Every year around the holiday season, a certain game franchise arrives and takes the game industry by storm and that certain franchise happens to be Call of Duty. Over the years Call of Duty has managed to become one of the most popular franchises in memory and despite being released yearly, it usually has kept things fresh enough to warrant such frequent releases. Now, with Call of Duty: Ghosts and its dog, is the game worth picking up once more?
On a cliffside in a forest, two sons listen to the story of the Ghosts unit, told by their father, during a summer day in California. While a few minor tremors occur on their way home, the family thinks little of it at first since quakes are common in California, but little do they know that those tremors are the start of a war that will push the United States to the edge against a new enemy known as The Federation.
Thanks to The Federation, a force of united nations from South America, gaining control over an orbital weapon capable of city-wide annihilation, nearly every major city in the South West of the United States has been annihilated and over a brutal ten year war, The Federation preparing to take down what is left of the United States’ defenses and the aforementioned family plays a pinnacle role in the defense as the two sons have become tough fighters while their father leads an elite force seeking the brains of the operation, an old ally turned enemy.
Now, Call of Duty: Ghosts’ campaign makes for a rather impressive and over the top offering in imagination as players trek through numerous locations from desolate ruins of fallen cities to jungles and the oceans to space. There are numerous ‘wow’ moments throughout the story as huge events occur in front of the player as they attempt to take down the man behind The Federation, even if it means losing those close to them in the process.
Sadly outside of that, and the inclusion of Riley, a highly trained German Shepard that gets far less game time than initially let on, Call of Duty: Ghosts remains pretty standard as far as the campaign’s structure goes. While players are meant to care about the characters that are in the game, there is little development outside of the occasional heartrending moment, making the dog the only character with a decent personality in the game, since choice isn’t really an option except for failure.
So while it may be quite the spectacle to behold, and believe me it is still enjoyable to experience an over the top war storyline with little real world detail to worry about thanks to the limited scope and focus of the story, it comes off as rather simplistic outside of a blatant set-up for a sequel.
Let’s get the discussion about the gameplay in the campaign out of the way before hitting the nitty gritty multiplayer bits. Ghosts features the same single player combat we’ve always experienced from the game, with numerous hallways and areas that have to be traversed and fought through. The only nice change is the inclusion of Riley in the group whenever he is available, as he actually makes the standard shooting a bit more fun as he viciously attacks enemies or weakens them for the player to take down, though be careful with your fire as it is possible to fail due to friendly fire if your bullets strike him. There are numerous difficulty levels to try, all the way from walk in the park to brutally difficult, as well as a few minor collectibles to gather and achievements to unlock to offer some replayability of this mode.
Now on to the multiplayer. Over the years Call of Duty has taken a number of steps to improve and refine its multiplayer mode and in recent years, they have taken on the policy of, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Sadly it seems that Infinity Ward has chosen to do the exact opposite of that this time around as they have taken a pretty significant step back from what was offered in last year’s Call of Duty mode and tacked on some new features that range from neat additions to useless.
One of the best features introduced in Ghosts is the fact that players can now customize the appearance of their character, giving them a number of heads to choose from, basic equipment styles and even the ability to play as a male or female. These changes are simply cosmetic and do nothing to the gameplay, but are a nice touch that has been missing from the game for quite some time.
When it comes to customizing the load out for each character, Ghosts makes use of a Squad Point system where points are earned from leveling up, performing certain objectives or occasionally simply doing well in a match. These points are used to unlock well, pretty much everything in the game if the player chooses. All weapons and their attachments, equipment, and even perks can be unlocked through using squad points whenever the player wishes.
This makes it possible to unlock a weapon at any given time in the game if the player has enough points for it, making customization both easier and more less enjoyable at the same time. In part it takes away from the enjoyment of leveling up to unlock new gear and the reward of using a weapon to unlock its attachments, but it also forces the player to balance their unlocks and perks to an unnecessary level.
You see, instead of featuring a “pick 10” system like the last Call of Duty or a set number of perks, players are given perk values that range from 1 to 5, meaning five 1 point perks can be used in the place a useful 5 point perk. This does help balance the game a bit but thanks to the fact that perks are the only thing in the game which requires leveling to obtain (outside of an expensive point pay off), it does lead to some unwanted perks for quite some time. It is worth noting that sacrificing equipment does allow players to use more perks at any given time, which is a nice touch.
Outside of these modifications, the kill streaks remain very similar where players can choose an Assault style, where your kill count is reset every time you die, Support where your kills continue to count regardless of how many times you die, and a final style that allows the player to gain additional abilities the more kills they rack up. These kill streaks have been modified slightly with a few new inclusions and replacements. A helpful, albeit slightly overpowered, attack dog can be summoned to protect the player and attack enemies while UAVs are now ground based.
It is also worth noting that care packages are no longer kill streak rewards. Instead care packages can only be obtained by completing ‘Field Orders’ which are special briefcases that are dropped by opposing players when killed. These orders contain mini-objectives such as killing an enemy from behind or killing two enemies while laying prone. Completing these objectives net the player a Care Package which, as veterans of the series know, offer random kill streak rewards. Sadly this is another feature which seems to be redundant and only makes the game slower paced than its predecessors as it often leads team mates to performing stupid actions, resulting in easy deaths or encourages griefing.
Sadly outside of adjusting these kill streaks, little balancing has been performed on the weapons in the game as there are still numerous persisting issues with Ghosts’ multiplayer. Quickscoping remains as prevalent as ever and thanks to the increased size of the maps with the limited player count per match, it often leads to long drawn out camp fests where Call of Duty usually falls closer to hectic combat. That isn’t to say that the increased map size is a bad thing, as it does give the player a bit of a feel that they aren’t cramped anymore, but perhaps adding a few more players to each arena would give matches a more exciting feel.
As for the additional gameplay modes added to Ghosts, it would be hard to call them ‘New’ as they simply feel like modified versions of past elements. There is Search and Rescue matches where players have to collect fallen comrade’s dog tags to respawn them, which is a bit of a modified version of kill confirmed. Joining this is ‘Infected’ which is literally a copy of what Halo has offered, Grind, Blitz and Cranked which help round things out but simply seem like bland additions.
Replacing your standard training mode is Squads. Players have the option of unlocking additional customizable squad mates at the cost of Squad Points and each of these characters can be upgraded and leveled up as the player wishes. They can then be taken into Squad matches where the player can pit their squad against other squads, which almost always means fighting against AI in bot matches. While enjoyable and a nice option for those who want to unwind from the competitive multiplayer or lack the ability to play online, it feels like a lazy inclusion which simply gives a reason to have more than one character spot.
Closing out Ghosts is the game’s Extinction mode which allows four players to play together to try and survive and annihilate an alien horde that has landed in a small town and began to infest the area. Players must destroy each hive while guarding a drill and kill any aliens who try to stop them. The mode works well on its own but does require co-operation which can be hard to find sometimes but when you do manage to find a working group, this mode actually is rather worthwhile.
Players unlock various skills from load outs as they level up and they earn points mid-session which can be used to enhance the player’s pre-selected skills and also upgrade their weapons. Extinction makes for a nice change from the regular zombie mode, though it is sad to see that at the moment there is only one map available for this mode which quickly makes it a humdrum activity once finished a few times.
There are times that Call of Duty: Ghosts looks astounding and then there are times that the game really shows its age on the 360. The various set-pieces and the aforementioned ‘wow’ moments are spectacular to see but sadly any time the player takes a closer look at the environment or any aspect of the game, it is clear that the game’s graphics can only be appreciated from a distance as any examination results in some terrible looking textures.
That being said, it is nice to see that Ghosts does sport some improved animations and Riley is quite realistic looking. The multiplayer maps are also varied a bit and feature some extremely minor destructible environments, such as opening a gate or creating one piece of cover except for one map that actually changes due to player interaction.
While a game’s story can be compelling enough without voice work, Ghosts’ story is not only a mindless romp with plenty of explosions, it also happens to feature some truly terrible voice work. While there are some decent sounding characters in the game, the big bad and the player’s constant ally should not be allowed to talk as much as they did throughout the game’s campaign.
Outside of that, the game does feature some nice atmospheric sounds and the various sound effects both from the guns the player is shooting and the various explosions sound believable enough at this point.
When a game is released yearly it requires something new and fresh to make it worthwhile. Sadly Call of Duty: Ghosts barely inches by with some bare-minimum upgrades to the game’s multiplayer and a new mode that gets old very quickly due to the lack of environments. While the game’s multiplayer can still be considered great on its own, outside of a new story to tell and some slightly modified online modes, Ghosts feels like a step back for the franchise in more than one way.
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