OXCGN’s Call of Duty: Ghosts Review
Aiming high, but falling short.
by Jayden Perry
In the opening minutes of Call of Duty Ghosts you run through a collapsing town, jump to space and try to defend a space station, then watch as the world as we know it is decimated by high-powered missiles.
As you watch these amazing and out there scenarios play out, with everything exploding all around, you know that this is Call of Duty.
Ghosts marks the first Call of Duty game developed by Infinity Ward after their incredibly successful “Modern Warfare” series. Right from the word go you’ll notice the similar feeling of menus and text, but this game has a lot to offer in it’s new premise, extinction mode and surprisingly complex multiplayer.
Ghosts provides the player with a variety of modes in which to spend your time playing; Campaign, Squads/Multiplayer and Extinction.
As you and your in-game brother huddle around a campfire, your father begins a tale of the fabled Ghosts, elite soldiers coming from some of the most feared groups throughout history. It can’t be true your brother says. Then the bombardment from the Odin satellite begins, and the new Call of Duty world is born.
Out of South America marches ‘The Federation’ to destroy and take over what’s left of the world, now that most of America has been obliterated. The new lore, almost becoming post apocalyptic in moments, was a nice variation to the continuation of the series, but all too soon a feeling of “been there, done that” will set in for players of the previous instalments.
It’s not that the game isn’t fun, I enjoyed my time with it for the most part.
The single player missions are varied and have some really cool moments, from fighting your way to an enemy satellite in space, to diving below icy waters and sinking an enemy outpost. It all feels very ‘explosive’, but without a huge amount of impact or narrative. I found the story to be fairly basic, but also overly confusing and pointless.
As you move from location to location I often found myself wondering why we were going there and came out of the mission, having killed, slo-mo breached and exploded my way through, only to still not be sure why I was there.
After the success of Black Ops 2’s narrative choices and side missions I was disappointed with a campaign that felt even more limited and hand-holding than I remembered the previous entries to be.
The game operates along a single path in the environment and our mute hero can only move past an area once his AI counterparts do simple things like open a door or direct him to head down a pathway.
Even in it’s most dramatic moment we are given button press prompts to scramble to grab a man about to fall to his death and then told to ‘press x to let go’. The game gives you no choice in the matter, and will not progress till you drop him. It tries to force this emotional weight upon you that, I found, actually makes the impact less because you didn’t have to make a real decision, it was going to happen regardless.
The real emotion and character that outshines the main cast’s drab roles is that of Riley, the squad’s attack dog. The attention to little details like hunching his ears when he’s stalking through grass and his warning bark when enemies are near are spot on, in one scene he sticks his head out of a vehicle, tongue out and ears flapping in the wind, carefree and happy.
Riley is a constant help in the several instances he accompanies you too.
He is used as a scout and stealth unit, doing reconnaissance work for your squad and in battle he becomes a strike force, able to charge at and take down targeted enemies at will. In one part he even takes down a helicopter single pawed.
In terms of presentation the game looks decent on current gen.
From the little I’ve played on next-gen I can say there’s a noticeable difference in overall crispness and detail. Textures look better and more detailed, but the current gen still performs well for eager fans wanting to dive into Ghosts before the next-gen launches.
Overall the campaign is a fun seven to eight hours, but it all felt very similar in it’s direction to previous games. Sure, continuity and familiarisation is a good thing in a series, but it made the game feel boring as all the new things were just what we’d done before with some new assets and characters.
It had enough novelties and cool moments to warrant a play through, and I genuinely enjoyed the third act of the campaign especially, but it seemed more of a step back than a step forward.
“The new lore was a nice variation to the continuation of the series, but all too soon a feeling of ‘been there, done that’ will set in for players.”
Multiplayer has become the real success of Call of Duty games in recent history, consistently amongst the most played games on PSN, Xbox Live and Steam. In Ghosts we see a multiplayer that is as much the same as it is different. Deep, yet missing some simple elements.
The first thing you notice when starting is that you now have a choice of up to ten soldiers to be a part of your squad, picking one to play as.
From here the class system is built around ‘squad points’ allowing you to buy any weapon, attachment, grenade or perk – assuming you have enough points. You have a limited amount of ‘slots’ in the class, taken up by each item in the inventory, it’s modelled in a similar way to Black Ops 2’s ‘Pick 10’ system, this time allowing you to dump everything minus a primary or secondary and fill the slots with perks.
I found I played most classes with a single weapon and max perks. The grenades and secondaries for the most part feel unnecessary or underpowered, much less effective than some of the high level perks.
Once you drop into your first game you’ll notice two things; the game has a steep learning curve for the new systems, with little or no explanation of loadouts, squad points or new game modes, and secondly, that for the most part, the maps are disproportionately large for a general six vs six deathmatch.
The game’s maps are mostly quite large, playing into the hands of long-range players, spattered with several quite tight and chaotic maps perfect for SMGs and shotguns. The return to Modern Warfare 3 style killstreaks, Assault, Support and Specialist, is nice to see, with even newer players able to rack up powerful and tactical streaks for their team.
There are a few balancing issues I’ve come across so far, with some weapons outperforming others quite inexplicably easily, and killstreaks like the guard dog (the campaign’s Riley) are almost too easy to get.
It all felt a little unbalancing in the first few hours, but once you get used to it you can have a lot of fun here. I found the levelling much less satisfying than in previous installments, you don’t unlock items by level and there’s no familiar, cheesy guitar riff when you level up. These little moments, while fleeting and insignificant, rounded off the experience, adding that little taste of success upon reaching the next rank.
The servers deliver a relatively stable experience in the leadup to the dedicated servers, and the game still looks good like the campaign.
On from multiplayer comes Squads, a mode akin to combat training. You and your squad can face off against human enemies, AI and friends squads in the same fashion as in normal multiplayer, and it also includes a mode based off of Modern Warfare 3’s survival. All of this is quite good, and XP carries over to your online multiplayer account, levelling both.
Extinction makes it’s debut in Call of Duty Ghosts, also marking the first time we’ve seen aliens in the series. This mode, while initially seen as akin to Zombies, really pushes the bounds of what we’ve seen previously, delivering a fun and tactically deep four player co-op mode.
In the first package, “First Contact”, your four man squad is tasked with using a drill to take down enemy hives on the way to the large hive in the area, then nuking it to destroy the alien presence.
This mode has permanent levels, XP, prestiges (hit level 30 to prestige and go again) and even a perk, specialisation and ability loadout. As you level you are able to select what you will take into the next battle, and from there you can upgrade these in-game with skill points.
The weapon system is great, you buy them off the ground and then you can find attachments for them by ‘searching’ dead enemies and garbage bags around the map. Overall the mode has quite a high difficulty to it, especially with matched online players. I played both with random players and in a four player group of headset equipped friends, faring much better when able to chat, set up complimenting loadouts and strategise on the field.
Extinction is a very exciting new mode and one of the highlights of the game. I’m looking forward to seeing where they can take it in the maps dropping in the later DLC packs.
With several good modes and new editions Ghosts is a good game, but is let down by it’s campaign and over complex multiplayer.
It’s not that Call of Duty Ghosts is bad, far from it, especially compared to some of the games we’ve seen in 2013, it’s just that in a time where games are exploring and evolving it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the monotonous. One thing is perfectly clear from Ghosts; in the future Treyarch and Infinity Ward are going to have to do a whole lot more to keep the following and success of Call of Duty going.
+ Interesting new campaign premise
+ Multiplayer has some great new modes and weapons
+ Extinction mode is a fun and exciting new addition
- Campaign can feel recycled and tiresome
- Less satisfying multiplayer levelling and unlocks
- Disproportionately large maps in multiplayer