how much longer this can continue. How many more times will players settle for a small step while CoD’s competitors take running jumps ahead?

If you’ve played any game in the series then you already know how the majority of Ghosts handles and functions before you’ve bought your copy. Depending on your own personal take on the series’ iterative, yearly nature, this will either come as a comfort or a grave concern.

On which side of the fence do you lie?

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20 Comments

  1. Lengendaryboss

    Taking on a new IP would be the easy way out they said.

    Bullshit!

    #1 12 months ago
  2. Hcw87

    It’s a bit concerning when the only thing that excites me about the game is the inclusion of Bots you can level up/play against.

    On the other hand, Raven Software made the best Multiplayer game of all time (in my eyes) in Soldier of Fortune 2, played that game for years on the original Xbox.

    #2 12 months ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @2 Yeah I have big respect for Raven. Singularity was a decent game. Would have loved a sequel.

    #3 12 months ago
  4. KTF26

    a lot of people buy the console to play Call of Duty only
    they don’t care about other games

    *don’t get me wrong
    i’ll never play COD again

    #4 12 months ago
  5. MidlifeAxe

    They had a huge opportunity moving into next-gen to do a lot of things, but they didn’t. It’s a shame, really.

    #5 12 months ago
  6. viralshag

    I don’t think it’s that big of a deal right now as it will be slow shifting the majority over to the next-gen consoles. I think the real risk is if one of the other contenders steals their spotlight.

    Titanfall could be a potential but that’s not on all platforms. Destiny will be popular but I doubt it will have the same following as a COD/BF game. I think BF will still appeal to the smaller crowd.

    #6 12 months ago
  7. Max Payne

    I think cod will look same as long as they support current gen.
    And they will support it , for long time.

    #7 12 months ago
  8. aaron_avelino

    “My gut tells me that whatever Sledgehammer Games has been working on all these years will bring about that big, next-gen change many of you yearn for, but it remains to be seen.”

    Finally someone who noticed Sledgehammer Games next project! I’m hoping too that their CoD will be the true next gen CoD since Glen and Michael are both great devs :)

    #8 12 months ago
  9. silkvg247

    So will this game serve as a good introduction into the COD franchise for a COD virgin?

    #9 12 months ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @9 From what I played it’s really hard, and I play Call of Duty a lot. The pace is unreal.

    @8 Yeah I have a lot of time for those guys too. I’ve met them both a few times now and Glen particularly is a no-bullshit kind of guy. Always get a frank interview from him. I’m keen to see what the studio is doing.

    #10 12 months ago
  11. MCTJim

    I do like CoD..but with the last incarnation, I lost interest really. He wants us to be able to own the map, hold certain points down..well you really cant. When you learn the choke points and how far you can push on the other team you dont go over that boundary. If you do the opposing side will spawn behind you…the last incarnation..guys just spawned randomly..I mean if you are holding down an area and no one gets by your team, how the hell can someone spawn behind you? Fix the spawning areas so the game can once again be enjoyable. I cant speak for this new game, but with each incarnation this sticking point has become worse and worse.

    @Dave, do we have how many people can be in a lobby yet…a numbers total..like 16v16 or something for multiplayer?

    #11 12 months ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @11 I don’t think it was finalised in the build I saw unfortunately. If I find out I’ll update you :)

    #12 12 months ago
  13. MCTJim

    @12 Thanks Dave….I hope they let more into lobbies when playing multiplayer so its not ground war core style. When we play we usually have to sub out so the rest of our friends can play.

    #13 12 months ago
  14. Biscuitpants

    if its anything like mw3 then they can fuck off, mw3 by far the worst cod in the series, they should aim and try and make the pace of the game like mw2 and less mw3

    #14 12 months ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @14 It’s the same pace as Black Ops 2. Relentless.

    Actually, I’d dare say it’s actually faster.

    #15 12 months ago
  16. bradk825

    I think until previous consoles become nearly unused, which is going to be a few years, some franchises, COD included, will remain cross-gen.

    As long as they remain cross-gen, I don’t expect to see the “big next-gen leaps” because that forces them not to use current-gen hardware.

    Personally, I enjoy CoD multiplayer and I like the improvements over time. MW3 is a bad example, as they made few updates and the maps really were nowhere near as good as previous entries (especially following Black Ops) but for the most part there have been some nice changes each year to keep it fresh. Can I say I will never tire of the formula? No, I can’t say that, but it’s lasted longer for me than many others.

    I am hoping to see them shake things up considerably more when they make their first game that does not launch on 360/PS3.

    #16 12 months ago
  17. SplatteredHouse

    @17 Where I am with CoD is, that I still think MW(1) is the superior game. Yes, the following games built on it sideways, but the gameplay was better in CoD 4. MW2 was, if not a descent from grace, certainly a high-profile instance showcasing the perils of augmentation. MW3…I enjoyed the campaign.

    I just felt that there were so many bits to the multi by then, and their evident conflict with Battlefield (attempting to lure players from that game, by leaving me with something that I would be fired up to play, about 20-30% of the time – or, alternatively, grim queue times…) was introducing unwelcome elements to the game, that I didn’t have much care for in my CoD experience.
    But, yeah, if someone can cook up MW1 maps, and they can be used with Ghosts’ bots, then that may be a tantalising mix.

    I still want to see Crash, Overgrown, Pipeline (with possibly reworked interiors to the sheds) and to a slightly reduced extent, Vacant, on rotation, and there are a few of the later maps I liked: One set all across an Airport, which harked back towards Goldeneye 007, in terms of layout and map flow, at times; and another, Favela, where you were in a multi-tier South American town dashing down narrow streets and through/between residential buildings.

    Another super one was the nuke silo – “Countdown” (map with circles of blast shields for mid-cover, large sheds) it’s name I think – really good mix of play, and the fact that you really need to move carefully, with your eyes open. It was really good at emphasising the value of teamwork. You had to watch out for snipers!

    #17 12 months ago
  18. Mjorh

    After playing BFBC2 n BF3 ,this franchise looks like shit 2 me !
    BF is superior :
    64 players (CoD 18!)
    Huge maps
    Incredible graphics
    Vehicles
    Jets , Helicopters
    Diversity in gameplay which ain’t boring !

    Btw since MW3 this franchise was dead 2 me !

    #18 12 months ago
  19. silkvg247

    @10 I’m from the era of twitch shooters like Q2.. fast doesn’t bother me. Prefer it to camping playstyle.

    #19 12 months ago
  20. DSB

    Cheeky Titanfall reference there :P

    Something tells me shooters are in for a real wake-up call in March.

    #20 10 months ago

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