Call of Duty: Ghosts – first impressions from E3 2013
On one level, Call of Duty: Ghosts is a watershed moment for the world’s biggest shooter series. For a new generation of consoles we get a new sub-series, a new near-future setting, a new engine and a whole new twist, in the form of everyone’s new favourite headline feature, the dog. On the other hand, our first look at Ghosts leaves us wondering whether the changes are more than skin deep. Love it or loathe it, this is still very much a shooter in the vein of Modern Warfare and its sequels. If you’re looking for a whole new style of Call of Duty, we suspect you won’t find it here.
August 14th at 10:30 am PDT
TUNE-IN HERE TO WATCH THE CALL OF DUTY:® GHOSTS GLOBAL MULTIPLAYER REVEAL LIVE FROM LOS ANGELES
What will you find? Well, the premise is certainly a departure. In the near future the world has gone off kilter. America has gone under, hostile forces occupy the US, and the remainder of its once proud armed forces have gone underground.
You play one of two brothers, working with insurgent forces to put the good old US of A back on top. The twist, according to Infinity Ward, is that this time you’re the underdog. Where Modern Warfare put you on the best-trained, best-equipped side, Call of Duty: Ghosts puts you in the guerilla’s shoes.
The setting is very different, too. Scenes we’ve seen of war-torn mountain villages have more in common with the post-apocalyptic style of Crysis 3 than Modern Warfare, with delicate Spanish churches tumbling down into vast craters.
A later demo takes us to a gleaming Venezuelan city in the midst of celebrations, only this time you’re the rough-clad infiltrators trying to sneak your way in. A final sequence takes place underwater, coral and darting fishes adding interest to a beautiful aquatic scene.
Beautiful is the right word too, because a combination of new hardware and new engine makes this a vast leap on from Modern Warfare 3 and COD: Black Ops 2. Clever deformation and tessellation techniques add a new level of detail to the environments, while the lighting creates stunning, almost photorealistic vistas.
The naturalism of the rock and rivers in the first demo stage we saw has to be seen to be believed and the human characters are vastly more convincing than in Modern Warfare 3 or Black Ops 2, particularly when it comes to facial animation. At last we have a Call of Duty that looks as good as a Battlefield or a Crysis, if not better.
The gameplay, though? Well, that’s another matter. Call of Duty: Ghosts looks set to be another game of polished, high-octane gunplay and bravura set pieces. If you love rope walking face first down a skyscraper or sliding down the floor as said skyscraper collapses, this is for you.
Moments in the sub-aqua sequences as depth charges blow you backwards or you take out a sub with a handheld torpedo have plenty of the old CoD bombast. The dog also adds a new wrinkle, with features to command him silently or vocally, and could mix things up a lot. He’ll explore areas and soften the opposition for you, but you’ll also need to spend a bit of time taking care of him. Meanwhile, movement promises to be faster and more fluid, with new slide and lean manoeuvres.
All of this is great, but this still looks like a game of following objectives, letting your brother take tactical leadership and doing what you’re damn well told. Up to a point, that’s what the fans want and expect, but it still looks a little as if Call of Duty: Ghost’s ambitions have more to do with upping the visual quality and beefing up the scale than doing anything fundamentally new with a well-worn formula. Still, we’ll stay reasonably excited and hope to be proved wrong.