While fans were treated to the first gameplay footage for Call of Duty: Ghosts in a pre-E3 live stream, developer Infinity Ward did not walk into E3 2013 empty handed. They treated us to the same level walkthroughs as that live stream, but also showcased an exclusive behind-closed-doors level, as well as a more in-depth breakdown of the sequel’s graphics engine. It was finally time to see how Call of Duty will look in the next-gen, and what Infinity Ward plans to do with the series going forward.

As we’ve already heard, the new next-gen engine for Call of Duty: Ghosts isn’t exactly new and it might not be completely “next-gen.” Nevertheless, the level of detail Infinity Ward can now pack into levels is astounding when compared to previous Call of Duty games.

The engine preview also highlighted the game’s new HDR lighting tech, an important pillar of any next-gen game, as well as Sub-D, a piece of software that increases the poly count on objects as players approach them. Dynamic lighting goes a long way towards making a game look realistic, and with it Call of Duty can finally make ground on to its competition.

The engine preview was very similar to the presentation Activision brought to Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal event, albeit with a little more clarification on some of the engine’s new features. The graphical improvements are certainly welcome, even if the game still has that trademark Call of Duty look.

The demo then transitioned into a three-level demonstration featuring two levels already covered during the Call of Duty: Ghosts livestream, and one exclusive E3 2013 level. To read about the first two levels — one of which features the game’s main centerpiece: Riley the dog — make sure to read our detailed post.

Call of Duty Ghosts New Graphics Engine

While those two levels — No Man’s Land and Into the Deep — featured plenty of intriguing elements, including a stealth section where players control Riley, the third level, Federation Day, might have been the most exciting.

Players start out on the roof of a skyscraper in Venezuela, a skyscraper that is some 1,000+ feet away from the skyscraper they want to be on. To get to the correct skyscraper, the Ghosts team fires a set of zip line wires onto the nearby roof, and then zip their way towards the neighboring building. Once they are close to the building, the players detach the back end of their zip line wires and swing towards the skyscraper’s glass façade.

From there, the team slowly descends the side of the building, silently executing enemies along the way. Once they reach the correct floor, the team breaches the building by cutting circles into the windows, and then sneaking their way into a server room.

Once the team has completed their main objective, they then head further down the side of the building, only this time face first. And as the Ghosts make their descent, they stealthily eliminate any enemies patrolling the skyscraper’s balconies.

I suspect that the purpose of this sequence was to highlight the game’s greater emphasis on stealth, and to showcase that this entry will be about varied experiences. Rather than the intense firefights fans are used to seeing, these three levels focused on carefully coordinated movements and avoiding detection. Clearly Ghosts is an appropriate name.

Call of Duty Ghosts E3 2013 Preview - Federation Day Level

For a nice finishing touch, the Federation demo skips forward in time to an escape sequence that features the team running through the skyscraper as it collapses. Players try to make their escape, taking down enemies along the way, but before long the floors start becoming walls and the player begins to slide towards the ground below.

The demo ended with the skyscraper toppling over, and the player character falling out into the open sky. Obviously, this sequence, as opposed to the building destruction in Battlefield 4, was scripted, but it was no less impactful.

It’s hard to deny the Call of Duty franchise knows how to play to the E3 2013, crafting demos with exciting moments, and some pretty spectacular cliffhangers. And surprisingly, the demo for Call of Duty: Ghosts demo left more of an impression than previous year’s presentations. Again, the Call of Duty lineage is well preserved (read: the experience is instantly recognizable as Call of Duty), but it appears Infinity Ward is trying some new things with Ghosts.

Do you think a stealth focus will help Call of Duty: Ghosts standout amongst the series? What do you think of the new next-gen engine?

Call of Duty: Ghosts releases November 5, 2013 for the PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii U. The game will also hit the PS4 and Xbox One, but we don’t have release dates for either of those consoles.

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