Speaking of, I did ask about multiplayer, which is the bread and butter of Call of Duty for many. Palacios and Miller won’t say much about it for now, other than it will have better character customization and dynamic maps, where players – and nature – can affect the environment in ways that affect matches.
But what about the franchise’s main rival, Battlefield? I played some multiplayer in the upcoming Battlefield 4 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in June and it was a hoot – two teams of 32, with tanks, choppers and gunboats all at your disposal. Call of Duty seems small in comparison.
Miller says the decision to stick to infantry battles, rather than adding vehicles, has so far been a purposeful one. Doing that would skew the game to where players become dependent on their vehicles or equipment, whereas Call of Duty relies more on skill.
“When you jump in, you feel just as powerful as the next guy. The other guy might have a better loadout, but it’s better for him and you can always get there. You never feel like you’re at a disadvantage,” he says. “That’s a big part of making sure it’s fun for everyone.”
He’s right, and the rationalization does make sense. I have to admit that whenever I play Battlefield games, I immediately run for the nearest tank, rather than try to outgun my fellow players with simple skill. After all, fast reflexes and good aim really pale in comparison to a giant cannon and several tons of armour.
In the end, Ghosts is looking like it’s going to offer a lot of new things, but I was left wondering whether those elements will be too subtle or if they’ll be enough to make it feel fresh. Therein lies the challenge of any franchised entertainment – it needs enough new to make it feel so, but also enough familiarity to remind fans of why they were attracted to the property in the first place.
Just before my demo session took place, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain and his young son stopped by for a look. His reaction was straightforward: “It looks awesome!” I agree, it does and I am looking forward to playing it. Call of Duty is what it is, and its makers don’t apologize for it. They’re continually tweaking it in an effort to make it better, which is all that can be asked of a developer.
Call of Duty seems to have reached that same level as many top sports games, with a similar value proposition. The hard-core devotees will doubtlessly lap up every annual release, whereas the general mainstream may only pick up every other title or so. At this point, I think I’m somewhere in-between. I’m cautiously optimistic about Ghosts – but I’m going to put the massage therapist on speed dial just in case.