E3 2013: Call of Duty: Ghosts – more of the same

Watching Activision’s and Infinity Ward’s demo of Call of Duty: Ghosts, I was afraid it would be more of the same action that the series is known for. This game takes place in a different time and setting from previous editions, though, which should theoretically establish a new story.

There’s a major attack on the United States, bringing its entire power structure to the ground. This happens prior to the beginning of the game, but serves to set the scene. Call of Duty: Ghosts starts ten years later and focuses on two brothers and their attack dog, Riley. The brothers search for the Ghosts in order to become part of the team.

Infinity Ward emphasized that Riley is based on Navy Seal service dogs. He is given three tools you can use. The first is a camera that you can view as Riley recons different areas. The second is an earpiece, so he can hear commands, and the third is a collar that buzzes with contacts for left and right. Infinity Ward didn’t say if you could actually use voice commands in the game, but considering the linear nature of the campaign, we don’t think so.

The demo contained a three-level demo, showing off different areas where the game takes place.

No Man’s Land

The first mission has the brothers returning to a destroyed San Diego, their hometown. The terrain is broken and many houses have been destroyed. Developer Infinity Ward describes its engine as one developed for next-generation consoles, but to us it looked like a simple update to include more environmental effects and better geometry. There are some interesting lighting effects, but those only show at certain times, like when you’re moving from shade into the sun and your eyes are adjusting to the light.

Weapons have more detail, as does the player model, but overall it looked the same. The mission had you using Riley to scout an area and remove enemies from ruined houses. Riley could be commanded to attack, but looking at it from his point of view, it wasn’t very impressive. Riley’s animations are lacking, his movement was jerky and strafing wasn’t possible.

There was a big emphasis on the atmosphere of the game. We saw a vast landscape of the destroyed San Diego, but the game isn’t open world and you’re unlikely to ever see that part of the city. The mission was short and showed a little bit of combat, but we didn’t see anything that hasn’t been seen before in Call of Duty.


Federation Day

The second demo took place in Venezuela, where the Ghosts are sent as a three-man assassination squad. You ziplined from an opposing building and rappelled from the top down. Slowly working down the building, you killed enemy soldiers through the glass. This whole sequence is heavily scripted, with one of the brothers talking non-stop to the point of irritation.

Once you arrived on the right floor, you cut through the window and went inside. You disabled the power to the building and worked your way to the room containing the building’s electrical grid. After you turned it off, you hid, as a squad of soldiers are on patrol. As they pass, they carry on a conversation with each other. Softonic Editor Raúl Pérez said that the soldiers are speaking Mexican Spanish and not the Spanish that Venezuelans speak, a strange oversight by Infinity Ward.

The demo cut to show the escape from the building as it was collapsing, but there wasn’t much interaction from the player. In all, we felt that Federation Day was another example of the disappointingly linear gameplay.


Into the Deep

Changing things a bit, the last demo was an underwater mission where the brothers had to infiltrate a wreckage in the Caribbean. With scuba suits, you swam through the environment (which looked like a tech demo but had a linear path). One of the interesting parts of the demo is that you used an APS, a real life underwater machine gun.

This third demo level was low key, with few high notes. There wasn’t much combat and most of the time, you were swimming through different wrecks to hide. At the end of the demo, you sent a controlled torpedo at a ship and it started to destroy the reef around you. Towards the end of the demo, there’s a scene where you get buried by sinking debris. Your brother comes to your rescue as a helicopter falls and there the demo blacked out.


Nothing Really New

Call of Duty Ghosts is continuing the legacy of the series with a “create-by-number” style. The different missions were interesting, but the constant narration from one of the brothers became irritating. As things stand now, we feel little solidarity with characters. You can’t identify with them as you can with characters like Captain Price and Soap from Modern Warfare. Showing off the game, Infinity Ward has advanced the graphics, but hasn’t really changed the series’ gameplay.

Since many Call of Duty players focus on multiplayer, campaign mode could be ignored. With a planned release for current and next generation consoles, as well as PC, Activision and Infinity Ward are clearly promising a lot with this new title. The problem is that from the demo, there’s really nothing new to see.

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