Call of Duty: Ghosts – from the outside looking in

By Stace Harman, Wednesday, 2 October 2013 14:52 GMT

Call of Duty: Ghosts’ twitch reflex world tests Stace Harman as he braves multiplayer to learn about squads, assault packages and Riley the dog’s penchant for mauling baddies.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts is developed by series creators Infinity Ward and set for worldwide release on November 5. It will also be a Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch title.

Ghosts adds a new lean feature to the console version, activated by aiming while in cover, it also adds the ability to slide on your knees and into a prone position. Because that’s cool.

Some of Ghosts fantastical single-player elements are rooted in reality, according to Activision community manager Dan Amrich.

If you’re feeling spoilerific, you can find the full list of CoD: Ghosts Xbox 360 achievements through here.

Meanwhile, Infinity Ward exec producer Mark Rubin recently made some sweeping statements about games created by smaller teams.

“The more time you put in the better you get at it,” assures an Activision rep, echoing every art teacher from my school years. I’m unconvinced.

For me, trying to ingratiate myself with the Call of Duty cool kids makes me feel like I’ve turned up to the party sporting a Sailor Moon costume only to find it’s not fancy dress after all. Nonetheless, on I plough in order to discover what new multiplayer elements have been added and which have been taken away, as Infinity Ward continues the never ending search for the perfect multiplayer storm in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Like FIFA, Call of Duty’s multiplayer component feels like a numbers game, where modes are tweaked, stats are balanced and features that are important one year are left by the wayside the next. As a case in point, new this year is a host of additional customisation options, allowing for 20,000 combinations of get-up and the long-overdue introduction of female soldiers.

There are also 30 new weapons and a whole new weapon class, the Marksman rifle, which is based on the M1 from CoD 2. This last brings with it the L115, which utilises Infinity Ward’s dual-render tech meaning that you maintain peripheral vision while aiming down the sights; just don’t be foolish enough to try to use it in a built-up deathmatch map where opponents with more appropriate close-quarter weapons lurk around every corner.

The Perks system has also been overhauled and has moved to a points-based system in which you spend points on a mix of Speed, Handling, Stealth, Awareness, Resistance, Equipment and Elite skills.

The example load-out that senior community manager Tina Palacios is packing features a speed perk that allows for simultaneous running and reloading, a stealth option that nullifies the new standard ability for opponents to see where on the map their teammates were killed, and an expensive elite perk called Deadeye. This last is slightly terrifying as it boosts damage dealt for every consecutive kill and means snipers can drop you stone cold dead with a simple body-shot after a just a couple of unanswered kills.

The manner in which skilled players are rewarded for being skilled makes sense in private matches with friends where everyone you’re playing against is of a similar skill level; especially as the most expensive skills will only be obtainable by players that invest a significant amount of time and effort. However, in public matches against feckless opponents like yours truly this could further tip the balance in favour of the omnipotent.

What’s more, Death Streaks have also been removed so players that die several times without managing a kill in between no longer receive a boost to help them on their way. According to Palacios, Death Streaks proved unpopular with many players but their removal will surely serve to further compound the misery of the downtrodden.

Dog soldiers
Perhaps inevitably, given how prominently he’s featured in Infinity Ward’s promotional material, Riley the wonder dog will also have a role to play in multiplayer. Coming as part of the tiered Assault Package, Riley acts as an audible warning system when opponents are near and doubles as a vicious flurry of teeth and fur if they stray too close. If you die while he’s by your side he’ll even try to avenge your death. Bless.

It’s a novelty, certainly, but it also feels like a bit of a gimmick. If only because by reducing him to a perk in multiplayer it lessens the attachment felt to him in single-player, in which he acts as a valued member of the team. Having players shooting at him isn’t likely to earn Activision a place on PETA’s Christmas card list, either.

”For me, trying to ingratiate myself with the Call of Duty cool kids makes me feel like I’ve turned up to the party sporting a Sailor Moon costume only to find it’s not fancy dress after all.”

The final two big changes to multiplayer are Squads and Call of Duty ID. The former sits outside of standard multiplayer and allows you to choose six of your ten customisable soldiers to form an elite squad, outfitted with whatever perks and load-outs you see fit.

You can then lead your team against a squad of bots, rope in up to five friends to go co-op or pit your squad against that of another. It adds an Ultimate Team element to proceedings and will undoubtedly facilitate a pleasing degree of tweaking as friends attempt to adapt their own squad to exploit the weaknesses of the other.

Meanwhile, Call of Duty ID helps ease the transition between current and next gen versions of Ghosts by offering an effective and intelligent multi-generation solution. In essence, it’s an online save file that allows you to download details of your customised soldiers created in a current gen version of the game to the next gen version upon its release.

Palacios gives the example of playing on PS3, visiting a friend who has a PS4 and being able to play against them with your customised squad, earning experience as you go. Then, when you return home you can re-download your ID to your PS3 console, complete with your updated experience gains and stat alterations. Of course, it will work just as well for those that want to by the current gen version of Call of Duty: Ghosts at launch on November 5 before trading it in for the next gen version in the weeks that follow.

The tweaks made to the multiplayer formula of Call of Duty: Ghosts feel like a mixed bag. There’s a level of strategy in Squads that appeals to me but also what sounds like a dangerous risk of increasing the gulf between novice and skilled players with the re-jigging of some the perks and bonuses. While it will be bought, played and enjoyed by millions I fear that I’m unlikely to get any better, despite Activision’s assurances that it’s just a matter of time.

Call of Duty: Ghosts launches worldwide on November 5 on PC, 360, PS3 and Wii U. The Xbox One and PS4 versions will be available alongside those consoles at launch.

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