|System: Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Infinity Ward|
|Release: November 5, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Engen
I know that Call of Duty fans are probably going to lynch me for saying this, but Activision's flagship FPS might be starting to show its age. Black Ops 2 is the first title in the series to be outsold by its predecessor, and the franchise doesn't seem to demand the same kind of excitement that it once did.
This isn't to say that the Call of Duty isn't popular. That's ridiculous. But Activision obviously doesn't want CoD to continue its downward slide, so the folks at Infinity Ward have abandoned many of the established CoD benchmarks in favor of something entirely different.
The graphics engine, for instance, has been completely redesigned with the next generation of consoles in mind. Instead of taking cues from other video game developers, Activision looked to television and film studios for its technical inspiration. The game's new Displacement Mapping technology adds an incredible level of graphical realism to its textured elements. Now, rocks and other surfaces that would normally be curved in reality are automatically given physical depth and roundness. In the past, texture mapping was about using artificial shading to trick the viewer into thinking that an object looked realistic, but Displacement Mapping carves them out of real space—albeit in a digital universe.
The other advancement that Activision has been touting is its Sub-D technology, which automatically subdivides in-game polygons based on camera position. So, an object should maintain a similarly smooth shape when viewed from six inches as it would when viewed from six feet.
But, if you've been paying attention, all of this is old news. Activision has been bragging about their new technology ever since the game was revealed at the Xbox One event last month. However, now that E3 has overtaken Los Angeles, we're finally getting a few new tidbits of information about Ghosts.
Today, the folks over at Activision let me take a look behind the Call of Duty curtain to check out some of the game's most fashionable features. And you'll be happy to know that one of the most noteworthy elements of Ghosts is the Internet's new favorite meme: the Call of Duty dog.
Players will be able to control the dog directly, much like you would control an RC car in Black Ops 2. Thankfully, though, the dogs don't explode when you're done with them.
During the demo, Activision showed off a mission called No Man's Land. The mission gave us a glimpse into the main characters' backstories and allowed us to check out the dog's control setup. Activision's four-legged protagonist is equipped with a periscope-style camera that allows players to see what the dog sees. Our Activision rep expertly snuck the dog into an enemy base and attacked the necks of a few enemy soldiers. It was everything you'd probably expect from a dog that lives in the Call of Duty universe.
The second map, Federation Day, followed a squad of solders as they infiltrated a skyscraper using zip lines and rappelling gear. As the team members slowly negotiated the building's glass surface, stopping occasionally to assassinate guards, I couldn't help but wonder if Call of Duty is cannibalizing itself. Nearly every mission, no matter how clever, always feels similar to something that we've seen in an earlier title. The missions are starting to feel like episodes of Law and Order, where even brand-new installments invoke a sense of déjà vu.
But the Call of Duty franchise has such a crisp look and feel that I can't help but be excited about the next episode. And even if Ghosts ends up feeling a bit like a Law and Order rerun, the endless replay value that the multiplayer component has to offer is more than enough to justify the price of admission.
If you caught the Xbox One event, you've already seen the last map that Activision has been showing off at E3. Into the Deep is an underwater mission that tasks players with dodging sharks and hiding from sonar in order to destroy an enemy vessel. Once the ship has been destroyed, though, escape becomes difficult.
The game looks great, but if I'm being honest, I haven't been blown away by anything that I've seen thus far. Sure, the graphics are impressive, but I often get worried when developers are hung up on visuals. Gameplay is everything, especially for Call of Duty, and if Infinity Ward is shifting their focus, it could also mean that they're forgetting what made CoD great.
At this point, I probably don't have any reason to be worried. The game definitely looks and feels like a classical CoD title. And even though Infinity Ward's decision to create a brand new CoD sub-franchise is a ballsy move, it might be just what the series needs to turn those sales numbers around.
Date: June 14, 2013