“Are you your site’s Call of Duty guy?”
I’ve grown weary of Call of Duty. Yes, that franchise. The current Biggest Franchise In The World. Even though it revolutionized the console FPS market with the fourth chapter in Modern Warfare, the series has gone through five subsequent chapters from alternating developers–none of which were as revolutionary as the original Modern Warfare.
What can I say, it’s a hard act fo follow.
With a combined multiplayer time in Modern Warfares 1 and 2 of 1800 hours, I can say I was hooked by the series. On the other hand, my in-game time of World At War, Black Ops 1 and 2, and Modern Warfare 3 tallied to a total of less than a day. I just didn’t like them nearly as much due to a sundry list of minor quibbles. Things just didn’t feel right.
So, going into the Ghosts MP reveal, I entered the multiplayer arena with a fresh face and a minor bit of cynicism at the back of my head. In a room with hundreds of Call of Duty fanatics, I felt like one of the few that wasn’t instantly sold on the game.
Then came the keynote.
Create a Soldier, new weapons, a new perk system, new killstreak rewards. Ghosts was pushed as a significant-as-Modern Warfare leap forward for Activision’s monolithic IP. Lots of promises. A little bit of Eminem. A clever video of some YouTube celebrities breaching doors with the aid of Ghosts’ $199 Prestige Edition action cam. All cool stuff, but it was ultimately a lot of sizzle with the steak elsewhere.
But man, what a steak it was.
Immediately after finding a free multiplayer station, I dove into character customization. Far away from the default, my player avatar became a woman with heavy armor, wielding a new-to-Call of Duty “Marksman” class rifle. Perks-wise, my choices revolved around faster movement, reloading, and the new “ping” effect that shows enemy locations when a kill is scored.
In the first round, a standard Team Deathmatch gametype, all of my franchise playtime paid off. Ghosts felt just like Modern Warfare 2, with a manic pace and precise controls. The feeling continued in Domination, and the new Search and Rescue mode.
Search and Rescue plays somewhat like Counterstrike. Players have a goal: take a bomb to one of two pre-set defense points and set it off. Pretty typical, less the mode’s dogtag system. Upon death, players leave behind a dogtag. If it’s retrieved by a friendly, the player is revived. If picked up by a hostile, the player is out until the next round. Take out everyone on the opposite team, and the round ends without the need to set a bomb.
Interesting strategies arise from the dogtag mechanic, including the ability to use dogtags as bait. As they display obviously on the mini-map, players will be faced with a dilemma: bring back an ally to avoid a disadvantage, or ignore the urge and press on with the ultimate goal of victory? Players in the multiplayer session used this mechanic to their advantage sparingly, but it was a welcome strategic twist which made the mode unique and compelling.
Another new element lie in Ghosts’ Field Order system. Upon the first player’s death, a suitcase drops. If the new carrier dies as well, the suitcase again falls until someone picks it up. Carrying the suitcase gives the bearer a free shot at a WWE world title specific challenge. Typical challenges include scoring kills via headshot, jump-shot, prone position, or explosives. It doesn’t sound hard, until the realization sets in of having to perform a specific act in the middle of chaos.
Successfully completing Field Orders give the player a supply drop, which could randomly provide a KEM Strike/Odin Strike. Much like the nukes of yore, the strike kills the entirety of the other team once. However, it doesn’t end the match. It merely changes the entire dynamic, levelling the buildings and creating an altogether different play experience. This decision is already polarizing, giving the power of a nuke to the filthy proles who couldn’t provide a fine killstreak to earn it.
Even more polarizing for this ultra-casual player was the continued de-emphasizing of melee. Once a Newbie Panacea with quick kills and a distant lunge, the knife in Ghosts always seems like a poor decision. The hit detection is sharp, working in a specific and realistic distance. Actual kill animations take a while, so hopping from hostile to hostile brandishing a blade is no longer even a distant option.
By the end of the event, I was sold on Ghosts’ multiplayer. Not as a Call of Duty fanboy, not as a highly researched journalist (the part I’ve played several times before), but as a casual-since-2010 FPS player who preferred a single player open world game to the shine of the multiplayer arena. As I fielded the question of my Call of Duty fanhood to fellow journalists and YouTubers throughout the event with a shrug, I also told them why.
For once, I wanted to go into a presser without care or knowledge of the game. And it totally worked out.