Call of Duty: Ghosts preview: rebooting a franchise

We got an early look at Call of Duty: Ghosts and got a bit of detail on the story, a new character, multiplayer and the new engine.

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Activision deliberately crossed everyone up when it announced the next Call of Duty as Ghosts instead of Modern Warfare 4 on May 1. It was a calculated attempt to reboot the franchise with a new generation of consoles on the horizon. But no matter what it was called, the company was confident the next game would be popular no matter what. "I plugged in Modern Warfare 4 into Google on my phone and saw there were 122 million search results for the name," said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. "Just for fun, I plugged in Dark Knight Rises, which does exist, and there were 116 million results." It is that fan craving for the next iteration in the series that is driving Activision and developer Infinity Ward to basically start from scratch with a new story and characters, and we got some brief details on the story, a new squad member, and multiplayer during a showing of the game prior to today's reveal of the Next Xbox. The story--coming from writer Stephen Gaghan, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Traffic--opens with a devastating man-made event that has crippled America. The military forces are practically obliterated and the government is in disarray. As the player, you take on the role of the underdog to fight against superior forces with your team, composed of remnants from all the U.S. Special Forces. Your group of Ghosts have become one of the elite combat teams that have adopted and perfected urban warfare. A new member of your squad will be a German Shepherd, and while there have been dogs in Call of Duty games before, Infinity Ward is making this canine an integral part of the team--so much so that they have done motion capture with dogs trained for combat. The dog will do everything from sniff out explosives to protect members of the squad. And for players who want a few more options in combat, the game will add lean & peek, vaulting and slide movements, something players have wanted for some time. While single-player will be starting fresh, multiplayer is also getting a makeover. Dynamic maps are being added, where natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, or player-driven actions will create a constantly changing experience for the player. Another new multiplayer feature will be character customization. Players can choose heads, bodies, and the gear they wear to help them better identify with the character they create. We did get to see the new engine in action in an underwater level, where the player is in scuba gear. It appeared to be part of the single-player story, where the player is tasked with taking out a heavily guarded ship from below, while dodging enemy scuba divers and undersea obstacles. The player is also able to use his gun underwater to dispatch enemies. The ship is eventually sunk by a torpedo released and aimed by the player. After that, it becomes a job of staying out of the way of sinking debris.

The environment of Ghosts rendered in the new engine.

The development team is striving for more realism, and to do that they are building a brand the new engine from scratch. "One of the core philosophies of Infinity Ward has always been that gameplay drives tech," said Mark Rubin, executive producer at Infinity Ward, "and what we are creating is not tech for tech's sake. The textures, the shaders, the lighting, the particle simulation … all these things work to create a world that is immersive as possible." And even will all the new tech, Rubin said he is confident the team will still deliver 60 frames per second and low-latency controls. While he was really happy with Modern Warfare 3 and how the game pushed that engine to its limits, Rubin said the new engine makes some refinements that improve on the look of the characters, the environment and the equipment. The company has hired several individuals with Hollywood CG experience, and these folks have been invaluable in creating improvements to the real-time rendering of the engine. These improvements include displacement mapping--which, in layman's terms, basically turns flat images into a high-definition environment that looks 3D--and SubD, an open-source project from movie studio Pixar that essentially smooths out the rough edges by increasing the number of polygons. The latter is particularly noticeable when looking close-up at a sniper scope or a character's hands. The game is set for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 on November 5, and sometime after for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. And all DLC will be available on Xbox One first for a limited time.
Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
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    May 21, 2013 11:00 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Call of Duty: Ghosts preview: rebooting a franchise.

    We got an early look at Call of Duty: Ghosts and got a bit of detail on the story, a new character, multiplayer and the new engine.

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      May 21, 2013 11:18 AM

      I've played but haven't bought a single COD game since COD4:MW . Thats because every COD after that sucked huge teenybopper ass (that includes the blops series). This however looks very impressive and promising.

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        May 21, 2013 12:32 PM

        Wait a second. Every CoD game "sucks teenybopper ass" but you think this is truly revolutionary? Fucking lol.

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      May 21, 2013 11:57 AM

      I've played all Call Of Duty's except for Black Ops 2 and I don't regret skipping that shit. I needed a break from the franchise, but this looks promising indeed. Will remain sceptical, but certainly keep an eye on it.

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      May 21, 2013 12:28 PM

      QTE of Duty

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        May 21, 2013 12:49 PM

        Call of Gaylo: Medal of Duty, the ultimate br0 game.

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        May 21, 2013 1:39 PM

        did you forget that COD3 had QTE events?

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          May 21, 2013 2:17 PM

          I'm referring to the entire franchise.

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            May 21, 2013 3:20 PM

            The first two Call of Duty games didn't have that many QTEs. They did, however, have sequences where a specific NPC dying was an insta-fail. The Call of Duty franchise has, however, always had infinitely respawning enemies triggering off of invisible triggers as you advance through the preplanned linear route. Back then, it was more because it would be too costly to render all the enemy models at once, but it was also more for flow control.

            To further the creative art, the series needs to grow up and allow a little more freedom, but they're not chasing artistic glory, they're chasing revenue. Anyone seeking a more fulfilling shooter will have to wait for someone indie to make something, because most of the bigger FPS studio players are still chasing multiplatform volume, and therefore are still chasing Call of Duty and Gears of War.

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              May 21, 2013 5:32 PM

              Red Orchestra 2 and Receiver have been two of the most interesting FPS made in a long while and no one cares about either game. I get the feeling that big budget FPS are going to stay boring for a long time.

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                May 21, 2013 5:58 PM

                Receiver is not even really the same genre as the popular multiplayer FPS.

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                May 22, 2013 5:08 AM

                I played the crap out of Receiver; I should fire it up again sometime. I bought Red Orchestra 2, but it has so many keybinds, and it erased all of them on their major free update! I should just spend an hour to rebind everything and keep playing that. Tripwire knows how to make great controlling FPSes, but they need to make a lighter-weight project, something between the control complexity levels of RO2 and Killing Floor.

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            May 21, 2013 3:21 PM

            oh, well now it makes sense.

            thanks for clearing up the vague!

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      May 21, 2013 12:56 PM

      still got that plasticky doom3 vibe.

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      May 21, 2013 1:34 PM

      is this next gen? BF3 looks better then this

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      May 21, 2013 2:01 PM

      They're rebooting Call of Duty? It's going back to a WWII game?

      Oh.

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      May 21, 2013 2:55 PM

      There are not enough dog pictures.

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      May 21, 2013 3:09 PM

      Well, at least Jesse Stern isn't the writer anymore.

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      May 21, 2013 3:11 PM

      GHOSTY!

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      May 21, 2013 3:31 PM

      Is it just me or does this not really look that great?

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        May 21, 2013 9:41 PM

        Yeah it actually doesn't look very good, which comes down to art direction as technically the engine seems solid. I'm guessing that their dev schedule has hurt it some, particularly in the texture department where everything just looks like a straight photo crunched to max contrast. All I see is black everywhere in these screenshots.

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        May 22, 2013 12:16 AM

        People need to remember three things with this game.

        1) It is a launch title.
        2) It is a cross-generation title.
        3) It is a CoD game which has always put a lot on a locked 60 FPS experience instead of the best visuals possible.

        I can see why they picked a new CoD game to show during their reveal, but it definitely is not the best thing to show what graphics your new machine can do.

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          May 22, 2013 1:28 AM

          These, plus I don't think the video quality here does the material justice. The higher fidelity games get, the more all the details are going to be lost when you downscale it to some low bitrate 720p stream.

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      May 21, 2013 5:19 PM

      I haven't cared for years and I seem to care less every year. It would have been nice for them to end the event on something new and fressh. Oh well. Hopefully they have some very cool stuff lined up for E3.

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      May 21, 2013 5:27 PM

      OMG can't wait to frag noobs on this new graphics engine at 60fps with my new xbox controller. K/d will be over 2.5 with new controller and graphics.

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      May 21, 2013 5:49 PM

      How can your reboot something like Call of Duty?

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      May 21, 2013 6:12 PM

      Didn't they just introduce a Call of Battlefield or something just a few weeks ago?

      Do people still buy these things? I gave up on them after Battlefield 2. They just stopped being fun and I don't feel like buying the same fucking game every year.

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        May 21, 2013 6:31 PM

        Do people still drive cars? I don't know. I myself don't drive so I assume everyone else did years ago too.

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      May 21, 2013 10:41 PM

      the trailer is disgustingly sentimental.

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      May 22, 2013 12:11 AM

      One thing that stood out for me was the explosions look very similar to the current gen Call of Duty. Improvements everywhere else though.

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      May 22, 2013 1:29 AM

      Nextgen yo. http://i.imgur.com/DtkdMMO.gif

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      May 22, 2013 4:26 AM

      It definitely does need a boot of some kind.

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      May 25, 2013 9:51 PM

      Finally a breath of fresh air into this dated game! Pre-order preordered.