Infinity Ward's Xbox 360 launch gameCall of Duty 2 ensured that the current console generation kicked off with a bang back in 2005. Arguably the pick of the system's first wave of titles, it would herald the start of a close relationship between Microsoft's console, the Xbox Live community and a series that went on to raise the bar for shooters on a regular basis. Eight years on and tens of millions of sales later, Call of Duty and Modern Warfare creator Infinity Ward hopes to repeat the trick with its latest game, Ghosts.
In many ways the title follows those that have come before it, maintaining fluid 60 frames per second action across a cinematic single-player campaign and a breakneck multiplayer offering, but Infinity Ward has also brought plenty of new ideas to the table in a bid to evolve the series and lead the charge on the next generation of Xbox. Ghosts is a fresh chapter in the Call of Duty franchise, separate from Modern Warfare and Black Ops, and is built on a new game engine that promises to take the series to the next level with a number of technical innovations.
Introducing a fresh scenario that puts players on the side of a crippled nation fighting for survival, the game's story was written in collaboration with Stephen Gaghan, who previously penned the screenplay for Steven Soderbergh's film Traffic, as well as Syriana, which he also directed. It kicks off with an orbital defense space station being overrun and its weapons turned on the US to launch a series of crippling attacks, decimating the land and leaving the nation open to a full-scale invasion that redraws both its borders and the balance of global power.
Ten years on, the remainder of the nation's special operations forces, a mysterious group known as Ghosts, leads the fight back against a technologically superior enemy, a South American alliance called the Federation, by employing guerilla warfare tactics, clandestine operations, and raids behind enemy lines with the ultimate goal of restoring the US as a world superpower.
While many players will lap up Ghosts' single-player campaign, it's the multiplayer offering that will keep the game in disc trays for months on end. An extensive suite of customization options enable players to create their own soldiers and form a squad of playable characters - including female ones for the first time in the series - from over 20,000 combinations. A host of new perks have also been introduced to let players further modify the effectiveness of their soldiers and weapons to suit their chosen style of play.
Multiplayer offers a wide range of competitive and cooperative modes in levels that are more realistic and immersive than ever before. New interactive elements and player-triggered events evolve the maps, allowing users to destruct objects to create cover or expose/trap opponents. Special aerial strikes can completely transform landscapes too, altering the routes available to players and the flow of battle, meaning teams have to adopt new tactics and strategies on the fly.
Character physicality has been greatly refined as well. There's a new contextual lean system that lets soldiers peek around objects and shoot from cover without adding button combinations. Players can now traverse environments fluidly without losing momentum by mantling over walls, cars and other obstacles, while the knee slide facilitates a smooth transition from running to crouch to prone.
Fan favourite multiplayer game types like Free for All and Domination return alongside brand new ones like Cranked and Blitz. Cranked is a Team Deathmatch variant, the gimmick being that each time you bag a kill you get faster at running, reloading and aiming down your gun's sight. However, each kill also starts a 30 second countdown, and if you don't score another before the time expires you explode.
Blitz is another fast-paced game mode that challenges players to reach a goal area in the enemy spawn zone in order to score a point, while defending their own end. There's a brief cool-down period following each point secured, after which teams can score again, with the winning side being the first to hit a pre-defined points target.
There are over 20 new Kill Streaks in the game, offering all means of air and ground based support as rewards for completing in-match objectives. Two instant favourites are Guard Dog and Maniac. The former lets players call in back up in the form of the campaign's canine star, the German Shepherd Riley, who serves as a mobile bodyguard, warning you when enemies are close by and using his bite to protect you. Maniac turns the user into a speedy, knife-wielding juggernaut with a deadly melee attack.
In Ghosts, the series' traditional features combine to create an instantly familiar and accessible experience that's significantly enhanced by more immersive and interactive environments, improved animations, expanded customisation options, and greater graphical and audio fidelity. Essentially, this is the Call of Duty experience millions of players already know and love, complemented by the next-gen bells and whistles they'd expect to see in a console launch game.
Ghosts will also continue the series' tradition of delivering significant post-launch content in the form of four multiplayer map packs, all of which will be released first on Microsoft's consoles, ensuring Xbox Live remains the premier destination for Call of Duty players over the next 12 months.
Additionally, those who purchase a copy of the game on Xbox 360 will be given the opportunity to upgrade to the Xbox One version for as little as £10. For a limited time, players will also be able to transfer all of their in-game progress and Season Pass content from the older console to the new one at no extra cost, allowing for a seamless transition to the next generation of Xbox and Call of Duty.