I bet being at Infinity Ward is pretty difficult. How do you live up to the expectations of a franchise that defined the current generation of gaming, while still advancing the gameplay enough for the next generation to make it different and fresh? Infinity Ward is doing their best to find that happy medium with Call of Duty: Ghosts, the first Call of Duty title to hit the next generation of consoles.
Our E3 demonstration went through three different sections of the game, each picked to highlight unique aspects of the design. Our first walkthrough was with a level in which the dog, Riley, was present. The dog has been the subject of a lot of memes and mockery since he was given a starring role in Microsoft's lambasted Xbox One reveal, but it's clear Infinity Ward is putting effort into making this aspect of the game unique and noteworthy.
Riley has a lot of ways to help the game's titular characters. The player can take direct control over the animal, using him to scout ahead and stealthily kill enemy troops (through biting their throats out, of course). He is also capable of direct assistance in battle, and the demo involved using him to flush enemies out of a building for the soldiers to pick them off.
Other notable features of the demo were the pretty visuals of a ruined American town, apparently the home town of the protagonists. The game does a great job of creating a unique and ruinous environment, equal parts beautiful and haunting. Set-pieces built into the segment were a big part of the atmosphere as well, including a very realistic building collapse.
But the second demo took a very different turn. In this segment we saw the heroes raiding a massive skyscraper in an impressive modern city. The soldiers rappelled down the side of the structure, taking out enemy troops through windows silently as they went before breaking in to hack the building and take out the lights then continuing their descent. The developers skipped ahead in time in the demo revealing an impressive escape sequence from within the collapsing building; an intense scene, which fits right with the tone of Call of Duty games of past.
Finally we were shown a segment of the new underwater level, and this was where the new engine really showed off its muscle. The underwater environments were gorgeous and dire. Many sunken ships and a lighthouse created an unforgettable scenery as you battle through enemy troops, avoiding a powerful close-range sonar before sinking the ship that was using it. This wrapped up with another setpiece, requiring the player to escape the space under the massive sinking vessel as debris fell around him.
Our Call of Duty demo concluded there. Ghosts definitely looks to be a satisfying experience, and one that will hit all the right notes for series faithful. The new engine is a very pretty thing, but don't expect the best visuals of the new generation launch titles, and while the dog is doing some interesting things, it's not a massive change from features Call of Duty gamers are already familiar with. I look forward to seeing more of the singleplayer and multiplayer in the coming months, but as of right now Call of Duty: Ghosts is an easy recommendation for FPS fans picking up a PS4 or Xbox One this holiday. For the rest of you, it will also be available on Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.