Competition breeds innovation. I’m strictly speaking between Infinity Ward and Treyarch.
The world has gone to hell and separated itself into two factions: Ghosts and the Federation. The Federation is the antagonist of the group, as it consists of most of the ‘bad powers’ in the world (South America, China, Russia, etc.), who are out to cripple and destroy the good folks of the United States and the rest of the world. Thanks to a space program called the ‘Odin Project’, the bad powers do just that, sending a large amount of laser guided attacks into the Federation’s enemies. Cities are devastated, lives are lost and what’s left of the survivors are divided into the helpless, a fading military and the Ghosts squad. The Ghosts are going to make the Federation’s lives hell through a series of well-placed events that are put together to destroy the Federation from the inside out.
Everything about the campaign mode screams the same sound as previous IW iterations of Call of Duty — Hollywood production. Lots of explosions, lots of missions that are pretty straightforward that lead up to one defining, intense moment. It’s a familiar pattern and not a bad one. The story itself, while not enormously huge in scope, is pretty fun to watch and gets you in the mood to save the world (or try) once again. This is definitely a stronger campaign mode than what Battlefield 4 offers, but only in story.
The places where the campaign mode stutters is the girth of the world you play in, as you have little room to be creative or to go out on your own path, off the preset one, to accomplish whatever mission you are trying to complete. I would have preferred some flexibility with the campaign’s gameplay, or different ways to take care of whatever story plot point you have laid out in front of you, but Ghosts pretty much keeps you on the path of what it wants. Is that bad? Well, BF4 offered up some flexibility in this area, but not much, so the fact that CoD: Ghosts falls short is no big deal (everyone does). I would have preferred some sort of ‘other’ option to do things, but this is what we’ve come to expect from IW’s Call of Duty series. In other words, it’s on par with the CoD history, though the past CoDs (way back before MW was born) had reasons to keep the player on the same path — history made it. This has no reason other than to tell a story that it wants to tell, which isn’t a bad thing; just not a terribly creative or new way of doing things.
What the campaign does improve upon helps raise it above its usual bar of value. The first thing you’ll notice is that the AI from your teammates is FAR better than it has been in the past with CoD games. Your teammates will actually hunt down and kill your enemies if you’re stuck behind cover for some reason. They actually help push forward and will do their best to keep you alive. That has not always been the case in the Call of Duty series. I was very impressed with that portion of the campaign mode and felt like this was a major improvement.
On the flip side to that coin, the enemy AI was on/off. There were times where the enemies would fall back when the chips were down for them, and move forward when they had the advantage. That was impressive to watch. Then there were times where the enemies would be stagnant and keep their heads in the right place for sniping, which was sad to watch. Overall, the enemy AI was better than it had been in the past, but still far less BF4 and Crysis. I want enemies to properly judge everything, is that too much to ask? (yes, probably because no one has done it perfectly yet)
In terms of ways to play Ghosts, you’ll find a nice variety waiting for you. You get to control vehicles, A10 and do fun things like scale down buildings. It’s pretty darn cool and, much like action in movies like The Expendables, which prides itself on new ways to create action sequences, Ghosts gives you a lot of pomp and circumstance equaling out to a good amount of entertainment value. Speaking of entertainment, the biggest addition, and the one talked about the most (even in humor — okay, mostly in humor) is the inclusion of the German Shepherd in the game. As much as you want to make fun of this concept, it’s actually kind of cool. Controlling a dog to attack, scout and basically do the dirty work is kind of fun. You’ll find the dog doubly entertaining when you use him/her (sorry, didn’t check the gender) in multiplayer. The dog’s use in multiplayer is brilliant, and needed. I digress, using him in the campaign mode is entertaining and it adds to the storyline quite well.
Now, making the gameplay a bit sweeter is how tight the controls feel in this Call of Duty. One reason I really love Battlefield 4 is because they tightened the controls a lot. Much like BF4, aiming and controlling your character is much tighter than it has been in previous years. The controls seem very responsive at the right times and the game allows the player during QT events to make mistakes, but recover in time. One addition to this year’s game, and something I’ve been dying to get improved for years (well, really since Medal of Honor introduced it in 2010) is climbing. In past CoD games it has been an ugly burden to climb over things. What could only described as a ‘pulley’ system climbing technique, climbing has been best described as ‘robotic’. I mean, and you know this because more than likely you are fans of the series, it has been honestly ugly. With Ghosts, climbing and jumping over things improves pacing and emerging oneself into the game by tenfold. That was one of the coolest things to come out of MoH in 2010 and I’m glad that IW finally added it to one of their CoD titles. Hopefully Treyarch follows suit.
One big plus for Call of Duty: Ghosts on the campaign side is how absolutely gorgeous the world is in the game. Having played the hell out of Battlefield 4 on the PS3, and wishing for the PS4 version to appear soon due to the blandness of the graphics, I was underwhelmed by the current generation translation. Call of Duty: Ghosts exceeded my expectations in terms of presentation. The worlds you get to explore with your fellow Ghosts (and dog) were absolutely huge. Even though you didn’t get a chance to stray from the beaten path, everything in the game screamed details. You get moving grass, falling rocks, decaying cities, particles in the air and all sorts of beautiful small details around you. I do firmly understand that the next generation and PC versions of this title are going to obliterate the fine shading, nice models and what not that you get with this current generation, but this was an impressive way to leave an older generation. Kudos to Infinity Ward for their efforts in making this look beautiful for current generation people who don’t yet have a PS4/XB1 locked down yet. They put a lot of love and effort into making this product look pretty.
Having said this, you’re going to see some ugly pixels here and there in the game, with some break up occurring from a distance, but it’s nowhere near as bland and bad as you get with BF4. At the very worst, much like Battlefield, it will make you remember you have something better waiting for you towards the middle and end of this month. It’s the cost of making a finished game on a next generation console/PC and bringing it down a bit to fit this generation. You’ll definitely see some flat textures, some pop-ups here and there and usual stuff you find in this generation. Just know that they probably did their best job with bringing you the goods on the current platform that is aged and underpowered. Forgivable? Most definitely, especially since the upgrade to the next generation console costs $9.99 (at least on the PS4).
Before we move onto the multiplayer portion of this review, let’s briefly discuss the talent they brought in to bring the campaign characters to life. Brandon Routh leads the way as Hesh in the campaign mode. He brings his intensity and passion to the role of a struggling family trying to bring down a gigantic force. Tied with him for best performance is Stephen Lang as the father of Hesh (and our main character). He was built for military roles, so his performance seemed to come natural. Big names for a big game seems to be the M.O. for Infinity Ward, and they chose well when deciding on who to lead Ghosts.
At the end of the day, the campaign may not doing anything different when it comes to linear gameplay or storytelling, but it does improve on the small things to make it feel like a bit of an upgrade in terms of AI and controls.
Now, let’s discuss what you really want from this title… MP!
There is no better place to start with the multiplayer experience than with the maps.
The maps for MP are huge. They are the biggest maps seen to date on any Call of Duty game. This isn’t just ‘huge’ in terms of their spread, but huge in terms of their multi-tiered depth. You will find maps that go 3-4 stories up/down, and some that spread out enough to feel like they’re multi-tiered. Most of the time while I was playing this past week, I usually got lost on some maps, which is a good thing. You don’t want to feel restricted/constrained on a map enough to understand and learn it quickly. The longevity of the MP experience starts with the creativity and depth of the maps offered up. In this category, Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t disappoint.
Here are the maps you can look forward to with the initial launch of the game:
Chasm - This was one of my favorites. Picture two office buildings that had basically broken open to face each other. It’s a multi-level map that offers plenty of places to hide, crawl and kill. One of the best parts of this map is the city bus hanging over the chasm. It’s a great place to camp and take out your enemies from all around (and a good place to get trapped and killed).
Flooded - I didn’t play much of this map to get a good feel for it. A destroyed city that was flooded from a broken dam. I had some issues with this one, but those were mainly because I was getting my ass handed to me. I will have to get back to you.
Freight - This one I didn’t like at first, but found some nifty hiding spots after playing it a while. You’re in a train yard with two industrial buildings facing each other. You get plenty of height in the buildings and depth with this one, and plenty of good places to hide. Yes, I camped a lot in this game.
Octane - It’s a large hotel strip in Las Vegas. It’s key feature is a gas station that can collapse on players, and the many rooms to hide in during the match. This was a fan favorite for Team Deathmatch, but not so much for Blitz. Very detailed and very wide open.
Stonehaven - No highlander needed for this one. It’s a series of hills, creeks, stone bridges and broken down castles. Not a lot of places to hide, and a little frustrating at times, but made for the hardcore MP gamers out there. I appreciate it, but don’t love it.
Overlord - This is one of the smallest maps in the bunch, it’s a two building military complex in the middle of the desert that ignites fast gameplay. There aren’t a lot of hiding spots in this one, but there’s enough here to keep your heart pumping. If you like CQC then this is the map for you.
Prison Break - Anytime you can go prone in grass and pick off ‘experts’ running by you is a good day. This is a prison complex that is surrounded by forests and hills. Not much depth to it, but plenty of good places to hide.
Siege - I’m kind of in the middle about this map. It’s in a rusty, broken down industrial park. There are plenty of places for players to run and hide, but it feels a bit wide open in a sense. The outer portion of this map is filled with multi-tiered complexes, while the inner is even, open ground. I had some success here, but it was mainly made for snipers and the run-gun types.
Sovereign - This map irritated me the most, as I couldn’t get visually comfortable with it. There are lots of things going on in this map to keep your eyes wandering, and maybe that’s the point of the map. It’s a challenge and it’s easy to rack up the deaths. Not a lot of places to hide.
Strikezone - This appears to be in the middle of shopping district. It’s a great map that allows for lots of hiding. It’s a multi-tier paradise that definitely keeps you interested from the start to finish. This is one of my top three maps for Ghosts and I enjoy playing it very much.
Tremor - I didn’t play a lot of this map, so I don’t really have a solid opinion of it. I will get back to you on it.
Warhawk - This was my second favorite map of the bunch. You’re in an abandoned small town that has plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in and camp. Lots of back alleys and storefronts (and even awnings) allow for quick, hard hitting gameplay in MP.
Whiteout - This is my favorite of the maps. It’s a fishing village/ski resort (without the skiing) that is enormous and contains many places to camp out and shoot people. Most of the time I played this one there were tons of campers. Loved it, if not only for the wintery feel to it.
The initial maps for Ghosts are far more impressive than anything we’ve seen in the Call of Duty series. You can tell that the girth of the Battlefield series is rubbing off a bit on the CoD series, but not enough to make it a full-scale copy. And that’s a good thing. Call of Duty has always been a more of a run/gun shooting experience that is more fast-paced than it is finesse. That’s why it’s in a category of its own and can’t really be compared to BF4 (sorry, gamers, but they’re two different games). I’m happy they expanded their horizon a bit with the maps, and definitely glad they didn’t expand it too much to try to copy the likes of Battlefield. The addition of the random happenings during the maps is a wonderful spectacle (and useful at times), as is more destructible elements in the environments.
All in all, the majority of the maps on the MP side of things are fun and impressive. You certainly won’t be disappointed with what Infinity Ward delivers on that side of the ball.
As for the nitty-gritty details of the MP experience, the loadouts are fun to unlock and develop. Black Ops II (which I know is made from a different team) seemed to have an unlock system that went quick. I know within a matter of a week or so, I had pretty much maxed out my weapons (most, not all) and unlocked all of the attachments and such. Everything seemed to level up fast and tokens became scarce quick. In Ghosts, the squad points (which are in place of the tokens) seem to be determined on victories by squads and mini missions accomplished within the MP experience. In other words, it’s tough to earn squad points quickly.
The points you do earn can be used to add attachments to your main weapon, add attachments to secondaries, and also add new perks and strike packages (and you can also unlock new lethal and tacticals with them). Because of the rate in which you earn these squad points, mostly depending on your ability as a player, the game doesn’t upgrade you quickly. I like that a lot, as it draws out Ghosts in a nice, quiet way. If it goes slower then IW is just stretching for more hours. If it goes fast then the gamer loses the ‘new items’ experience. Again, Ghosts is nicely placed in the middle and it works well. For example, there are seven initial perks to unlock with five levels of each perk. Each perk level costs a certain amount of squad points and will take time to earn for the normal gamer out there.
So, what to do with those new unlockables…how about try them on new ways to play matches? Call of Duty: Ghosts introduces new types of matches, which are as follows:
Cranked - Fast gameplay. You have a limited amount of time to stay alive and killing people increases your time. It’s just nuts, I’ll leave it at that.
Blitz - This one was one of those games that is hit or miss, depending on the map. The map I played with this one was Octane, which seemed a bit stale in terms of accomplishments. You get 50 points for each kill (as opposed to the standard 100) and you get points for entering scoring zones located on the enemy side of their base. It’s intense, but not my cup of tea so far.
Infected - You either win by surviving the infected or you win by killing the survivors. Either way, fun mode.
Hunted - This is kind of like upgrading your weapons through killing folk, except you upgrade your weapons by taking control of drop zones. It’s a nice twist on an old concept. It works well and is fun, but not for the faint of heart.
Team Tactical - 4x4 matches that are small, personal and great chances to go at each other.
The new ways to play the matches is definitely a welcomed change to the series. I do like what they have to offer, outside of the usual (TDM, Kill Confirm, Domination, etc.) and it bodes well for the longevity of the MP experience. Don’t get me wrong, not all the modes are equal in the entertainment category, but there is enough variety here to enjoy the experience.