The more things change, the more they stay the same

At this point, everyone has seen the trailer or at least gotten the cliffnotes to everything announced at the Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer press conference. If you haven’t though, be sure to Chris’ write-up on all the new multiplayer details.

For the rest of you, though, you probably want to know how a lot of these announcements actually affect the gameplay. Well, we’ve got you covered. I was able to sit down with Ghosts’ multiplayer for about 90 minutes and put the new modes and maps through their paces.

Let’s start with the new modes. Two of seven new modes being added to the game were shown to us, and the first one I saw was Cranked. In this twist on Team Deathmatch, players who get a kill are given a speed boost as reward. The speed boost lasts for 30 seconds, but if you don’t kill anyone else in that time, your character literally explodes. Talk about messing with your K/D ratio.

After playing several matches, I realized a couple of things. The speed boost doesn’t stack, so there are only two speeds—normal and fast—and if you explode, there’s no splash damage that can hurt opponents. So anyone thinking that a suicide bomber strategy might help win the match or salvage that K/D, think again.

Also, 30 seconds is a lot more time than you might think. I saw a lot of people who started running around like a chicken with their heads cut off when their timer began and got mowed down by enemy fire before they even came close to running out of time. Panicking doesn’t help you or your team.

After Cranked, we got to try out Search & Rescue. This is a twist on Search & Destroy and Kill Confirmed–style matches. Kill an opponent, then collect their dog tags to remove them from the match altogether. If an ally grabs the dog tags first, the person will respawn. Since I love both of these modes, I had a lot more fun with Search & Rescue than Cranked. Just like classic Search & Destroy, you don’t have to eliminate the entire enemy team if you are on the offensive, since there are also two points where you can plant a bomb.

Honestly, the modes may be described as “new,” but neither reinvent the wheel. All we’re seeing is some unique little twists being added to classic modes, or modes being combined and passed off as something revolutionary. But, I can’t deny that these modes, especially Search & Rescue, we’re a lot of fun to play.

Aside from these new modes, we also played Domination a couple of times, which remains the same as ever.

We also got to play on three brand new maps: Strikezone, Whiteout, and Octane.

Octane is a medium-sized map based around an abandoned gas station and a western ghost town. As demonstrated in the trailer, this map featured destructible walls and structures. Players can blow apart the supports to the gas station roof, causing it to collapse into new cover, or crush players underneath. While I didn’t see anyone stupid enough to get squished, the few times we did level the station it definitely caused a huge shift in strategy. Terrain morphed and closed off some old paths, while new ones opened up. When we played Cranked on Octane, the disorientation proved deadly—a few players found themselves lined up in enemy crosshairs after not being able to find a way through the rubble.

The next map was Whiteout, and was easily my favorite of the event. It was a massive, open map that afforded players plenty of sniper perches in abandoned vacation cabins, as well as cover through twisting, ice-covered caves. While playing on this map though, I admit to having flashbacks to the White Pass map from Battlefield: Bad Company 2. While the attention to detail here was much higher (as I would hope with next-gen on the horizon), the feeling of sniping from a second floor window overwhelmed my nostalgia factor at times as we played Search & Rescue.

The final map was Strikezone. Easily my least favorite, this was probably the smallest map I can remember in recent history. It seemed comparable in size to Hijacked from Black Ops II, but with even less cover and a square layout overall instead of Hijacked’s elongated corridors.  There is nothing more frustrating than spawning in maps like these, since—with everyone running around in such a confined space—you’ll often pop up right next to an enemy and be dead again before getting your bearings. It also had very little going on in it. While the idea of a firefight breaking out in a stadium hot dog stand sounded fun, it turned out to be anything but.

After exhausting the modes, I attempted to go in-depth with the customization, but we were on an unforgiving rotation that prevented me from truly messing around with the new point-value perk system (where some perks are worth more than others) or really mess with my character.  I was able to cycle through some pre-assigned camo options like arctic, desert, urban, and the classic jungle, and gave my soldier a badass helmet before being whisked into another match. But it was nice to see so many of Ghosts‘ new female character models on the maps. Ultimately, these customization options are more about personal tastes than anything else, since they don’t change things like movement speed or health. It’s just another way of putting a personal stamp on your Call of Duty experience.

I also got to experience the new Field Orders feature, where a blue briefcase will randomly appear on the body of a felled enemy and provide you and your team a Care Package if you complete certain extra objectives, ranging from getting a kill while jumping to performing so many headshots. This was an interesting addition, but not one that most people I played with cared about. I’d often see the briefcase just sitting there, so lonely, waiting for a player to try their hand at its challenge. But no one ever bothered, because there’s so much else going on in a multiplayer match to worry about.

At the end of the day, the new modes and maps were nice, but it’s still the core Call of Duty experience that millions of people have come to love. There was little here to make me think that what we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, besides the next-gen prettiness of it all, will be getting a massive change. Some of the things announced at the press conference, like Clans, weren’t available to me when I wanted to check them out, but the idea of making clan tags more official and rewarding players as a group for doing well on top of individually has a lot of potential.

Overall, if you love Call of Duty, I don’t see anything here that will turn you off to Ghosts. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a true game-changer, what I saw suggests that you’ll probably have to keep looking.