The E3 demo for Call of Duty: Ghosts was straight from the cookie cutter. We heard a few opening remarks, from a dude who dispassionately stuck the word “epic” into as many sentences as possible, before he turned it over another another dude, who started lecturing us on nitty-gritty graphical trickery. Tesselation! Volumetric lighting! SubD, which is short for “sub-divide!” Snooze.
But then came Dog, and suddenly this demo was so much better. (Okay, the dog’s name is not Dog. It’s Riley. Whatever.)
You might have seen Dog’s picture from the Xbox One conference last month, wearing his own little set of doggy armor. So cute!
Now, he’s on the battlefield, skulking through a forest with a couple of tough-talking soldiers. He whimpers when something’s amiss, growls when enemies are nearby and occasionally gets a pat on the head from his humans. The fact that Dog can also lunge at enemies and rip their throats open does not detract from his adorableness.
Allow me to put this in context: Call of Duty has always taken itself extremely seriously. It’s all dudes shouting important-sounding military phrases like “Oscar Mike” while you shoot terrorists in the face. Lightheartedness is not something you will find in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops. As I watch this demo, I start wondering whether Dog is being presented to us without the slightest trace of irony. Activision and Infinity Ward know this is kind of ridiculous, right?
Just as I’m pondering this idea, Call of Dog takes it to another level. One soldier picks up a tablet, and its screen becomes our own. Suddenly, we are looking through the perspective of Dog, through the tablet, through the television. And now, our demo dude is remotely controlling the dog.
Let that sink in.
Later, I’m told that the technology for remote control dogs actually exists. Navy SEALs use a special collar that sends vibrations, prompting the dog to move in certain directions. I wonder if it’s as responsive in the real world as Dog appears to be in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Dog, it turns out, is pretty good at stealth. He’s creeping through the bushes and quietly biting bad guys’ throats off without alerting nearby foes. At one point, your fellow soldier asks Dog to help lure out an enemy. Dog barks. Enemy comes out to investigate, and gets shot. Good job, Dog!
I didn’t think it could get any better, until Dog is given his final mission: Break into an enemy compound, and lure the enemies out. Dog, obedient as ever, jumps through a window. There’s a commotion, and suddenly a handful of panicked soldiers burst through the front door–Dog hanging onto one of their arms–right into the hands of our soldiers. Why did our soldiers risk Dog’s life just to lure out a few weak-willed hostiles? Why are three hostiles so terrified of Dog? No one cares, because Dog is awesome.
And just like that, it was back to the usual programming: dudes rappelling down buildings, shooting other dudes in the face, hacking into things, scuba diving, blowing things up, almost getting squished by massive, collapsing objects. It was all pretty epic, and highly tesselated, I guess. But man, Dog is a tough act to follow.
If you want to see Dog do his thing, check out IGN’s above video, starting at around the three-minute mark. Call of Duty: Ghosts is coming in November to current and next-generation consoles, as well as PC.