Who ya gonna call?
After waiting what seemed like an eternity in line (and this was before the public had joined) we finally got to play Call of Duty Ghosts at Gamescom 2013 in Cologne. Given a choice of platform we went for Xbox One, to see how the new controller fares with a first person shooter and to see if the graphical improvements are all that significant, here’s our full impressions.
For the purposes of the gameplay demo we got to try out the ‘Blitz’ gamemode on a snowy map. Blitz is an interesting new mode where each team has a portal to defend, appearing as simply a marked area on the ground. To score points, players from your team must run into the portal which will then teleport them back to their own base and give you a point. Of course the enemy team is trying to do the same so defending your own portal is just as necessary. Evidently Infinity Ward have thrown any pretensions of realism out the window by now so the teleporting is simply accepted and it works incredibly well, keeping the action going but providing a thrilling moment as you sprint towards the portal not sure whether you’ll find yourself in safety or the respawn screen.
The map was fairly standard for Call of Duty with a number of different routes at different elevations throughout the map including tiny valleys and overlooks meaning there are very few sightlines. One team’s base is surrounded by buildings while the other’s is quite open with rocks and ledges providing some overwatch points for defense. When we were attacking this point if felt almost too easy as you could come down from above if you went around the back, catching out all the defenders as they were never looking in the right direction. Of course this was everyone’s first time so that might change and the round is split into two halves with you changing ends in the middle so it doesn’t really matter for balance.
One of the key new gameplay features that contributed to the Blitz mode is the kneeslide. Sprint for a bit and then hold crouch to slide on your knees, reducing your target area for enemies and looking awesome while you slide into the teleporter. Usually a slide like this was enough to get you into the teleporter as those looking for headshots fired straight over you.
We also got a chance to try out the new class of weapons, the DMRs and some of the new killstreaks. Unfortunately only three killstreaks were actually active in the demo so we couldn’t see what the others were, but we had a new kind of UAV that you have to set on the ground rather than having fly above which made for an interesting new choice as you find a place to hide it, a support dog that follows you around and does an amazing job of killing enemies. Once you go through the teleporter the dog is left behind, killing a few defenders until he finds his way back to you. Finally you could get a drop that gave you access to a knife suit, giving up your weapons to charge around and unnatural speeds getting one hit kills with knives. Throughout the game we got all of the killstreaks and the dog was by far our favourite, serving in a similar way to the escort helicopter from Black Ops 2 but with a lot more personality.
The new rifles are semi-automatics that can work with or without a scope. They feel a lot like the Kar98 or M1 Garand from the older Call of Duty games and I really appreciated the increased accuracy and control they give you over assault rifles. In the body it seemed to take 3-4 shots to take someone down but you can let those shots off pretty quickly and a headshot is an instant kill making for a formidable weapon.
Other than the above features this is very much Call of Duty as usual. Many of the killstreaks we were shown in a video looked interesting like the chance to snipe from the side of a helicopter, and Infinity Ward have expressed their intention to avoid too many aerial killstreaks as they want the action to be more player-controlled and focused on the ground. The three different kinds of set up for killstreaks is back in force with support, assault and specialist set-ups able to be picked from the menu.
Also featured in the video was the new perk system, where you get given 8 points to spend on perks which are all graded by the number of points they cost. This means you could have one 8 point perk that will give you a considerable advantage, or you can choose a number of smaller perks to round your character out further. Unfortunately again these were pre-selected so we didn’t get a chance to see what all the perks were but many were past favourites so don’t expect too many revelations.
The Xbox One controller holds up well in an FPS but I still wasn’t used to the height of the thumbsticks. They seem just a little bit too far away from the controller, making every moment more twitchy than it needs to be. It could just be a case of needing to get used to but it definitely feels odd at the moment. The triggers didn’t have the rumble feature enabled, that was reserved for Forza alone on the show floor which was a shame, hopefully in the finished product we’ll be feeling the recoil kick in our trigger fingers.
Graphically the game looked a lot like Black Ops 2 on PC. That is to say, the same kind of game but running at a high resolution and keeping that exquisite 60FPS target with ease. There were some nice lighting effects but the textures are still very similar to the last gen and I couldn’t notice much of a change in animations. That details might have been there but it wasn’t apparent when you’re running around a multiplayer map.
Call of Duty: Ghosts definitely feels like a solid addition to the franchise, and the multiplayer was as much fun as it has ever been. I get the feeling we’ll need to wait a little longer for a true ‘next-gen’ installment but this one is definitely shaping up nicely as a standard update to the series.