It’s that time of year again, nestled snuggly between the end of the summer holidays and Christmas. I am of course talking about the triple A gaming season and more specifically the release of one of the biggest games ever made, Call of Duty Ghosts.
With ten instalments under its belt, omitting any handheld incarnations, the series didn’t really hit its peak until the Modern Warfare series handled by Infinity Ward. Looking to inject some much-needed fresh air into the franchise, can Ghosts really carry the legacy to new heights or is it just another small sign of the future self cannibalisation of the current king of shooters?
Unfortunately Ghosts stands on some pretty shaky ground, trying its hardest to keep everything the same while making it all different. It’s not all bad, the campaign manages to retain the fun you’d expect, albeit several ‘issues’. Ghosts offers up an even more confusing story than Black Ops II, devoid of any explanation but if you can set this aside you’ll have a great time blowing enemies to smithereens in beautiful environments to some of the most blandest I’ve played – truly a mixed bag.
You play as Logan, your archetypal silent but strong protagonist whom fate has somehow deemed worthy to take charge in the aftermath of a hugely devastating attack by the evil ‘South American Federation’ who have hijacked America’s ultimate weapon ‘Odin’ – an orbital laser beam that can destroy multiple cities in one fell swoop. You and your brother Hesh decide to take the fight back to the Federation with what remains of the US military. The campaign’s biggest stumbling point is that with each mission you pass the story gets even more far-fetched with even less explanation. All of this quickly boils down to a plot of, “shoot that guy because he’s wearing different clothes” but with so many hollow characters I didn’t care who killed who, or who I shot. I often found myself getting a slap on the wrist for friendly fire as everyone was dressed in a pale grey.
Even the lead villain lacks any real motivation, the only explanation I witnessed was a small line from a partner explaining “he’s just crazy”. It’s good to see crazy people can so easily take charge of armies and attempt world domination!
All the excitement fortunately comes from the constant switching from setting to setting, getting to pilot jets, control tanks, fight underwater and even in space. Yes, you read that right, you can float around in the great abyss and deliver head shots and blows to the arm which will send your enemies zooming off into the distance. All of this is delivered with the type of precision and control that Infinity Ward are known for.
The addition of space and underwater battles were certainly a refreshing element to the campaign and some of the scenarios the game had to offer, demanding that you pay even more attention to your surroundings as cover often compromised of an extra dimension.
What about Riley the wonder dog, I hear you cry?
Well after hearing about the now infamous canine companion I have to admit that I was less than excited at the concept of having a dog on board. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs but I just couldn’t see how having one following you around the battlefield would be anything other than clumsy and awkward. As I played through Ghosts I was surprised to find Riley was far from being a pain in the proverbial and actually one of the most genuine characters offered up (crazy I know). While it still takes a leap of faith to accept that you’re controlling a dog, I was glad to have a partner in crime. He offers his own little emotional roller coaster later on, but I’ll save that for you to uncover.
Overall the campaign is a fun romp through your typical COD tropes and high calibre set pieces with explosions that would leave Michael Bay wetting his Y fronts. Just don’t expect an intelligent story – think fast-food, not a steak dinner.
With any other game, that’d pretty much be the end of my thoughts but of course, what would Call of Duty be without its multiplayer?
While Ghosts undoubtably offers up some great game modes, this is not the best iteration the series has seen. Some big changes left me pondering whether fans will stick to Ghosts for their Deathmatch fix or move back to Black Ops II. The most obvious change you’ll encounter is how you customise your digital self and load outs. Gone is the simple 10 selections that Black Ops II offered, now there’s a much more confusing and frustrating system of points. The amount of perks you can equip is effected by a points value and you’re only allowed to spend eight points in total. Unless of course you throw away all of your weapons and equipment, leaving you with 12 perk points.
Perhaps more controversially, level caps are removed meaning that almost every player can unlock all the guns and perks they want straight off the bat. No longer will those who’ve prestiged quickly dominate the stage. As you level up online you’ll earn yourself squad points, these can then be used to unlock whatever you choose, cutting out any need to wait until you hit a certain level. I can see this change as a good thing, leaving those with perhaps a shorter attention span a better chance of getting more deeply involved, but at the same time it does take away the drive to level up – after all you could be packed out with everything you need by level 25.
It’s clear that Infinity Ward have put some thought into levelling the playing field. Aside from quickscoping being shown the door, Ghosts has put more focus on grounding Killstreaks with UAVs now taking the shape of satellites that you have to place. Yes they can be destroyed by gunfire, but the more you hide them the better your coverage and for those of you who want more Riley, Attack Dogs are back but this time you’ll get your own personal mutt to hang by your side as extra protection.
Some modes such as Hardpoint and Ground War don’t make a return in Ghosts but there are some new modes to cover the short fall. From Infected, which dares you to survive with a shotgun as zombies come to pick you off one-by-one, to Grind, which much like Kill Confirmed asks you to collect the dog tags from your fallen enemies only then adding the extra task of dropping them off at one of two banks on the map. I found Cranked to offer the most fun, tasking you with getting a kill every 30 seconds or you go BOOM! This fast paced mode suited me perfectly.
Ghosts also offers a rival zombies mode with Extinction. Throwing you and your friends into a city overrun by aliens, it’s your job to place a drill at each alien nest and protect it while hordes of the ugly beasts come for your throat. Much like zombies, there are traps and weapons to unlock and you can now level up your character with perk points which you earn by completing challenges ranging from ‘kill 15 with a pistol before the drill finishes its job’ or ‘take no damage for X minutes’. While these upgrades only last until you die, it’s a nice option that adds a little depth to what is essentially an arcade experience.
Overall Call of Duty Ghosts is a decent game, with some great fun to be had. Ghosts really shows the franchise’s age and I cant help but ponder, has the series really got another sequel left in it?