E3: 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' Puts a Dog Front and Center
'Call of Duty: Ghosts' adds Riley, a canine companion.
If you feel that the "Call of Duty" series has gotten a little stale lately, you're not alone. In order to shake things up, game developer Infinity Ward has moved its upcoming title, "Call of Duty: Ghosts," away from modern warfare and into a dystopian near-future. Players will rely on innovative weaponry and a well-trained military dog to root out the origins of the catastrophe that changed the world.
Infinity Ward demoed two levels from "Ghosts" at this year's E3 convention, both of which highlighted new features for the long-running military first-person shooter series. The first level demonstrated how Riley, a military-trained German shepherd, pulls his weight as a playable character.
The first mission, "No Man's Land," sets the stage for the post-apocalyptic story to come. A global event (as yet unrevealed) shatters the United States as a superpower and forces survivors to band together against a shadowy coalition of enemies. As one of the goodguys, you travel with your brother and Riley to San Diego, your former home.
The two brothers and their dog approach their old house, now a looted mess of vines and broken furniture. Upon reaching the backyard, you get your first glimpse of what might have happened to unseat an entire country: the city of San Diego is now one giant crater. An entire church teeters precipitously on the edge before crumbling and falling in, one individually rendered piece at a time.
As the three characters make their way around the mouth of the crater, Infinity Ward shows off what it will be like to play as Riley. The developer motion-captured a real German shepherd in order to ensure lifelike appearance and animations. It also consulted with the Navy SEALs, who use military dogs for recon missions. [See also: Why SEALs Paid the Price for 'Medal of Honor' Game Consulting]
When in control of Riley, players can sneak through tall grass, zoom in with a collar-mounted camera, bark to attract attention and even take down enemies (only one at a time) with brutal bites and lunges. The player character controls the loveable pooch through a vibrating collar.
Although "Ghosts" takes some liberties with military dogs, real-life Navy SEAL dogs are incredibly smart, well-equipped animals. Equipped with a body-armor harness, these dogs can rappel and parachute into war zones, rescue fallen colleagues and take infrared photo and video. They even wear "doggles" — specialized goggles that allow the canine soldiers to see as well as their human friends.
Since Infinity Ward first revealed "Ghosts" at the Xbox One announcement event, Riley has taken on a curious life of his own. Even though military dogs are real, including one seemed like an act of pure fun rather than a tiring pursuit of realism. Riley even spawned his own parody Twitter account, @collarduty, with over 25,000 followers.
A cute dog is not the only new addition to "Ghosts." The graphics engine has undergone a number of improvements from previous installments, since the game will be available for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 in addition to current-gen consoles and PCs.
A representative from Infinity Ward explained that a technique called "displacement geometry" gives levels a more realistic feeling of depth, while "SubD" 3D mapping almost completely eliminates jagged polygon edges. This means that objects in the game appear smooth and round, even at great distances.
"Call of Duty: Ghosts" offers similar core gameplay to previous installments, but its setting and playable canine will help set it apart from similar military shooters. The game will launch for all major platforms on November 5, 2013, with details on its famous multiplayer mode surfacing closer to release.