Tag Archive: Call of Duty: Ghosts


Ghostbusting

Even a billion-dollar franchise like Call of Duty feels pressure sometimes, and this year’s entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts, probably had even more than usual. Fans were concerned about Infinity Ward stepping away from the Modern Warfare series and introducing something new—not to mention rival Battlefield 4 raising the stakes on next-gen with 32-on-32 multiplayer.

Infinity Ward also felt competition from fellow Call of Duty developer Treyarch’s huge success with Black Ops II last year. Even with all this pressure, though, Infinity Ward looked to maintain a steady course and reach their customary peak at the top of the FPS food chain. But sometimes, more change is needed to reach familiar goals—and I couldn’t help but feel that Ghosts doesn’t do enough to keep the formula fresh.

Ghosts’ campaign starts when a South American alliance called the Federation hijacks an American space station armed with ODIN, a kinetic bombardment system. Turning their own weapon against them, the Federation thrusts America into a decade-long conflict that instantly flips the global balance of power.

Logan Walker—the son of a former member of a U.S. Special Ops unit designated as “Ghosts”—quickly rises up the ranks along with his brother, Hesh, in a resistance group led by their dad as they help protect the ever-shrinking American border. But the Federation isn’t the only threat Logan and his family needs to deal with; an ex-Ghost named Rorke has allied himself with the Federation for the express purpose of making the lives of his former squadmates a living nightmare.

While Ghosts may tread familiar ground, it’s certainly not a bad experience overall. In fact, its single-player campaign is on par, in many regards, with Black Ops II, and it has the added bonus of not including those broken RTS side missions. Most of the levels impart that big-budget, adrenaline-fueled, action-movie ride players are looking for. It’s just that there are enough blemishes here—and a lack of overall innovation—to make it a good game, not a great one.

The major issue comes with the disconnect between the action and the narrative. Ghosts takes players all over the world and throws them into some insane scenarios that further the parallel between this game and action movies. But, like many action flicks, when the protagonists are placed in cool places like the Antarctic, dense jungles, underwater, or deep space, the narrative starts to come undone. In at least four of the game’s 18 missions, you’ll probably find yourself having flashbacks to college philosophy classes when you ask, “Why am I here?” I don’t know, Plato—but you might as well blow it all to kingdom come while you’re at it!

While the narrative reasoning leaves something to be desired, there’s certainly plenty of gameplay variety this time around. Whether it’s high-speed chases or subterranean subterfuge, Ghosts makes sure there’s never a dull moment. I did take issue with one activity, however—and that was playing as Riley, the German Shepard.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s awesome having Riley as a part of your unit, and it’s a blast issuing him commands. If you’re not good enough in multiplayer to ever earn that new perk, at least you get the satisfaction in single-player of having your pooch bite off a bad guy’s face. It’s nothing short of stupid, though, to have sections where you’re actually playing as the dog himself. Sneaking through the grass and silently taking down enemies isn’t something you need the dog for. Looking through a camera on its back is completely unnecessary, too, and considering that Riley’s only in three of the 18 missions, he’s not all that important, giving his segments a tacked-on feeling. I will say, however, that Riley’s voice actor is probably the second-best in the game after Rorke’s.

Despite these issues, the five-hour campaign still managed to pull me in with some excellent action sequences and enough of a cohesive narrative to make me want to keep going. But even with all its cool moments—unless you miss some Achievements or want to go through on harder difficulty levels—you probably won’t be going back to the campaign again and again. No, it’s the multiplayer that makes Call of Duty stay in our systems for months on end until the next chapter hits store shelves. But while this portion is technically sound—much like the campaign—it does little to make the experience feel fresh again.

Unfortunately, all the “new” multiplayer options in Ghosts are simply mashups of previous game modes, direct ports, or minor rule changes. Most of them are still fun, but I expected more than just a bunch of rehashes. The worst part of the multiplayer, however, is the new UI. The new character customization is a huge bonus this year, but the screen’s a mess, and most players will have to look long and hard at their TVs just to find the simplest of options, such as making the character male or female.

The UI problems continue when setting up your perks. While the few limits of Black Ops II’s Pick Ten system have been thrown out the window, so has the ability to quickly and conveniently make changes to your loadouts between matches. Due to tiny icons and a cluttered menu screen, if you really want to change your guns and perks, you should leave your respective lobby, since it’s going to take some time to really figure everything out.

All that said, the maps are more intricate than ever. Many of the larger areas have a multitude of lanes you can use in order to reach your objectives, providing some interesting variety when you spawn on these new killing fields.

The biggest surprise with Ghosts comes in the co-op mode: Extinction. The idea here is that up to four players have been inserted into the remains of a town that was hit by one of ODIN’s orbital strikes. It seems this strike unearthed something that had been long been buried…something alien. Now, you and your teammates have to get to ground zero, plant a nuke, and get the heck out of Dodge, all while trying to fend off this alien horde.

More focused than Zombies and far more creative than anything Infinity Ward has done with a co-op mode before, Extinction may be my new favorite co-op mode for the franchise. My only concern comes from the lack of replayability. Once you beat this section with your buddies, there’s little to make you come back, but hopefully some more maps and other add-ons come down the line.

When compared to the Call of Duty games that have come before it, Ghosts has a few problems, primarily in regards to innovation and moving the franchise forward. There’s no denying this. There’s also no denying, however, that the game’s still really damn fun to play—and even with the issues I’ve outlined, Infinity Ward has proven they can still hold the line, no matter the pressure.

Developer: Infinity Ward/Raven Software/Neversoft • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 11.5.13
7.5
Narrative issues and a lack of ingenuity in multiplayer plague what could’ve been an all-time great Call of Duty game. As is, Ghosts is still an enjoyable experience and shows that Infinity Ward can still hold the line—but the concept falls short of its true potential.
The Good Gorgeous set pieces with tons of action; the new bad guy is excellent; Extinction mode adds something new to multiplayer.
The Bad Some levels feel tacked on for the sole purpose of lengthening the campaign; multiplayer UI is awful.
The Ugly Riley’s whimpering actually had an effect on me.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC and is a launch title for Xbox One and PS4. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

With only a month left before Call of Duty: Ghosts drops, Activision has released a trailer highlighting a new multiplayer option for players called “Squads.”

Call of Duty: Ghosts’ multiplayer features 10 different loadouts for players to customize and level up via experience points earned in battle. Squads allows you to take all of those loadouts at once and play alongside them in four AI-driven modes: Wargame, Squad vs. Squad, Squad Assault, and Safeguard.

To get the full rundown on each mode in Squads and what it entails, be sure to check out the trailer below.

Aside from being an interesting option in its own right, Squads has the dual purpose of allowing players to learn maps and get some practice under their belt if they feel intimidated by the more hardcore Call of Duty players out there. They can learn against bots that scale to their skill level without having to worry about their K/D ratio getting demolished right out of the gate.

Call of Duty: Ghosts will be available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Wii U worldwide on November 5, and will serve as a launch title for both the PS4 and Xbox One.

Blitzkrieg Bop

While the first two of seven new multiplayer modes were revealed last week, Activision saved another one for Gamescom. I checked out Blitz mode and the new map, Chasm, that was revealed during the Xbox One press briefing.

Blitz feels like a twist on Capture the Flag, but instead of grabbing a flag, now the players are the flags. This mode sets up two points on opposite ends of the map, with a simple objective: Any player on your team must get into the opponent’s scoring zone, and vice versa. If a player walks into the zone, they’re teleported back to their base and score a point for their team. This means that, essentially, both teams are on offense and defense at the same time.

An interesting little catch, though, is that the developers are already one step ahead of players and have built in a preventive measure to guard against massive scoring from a team working well together—say, four guys moving in tandem across the map. Once a player enters the scoring zone, a 10-second timer starts before someone else can enter. This gives the opposing team time to regroup, and it could put some folks’ survival skills to the test if they’re waiting out the timer near the zone.

This makes Blitz seem like a potential favorite stomping ground for lone wolves. Since you can only score with one person at a time, staying away from teammates might prove more useful if you can hold your own in a firefight. You’ll still have to work together to see who’s making their way to the base, but sending only one or two guys out a time and having the rest camp out near the base might prove a fruitful strategy.

What was most interesting about my hands-on time at Gamescom, however, was that the new map and mode were kept separate. So, I played Blitz on Octane and Strikezone, but I didn’t get to explore Chasm until I went back to Search & Rescue. This makes me think that Blitz may be limited to small to mid-sized maps.

Chasm’s probably my favorite of the new maps we’ve seen thus far. While it’s not as spread out as Whiteout, it’s got a lot of verticality: You’ll work your way through the rubble of a collapsed building and down through the street into a subway system. Since the map features several layers of small platforms, high ground will be critical depending on the modes you play, and several points are perfect for camping and protecting objective points—in this case, placing bombs for Search & Rescue.

The new audio system for Ghosts really shined on Chasm. During my session, players would shout out targets near cubicles or on railway lines rather steadily. I don’t know if the excess noise at last week’s event prevented the system from working as flawlessly as it should’ve, but I heard everything loud and clear at Gamescom.

So, three down, four to go on the Ghosts multiplayer reveals. As of right now, Search & Rescue remains my personal favorite, but Infinity Ward is certainly capable of topping it with something surprising down the line.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

At this point, everyone has seen the trailer or at least gotten the cliffnotes to everything announced at the Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer press conference. If you haven’t though, be sure to Chris’ write-up on all the new multiplayer details.

For the rest of you, though, you probably want to know how a lot of these announcements actually affect the gameplay. Well, we’ve got you covered. I was able to sit down with Ghosts’ multiplayer for about 90 minutes and put the new modes and maps through their paces.

Let’s start with the new modes. Two of seven new modes being added to the game were shown to us, and the first one I saw was Cranked. In this twist on Team Deathmatch, players who get a kill are given a speed boost as reward. The speed boost lasts for 30 seconds, but if you don’t kill anyone else in that time, your character literally explodes. Talk about messing with your K/D ratio.

After playing several matches, I realized a couple of things. The speed boost doesn’t stack, so there are only two speeds—normal and fast—and if you explode, there’s no splash damage that can hurt opponents. So anyone thinking that a suicide bomber strategy might help win the match or salvage that K/D, think again.

Also, 30 seconds is a lot more time than you might think. I saw a lot of people who started running around like a chicken with their heads cut off when their timer began and got mowed down by enemy fire before they even came close to running out of time. Panicking doesn’t help you or your team.

After Cranked, we got to try out Search & Rescue. This is a twist on Search & Destroy and Kill Confirmed–style matches. Kill an opponent, then collect their dog tags to remove them from the match altogether. If an ally grabs the dog tags first, the person will respawn. Since I love both of these modes, I had a lot more fun with Search & Rescue than Cranked. Just like classic Search & Destroy, you don’t have to eliminate the entire enemy team if you are on the offensive, since there are also two points where you can plant a bomb.

Honestly, the modes may be described as “new,” but neither reinvent the wheel. All we’re seeing is some unique little twists being added to classic modes, or modes being combined and passed off as something revolutionary. But, I can’t deny that these modes, especially Search & Rescue, we’re a lot of fun to play.

Aside from these new modes, we also played Domination a couple of times, which remains the same as ever.

We also got to play on three brand new maps: Strikezone, Whiteout, and Octane.

Octane is a medium-sized map based around an abandoned gas station and a western ghost town. As demonstrated in the trailer, this map featured destructible walls and structures. Players can blow apart the supports to the gas station roof, causing it to collapse into new cover, or crush players underneath. While I didn’t see anyone stupid enough to get squished, the few times we did level the station it definitely caused a huge shift in strategy. Terrain morphed and closed off some old paths, while new ones opened up. When we played Cranked on Octane, the disorientation proved deadly—a few players found themselves lined up in enemy crosshairs after not being able to find a way through the rubble.

The next map was Whiteout, and was easily my favorite of the event. It was a massive, open map that afforded players plenty of sniper perches in abandoned vacation cabins, as well as cover through twisting, ice-covered caves. While playing on this map though, I admit to having flashbacks to the White Pass map from Battlefield: Bad Company 2. While the attention to detail here was much higher (as I would hope with next-gen on the horizon), the feeling of sniping from a second floor window overwhelmed my nostalgia factor at times as we played Search & Rescue.

The final map was Strikezone. Easily my least favorite, this was probably the smallest map I can remember in recent history. It seemed comparable in size to Hijacked from Black Ops II, but with even less cover and a square layout overall instead of Hijacked’s elongated corridors.  There is nothing more frustrating than spawning in maps like these, since—with everyone running around in such a confined space—you’ll often pop up right next to an enemy and be dead again before getting your bearings. It also had very little going on in it. While the idea of a firefight breaking out in a stadium hot dog stand sounded fun, it turned out to be anything but.

After exhausting the modes, I attempted to go in-depth with the customization, but we were on an unforgiving rotation that prevented me from truly messing around with the new point-value perk system (where some perks are worth more than others) or really mess with my character.  I was able to cycle through some pre-assigned camo options like arctic, desert, urban, and the classic jungle, and gave my soldier a badass helmet before being whisked into another match. But it was nice to see so many of Ghosts‘ new female character models on the maps. Ultimately, these customization options are more about personal tastes than anything else, since they don’t change things like movement speed or health. It’s just another way of putting a personal stamp on your Call of Duty experience.

I also got to experience the new Field Orders feature, where a blue briefcase will randomly appear on the body of a felled enemy and provide you and your team a Care Package if you complete certain extra objectives, ranging from getting a kill while jumping to performing so many headshots. This was an interesting addition, but not one that most people I played with cared about. I’d often see the briefcase just sitting there, so lonely, waiting for a player to try their hand at its challenge. But no one ever bothered, because there’s so much else going on in a multiplayer match to worry about.

At the end of the day, the new modes and maps were nice, but it’s still the core Call of Duty experience that millions of people have come to love. There was little here to make me think that what we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, besides the next-gen prettiness of it all, will be getting a massive change. Some of the things announced at the press conference, like Clans, weren’t available to me when I wanted to check them out, but the idea of making clan tags more official and rewarding players as a group for doing well on top of individually has a lot of potential.

Overall, if you love Call of Duty, I don’t see anything here that will turn you off to Ghosts. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a true game-changer, what I saw suggests that you’ll probably have to keep looking.