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Call of Duty Ghosts preview: Same plan, new generation

By Alex Dale on Tuesday 21st May 2013 at 6:00 PM UTC

For its next-gen debut, Infinity Ward isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead it's making sure that wheel is perfectly, flawlessly round.

Perfectly round like the scope of your rifle. We're at Activision's Pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, California, and Call of Duty: Ghosts executive producer Mark Rubin is on stage comparing next-gen stills of the upcoming title with those of 2011's Modern Warfare 3.

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At one point we're shown a comparison of how both games look when the player is peering down their sights. Much is made of how Ghosts' reticule is a perfect circle, so magnificently spherical you could use it to cut cookies. In contrast, MW 3's scope is jaggier, its rough edges muddied from view with some sneaky blurring and depth of field effects.

That's right - we've entered that stage of the next-generation hype machine. The murky period when the first-wave of next-gen games justify their existence by highlighting inconsequential new graphical flourishes. Remember the early Xbox 360 sports titles and their 'sweat physics'? Perfectly round reticules are this gen's equivalent. On that note, did we mention that the fish now have AI?

All posturing aside, the next-gen version of Call of Duty: Ghosts is a seriously impressive looking piece of macho shootery. Infinity Ward set the visual benchmark on the Xbox 360's launch day back in November 2005 with Call of Duty 2 and its billowing smoke effects, and the studio is poised to repeat the trick with an array of special effects that combine to give Ghosts a graphical fidelity far beyond anything capable on current gen.

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Chief amongst these is a process called SubD rendering. Originally developed by Pixar, this technique sees the GPU exponentially increase the texture count in real-time as and when needed. So when you look down the sights of the gun for example, the console boosts the texture count of your hands and weapon, allowing for remarkable levels of detail.

Up close and personal with your soldier's mitts, you can make out skin blemishes, cuts, even the dirt under their fingernails. Guns are faithfully modelled down to the screws and the textures on the grip. And, finally, the scope is as round as Henry the Eighth.

If you can steer your eyes away from your soldier's grime-laden paws for a second, you'll find the rest of the game world looks equally as luxurious.

For the purpose of the demonstration we were whisked away to a level set in a sweltering tropical jungle. With the AI switched off, we were free to take in the sights and sounds of our next-gen surroundings at our leisure.

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Immediately, the HDR lighting effects catch the eye. The sun's rays struggle to penetrate the thick layers of fronds overhead, but when the sun pierces though, it beams blinding streams of light straight into the player's eyes, forcing you to shift your position to escape the glare.

Turn away from the sun and stare at a rock for a few seconds and it takes your character's irises a few seconds to adapt to the change of lighting - another neat visual touch.

This, you sense, is a theatre of war how Infinity Ward always intended. It isn't just the sun's rays that threaten to throw you off your gameplan - the humid air is thick with distraction, with stingy insects, fluttering leaves and exotic faunae all taking advantage of a greatly increased particle count. Previous Call of Duty environments seem deathly static in comparison.

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