Call of Duty: Ghosts is the latest game in the CoD franchise from Infinity Ward and it the spiritual successor to the Modern Warfare series, which was wrapped up nicely with the release of Modern Warfare 3 two years ago. Infinity Ward have come back with a new story and a new style to their side of the franchise; but has it paid off?
Graphically, the PS3 version we tested is not the best looking game in the world, but the action is fast paced and maintains a solid framerate as promised, so you won’t notice it that often; the sound is good and playing though the opening scenes with surround sound cranked up is highly recommended. For the majority of the game you play as Logan, who starts the game enjoying a quiet afternoon stroll with his Dad (Elias) and his Brother (Hesh) before all hell breaks loose. Before you know it there’s a character switch and you’re conducting a spacewalk, before a brief zero-G fight through a doomed space station brings you back down to Earth with a bang. The Federation, a unified South American force (that’s right, no Russians… pun intended), have struck their first blow! Cut to ten years later and Logan, Hesh and their dog Riley are patrolling parts of a devastated Los Angeles for Federation recon patrols. The story itself, though bonkers, is good and with the game’s focus on a family fighting unit, there’s more sentimentality than in previous incarnations, but personally I felt that the dramatic impact of MW3 was lost a little. Maybe it’s because I’ve had less time to form an attachment to the characters, but perhaps more so is that it’s predictable that a family in crisis will react emotionally; when Captain Price reacted to the death of an ally in MW3, it had greater impact because he’d been so stoic for so long.
The single player campaign is quite short and only took me 5-6 hours on normal difficulty; it introduces a number of new game mechanics and new takes on old ones. You get to drive a tank and fly a helicopter in some vehicle sections; they are incredibly manoeuvrable and the aiming is easy, making the sections fast paced and fun to play. Players can control Riley the dog at a few points and use him to take down guards with vicious mutt melee attacks, or for recon as a doggy drone, who identifies targets for the AI to take down. Missions set under water and in space also feature and add a really interesting three dimensional element to the fight sequences, as you have to make sure you aren’t being flanked from above or below; the ‘pop’ as you shatter your foes helmet, before they tumble away into space, is also highly satisfying. There are A10 and osprey attack runs taking the place of obligatory drone strikes and at one point, you take control of a space based weapons platform. There are other little additions where Ghost tactics are used to turn the tide of the battle like rappelling, a remote sniper rifle, using strobe-lights to daze the enemy and finally popping smoke and switching to thermal vision. All of these features really made you feel like the elite you are supposed to, but sadly they are under utilised or often feel heavily scripted. In a game where the set pieces have been toned down (in comparison to MW3 that is) and you have more control during them to aid in your immersion, it’s a shame that players don’t always have the freedom to experiment with toys and tactics as they choose.
The multiplayer modes return and this time the series has two new features, Squads and Extinction. Standard multiplayer pitches you against up to 11 other players across a series of game modes, including the new modes Blitz, Cranked, Grind, Hunted and Search and Rescue. In Blitz you have to pass through a portal in your enemies base to score a point, instantly returning you to your own base. Cranked boosts your abilities including movement and reload speed when you get a kill, but if you don’t get another kill within 30 seconds you’ll explode. Grind is Kill Confirmed, but you must deposit collected dog tags at an objective in order to score. In Hunted all players start with a pistol and have to secure weapon drops to improve their odds. Search and Rescue is similar to Search and Destroy, but enemies drop tags when they are killed; if your team collects the dog tags you stop them from respawning, however if they are collected by their own team, they are back in the fight. These new modes add some interesting varieties on tried and tested game types and with Kill Confirmed, Infected and Domination returning there’s lots to do besides standard deathmatches. The maps are well designed, each seems to have a good combination of open areas and tight spots to allow all types of player to flourish; Stonehaven is particularly worthy of a mention as the series of outbuildings and ruins, set in the Scottish countryside, is totally out of character with the usual map colour palette and style! The dynamic aspect of the maps has underwhelmed me this far, but I’m sure that as I learn the maps, I may notice the effect more as the fog of war ascends.
Squads allows you to develop a team of AI soldiers and then compete against other players and/or their AI squads in a series of game modes; it really just seems like an extension of the Combat Training seen in previous games, other than Safeguard, which is similar to the Survival Mode in MW3 but allows up to four player coop.
Replacing Spec Ops is Extermination, initially described to me as ‘Zombies with aliens, instead of zombies’. With this in mind, I launched a game and was pleasantly surprised. I was a never a great fan of the Zombies mode in the Treyarch games, it was fun but I always felt it to be a bit of a grind and was often overwhelmed quickly. Extinction is faster, more exciting and the variety of perks and boosts you can use to aid yourself and your teams as you destroy alien hives with your drill really mixes things up. Give it a try, I strongly recommend it.
The multiplayer is still good fun and seems pretty well balanced so far; the new game modes are accessible, fun and only serve to make it more palatable to new players, who may otherwise be put off from playing competitive multiplayer. If you’re looking for a solid shooter with some interesting incremental changes in multiplayer, then I would highly recommend Call of Duty: Ghosts; the trouble is it’s hard to feel that the campaign additions to gameplay are anything other than cosmetic.
PS3 review copy was provided by Activision.