Well, how do you improve, in a major way, a platform and experience which people come back to for it’s consistency?
Well one thing is for sure, the core engine behind Ghosts is still very much based on the previous version. If there is a major change, it will come surely when Sledgehammer deliver the next instalment of MW or whatever story and name it chooses to release their game under.
With the fact that this version is an improved and evolved version of the existing engine, there was only ever going to be so much Activision could deliver with regard to changes. Hence, at first look the game experience looks like the old one, but with HD graphics, nice bump textures, more shiny bits, nicer water and facial details and an even better draw distance (which is pointless on COD as the maps are so small). So initially a bit of a let down, as the game starts to look like a ‘best of’ between the world of Black Ops and Modern Warfare. Let us remember though that this game has been designed to run the same between both the current gen AND the next gen (with a better resolution and textures etc on the next gen).
Dynamic events have been added, which must have had the teams at DICE (developers of BF4) laughing out loud. It allows you to shoot or blow up certain objects or machines in the environment to trigger set piece environmental reactions. Such as a petrol station (this sequence was shown over and over during the press conference) collapsing, or a Truck falling down a hill. It looks very much like a Dominos setup (the game with the wee pieces, not the pizza), and not very ‘dynamic’.
Activision tried to make the most of the fact that this is very artificial, and nothing like the truly destructible world of BF3 and BF4, by saying people would have to truly ‘learn’ the maps. I.E. as they are totally predictable events, they can be learnt, and people can remember where to avoid them, and what to do to trigger them onto other players who are unaware of these features on the map.
There were some new modes announced, such as Search and Rescue. Similar to Kill Confirmed, except that if the enemy picks up your tag, that is you out of the round with no respawns. If your team mate picks up the tag you revive where you fell and continue in the battle. This could be quite a fun mode, as you are not so much playing for points, but actual kills and actual ‘saves’.
The game has tweaked the perks system (as they do with every new version) and the Kill Streaks available. Kill Streaks now includes Riley the dog (sounds like a cartoon series for kids)! Not so much triggering a pack of dogs, but an assistant who can go ahead, attack and also via making noises (growling we assume) can warn you of enemies even if they are off the radar. Death streaks are removed completely too.
So far, so ordinary. However, what might make this version of COD worth getting is the new Squads system. This comes in two parts. Firstly within your own profile, you can create different characters. These are called soldiers, which seems an obvious name for them. You can change how they look, and customise them (just as in almost any other game nowadays!), including having female soldiers (only pretty ones have been included according to the trailer). You can level up each of these soldiers, and create a squad. No dog squads, before you ask.
Having created this squad, you can then deploy them in various squad based multiplayer modes. This could be your squad (you and your squad controller by AI) against another player with their squad. Or it could be (and this bit is really cool), you and your squad versus another player’s squad, but WITHOUT that actual player as perhaps he/she is not around to play. I.E. you can have offline matches. Offline for your opponent, or whilst you are away, offline for you. In other words, your squad will continue to fight in your absence.
All the XP created in these matches will still count towards the total multiplayer experience, and will allow those players who are not so good to feel a sense of progression. Even though one would assume you would level up slightly slower through these modes.
On the social front Activision have tried to make their online social side of the platform far more robust. Firstly you can move your stats between 360 and Xbox One, or PS3 to PS4. No inter platform movement of stats alas. So any of you wanting to move from 360 to WiiU will find you can’t. 😉
Secondly, they are allowing the proper creation of real clans. Clans in COD have always been a bit half hearted. However, with the new clan functions there will be proper clan matches, the ability to drop into and find matches related to your clan and more it seems. Activision are also introducing Clan Wars, which are, in effect, a sequence of battles over a two week period pitching different clans against each other for an overall winner of the campaign.
Thirdly, they will be releasing an app which ties into the Elite, facebook-esque system for COD. This will tie the above in neatly, as it will allow you to setup games, and ‘call out’ to clan members. You can message them, at anytime, via the app, and perhaps set up a match for later in the day. It will also allow you to change load outs for your squad, and set them up for any of those ‘offline’ matches played in your absence.
Whilst this isn’t a total revolution, as stated at the top of this article, it was never going to be. We will have to wait for the first truly next gen COD (one assumes the current gen will then get an alternative title, similar to what happened to the PS2 and XBox when the 360 and PS3 launched), to push out the boat, as the engine will allow for new types of play which just isn’t easily achievable within the current Infinity Ward engine.
COD fans should be satisfied, and the social app side of things should make it easier to bring your friends together to compete alongside each other. The stand out feature clearly is the ability to create Squads (RPG stats on steroids in effect, something MW introduced to the FPS genre) and then the ability to use them online or offline to battle for you in your absence (a bit like Spotpass fighting or Mario Kart timetrials on many Nintendo games!).
There will be a season pass or the hardened edition (including other digital tat, and picture books) which includes it all at a slightly lower price than the game and the season pass separately. There is also a prestige version which includes a 1080p camera which you can use to film things….
Let us know if this is enough for you to put down your pre-order below…