Gamers around the world know that the crowning jewel of the Call of Duty franchise is the multiplayer. It has not only been the reason why it is the most successful entertainment franchise in history, but it has also contributed to transforming and molding the game industry ever since the groundbreaking Call of Duty 4 was released in 2007. While there are a majority of people that consider the franchise to be an epidemic that’s degrading the quality of many AAA games and negatively influencing the business practices of the game industry’s big publishers (and I can’t say I disagree in some respects), no one can or should deny the progress and evolution of the spectacular multiplayer that Call of Duty boasts. However, as a long-time fan of the multiplayer, I’ll admit that it’s gotten a bit stale over the years. Although there have been signs of significant progress (such as the excellently revamped Create-a-Class in Black Ops 2), I’ve found myself truly invested in the multiplayer for only a couple of months, whereas I used to consistently play it until the next release from Call of Duty 4 up until Modern Warfare 2. For the growing amount of gamers like me in this situation, what needs to be accomplished to reinvigorate an already excellent multiplayer formula with new ideas? That’s an extremely difficult question to answer.
A little over a week ago, I discussed a couple of things Infinity Ward can do for the campaign of Call of Duty: Ghosts that could rejuvenate this slowly waning franchise for everyone. To my surprise, the Xbox One conference confirmed that a significant number of my suggestions are indeed being addressed (better character development, diverse environments, improved graphical fidelity, etc.). Although I found the emphasis on canine companions to be a bit odd (albeit this has potential to spice up the gameplay in interesting ways), color me more impressed than I thought I would be!
Concept art for Ghosts…huh, this actually looks like it could be a great multiplayer map.
I was also shocked to see a sneak peek at the multiplayer, which has always had separate reveals from the campaigns as far as I know. Thankfully, not much was revealed to the point where my suggestions on it would be irrelevant now. Only two major additions to it were announced, so I will discuss them both later on (even though one of them was one of my original suggestions). I will also be addressing the third mode, which will include my thoughts on improving the established Spec Ops mode and possibilities for a new mode. Let’s go ahead and jump in.
1. An Interactive Create-a-Class System with Meticulous Customization
Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s multiplayer – despite being mediocre – has a customization system called “My Solider” that I’ve always wanted to see in Call of Duty (albeit lengthy, this video shows it off). Instead of providing pictorial visuals to navigate through weapons and what not, Warfighter does this in a first person view. The soldier interacts with the equipment the player chooses to select and (obviously) provides a 100% identical perspective on how it will look on the battlefield. But why not take this a step further? Instead of having to practice with configurations after creating them in real or private matches, why not provide a training area to test attachments and weapons that can be accessed instantaneously? Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier does this (as demonstrated by its impressive unveiling with Kinect), and with the little time I spent with the multiplayer, I found it convenient to experiment with my classes on the fly. Back to Warfighter, it also shows a group of soldiers that represent a player’s classes. Although customization in terms of armor and cosmetics is not possible in this game, it will be in Ghosts (as confirmed by the Xbox One conference). What’s better is that it could take the same visual approach as Warfighter, but with full 3D rotating of soldiers for easy customization. In fact, this is very similar to what Black Ops did for its Create-a-Class system. Here’s hoping that Infinity Ward’s take on it will be the snazziest and deepest one yet.
The amount of detail is staggering in Ghosts. Wouldn’t it be cool to personalize guns like this one down to unique straps, iron sights, and even varying ways to reload?
How about the actual system itself? What could be altered to further perfect it? Black Ops 2 already has a fantastic system that is one of the greatest changes to the multiplayer formula, and I would like to see it carried over to Ghosts. The “Pick 10” concept really shakes things up for making classes. Two sniper rifles with a load of attachments and no perks? No weapons at all with six perks? These options and countless others make Create-a-Class a more personal, creative, and fun way to experiment with classes. I think Ghosts should simply expand on this with an increase in options, such as a new perk tier, more attachments, actual modifications to weapons that change all sorts of stats, etc. When it comes to killstreaks, the only thing I would change is that individual classes should have their own three (or perhaps four due to a new perk?) killstreaks to choose from. Modern Warfare 3 got this right, but Black Ops 2 did not. I’d love to see this return for Ghosts.
2. Desirable Challenges That Enhance Replay Value With Enticing Rewards
Call of Duty 4 and Black Ops stick out in my mind when I think of multiplayer challenges. The former has challenges for achieving a certain amount of headshots to acquire a colorful variety of camos, which I remember feverishly striving for to earn. The latter had daily challenges that rewarded players with “CoD Points” for completing them in a specific timeframe. Both of these features should return for Ghosts in their basic forms because were motivating goals that I enjoyed pursuing. However, I’ve still ignored most of the challenges because they offer nothing of importance to me. Each Call of Duty has had sections full of them to complete for XP…that’s simply not enough. If I’m going to extirpate, oh, say, 50 enemies by using a specific environmental hazard, I’m not doing that just for an emblem/callsign and XP. How about a unique accessory for a specific weapon/attachment or a new item to decorate my solider with (maybe even “limited edition” items that can only be earned in a certain timeframe)? Let’s imagine something entirely different. What if there was a currency system specifically designed for challenges that unlocked a plethora of items ranging in price and, therefore, desirability? Earning all sorts of unlockables that convey worth and certain statuses give something for players to aim for after going through all the weapons and leveling up; it’s a list of objectives that could be fun to earn and talk about with friends.
As people say on the internet…TL;DR. Shouldn’t these challenges have better payoffs?
3. A Few Creative, New Modes That Focus On Teamwork and Strategy
‘Free-for-all’ naturally connotes the concept that a person is to fend for themselves against other opponents with the same objective. Unfortunately, this leaks on over to team-based modes in plenty of games, and Call of Duty is a prime example. It’s not like I have always been trying to encourage this either. The multiplayer can be easily played alone in almost every mode, so what can remove this roadblock to cooperation? To be honest, I don’t believe it can be done due to the intrinsic ‘lone-wolfness’ of Call of Duty…but it can be improved to some extent.
Not only is this ‘lone-wolfness’ natural to fall into, but encouraged as well. I’d rather play solo than associate with the overwhelmingly immature, vulgar perverts that play the multiplayer (with their incessant swearing, obscene profanities, and what have you). However, there’s the smaller amount of close-knit friends that want to have a good time, work together, and make fun memories, and they’re the kind of people (such as me and my friends) that this point is aimed at. As for what I have in mind, I’ll firstly suggest something similar to Counterstrike’s “Hostage Rescue” mode, which charges one team with retrieving a group of civilians held captive by the opposing team. What would make this unique in Ghosts is that the opposing team keeps the hostages in a large building/area that they cannot leave. Therefore, the rescuers must find a way to distract the other team from the outside (where they spawn), infiltrate the building/area, and escort the hostages back to base. However, every player only has one life, so playing wisely is key. This could be viewed as a hybrid of Capture the Flag (strategy) and Search and Destroy (nerve-wracking pressure). Another mode I’m interested in is a “Capture the Leader” mode, which is well known from Gears of War. For Call of Duty, I think the mode could be altered to be like this: both teams are individually tasked with protecting one of their players (leaders) that has slightly better armor, weapon damage, speed, and overall stats than his/her teammates. However, if one of these leaders dies, it’s game over (I can see this lasting for four rounds in one game). This could result in some tense moments, especially if respawns are timed (probably ranging from 5-10 seconds). This would push players to stick together with their leader, but would also force them to be strategic in how they attack their enemies.
More concept art from Ghosts. Come to think of it, stealthily swimming under water to surprise enemies would be a lot of fun in the multiplayer.
You can see the kind of pattern I’ve established with modes I would enjoy seeing in the next Call of Duty. Do you think the ones I’ve specifically addressed are appealing? Please add to my thoughts with your own ideas in the comments!
4. Exciting Cutscenes to Begin Matches, End Matches, etc.
This is more of a personal thing I’d like to have in the multiplayer. It’s inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but rappelling down a rope from a helicopter; emerging from a jungle, or even parachuting down from a mountainside would be neat scenes to behold that play out while players wait for a match to start. And the same goes for ending a match, which could go out with boarding a jeep while fist bumping squad mates, riding away on motorcycles as a team blows the map up with C4, etc. I understand this is a silly point to include, but it’s nevertheless something I’ve always wanted to happen before and after matches in Call of Duty.
5. Interactive and Destructible Environments
I was originally going to only talk about destructible environments, but the Xbox One conference confirmed that multiplayer maps are going to have elements that allow players to exploit their surroundings in creative ways. In the gameplay trailer, a hefty bundle of tree trunks on the side of a hill (assuming to be triggered by a player) came crashing down on anyone unfortunate enough to be below. What if a player could set a wrecking ball loose on an abandoned construction site? Or how about irritating a nest of killer wasps (by shooting or damaging it in some way) as an enemy unsuspectingly walks by? Options like these make environments more pivotal to the player; a map is no longer just a place to be on, but partly becomes a weapon that can be used to someone’s advantage. This, in turn, could make the multiplayer of Ghosts a bit more immersive.
If this were to be a multiplayer map, I bet a lot of cataclysmic chaos would ensue.
Destructible environments could increase this immersion a tad more as well. Battlefield 3 proudly shows off that its engine is capable of this, so why should Ghosts be an exception as a next-gen title? Wooden doors and concrete walls should eventually give way to prolonged fire, which would force players to stay on their toes at all times. Airstrikes and small explosives should weaken small buildings or structures that alter the flow of a battle and mix things up in unexpectedly new ways. Since Call of Duty’s multiplayer maps are relatively small, more chaos in this regard is exciting in prospect.
I know it may appear morbid that I want gore in Ghosts, but let’s contemplate on why I do before we jump to the conclusion that I have a sadistic side. First: a question. What happens when a grenade blows up under someone’s feet, a 50-caliber bullet penetrates through a skull, or a shotgun is fired at an arm at close range? Well, the only logical conclusion is that the appendage or vital body part being assaulted will either – so to speak – disintegrate into nothing or fly right off. Strangely enough, World at War is the only Call of Duty to incorporate gore like this. Sure, it’s not necessary, but when an AC-130 rains down missiles and bullets that can tear or obliterate a man into pieces in real life, observing characters’ bodies fall down completely intact (no matter how they die) in every other Call of Duty is ridiculously incongruous to what should be happening. I’m not advocating that the more gruesome violence there is, the better the game is. What I’m saying is that it should be realistically portrayed (but not to the point of being immaturely excessive) in a video game that’s attempting to be realistic in many ways. This is one area that’s absolutely possible for Ghosts to add, and it’s not like the developers haven’t wanted to do it (Treyarch has specifically said that they’ve been limited by disk space). And for those who are turned off by strong violence, then there should be an option to turn it off if possible. However, once again, this is an issue that doesn’t really impact the multiplayer experience. It’s simply something I would like to see return for Ghosts.
That’s all I got for the multiplayer. I could certainly point out a couple more things, but what I’ve covered already is what I’ve primarily been thinking about. This leads on to my final thing to cover: the third mode. Ever since World at War, every subsequent Call of Duty has had “Zombies” or “Spec Ops.” The former is a massively successful mode that became a surprise hit with Treyarch’s games, and I haven’t gotten tired of it. The latter, while fun to play with friends in Modern Warfare 2, lost its luster (specifically for me) in Modern Warfare 3. Although this was dampened by the addition of the “Survival” mode, it wasn’t enough to keep me coming back. It felt like more of the same thing from the second game, and I (including my friend) became disinterested in Spec Ops after the first few missions. I’m hoping that Ghosts will not send players on more random missions and uninspired survival quests this time around.
THE THIRD MODE:
1. Spec Ops Missions That Delve Into Campaign’s Characters’ Past Missions With No Recycled Maps (For The Most Part)
If I’m going to play an entirely separate mode from the campaign, I shouldn’t expect a majority of recycled places from it. It would be much more enjoyable to explore new areas of locations I’ve already been to or entirely new environments. Unless the reasoning behind a recycled area makes sense (such as playing as soldiers that cleared out a building for the player in the campaign), there should be different locations to traverse in Spec Ops. Some cutscenes that don’t pull away from the gameplay would be a nice addition to the quality of the missions as well. And for good measure, why not tie some of them into the campaign’s story? Let’s say a character recalls a battle he participated in with some sort of emotional reaction in the campaign…wouldn’t it be cool to play through it later on in Spec Ops? Further delving into the past of the cast of Ghosts would be far more interesting than playing as random soldiers pursuing an objective for the sake of, well, explosions and stuff. And since the game takes place after devastating events leave the USA in shambles, why not have some missions that explain the story and explore the environments that precede the campaign? There could be so much more meaning behind the game’s content here than from previous installments by Infinity Ward.
2. Four-Player Survival Mode With Large, Unique Maps, Equipment, and Canonical/”What if?” Stories
In Part 1 of this blog, I mentioned how the campaign has the potential to allow up to four players to play together, which opens up the enticing opportunity for campaign DLC. Imagine being able to go through this with a group of friends that not only provides new locations and weapons, but even a story that could add to the anticipation of waiting to see what happens next. If this were not to happen (or, better yet, if it’s additionally possible), I would also like a true expansion on the survival mode introduced in Modern Warfare 3. Not two players, but four. Not recycled maps from multiplayer, but unique ones designed exclusively for this mode. Not random survival, but survival with a basic purpose, or, in other words, a little backstory behind it. A “What If?” story that shows an alternate timeline branching out from the campaign would be interesting (revealed through dialogue and thorough analyzing of maps, like in Treyarch’s Zombies mode). Perhaps the story could be canonical…focusing on a completely different squad of soldiers to show another side of the world that Infinity Ward is creating for Ghosts.
In the post-apocalyptic setting for Ghosts, a survival mode would make a lot of sense.
3. A Mode Based on a Different Game Genre
Treyarch cleverly added a shockingly good mode called “Dead Ops Arcade” to Black Ops, which is a top-down shooter with waves of zombies to defeat. Once a certain amount of them has been killed, the player(s) can progress to other areas and continue to unlock special abilities, earn currency, and use special weapons along the way. What if Ghosts had something eccentric like this? How about a 16-bit side-scrolling shooter or a third person shooter? I’d easily welcome Call of Duty in new forms like these as small modes. They’d sure be interesting distractions from the main content of the game!
4. No Third Mode at All
This may seem like a ridiculous or shallow point, but I honestly think this wouldn’t be a bad idea. After all, Call of Duty 4 only has two main modes (campaign and multiplayer), and it still stands as one of the best games in the franchise. The reason why is that – to use a cliché – quality trumps quantity. So, instead of the common 7-10 hour campaign for Ghosts, Infinity Ward could dump the third mode and create a 15-18 hour-long campaign instead (thereby resolving one of the biggest complaints about Call of Duty: the campaigns are way too short). More maps could be made for the multiplayer and (hypothetically speaking) an effort could be made to pump out substantial campaign DLC on a monthly basis. In perspective, this point isn’t as crazy as it might seem. This sacrifice could make the other parts of Ghosts even better and hopefully worth the trade-off.
I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on the multiplayer and third mode for Call of Duty: Ghosts. But enough from me; the multiplayer is a social experience, so what do my fellow Gameinformer members want to see in it? Any particular modes, weapons, mechanics, or changes you think would suit the game best? What about the third mode? Would you like to see the return of Spec Ops, something completely different, or maybe even nothing (in exchange for more depth in the campaign and multiplayer)? Post a comment below with your ideas, and thank you for reading the second and final part of this blog!
This article was originally published as a user blog post on Game Informer.