Call of Duty has made bombastic action its stock-in-trade, as each subsequent iteration of the long-standing military shooter attempts to top itself. The figurative volume of the series is seemingly always blaring. Call of Duty: Ghosts might actually be primed to change that.
In a brief hands-on at E3 2013, I was struck by how much time and care it put into building the mood. A night time infiltration mission had my character and two compatriots zip-lining across buildings and repelling downwards. The spectacle of the city lights was certainly impressive, but the emphasis on this portion of the game was more quiet and understated than I was accustomed to in Call of Duty.
While slowly traversing down the building, we had to quietly take out a series of guards. They were unaware of our presence, so each operation was quick and relatively quiet--dispatching enemies with pinpoint accuracy and a distinct lack of fuss. Two shots, onto the next floor. No need to raise the alarms.
Once inside, we had to find a server and upload a virus, but even this was a more subdued affair. Rather than simply hit a button and move onto the action, I had to physically remove one server cabinet to even access it. Then, I watched the virus slowly load while voices signaled approaching guards. My handler told me to finish quickly or stop and hide, and as the shadows became visible around a corner I finished the upload with just moments to spare. I hid in the dark space between two server cabinets, and two guards passed by unwittingly. The third looked in my direction a heartbeat too long, and was subsequently taken out, quietly, by my teammate. It was a singularly tense moment of gameplay, without a single shot fired.
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After triggering the virus to shut off the lights, the demo then skipped forward to another point. This was later in the level, when everything had apparently gone to hell. The building was collapsing, and we had to stumble with unsure footing as pieces of the environment flew around me. None of this is to say that Call of Duty has given up its over-the-top nature. But even in that short snippet, the wild action felt more earned.
It is possible that Infinity Ward and Activision chose to highlight this one quiet, hushed moment during E3. The rest of the game might be just as loud and action-packed as we've come to expect from the series. But by showcasing this moment, IW has shown an aptitude for pacing that seemed lost in the series' recent years. By remembering to put time and care into crafting the quiet moments, we appreciate it more when you turn the volume up.