Developer: Infinity Ward, Raven Software (Multiplayer), Neversoft (Extinction mode), Treyarch (Wii U version)
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U
Version played: PlayStation 3
Price: (Current Gen: €59.99/$59.99, Next Gen €69.99/$59.99)
Release Date: Nov 5th 2013 (Worldwide, Current Gen)
Nov 22nd (Xbox One), Nov 15th (PS4, NA), Nov 29th (PS4, EU)
Another year, another Call of Duty game. But Infinity Ward and Activision are confident that their next-gen military epic will wow gamers the world over with new multiplayer modes, an engaging new single player campaign and the inclusion of a dog. But what do those without access to an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 have to look forward to in Call of Duty: Ghosts? Does the tenth game in the decade long series still have what it takes to captivate gamers’ wallets once again, or is Call of Duty: Ghosts all bark and no bite?
In the not too distant future the middle eastern oil crisis results in the coalition of South American states into the formidable “Federation”. For reasons unexplained by Call of Duty: Ghosts, the Federation wage war against, and try to invade, the USA. The war intensifies after a US orbital weapons platform is hijacked and unintentionally destroyed by Federation astronaut-commandos. The shattered satellite rains down over the home town of Call of Duty: Ghosts’ silent protagonist, his brother and his ex-military father.
Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ missions take place over numerous environmental tropes – harsh snowscapes,desolate deserts, claustrophobic jungles and militaristic industrial areas etc. – and involve the player foiling the plans of the Federation while working towards becoming a member of the elite GHOSTS squadron. On the way players will hunt down a vengeance fuelled GHOST murderer and kill lots and lots of Southern Americans.
This being said, those who enjoy indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds upon hundreds of Spanish slurring Southern Americans will feel right at home with Call of Duty: Ghosts because that’s really all the single player campaign amounts to. There is a storyline, as mentioned above, but unlike the already questionable narratives of recent Call of Duty games, this story lacks conviction.
The whole campaign feels like nothing more than a series of short, 20-30 minutes missions, each designed to tick a box on Infinity Ward’s checklist. Everything’s there – turret on a Jeep mission, drone flying mission, under cover mission, covert mission, scuba diving mission and more – but each mission exists independently of each other, only loosely joined by the lacklustre and ultimately forgettable narrative.
As described by Infinity Ward on several occasions – and in great detail, may I add – Call of Duty: Ghosts features a dog. I hereby confirm that Call of Duty: Ghosts does indeed have a dog in it. The dog is called Ripley. If the dog is about then it can be ordered to attack Southern Americans – because they’re the bad guys, remember – and in a few instances the dog can be controlled directly in what is quite possibly the least stealthy “stealth mission” ever.
Despite what Infinity Ward said, I never cared for the dog – I even stabbed it once, just for fun – and I doubt any players out there will care for the dog either.
To avoid dwelling on Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ single player campaign for longer than necessary, here’s a quick gameplay rundown:
Enter room, hide behind something, kill Southern Americans with various guns and/or grenades, move onto the next room, rinse and repeat.
Now that’s out of the way, the focus can be shifted to Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ major draw to players: its online multiplayer. And rest assured, Call of Duty: Ghosts has multiplayer by the bucket load – the most obvious addition to which is the new “Squads” mode in which players create a series of soldiers, each with their own customisable loadouts, gun mods and perks, and then set their AI controlled squad against other AI controlled squads or those of human players.
While the prospect of a customisable troupe of Call of Duty solders might sound intriguing, matches require little to no strategy to win. The AI bots can’t be placed, commanded or controlled in any way, resulting in an AI infused experience that’ll leave players wishing they were simply playing conventional mulitplayer modes
Fortunately, time spent in Squads isn’t wasted as created soldiers are the same soldiers used in other online multiplayer modes (excluding Extinction, as described later). Increased ranks in either mode are rewarded with Squad Points which can be spent on new weapons, mods and perks. It’s a simple, non-linear levelling system that works well despite its lack of innovation.
The multiplayer matches themselves are as robust and engaging, with a quick, speedy matchmaking system that gets the job done with minimum fuss. Team based multiplayer modes still suffer from the same apathetic attitudes of non-cooperative players as they always have, complete with the heavy breathing, vile obscenities, and obnoxious rap background music Call of Duty players have become accustomed to. But when Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ matchmaking system does put together a group of like-minded strategists, the same team based multiplayer modes become the highlight of the entire Call of Duty: Ghosts experience.
Unfortunately, Infinity Ward’s reluctance to actually change anything has resulted in some noticeable multiplayer shortcomings; namely map bottlenecks and poorly implemented spawn points.
All too often players will witness a trail of team mates fall helplessly to a group of enemies holding a vantage point over a bottleneck with nothing more than pistols. Alternatively, free-for-all matches see players spawn, without protection, directly in front of another player or vice versa. Both are small mistakes by Infinity Ward that can result in great frustration to players.
Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ final addition to the Call of Duty formula is the “Extinction” mode which throws the more serious military tones of the single and multiplayer segments out of the window in favour of an alien invasion survival romp. A team of four must work together to deploy and protect an advanced military drill as its digs into the core of aliens hives in order to destroy them. Defeated alien beasts earn players cash that is spent mid-match on weapons, ammo and temporary powerups. Other defensive measures can also be set activate with cash such as electric fences, fire traps and minigun turrets. Sure, it sticks out like a sore thumb and is a clear rehash of Call of Duty’s previous zombie survival modes, but Extinction is a good deal of fun – pure and simple.
The Call of Duty series isn’t known for its soundtrack or sound engineering, and Call of Duty: Ghosts certainly doesn’t buck the trend. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the game sound wise – aside from some hammy voice acting performances – its audio is unable to match the action on screen. There’s no notable scores in Call of Duty: Ghosts, despite the the vastly varying environments which even include outer space; a missed opportunity.
Being so far into the current generation, no one was expecting Call of Duty: Ghosts to pull off any graphical miracles. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to see multiple jagged polygons and shadows as well as other graphical oddities – such as zero gravity corpses floating through each other – in the first ten minutes of gameplay. Personally, it reminds me of the substandard ports of PlayStation 3 games that would come out on the PlayStation 2 at the end of its life-cycle and one can’t help but feel as though Call of Duty: Ghosts would be empirically better in its Xbox One and PlayStation 4 iterations.
The grey-on-brown colour pallet that has defined Call of Duty‘s previous entries is back in full force in Call of Duty: Ghosts and looks particularly depressing since Infinity Ward failed to include the awe inspiring visual set pieces players are used to – again, a missed opportunity considering the scope of the mission environments. Simply put, there’s nothing to be seen in Call of Duty: Ghosts that hasn’t been seen in some capacity elsewhere.
Innovation, or lack thereof, is a topic of discussion that features in many videogame reviews – but a lack of innovation really is Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ greatest flaw. The series has come a long way since its debut in 2003, but now, a decade later, it would seem that the well has finally run dry. It could be argued that many of the recent Call of Duty games have relied too heavily on rehashing and reimagining old content, but the absolute absence of new and interesting concepts in Call of Duty: Ghosts, be they based in gameplay, narrative or multiplayer, is simply too glaring to be ignored.
It was a good run, but the milk from Activision’s annual Call of Duty cash cow has finally tuned stale. Everything Call of Duty fans have grown to know and love are present in Call of Duty: Ghosts, but their placement is so predictable that it feels as though Infinity Ward developed the entire game based off a a list titled “Things That Worked In Previous COD Games”, ticking boxes as they went.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is a solid game, and would have been rather impressive five years ago, but everything it does has been done before. The resultant experience is so familiar that it’s borderline generic – making Call of Duty: Ghosts the world’s most expensive definition of mediocrity.