Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer hands-on: Cranked and Search & Rescue

Multiplayer for Call of Duty: Ghosts feels much like it has in previous iterations. The routine feels mostly the same: set a loadout, spawn in, walk around the corner, get shot, lather, rinse, and repeat. It's as fun and satisfying as ever, but it becomes difficult to innovate after so many years. Activision and Infinity Ward certainly try their best, though, as I noticed when I played through two of Ghosts' new game modes, Cranked and Search & Rescue. Loadouts are, once again, painstakingly detailed. Soldiers need to be equipped with primary and secondary weapons, grenades, perks, and killstreak rewards. As has become the norm with Call of Duty, Ghosts' loadouts can be customized to suit a variety of play styles. With my loadout set to go, I jumped into my very first game of Cranked. If this sounds like it's inspired by the 2006 Jason Statham film Crank, that's because that's exactly what this game mode is. Players receive buffs for successful kills, resulting in an increase in overall speed. The catch is that the player must continue racking up kills before a 30-second timer runs out or they will explode. The timer will replenish after every kill and the cycle will continue until somebody puts the cranked player down. Cranked is one of those game modes that sounds like a great idea on paper, but as I actually started playing, I noticed some of the inherent problems with it. For one thing, many of the maps in Ghosts are far too small to take advantage of the game mode's stipulation. There wasn't a single instance of players succumbing to the Cranked time limit, because they'd always get shot within seconds of gaining any boost. In that sense, the game mode feels underwhelming. There also isn't much offered in terms of additional strategy. Since nobody could tell who was or wasn't cranked, everyone simply continued playing through like a normal Team Deathmatch. A visible indicator or audio cue could have gone a long way towards adding a degree of strategy, like clearing the area until someone's cranked timer runs out. There's a good chance that larger maps could alleviate this issue, but for now, Cranked left me somewhat wanting.

All stages have destructible areas, some of which can change the layout entirely

The other new game mode shown off was Search & Rescue, which combines elements of popular modes Search & Destroy and Kill Confirmed. The idea is to plant a bomb in one of two locations, with each soldier only granted a single life. Fallen players will leave dog tags, which can be picked up by teammates to revive them or by enemies for eliminations. Unlike Cranked, there was far more strategy to be found in Search & Rescue. Coordinated teams would stick together in clusters, making sure to quickly eliminate enemies and pick up the tags of any fallen allies. Anyone that ran off the beaten path was pretty much doomed to failure. This mode was more suited to close-quarter combat. There was one instance where one of my opponents was playing sniper, but that idea's main flaw was quickly exposed, as I simply scooped up any dog tags left behind by his targets. This is merely a sliver of what Ghosts' multiplayer has to offer. There's a new point system that applies to loadout perks, but many of them weren't available while I was there. Although before anyone asks, yes, Riley the dog was available as a killstreak reward and was used quite often to bark at any sign of danger, kill any nearby foes, and generally provide a good morale boost. Clans will also be available in Ghosts, though there wasn't nearly enough time to explore those specific features in detail. As far as visuals, Call of Duty: Ghosts looked as polished as any CoD title currently on the market--which is not really a good thing, considering I spent the entire day on an Xbox One. For all the talk of "next-gen" and "evolution," Ghosts didn't do much to push the visual envelope. I was far more intrigued by some of the features new to the series, particularly the dynamic destructible environments. There were several instances where pieces of the stage would collapse and either create new paths or block others. At one point, I was walking underneath a gas station, only to watch a rocket fly overhead and knock the whole thing over, leaving me stuck underneath the rubble until someone put me out of my misery. Another instance saw an opponent deploy an airstrike, which not only took out all the players on my team, but also completely destroyed the entire level in a fiery inferno. The result was mass destruction and what felt like a whole new stage, both in terms of visuals and stage layout. BOOM video 15837 There are also little improvements that aren't being touted as much, but are bound to make a difference in the way Ghosts is played. Leaning around corners feels far more intuitive than it ever did and is helpful when you're trying to sneak in a headshot when someone isn't looking. Vaulting over objects and sliding underneath others is a breeze, which is very useful when escaping danger. Of course, I didn't use it so much, since I often walked right into said danger, but quicker players are going to get some good use out of these features. Overall, Ghosts feels like a refined Call of Duty multiplayer formula, though lacking in innovation. It still carries that addiction factor that the series always has, but for a next-gen Call of Duty title, I had hoped for something a little more impactful. Of course, there's always the other new multiplayer modes that have yet to be unveiled. Activision and Infinity Ward are set to lift the curtain on two more game modes in a couple of weeks at Gamescom.