Laugh if you want, but it isn’t bad on the Wii U. In fact, it looks a bit more crisp. Let’s talk.
In a world where the Wii U is struggling to keep its third party head above water, it was a nice announcement over the summer that Activision was going to bring its latest Call of Duty to the system. A lot of people met the announcement with some skepticism, mainly on how it would look in comparison to the next generation consoles, and no I don’t consider the Wii U a next gen console. The comparison focus should have been on was how it compared to current gen. Before we get into that, let’s talk about the other stuff that is the same across all platforms.
If you read my review of the PS3 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts review of the PS3 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts, then you pretty much get the overall improvements/stayed-the-same/fell short elements of Ghosts on the Wii U. The campaign is still a work in progress, though improved with a bit better A.I.. The gameplay for the campaign mode is still linear and you can’t deviate much from the path that Infinity Ward has set forth for you. My feelings on that aspect of the game are the same as they were a week or so ago when reviewing the PS3 version of the game.
Having said that, there are a few things that have changed about the CoD: Ghosts experience on the Wii U.
The most obvious change is with the controls. While you can complain that I needed to try the game with the Wii U Pro controller, I will decline the invitation because it wasn’t the gamepad that failed me in this game, rather it was the button configuration/placement. I’ve been using the PS3/360 controller configuration for years. My muscle memory is solid enough that I understand what buttons crouch, jump and whatnot in Call of Duty. The buttons have always been the same for me and I don’t have to look at a controller map on the PS3/360 version of the game to know what is what.
Having played CoD: Ghosts on the Wii U for the last week or so, I still have to think about which button jumps and crouches. I have been killed more times than I can recall because of this lack of decision making. Now, you can blame it on the reviewer all you want, but the button layout is NOT different between the consoles, except for the Wii U. I can’t fully understand why the buttons were laid out by default the way they are on the Wii U console. ‘B’ jumps, ‘A’ allows you to crouch/prone and ‘Y’ allows you to pick up objects (‘X’ will switch your weapons). Pretty standard if you read it like so, but when your’e playing, the buttons are physically placed differently from the PS3/360, and that will disrupt your game if you’re used to playing on those systems. It’s the biggest hurdle in my opinion for this system and even switching up the preset controller layout to ‘classic’ doesn’t really alleviate the screw-ups. Again, it could be me, but I don’t think it is. Call of Duty: Ghosts (and really any Call of Duty game) isn’t something where you want and stop to think about how the controller works. The game is fast-paced and action driven, so using a ‘go-go-go!’ mentality is a necessity for survival on campaign and in multiplayer. The Wii U version is more of a ‘push that, no that!’ type of game when it comes to controls. It’s a bit irritating, though tolerable with some practice.
Anyway, out side of the A,B,X and Y button, the feel of the game on the Wii U Gamepad is actually quite solid. You can switch between viewing a map of the level you’re on or you can switch to in-game viewing on the Gamepad screen. You obviously will drop the resolution when you change it to the Gamepad screen, but it’s nice to have that option.
With the negative out of the way, there is actually a positive to this game over the PS3/360 versions. The presentation value of the Wii U Call of Duty: Ghosts is actually a little bit better. It’s not enormously better, but every bit helps. You have less pop-ups in the Wii U version, less texture rendering moments and you get a few tiny details that the other systems don’t get (such as a bit more obvious dust components, the water looks a helluva lot better, etc.). Yes, good folks, even during the multiplayer session you get better details than what you would find on the PS3/360. Presentation-wise, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth — for at least a week until the next generation consoles crop up. Wii U owners should rejoice, smear this in the faces of their current generation friends and take it in while it lasts. Visually, Call of Duty: Ghosts is better on the Wii U in comparison to the PS3/360 versions.
Let’s talk some multiplayer, shall we?
The big joke in the gaming community is that Nintendo games in general can’t handle anything that is online related (this does include third party people). There aren’t a lot of options out there when it comes to multiplayer, so the label is somewhat warranted. If you take what the Wii U can do hardware-wise (camera, mic, second screen, etc.) then it’s somewhat sad that we haven’t seen anything impressive come out of that hardware that is online related. The machine is there and ready, Nintendo really needs to commit and go explore those options with their own titles and with third party titles.
To the point, Call of Duty: Ghosts does an admirable job with bringing a healthy online experience. You still get pretty much everything you get with the PS3/360 version of the Ghosts game (loadouts, maps, different ways you can play) with the exception of a third difficulty mode (if it’s there, I haven’t unlocked it yet — but I think it’s not there). CoD is probably one of the few games that actually delivers the same amount of fun and intensity that you will find on the other systems. So, you can expect all the maps, all the modes and you can even expect the ‘extinction’ mode that the others sport; pretty much the same experience.
Again, you can read about them in my PS3 review.
There are a few issues with the online component of the Wii U version. The first is how the game will stutter once in a while. While this wasn’t a consistent issue, it did happen where the game would fall back a bit while gameplay was going on, as it had to catch up and load wherever we were on the server. For example, I was playing in the snow map and I ran into a building during a game of Infected. I found my target, was going to knife them, but the game paused, reset me back to the doorway I came through. For some reason, the player I was attacking saw me and reacted. This never happened to me on the PS3 version of the game, but it happened about 5-6 times while playing the Wii U version. I’m not going to begin to speculate the hardware issue here, but if this doesn’t clear up in a week after launch (or at least improve), I’ll be very saddened. Related to that, I had quite a few ‘lost host’ problems during games on the Wii U version, which you can attribute to the launch week window, but nonetheless it was still annoying. In comparison, I didn’t get dropped from the PS3 version at all during this past week (after launch). Again, I’m not sure what the issue is, but hopefully it gets cleared up.
With all the complaints aside, the multiplayer experience was smooth the majority of the time. It was so smooth that I forgot I was playing on a Wii U, which is a huge credit to the folks at Activision. If Call of Duty: Ghosts proves anything, it’s that a full multiplayer experience can be had on Nintendo’s system that people have doubted since its announcement. Nintendo and third party companies should take note that a competent MP experience can be had on this console. I want to see at least Smash Brothers bring some MP (maybe even EA could reconsider its stance on the issue — probably not, but one can hope).
So, does the game still come out as a fun experience overall? The fun of the campaign is still there within the Wii U version of this game. Everything the other owners have experienced thus far is going to be replicated and in some cases magnified a bit. The depth and addiction that other console versions have enjoyed with Call of Duty: Ghosts MP side of things still thrives and survives on the Wii U version. You get about everything others have gotten with their MP Ghosts experience. In other words, you won’t be disappointed.