Destructible terrain, traps, and knee slides: Inside ‘CoD: Ghosts’ multiplayer

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Activision and Infinity Ward revealed today the multiplayer for the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts, at a live show in Los Angeles. The fresh MP will feature several new game modes, weapons, a new dynamic map system, and plenty of shooting.

Although the game (at least what was shown) looks to stay true to the Call of Duty formula, there are some significant changes. Some are just a matter of aesthetics or presentation, while others promise to change the way Call of Duty’s MP plays. 

Since the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, more than 100 million people worldwide have played at least one game in the series. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the same as the populations of France and Canada combined. According to Activision, more than 25 billion hours have been spent playing Call of Duty. If those hours were contiguous, they would equal 2.85 million years. At this point, the Call of Duty MP is a genre unto itself, and even minor changes are taken seriously. And some of the changes to Ghosts may alter how you approach the game.

The basics

COD Ghosts_Strikezone EnvironmentCall of Duty: Ghosts will feature plenty of new weapons, maps, and perks, just as you would expect. There will be 30 new weapons, including a new class called the “Marksman.” These weapons will fall between the sniper and assault rifles, and feature single shot rifles that can be equipped with a sniper scope and made into semi-auto sniper rifles, or treated like a semi-auto rifle similar to the FAL or M1 that can be used with either a standard non-zoom scope, or even iron sights. It will likely be a tough class to master, but once you do, you will be deadly.

In another small, but important change, when you are aiming through a scope, you will still retain your peripheral field of vision.

Killstreaks return, of course, including 20 new ones (although many of these may just be tweaks of existing or returning streaks). The streaks will revert to the strategy used in Modern Warfare 3, meaning you will have three choices for the type of package you want: Assault (your normal method of kills = streaks), support (you earn additional perks with kills), or specialist (your points towards streaks carry over after death). Assuming this works the same as in MW3, the package you select will limit your killstreak selection.

There will also be less of an emphasis on aerial killstreaks. There will still be some, including a new streak, which was shown off in L.A., that combines a helicopter with a sniper rifle, but many of the streaks – including the UAVs – will now be ground-based. One streak they showed, for example, brings in Riley the dog to act as a bodyguard and to warn you of enemies nearby.

Dress for success

COD Ghosts_Arctic LumberIn a long overdue change for the Call of Duty franchise, you can now customize your avatar, and there are more than 20,000 combinations. You can also play as a female character, another long overdue first for the series.

CoD Ghosts MPThe perk system will be new as well, but it is akin to the Black Ops II method that allows you the freedom to choose your perks, with a limit on the number of slots to fill. In Ghosts, rather than slots, you have points. Assuming you have a secondary weapon attached, you will have eight points to spend on perks (weapon attachments are free). There will be more perks to choose from than ever before, but certain perks cost more than others and they are graded on a scale of 1-5. For example, that means you can pick eight level one perks, one five and a three, etc. Ditch the secondary weapon and you’ll have 11 points in total to spend.

Another change is in the way you prestige. Rather than hitting the level cap and prestiging, thus starting over, you now have 10 characters that you can max out. You select the weapons you want to earn experience towards unlocking, giving you the freedom to unlock what you want, when you want, for each character. It also factors in to the new “Squad” modes.

Squads

COD Ghosts_Octane EnvironmentA new major feature will be “Squad” play, which is an evolution of the bot-controlled practice games available now – but the bot modes we’ve seen before in Call of Duty are just for practice. They are good for a warm up or to learn new maps, but it really doesn’t benefit you in a tangible way. With Squad play, you can select your squad from your own characters, equip them how you like, and earn real multiplayer experience points. It won’t be easy though: the AI controlled bots are more sophisticated than ever before and are programmed to mimic human players by doing things like camping, drop shotting, and jump shots. 

The Squad play offers three new modes: “Squad vs. Squad,” a 1v1 match, but both human players bring their AI controlled squads to help; “Safeguard,” a four player survival/horde mode where you have access to all the tools you would normally have in a multiplayer match; “Wargame,” which you can play co-op with friends against the AI teams using real players’ ghost data (meaning  your own data will be available for people to play). You set up your AI squad to give it the best chance, select a map you like, then you let the AI play for you and earn you experience, even when you are offline.

Social Studies

COD Ghosts_Whiteout EnvironmentGhosts will feature second screen integration that improves on the Elite service in several ways. Using a smartphone or tablet, you can change loadouts, check your status, create new emblems, and even use clan chat to communicate with your clan-mates. That will be important too, as the clan functions have been overhauled as well.

Clan battles will play a big part in Ghosts, and the more you play with a clan, win or lose, the more experience points you will earn to unlock items that are only available through clan play (things like new outfits).

There will also be a new “Clan War” section, which offers clan-only battles. Part of these clan wars will be a territory battle based on points. There will be several areas, each represented by a map from the game, and clans will fight to see who does the best. These battle will last for two weeks, and the team at the top of each territory at the end of the cycle will be rewarded.  

And the new

COD Cranked

All of the additions mentioned above will change the way the game plays, but only to a small degree. There will be more option than before, but nothing that will alter the way you would approach a match. The big changes are in the maps.

For the first time, Call of Duty maps will feature (limited) destructible environments. These may manifest as a wall you can blow up, or it could be more significant like a bus hanging over a cliff that you can knock down to create a bottleneck. There will also be major events that shake up a map, like an earthquake or a tidal wave, as was previously revealed. These events will change the map, forcing you to adapt on the fly. How and when these events occur hasn’t been revealed.

Ghosts MPThe maps will also allow you to set traps and create new paths. If you are running through a tunnel, you may be able to collapse it with a grenade, or a closed door might give way to a C4 charge. These sections will probably be the exception rather than the rule, but they will change the flow of the games.

Then there are the game modes themselves. There are seven new modes to join a lengthy list of returning games, including the new “Cranked,” which was also used to highlight the continued support Call of Duty will have from the eSports community, as Ghosts was named the official FPS for Major League Gaming next year.

Cranked is a dream come true for people who hate campers. Once you score a kill, you then have 30 seconds to get another or you will explode. If you are the type of player who likes to hide in a corner and pick off enemies, this game will not be for you. Cranked also features “Field orders,” which are placed somewhere in the map. The person who finds them has to complete the order before dying – they are random, and could be anything from killing someone prone to recording two headshots. If successful, you earn a care package.

CoD JuggernautAnother game mode revealed was “Search and Rescue,” which is a play on “Search and Destroy.” Instead of dying and having to wait for the next round, when you die you drop a tag. If your teammates grab it you are revived, but if an opponent gets it you stay dead. More info on the remaining game modes will follow in the coming months.

There are also a few changes to the gameplay that may sound minor but could have a huge impact on the way people play. The first is “contextual leaning,” a new cover mechanic that lets you lean out automatically, keeping your body under cover. The next is “mantling,” which lets you automatically hurdle most obstacles. The third change is “knee slide,” which allows you to go from standing to crouching while still moving.

The current generation of consoles will feature most of the same features as the next gen, but there will be a few changes, including the revamped sound system that changes based on your environment. If you are standing next to metal containers, for example, you will hear a “tin-y” reverb, if you are in an enclosed area the echo will be more pronounced, carpeted areas will have less echo, and so on. Knowing the sounds can make a huge difference, especially in locating enemies. And speaking of sounds, the teammates will automatically call out useful information for a change, like “the enemy is approaching the gas station” and not just “grenade out!”

Coming Soon

CoD TDMCall of Duty: Ghosts will be out on November 5 – at least for the current generation, including the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. The next-gen version will be available on launch of the new consoles. Activision also confirmed that there will be a season pass, and it will include four DLC packs. When Ghosts is available, it will feature a standard retail edition, a “Prestige Edition” in a metal case that includes the season pass, as well as a limited “Hardened Edition” that features the game, the season pass, and a 1080p HD tactical helmet camera. Because who doesn’t need a tactical helmet camera?

Check out the trailer below, and expect to hear more in the months to come.

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