The official reveal for Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer brought with it tons of exciting news for both hardcore and lapsed Call of Duty fans, with details on female soldiers, new gameplay tricks like knee-sliding, an all-new customisation system, the co-operative Squads modes and more.
It was also our first tantalising look at Ghosts’ dynamic map events where entire levels can be reduced to rubble mid-match, along with one massive dose of in-game footage showcasing new gadgets and scenarios. To find out more, I took in a presentation for Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer hosted by Infinity Ward’s senior community manager, Tina Palacios, who ran us through the game’s major features while focussing on a few of her favourite additions, too.
- Tina Palacios at gamescom 2013
According to Palacios, there are three key pillars to Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer, the first of which is your soldier. “We really wanted to give the player control over how they look and how they play in multiplayer and we’ve improved the Perk system,” says Palacios. The second core component of Ghosts is the online world, which now contains dynamic map events and improved audio for better battle awareness, while the team also looked at first- and third-person movement “to make that more fluid.”
The third pillar of Ghosts online will be the ability to “take Call of Duty with you, anywhere you go” with your Call of Duty ID, with all of your stats attached to your login details.
Create-A-Soldier and Customisation
A new iteration of the ‘Create-A-Class’ system from previous Call of Duty games will appear in the form of the ‘Create-A-Soldier’ customisation system, which Palacios says includes a possible 20 000 different combinations of head types, helmets, clothing options and more, now with the choice of either a male or female soldier – a first for Call of Duty and amongst the first in the online military shooter genre. “That’s something that I’m really happy about,” says Palacios.
Ghosts will additionally include 30 weapons new to Call of Duty, the marksman rifles amongst them which Palacios compared to the Call of Duty 2 M1 Garand – something between an assault rifle and a sniper rifle. Palacios ‘highly recommends’ that Call of Duty fans check them out.
Infinity Ward is also treating scoped shooting differently with Ghosts, and instead of filling the screen surrounding your scope view with black (essentially cutting the field of view), that portion of the screen will now be blurred out so you’ll still be able to see a little bit of movement around your zoomed in view.
New to the ‘Lethals’ category of weapons is the IED (or Improvised Explosive Device), a proximity explosive that you can stick anywhere and explodes when players run by, along with the Canister Bomb. The ‘9-Bang’ tactical grenade is Palacios’ “personal favourite because it requires a charge to use the most efficiently.” The longer you charge, the more flashes you’ll get, and if you charge it all the way you’ll get a handy EMP effect.
Points-based Perk system
Similar to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Ghosts will include a points-based Perk system where you’re able to spend a set number of points in order to fill up your allotment of special in-game abilities and advantages, and importantly instead of having three different categories of Perks in the past, in Ghosts you can now have any combination you want depending on the points you wish to spend.
Of course, each Perk has a different cost associated with it depending on its effectiveness and Palacios told us about the ‘Dead Eye’ Perk, which allows players to deal more damage with every consecutive kill with the example of a sniper being able to take down anyone on the map (regardless of where the shot hits the body) with their third kill in a row. At the moment, Dead Eye is the most expensive Perk in the game.
“Takedown is another one of my favourites,” Palacios said. “What it does is prevent enemies from seeing where their team-mate died.” This is important, seeing as how downed team-mates will pop up a skull icon on the screen to show where they died to give you a clue as to where the action is. The ‘On the Go’ Perk is another useful-sounding ability this time around, which allows you to reload while sprinting.
According to Palacios, Killstreak Strike Packages from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are back in Ghosts, with Assault, Support and Specialist categories. With Assault, for example, you’ll get access to SAT-COM, Guard Dog and Maniac Killstreaks, while the Support category gets SAT-COM, Night Owl and the MOS.
The SAT-COM is “a new take on the UAV,” which gives you increased awareness of enemies on the radar after subsequent placements, all the way up to four, which is when you’ll not only be able to see enemies with a high frequency of area sweeps, but you’ll also be able to see in which direction they’re facing.
Guard Dog is “basically Riley in multiplayer,” said Palacios referring to the AI dog companion seen in Ghosts’ singleplayer campaign. Your Guard Dog will bark and growl at nearby enemies to clue you in, and also attack enemies if they get too close. “The cool thing about him is that if you die, he’s still around and he’ll run to where you respawned on the map and kill people along the way.”
Maniac, meanwhile, gives you a protection suit with unlimited sprint and the chance to stab enemies that get in your way, with non-regenerating health as the trade-off, while Night Owl is a companion drone that alerts you to enemy presence and protects you from explosives. “It works like a combination of the Trophy system and portable radar from Modern Warfare 3,” says Palacios. Lastly, the MOS is a laser-guided missile system that lets you take out air units as well as soldiers on the ground.
One of the more exciting additions to Call of Duty this year with Ghosts is ‘Squads,’ which combines what seems like the best worlds of multiplayer and co-operative play into something else entirely. Using six of your own customised soldiers, or by playing with up to five of your friends, you can play in a variety of different modes either online or against bots
“The cool thing about Squads is that you can earn experience for your soldiers regardless of whether you’re in multiplayer or not,” Palacios assured us. “So if you’re the type of person who just likes to play against bots, then you can do that in here.”
But what is Squads?
Squads is essentially a system where you can use your own customised squad members from Create-A-Soldier as team-mates to play against your friends and their own collection of customised soldiers online. Or you can play in the ‘Wargame’ mode, where you choose five members of your squad to fight against an enemy AI. There’s also ‘Safe Guard,’ which is a four-player co-operative wave-based challenge mode with all the amenities of multiplayer.
Lastly, there’s ‘Squad Assault,’ a six-player co-operative match against an offline co-op squad, either matching you up against a squad created by players from around the world, or with the option to play against a friend’s squad even when they’re not online. These offline squads will even earn experience points for their owners if they do well against players challenging them online.
Three New Multiplayer Modes
In addition to previous fan favourite game modes, Call of Duty: Ghosts will include three new ways to play in the form of ‘Search and Rescue,’ ‘Cranked’ and ‘Blitz,’ each of which sounds more manic than the last.
Search and Rescue is an evolution of ‘Search and Destroy’ from previous games, says Palacios, but instead of dying and remaining out until the next round, you’ll drop a tag and if a team-mate manages to pick it up, you’ll be back in the match. Cranked, however, is a whole new twist on competitive Call of Duty play:
“Cranked is actually a really funny mode,” laughed Palacios, no doubt remembering a crazy match while playing back at Infinity Ward in LA. “We play it a lot at the studio, on top of everything else.”
In Cranked, when you get your first kill a thirty second timer will show up on your screen and you’ll be imbued with unlimited sprint. If you don’t get another kill within that thirty second time period… you’ll explode. “It’s definitely not a mode for people who like to camp.”
Blitz, meanwhile, splits the map into two different territories belonging to you and the enemy. Each side of the map has a portal and its up to you and your team-mates to get through the enemy’s portal to score a point, before respawning on your side of the map and trying all over again.
These new game modes, especially Cranked and Blitz, are certainly not meant to be taken seriously and can be played to blow off some steam after some intense rounds in other modes, but I can definitely see some players gravitating towards these game types as their preferred way to play.
New modes of play and customisation options aren’t the only additions to Call of Duty this year, and Ghosts will bring new manoeuvres like the ability to knee slide and mantle over objects while running to prevent you from breaking your sprint – you’ll even be able to shoot from the hip while doing so.
The ability to lean is also new (to console) this year, and has been handled using a contextual system instead of forcing players to press a button. When you’re up against a wall or piece of cover, Palacios explained, the ability to lean will be ‘automatic’ when aiming down your sights or scope.
Potentially the biggest addition to Call of Duty this year are the player-triggered dynamic map events which can take the form of anything from traps and crumbling walls, to Killstreaks that can call in level destroying attacks from space, like the KEM (or Odin) Strike, which transforms a map into a pile of rubble leaving players to run around the debris while basically having to learn all-new routes through the arena.
Lastly, Palacios spoke about the improvements to the audio system in Call of Duty which will more effectively and realistically replicate the way sounds travel and transform in real life. If you shoot a gun in a closed or open space, with different materials, the sound is going to change, while explosions will also result in ambient sound effects like chain link fence rattles, for example.
The Call of Duty App
The final set of innovations that we were shown will have repercussions on how and where you play Call of Duty online, the first of which is the addition of the Call of Duty ID. Palacios explains:
“The cool thing about this is that, let’s say you have a PlayStation 3 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts and you’re levelling up your soldiers, you Prestige a couple times, but your best friend next door has a PlayStation 4 and if you guys want to play together you can go to his house, download your Squad onto his console, and you guys can play together.
“Whatever you earn and unlock while you’re playing on the PlayStation 4, will be there on your PlayStation 3, as well.”
In addition, Beachhead has been working with Infinity Ward on the Call of Duty app, which will be a free download on iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices, where you’ll be able to track your stats and connect to your clan, similar to Call of Duty Elite. The Call of Duty app will even act as a second screen feature, allowing you to “change anything on-the-fly” and see it happen in real-time in your game.
Clan Wars have also been addressed and improved this year with the app, and Beachhead says that every two weeks your clan will be matched up with a series of clans of similar skill, size and location. Over these two weeks, you’ll battle over territories in a map with the aim of achieving a series of wins to gain control of that territory. The longer you hold it, the more points you get with the eventual goal of racking up the most points in the two week period, with the chance to earn rewards, like cammo, that you can only get in Clan Wars.
Official Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer Reveal Trailer
There was a lot of information to absorb during the Call of Duty: Ghosts presentation, but it all adds up to an even more well-rounded online offering from Infinity Ward and support studios Raven, NeverSoft and Beachhead. While Palacios was keen to let us know which of the features were her favourites, I’d say that the addition of female soldiers and dynamic map events are the most significant for different reasons, while the Squads system will be a great way for players to challenge themselves in more tactical and long-term ways well into the future.
Blitz also sounds like a whole lot of fun.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is out on November 5th across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U, with launches on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 planned, too.
Read El33tonline’s in-depth interview with Raven Software creative director Eric Biessman for his take on the changes to Call of Duty multiplayer this year, and be sure to follow our extensive previous coverage of the game for news on the collector’s edition, a preview and more screenshots and videos.