From the original Call of Duty all the way through to Modern Warfare 3, I’ve played every singleplayer campaign that Infinity Ward has created and I’ve witnessed the team’s story-telling abilities change and evolve from the World War II era of shooters to the modern-day military blockbuster. As far-fetched and bewildering as the Modern Warfare arc of the Call of Duty series was in terms of the stories it told, I could never say that I wasn’t left entertained by the ludicrous plots and over-the-top set-piece action.
With Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward and its supporting studios are leaving World War II and Modern Warfare behind in favour of creating a fresh new universe, with new stories to tell and what look to be even more outlandish sequences to enjoy. We caught a few healthy glimpses of what to expect from the game during a demonstration at E3 2013.
In Ghosts, the United States is no longer the superpower it once was and has been crippled by the rise of a coalition of South American governments – an alliance rich in resources and capable of destroying even the mightiest of nations. Ten years after what Infinity Ward calls a global ‘mass event,’ the world has been changed forever and the US and its partners are now forced to fight for survival against this new regime, with the eventual goal to topple the group and return things to the way they once were.
Playing as one of two brothers, you’re part of a secret and elite squad of soldiers that form the Ghosts, and what remains of the US special forces. Without an army behind them, it’ll be up to the Ghosts to take on infiltration, sabotage and assault missions to fight the South American Federation in the shadows rather than wage an all-out war.
Infinity Ward has so far shown off three distinct environments included in Ghosts, with an (initially) slower-paced underwater diving mission, an explosive fight through a jungle, and a dismal walk through what looks to be the shattered remains of an urban or suburban area of the US.
After the unnamed ‘mass event,’ the US lies in ruin and a section that was on display appeared to have suffered the effects of a particularly overwhelming earthquake, as the world above has collapsed into vast sinkholes below reducing the world we may have known to rubble. Recognisable landmarks and objects remain strewn about in the wreckage, with fences, fountains, cars and sagging buildings left in the wake of the event, all of which has been infested with overgrowth as vines and creepers constrict and envelop roof tiles, stairs and pillars.
Looking out over a vista, the new state of the world is plain to see with a valley of devastation stretching out ahead, while the affect of the mysterious global event continues to be felt as the earth shudders unpredictably, making it a dicey proposition to shimmy along slender ledges that promise certain doom with a single false step leading to a long fall to the world below. In the distance, the foundation of a church is loosened by a fresh tremor and all that’s left to do is watch as the building’s silhouette crumbles in on itself and slides off of a cliff.
This sequence on its own was impressive and alludes to the kinds of technology that Infinity Ward has in place for Call of Duty: Ghosts that the team promises will surface in the game’s multiplayer, with dynamic changes in the level resulting from on-going destruction over the course of an online match, but it’ll be interesting to see if (and how) this technology is put to use in the solo campaign. Jittery physics objects that made up the falling detritus bounced and tried to resolve their own positions as they slid out of view, which is a good sign: These are real, in-game objects as opposed to a carefully put together sequence, which means a higher likelihood that more of these events will take place in the game.
Developers love to talk about potential ‘game changers’ – features in a title that make their experience unique – and if anything the inclusion of the dog character in Call of Duty: Ghosts is Infinity Ward’s ace in the hole.
Ghosts will put a highly trained service dog named Riley at your command and control, and as the brothers advanced they called upon their Alsatian (or German Shepherd) to silently take down (and maul) enemies in order to proceed. According to Infinity Ward, there are real-world service dogs used by the Navy SEAL special forces that are sent out into the field with a harness full of technological wonders, including an earpiece through which soldiers can speak commands, as well as a camera on the dog’s back.
This technology not only allows soldiers to see an environment from the dog’s point of view as it stealthily scouts ahead, but they can effectively control the dog’s movement with orders to move ahead, turn and attack.
In Call of Duty: Ghosts, players will be able to bring up a washed out display panel to see through the harness camera’s visions and take direct control of Riley to sneak up on enemies to attack them (rather viciously) and even kill targets, investigate routes ahead and bark to get an enemy’s attention, moving a potential foe out into the open for an easy sniper shot. It’s remarkable to see real-world tools and expertise used in Ghosts and I think the addition of Riley as an essentially playable character and extra combat option will add enormously to the game to provide another way to overcome obstacles.
I hope that the use of Riley will be a lot more freeform than the use of drones and walkers in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 with the option to call on the dog whenever you like, but that remains to be seen. Apparently, Riley will also be able to sniff out explosives and at one point in the demo the dog cowered and whimpered, giving us a ‘sixth sense’ heads-up that danger may be around the corner. There’s lots of potential here and I hope Infinity Ward uses it.
Another game changer in Call of Duty: Ghosts? The use of a reverse slow motion breach and clear sequence, showcased as the brothers formed up on an entrance, sent Riley in to soften up the enemies inside a house, and potted at their targets as they burst through the door in a confused mess of splintered wood and dust. After going through a few too many of these sequences in previous Call of Duty games, any change in approach is welcome.
As far as the solo campaign is concerned, Call of Duty: Ghosts looks to follow the franchise tradition of a guided experience highlighted by a series of high octane action set-pieces and contrasted with extended sequences of dedicated, directed intensity, before relieving its audience with the kinds of explosive and shocking moments we’ve come to expect. If Infinity Ward uses Riley the dog to the full, all of the destruction and blockbuster pomp may just be made a little more meaningful.
Official Call of Duty: Ghosts – ‘No Man’s Land’ Gameplay Video
Call of Duty: Ghosts is out worldwide on November 5th across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, with releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 planned for this year, too.
Follow El33tonline’s extensive previous and continued coverage of E3 2013 with all of the most important and exciting news, announcements, screenshots, trailers and additional details.