“When the dust and sand had settled, only one of the enemy had survived. He was picked up in the desert, wandering aimlessly, traumatized. He expressed warnings to others of a force so menacing and unbeatable, it could only be described as supernatural. He called them…. ‘Ghosts’ “
Whether you believe the story or not, the opening cinematic to Infinity Wards Call of Duty Ghosts is a better start to the campaign than most. It instantly had me excited to play as an underdog in the war against the Federation, a force which strikes the USA with its own weapon, ODIN. Unfortunately this kind of excitement only lasted a few missions, before I was thrown into the regular Call of Duty flow. Go to an important location, to stop or start a destructive event, and blow up lots of things on your way. No longer did I feel like a force that was resorting to guerilla warfare, I still felt the same as I did playing through all the previous games, even more powerful then some.
The single player campaign of Ghosts didn’t disappoint me, nor did it surprise me. It was the same cookie cutter routine I was used to, and it was the same routine I avoided even beginning last year. Call of Duty Ghosts offers little to reinvigorate the campaign side of the game, instead relying on graphical awe. On the positive side of things, it does achieve this well. Each mission feels just as every fan and hater describes it; a Michael Bay film. Things are exploding left and right, with bullets flying past you at every turn. The few missions that stray from this style were the more memorable and enjoyable ones, especially those that used stealth mechanics. Call of Duty really needs to look to its “one off experiences” as something a bit more enjoyable in larger quantities.
The environments provided by Ghosts were better then any other Call of Duty I have played. You will move between running around the streets of South America, to orbiting at a Satellite Station, back down to some underwater combat (unfortunately lacking Bond style spear guns). This really helps make the experience feel fresh each mission, but does lose its effect if you play through the campaign in one big hit (like myself). Furthermore, as an experienced COD player, I found the adventurous missions often had me frustrated due to sloppy engine physics. Especially in the underwater mission, where I found myself sliding strangely around, and bumping off NPC’s that would propel me towards the surface. This was extremely irritating on Veteran mode, as lacking the twitch style movement meant more often than not I was stuck in a bad spot, with little ability to move to cover. Perhaps some scripted movement here may have made it more bearable, as I found these missions became more frustrating than enjoyable due to the sloppy combat.
Overall the storyline was better told than most. From beginning to end I knew what my goal was going to be, and of course it turned into a man hunt like all Call of Duty’s have to, but I felt like I was doing it for more than the Modern Warfare reason of “they’re bad; get them”. The gameplay itself made me lose any immersion in the storyline, as it simply didn’t seem plausible in the current situation. Spoilers ahead, but where the hell did we pull a Carrier from? And why didn’t we use this to our advantage earlier? The last few missions, with their ample supply of tanks, jets, helicopters and Aircraft Carriers, had me questioning the purpose of my “lets sneak around enemy lines on foot” mentality.
By the end of the campaign I was satisfied. I did enjoy the time I spent there, and even went through a second time on Veteran to see how difficult it was. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been playing older Call of Duty Veteran Campaigns on PC, or because the game was made a certain way, but Veteran was far less challenging than I expected. My second play through was actually quicker than my first, granted I knew where to head, what button to press in the god-forsaken quick time events, and where the enemies would flood out from, but it still didn’t make sense in my head.
Multiplayer is the life and blood of the Call of Duty series. It is without a doubt one of the best modern military twitch shooters, and is enjoyed by millions every year. This iteration is no different, with Ghosts changing very little in the proven formula, and being enjoyable just the same. I won’t talk much on multiplayer, as its really just the changes that interest people. To put it simply, the game is fast paced, there is plenty of customisation and progression, and there is some really horrible maps (and some good ones!).
I’ll actually start with the maps. Treyarch have this funny idea in their heads that Call of Duty maps are just flat boards with blocks on them. Some of these blocks may be a slightly propped sniper perch, others may just be a broken down car with an invisible wall around it preventing you from climbing it. One of my biggest complaints about Call of Duty maps, especially Treyarch ones, is the use of scenery as simply scenery, and not as obstacles that can be mantled, climbed, jumped on and T-bagged. Ghosts has done a far better job at this than I expected. There are still the map boundaries that “look-climbable-but-aren’t” problems, but most of the map’s objects are all climbable, which is great! My best example is Stonehaven. This map is a broken castle, which has ruined walls and rubble littered all around it. The majority of this is completely climbable, which leads to some great flanking routes. This kind of design makes the maps feel more like the actual environments they are set in, and less like disguised flat boxes. Ghosts also succeeds in making the maps far less linear, and much more vertical. This is daunting to get used to at first, but like most multiplayer games, learning the maps is an important part of learning the game, and I found myself knowing the vantage points and how to get to them quite quickly.
The new perk system, while extremely confusing, leads for a lot of customisation. Instead of working off a point system for the entire class, your spare points from sacrificing equipment and weapons are used for only your perks. There are more perks in Ghosts than in any other Call of Duty to date, and some of the new ones are extremely interesting (such as the reloading while sprinting perk). Old favourites like Marathon make a full comeback (much to my own delight), along with several other playstyle orientated perk. So if you like to run and gun like myself, you’ll love the new perk system. Unfortunately no Stinger missile is in this COD, which has become iconic in most CODs, and is a staple in the “counter-killstreak’ weaponry. This makes taking down air based killstreaks a fair bit more difficult.
To sum it up, Ghosts’ multiplayer is a blast to play, and has plenty of progression elements to hook you in. The new engine adds more to the movability of your character, along with the improved map design. The only negatives I can provide are related to small things like the scoreboard being made worse. You can’t even see your connection quality any more… really? It seems as if Infinity Ward is taunting you. “You’re not lagging ,you’re just bad at the game”. It’s also a shame that Theatre Mode does not make a return, but I’m assuming its due to performance restraints, along with partnership to Microsoft, and being a launch title on the Next-Gen consoles, which both have built in DVRs.
Extinction is the brand new mode introduced in Call of Duty Ghosts. It involves a similar aspect to the fan-favourite Zombies mode from the Black Ops games. However I personally found Extinction more enjoyable, as it has more direct objectives than a simple wave defense mode. It also has a progression system tied into it, along with class building. You play in teams of four, and drop supplies or utilities for your allies. I have yet to play this mode with a coordinated group, and instead resorted to queuing up for online matchmaking. This resulted in very varied sessions, with some being enjoyable, though both brought to sudden ends due to a connection issue, and a person who decided to take in the scenery instead of run away from the oncoming hordes of aliens. Other matches however were filled with inexperienced gamers, who really didn’t seem to know much about the game in its basics, let alone the mode itself. I did no reading up on the mode, and yet still found myself outperforming most if not all players I was matched with. This may be because the game is young, and I was underleveled due to getting into the mode a bit late, but it was quite annoying.
The mode itself is thoroughly enjoyable. The set goals and per-game progression adds different elements that Zombies lacks. I found myself actually excited while playing this mode, instead of excited to see how far I got at the end. Zombies never enticed me to play further, and while I am mainly interested in finishing Extinction for the achievements, I am also enjoying it along the way. The alien element allows for much crazier situations, however has also resorted in the game-world being dampened and made dull with very dark lighting and colours, making it boring on the eye. But as soon as a few scouts start jumping on your face, you’ll quickly forget and just start holding the trigger.
The mode isn’t very extensive, and in a sense does feel tacked on. However with this being included along with a “Survival” mode (Safeguard), Bots (both online and offline, with the new Squads feature, which is essentially multiplayer but against AI versions of peoples create-a-class’s), Multiplayer and Singleplayer, I don’t blame Infinity Ward for not extending this mode further, and it may be done in future DLC packs. I only experienced a few problems with this mode. The network connection seemed worse, but that may have just been due to the reduced amount of players, and that I am playing on a sub-grade Australian connection, which doesn’t do me any favours with latency. Furthermore the lack of saved progression, like in zombies, could frustrate players (myself included), if they fail after a long play session. This can result in a lack of replayability, especially seeing as you are simply repeating yourself, like in Zombies, over and over again. However for those that enjoy these types of modes, it definitely has something unique to offer.
Call of Duty Ghosts will be enjoyable to any fan of the series. The single player campaign is unchallenging and linear. It strays from the ‘underdog” storyline that had me excited at the beginning. The multiplayer stays true to its roots with fast paced games on small maps. The newly introduced engine features all benefit the gameplay, along with the new Extinction Mode being a welcomed addition.
*Reviewed on Xbox 360*