What I want from Call of Duty: Ghosts
Another November, another Call of Duty release. In my book that’s not a bad thing. This year, original series developer Infinity Ward will step to the plate to provide the first Call of Duty game for the new generation of consoles. Infinity Ward will be looking to get the series back on solid ground with Call of Duty: Ghosts after a shaky effort from Treyarch last year. Call of Duty: Black Ops II tried to add some new things to the mix but many of those new things didn’t really work out so well. Here are the things I think Infinity Ward can do to get things back on track. I have split my suggestions up into single player and multiplayer sections.
—Get rid of Strikeforce Missions Treyarch tried to add in optional side missions that mixed the core first person shooter gameplay with an added element of real time strategy. The implementation of the real time strategy sections were so poorly done that I gave up on even trying to use it. Trying to move your squad into position felt like more of a suggestion than a command. I completed the missions by taking control of a single soldier and doing everything myself. I don’t think that was the intent. Stick to what you know and what you know isn’t real time strategy.
—No Branching Story I strongly disliked the branching story options in Black Ops II. The biggest complaint I had with the branching story was that it hardly effected the experience at all. It just seemed that no matter what I did, the only thing that changed was a couple lines of dialogue here or there. There were times you could get some extra AI help by completing Strikeforce missions but it hardly felt essential to the experience. It felt like they were trying to be different for the sake of trying to be different. For this concept to work, I think you need to go all in on it. I think you need to take a page from X-Com: Enemy Unknown and present the player with a couple of missions in different locales and make them pick one. Also convey to the player very clearly how those choices are going to affect the digital world. Having to make choices on who to save based on resources and money that they contribute to your organization could really change things up. If you aren’t willing to go that far, I think you should just stick with the traditional linear narrative structure.
—Stop Going For Shock Value Ever since the “ No Russian” level (the player was cast as an undercover agent in a Russian terrorist group that was assaulting an airport) from Modern Warfare II it seems like the Call of Duty developers have been involved in a game of can you top this? You usually know “that moment” when you get to it. In Black Ops you tortured a prisoner by putting glass in his mouth and punching him in the face. In Modern Warfare III you played as a child with a video camera that gets blown up in a terror attack. In Black Ops II you had the graphic execution of Hudson. Stop it. Break the trend with Ghosts please. Randomly plopping in an over the top graphic act of violence doesn’t make the product feel “mature.” It makes it feel incredibly tacky. Sometimes there are narrative reasons to have something shocking and appalling in a game. I think Spec Ops: The Line is a good example of shocking acts of violence having a point. I have failed to see that point lately in Call of Duty. Having ‘Syriana’ and ‘Traffic’ writer Stephen Gaghan on board gives me hope that Ghosts will go away from relying on shock value and more on an interesting narrative.
—Ground The Story Call of Duty has always had one foot in reality and I think Black Ops II started to stretch things past that point. Black Ops II was set 20 years in the future and with all of the gadgets I had at my disposal I felt more like James Bond than a solider. The villain also felt like more along the lines of what you would see in a Bond movie than in a real world. I think its time to start dialing it back a little. Strip out the jetpacks, the spider robot that can crawl through vents, the optic camouflage, the sniper rifles that can shoot through three walls by charging it and all of the other sci-fi stuff. The series started out as sort of a tribute to soldiers and I’d like to see a little bit of respect paid to those beginnings.
—No Celebrity Soundtrack I’m not sure how much money Treyarch paid for the scraps off of Trent Reznor’s computer but they should seriously go get their money back. I hated the music in Black Ops II. A couple of times during the campaign it really pulled me out of the experience. A regular composer will do just fine rather than trying to shoehorn in whatever electronic leftovers Reznor hasn’t managed to fit into a Nine Inch Nails song yet. It just seems like those resources could be put to better use elsewhere.
—Balance Quick Scoping This is my number one suggestion for multiplayer by far. My initial reaction would be to completely get rid of quick scoping but I don’t think that is going to happen. It is mighty frustrating to have a good kill streak going and to have a sniper automatically lock onto you and one shot you by bunny hopping over a box for a second. I have a good suggestion. I would have a perk called .50 Cal Vest. What my suggested perk would do is double the amount of body shots your soldier can take from a sniper rifle. Head shots would be an instant kill but you would need to be hit twice from a bolt action sniper rifle anywhere else on the body to be killed. That feels very fair to me. That may seem ridiculous to single out sniper rifles but take a look at how often players that use explosives get singled out. There are all sorts of perks that have mitigated the damage from explosives. I think my suggested perk would be a nice option to put in play against teams that don’t want to engage you.
—Bring Back Strike Packages I loved the Modern Warfare 3 strike package system. I really enjoyed having the support package as an option. If you don’t remember, when you used the support package your kill streak did not reset after you died. It really allowed me to be hyper aggressive and still get cool rewards. I didn’t like the Black Ops II scoring system at all. It seemed like they really wanted to make it really hard for players to get killstreaks (especially in team deathmatch) unless you played the objective based modes and that took a lot of the fun out of that game for me. I really feel like the assault, support and specialist packages really allowed for some different play styles and I hope to see those as options again.
—Get Rid of Pick 10 Pick 10 sounded like a good idea in theory but it didn’t change things up as much as I thought it would. The only other way I would like to see it back is if they eliminated the cost of using wildcards. Wildcards allowed you to do things like add a third attachment to your gun. The problem was it cost a point for the wildcard and a point for the third attachment. You basically had to give up both tactical grenades to use the third attachment and I found out pretty quickly that it wasn’t really worth doing. It’s just another layer of micro managing that doesn’t need to be there.
—Eliminate Panic Knifing Getting killed by a player that knifes you as you are pouring bullets into them is incredibly frustrating. I think that it should take two knife swipes from the front to kill a player like it does in Battlefield now. Or make it so you aren’t able to swing your knife while taking damage. Knifing somebody in the back would still be a one-hit kill of course. I think you could also make a case for getting rid of the knife completely. Infinity Ward and Treyarch have talked about having strong gun-on-gun gameplay. Getting rid of the knife and making everybody use a gun of some sort would help foster that.
—Larger Maps I hope the maps for Call of Duty: Ghosts have more in common with Modern Warfare 3 than with Black Ops II. The maps in Black Ops II are way too small. You frequently get spawned in front of enemies that shoot you the second you step into the game. It was like Treyarch was bent on having every map be Nuketown. Nuketown was a good change of pace map but I didn’t want a whole game based on that map and that is kind of what we got in Black Ops II. It’s a little hard to justify using perks like ghost and blind eye and attachments like a silencer when the maps are as big as a cardboard box and everybody knows where you are anyway. I want some room to maneuver this year. I want flanking routes. I want using a silencer and staying quiet on the radar to mean something.
—Get Dedicated Servers or Fix Lag Compensation Black Ops II multiplayer was unplayable at me at launch because of the problems with lag compensation. The system that was in place for Modern Warfare 3 worked a lot better. Just go back to using that infrastructure. It is by no means perfect but until Activision springs for dedicated servers I think that is about as good as its going to get. Dedicated servers would eliminate a lot of the connection issues but that would probably come at a hefty cost to Activision.
—Stop Listening to Major League Gaming I found it pretty odd that Treyarch was pandering to Major League Gaming so much. Is it really that big of a deal if Major League Gaming is playing your game at their events? Seriously, how many people need to be playing your game before you are happy? Some people reading this may not even be aware that there is such a thing as Major League Gaming and that they hold events. To me, you should worry about the millions of fans that line up every November and everything else should be secondary. I really want Call of Duty to stop trying to cram objective based modes down my throat because that is what Major League Gaming wants. I’m not going to play domination or hardcore search and destroy no matter how badly you want me to. If I want objective based gameplay, I’m going to play Battlefield 4 not Ghosts. That is the honest truth. I think the Call of Duty studios should worry about giving fans more of the game they love this November. Give us those strong team death match maps. Remember the millions of people that brought you to the dance to begin with. If MLG plays the game at their events great. If not, I don't think it will be a big loss.