Call of Duty: Ghosts
Developer: Infinity Ward
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Wii U, PC
Install Size: 39 GB (Xbox One), 49GB (PS4)
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $99.95 – Available Here
Call of Duty. Those words inspire a lot of passion in the gaming community. Whether you love it or you hate it, everyone has an opinion about the annual shooter franchise. A heap of players think that it is god’s gift to gaming, while just as many believe it to be a leech on the community. It is hard to argue with stats though, and CoD has managed to come out on top year after year as one of the Kings of the Video Gaming scene. The latest iteration; Call of Duty: Ghosts aims to keep that track record going and with its strong gameplay fundamentals and amped up graphical fidelity it certainly tries its best, but still feels like flogging a dead horse.
The game’s moderately short campaign opens up with a father telling his two adult sons a campfire-esq story about the legendary Ghosts combat unit. An armed forces unit who’s skills were legendary (to say the least) and who were insurmountable in battle. They are disturbed by a brief tremor, which considering they live in America’s west, is nothing. It is only when the earthquake gets worse that the trio begin to fear for their lives and head back home.
Meanwhile in Earth’s orbit, a space station housing a weapon strong enough to obliterate entire cities is ambushed. Control switches to a member of the ship’s crew, who must fight off the invaders and stop the station from being turned against the US. Sadly though, you fail and in turn set up the events for the game.
The campaign itself picks up a few years later, where you, playing as one of the brothers are now one of the memebers of an elite group of soldiers who’s goal is to protect the remains of the United States. The game itself is filled with huge cinematic sequences and combat scenarios that try to rival some Hollywood army blockbusters, but I just didn’t feel like any part of the story really wowed me, and that it was an afterthought tacked onto the game.
Call of Duty has always been a massive multiplayer game to the point that many who purchase it will never even touch the single player campaign. When I started playing, I was worried that this would make Infinity Ward treat single player like an afterthought, and my fears were somewhat justified. Like previous games, single player has you progressing from Point A to Point B while killing enemies. None of the levels are designed to be particularly open, so you are often limited to how you will approach the firefights. What does mix up the formula a bit is the game’s dog; Riley. Riley runs around, mauling at enemies while you frantically pick them off.
Where CoD has always excelled was its multiplayer – Despite being an annualised release, players are always hankering for the latest maps, the latest weapons and the latest online experience. The old adage of ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ has always struck me as something that rings true to the CoD franchise. Minor tweaks are always made to the game, but it never really feels like it is advancing the franchise in any real way, let alone warrant a new game. Ghosts continues these minor tweaks, and some of them are barely noticeable unless you are a hardcore CoD fanatic, and others are trivial at best.
First thing I noticed was that you can FINALLY change the appearance of your soldier. Various different head types as well as genders can be selected to personalise your CoD experience a little more. This is purely cosmetic though, and not only does it have no impact on the gameplay, but since Ghosts is a FPS you often wont see the differences anyway. While this at first seems like a trivial add on (despite it being demanded by the fanbase for quite a long time) it becomes downright annoying when customising your loadout.
Loadouts are customised through use of a Skill Point system. Head shots, in-game wins, levelling up and a few other objectives will grant you Skill Points which are in turn used to unlock the game’s weapons, perks, attachments and just about everything else you could imagine. However, once you unlock something you only have it unlocked for the particular character you have built, and changing your avatar means that you will have to start over from scratch.
Kill streaks remain largely unchanged from Black Ops II, where you can pick either Assault based kill streak rewards (however your kill streak will reset every time you die), and Support based rewards (which DON’T reset). Many of the rewards themselves are the same as previous games, with a few notable exceptions. Firstly the Care Package is no longer a kill streak reward, and is instead unlocked by completing Field Objectives after killing an enemy. Field Objectives give you a goal to complete before the next time you die, and doing so rewards you with XP, Skill Points and a Care Package. The other notable exception is the Dog. Dogs when summoned will hang around their master, before charging off and brutally eliminating their enemies.
Ghosts forgoes the traditional Zombies mode present in the Black Ops games in favor of the brand new Extinction Mode. Extinction Mode works almost identically to Zombies, but has you and your friends fending off against a horde of alien invaders instead of the shambling undead. You are required to kill as many aliens as you can while also protecting your Drill. The game mode is a lot of fun and offers a tonne of variety, but if you are trying to tackle it solo you will have a monumental task on your hands. There is also only one map available for the mode (at the moment) meaning that replayability is a little slim.
If there is one way that ghosts differences itself from its predecessors, it is visually. Being on new hardware gives this long-running franchise a chance to shine, and while it takes some significant strides in many ways, it still often looks and feels a little outdated. Firstly, the game still only runs at 720p on Xbox One, with output being upscaled to 1080p (the Ps4 version runs natively at 1080p). This means that it runs at the same resolution as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. Some backgrounds and character models still look somewhat pixellated, and with jagged edges but for the most part you wont notice the difference between Xbox One and PS4 versions – and this is largely due to the textures that are used rather than the game’s resolution.
The texture here are all leagues above the current-gen versions, with minor things like wood grain and posters hanging on the walls getting the same amount of detail put into them as the skins on the guns themselves. A fair amount of care has gone into creating this world and making it look the best it can be. Even the game’s dogs are all look incredibly lifelike as they charge towards you in battle. One thing that really stood out was how player models no longer blend into the environment as much. The updated visuals means that enemies are just that bit easier to see, which of course can change a person’s play style considerably.
One thing that I noticed when playing however, was that for all the work that goes into animating the world, the soldiers and the weapons, a lot is still left out – for example dying in multiplayer when a dog attacks you is a really poorly animated sequence that often has the dog floating in air near you instead of latching onto your avatar.
One thing that the game does have going for it is that it is constantly locked at 60fps meaning that every movement is slick and smooth. I played both the single player campaign and multiplayer for a considerable amount of time, and not once did the game dip below a perfectly seamless experience.
Call of Duty has never been known as a franchise that has had amazing audio quality, and sadly Ghosts doesn’t do much to break that trend either. The campaign is filled with woeful voice acting that makes me hate just about every character I come across. This is especially true for my constant ally, and of course the main enemy – who just don’t shut up. In a game about special ops, characters really shouldn’t feel the need to make a comment every few moments.
White the voice acting is sub-par, the rest of the game’s audio is a little bit better. Guns sound realistic and the general ambient noise in the background of the single player campaign is not wholly unpleasant. Many of these sounds are omitted in the multiplayer section and honestly that isn’t a bad thing. Since CoD has always been incredibly competitive, omitting the unnecessary noises and distractions really helps you stay in the zone. Unfortunately, the online community is still incredibly toxic and immature, forcing me to turn off voice chat pretty soon into any multiplayer session.
If you have already picked up Call of Duty: Ghosts on a current-gen platform, then there isn’t much incentive to pick up the Xbox One or PS4 edition. Sure the game looks better than it ever has, but it is still by no means pushing the boundaries of the next generation. Call of Duty: Ghosts is by no means a bad game, but still suffers from stale and dated gameplay mechanics and doesn’t really bring in anything to shake up the formula.
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