Call of Duty: Ghosts Mega-Review
Call of Duty: Greatest Hits Compilation
War…war never changes, and no franchise has ever validated that statement more so than Call of Duty. After the superb Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare set the standard for first-person shooters of this generation, everything else after that has kept the same core gameplay mechanics except with a few minor tweaks and modifications. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you don’t fix what isn’t broken, but too little or too much of anything is bad. Call of Duty: Ghosts isn’t necessarily a bad game, but it is showing the series is both running out of ideas and has possibly outstayed its welcome.
From a narrative standpoint, the CoD series has always focused purely on action over substance; the plot serves a reason for more firefights and explosions. While I do believe the writers of the previous games did their best to add substance to the story, I feel as if the writers of Ghosts didn’t even bother trying to make a compelling story.
Set some time in the future, unsure if it is before or after the events of Black Ops 2, the superpower nations of the world have mined the Earth of most of its resources. In response to the United States weakened military and economy, a group of terrorist/paramilitary, not sure either since the group’s origins are never mentioned, have united all of South America and declared war on the U.S.
With the U.S. military on the defensive, it’s up to newly recruited ghost and silent protagonist, Logan, along with his brother, father (CO), family dog, and veteran ghosts Merrick and Keegan; sadly Peele seems to be MIA. This is basically the standard action-movie setup as the ghosts attack one Federation base after another and leading up to the finale.
The protagonist is insane for some reason and just happens to be a part of one character’s dark past while the people he works for are inherently evil people who gun down innocent civilians for fun. The main characters are not very likeable either since the protagonist won’t speak and the others do absolutely nothing to sell themselves to the audience. The only character I was worried about was the dog because the possible death of man’s best friend is a cheap tactic to tug at one’s heart strings.
So all in all, this is the worst narrative in the franchise due to lack of originality, substance, focus, and players get the exact same ending from the other games while simultaneously setting it up for a sequel.
*Before I get into the gameplay, I would like to state that I reviewed Ghosts on the PS3, but for PC gamers, check forums and websites for news first because apparently the game is plagued with technical problems that have kept gamers from playing the game.*
Gameplay has not changed any since the last game; go from point A to point B while shooting every bad guy along the way. There are some exciting setpieces, but unfortunately their time is short and does not hold the impact of setpieces from previous games. If you have enjoyed the single player campaign of the other games, then you’ll probably enjoy Ghosts as well.
While it doesn’t play badly, it does not get any points for originality because many of the levels seem to either be copy-and-pasted from previous CoD games or stolen from other media. In the story aspect, there is a scene that was taken directly from The Dark Knight Rises and the underwater level from the movie Thunderball. Honestly though, how many developers have tried to recreate that action sequence…not many so that gets a free pass.
Other gameplay moments don’t deserve that leniency since they are essentially ripped from earlier games. The tank mission from Call of Duty 2 returns, the chopper sequence from Black Ops as well, and there are more that series veterans will instantly recognize as well. I also noticed the level design of one stage seems to resemble a setting from Spec Ops: The Line of all things plus I have heard unconfirmed rumors that some animations have been recycled directly from Modern Warfare 2.
The more original levels, the underwater and space battles, sound good on paper, but I the execution is off. The slower, three-dimensional movement gives both room for new strategy and a feeling of slight vulnerability at first, then upon confronting an enemy it gets annoying. Taking cover is difficulty and for some reason the enemy A.I. is more aggressive and focuses only on the player; it’s like the developers programmed them to think the player killed their artificial parents, pet, and favorite celebrity to create some sort of animosity.
My other problem with the campaign is that it very rarely tells the player exactly what to do. I like that the game tries not to hold my hand with waypoint markers, but the game will vaguely hint at what is happening. In most CoD games, a character will shout about what needs to be done amidst the chaos while the ghosts give orders much like they are whispering sweet nothings. There were too many times where I would be stuck searching an area for an objective or killed because my allies would take off quickly, quietly, and without me.
Aside from the lack of originality and confusing objectives, the game gets everything off the Call of Duty checklist without much trouble. Like the rest of the franchise, the only reason to replay the campaign is either challenge oneself on the veteran difficulty or for achievements/trophies. Play it, finish it, then forget about it.
Despite my many gripes involving the single player game, most people could care less and will go straight for the multiplayer. Sadly though, the multiplayer has received about the same treatment as the single player with most changes being aesthetic. That’s not such a bad thing since the multiplayer is still quite fun.
Players will begin by customizing their own soldier by choosing not only weapon and perk layouts, but dressing them up to be the prettiest warrior in the field. Instead of completing challenges for experience, most challenges unlock new gear to change the character’s look. Personally, I wouldn’t care if my soldier was running around wearing an rainbow, afro wig and Ronald McDonald clown shoes, just as long as they don’t get in the way of the fighting.
Players now have the option to create a female soldier for online play which is cool, but I feel this move lacks much weight since the story mode only contains one female and her screen time is very short on the count that she gets killed. If the developers want to truly acknowledge the female gaming population, there also needs to be playable women soldiers in the campaign as well.
Upon leveling up your shiny new character, players will receive squad points to buy weapons, perks, and kill streaks. Most of these can be unlocked as long as there is enough points, all weapons for example, while others can only be unlocked at a certain level. This is smart because it allows newcomers to pick a decent weapon upon gaining enough points and helps to balance out the community.
Regardless of which game type, I found the weapons to be easily one of the most balanced lineup in the franchise, though quick-scoping is still a problem. The killstreaks also seem to be balanced more this time around as well which means more players will need to rely more so on their skills and wits instead of relying on cheap tactics to get a high streak.
There are quite a few game modes, though I feel the new ones will be forgotten a few months from now. Team deathmatch, Kill confirmed, Domination, Free-for-all, Team Tactical, and Hardcore TDM and KC return while newcomers Blitz, Infected, Search and Rescue, Crank, and Hunted walk in their mighty shadows.
Blitz requires players to get to the enemy’s side to gain a point like a game of Red Rover with automatic weapons, Crank is TDM with score multipliers given with every kill, and Search and Rescue is Search and Destroy paired with Kill Confirmed. The game mode Infected is exactly like the one found in Halo in which players must survive against faster, infected players for as long as possible. It’s fun, but ripped straight from Halo’s playlist without a hint of remorse.
Hunted is like TDM except players start off with a pistol with a single clip and two throwing knifes before getting the chance to secure random weapon drops. This round is also fun while it lasts, but eventually gets old. The last mode is Squads, which allows a party of players to compete either against an enemy squad or A.I. bots.
Squads is more fun with friends since randomly searching usually means going up against one other person along with friendly and enemy bots. Playing solely against bots is not satisfying and is contradictory to online multiplayer gaming. Squads also contains a horde mode, much like in Modern Warfare 3, except with random supply drops.
Despite the balanced weapons and decent supply of game modes, there are some problems to be found in the multiplayer. Lag, while not destroying the matches, is consistent as every match contained multiple hiccups. The servers never crashed and there were only a few times where it got me killed, but to see it in every match does get me worried; just look at Battlefield 4′s server issues.
The menu layout is also a little confusing as it is significantly different from the previous games. It is also worth noting that to viewing the scorecard in the game only pops a small window in the corner instead of a semi-transparent GUI. These are small pet peeves coming from a veteran, but I prefer to see the score card in its entirety; nothing lights a fire under my buttocks quicker than finding out the trash-talking 7-year old is three spots in front of me.
Muting players is also done in the pause menu instead of on the scorecard as well. The reason this is an annoyance because in the previous games, one could mute a specific player in-game and still have a chance to fight back just in case. In Ghosts, if I want to mute a person who is playing music loudly into his headset or telling me terrible things about my mother, and you know who you are, players now have to open the start menu, including their defense, and then go from there.
Granted, these are very minor problems with lag being the only one worth complaining about. Hopefully servers will be updated soon to fix this problem entirely.
Graphics & Sound
Much like the game’s story, I feel like Ghosts has the worst graphics in the series. Even after watching videos of the PC and PS4 versions, I found the difference to be miniscule at best, though the jungle area looks significantly better in the next-gen version. The graphics are average on current-gen and the next-gen lacks the wow-factor created by the previous games and Battlefield 4′s graphic engine.
Sound design is also about the same as the previous games, guns still sound powerful, and the acting isn’t bad despite the writing. The music is not memorable and is barely there which is disappointing because the game could desperately use it to help enhance the action of the single player.
Extinction is the new mode to replace Zombies of the previous games. While it is fun, it doesn’t have the longevity nor the difficulty of the zombie games; I managed to get through most of it by myself in less than half an hour. There are classes to unlock and perks, but once all classes are unlocked and a group of players have finished Extinction, there isn’t much to bring them back; it doesn’t help that there is only one map either. Still it is fun while it lasts.
Call of Duty: Ghosts isn’t a bad game, just a lazy one. With scenes, setpieces, and gameplay ripped from various games and movies, this one isn’t taking home a prize for originality nor is the dumb story. The multiplayer holds up the game entirely since the lackluster campaign and throwaway Extinction mode couldn’t be trusted to even out an unbalanced coffee table. For players curious about the single player, rent it, but for hardcore multiplayer fans, maybe a rent first before buying it because I feel that it is fun, but not on par with the previous games. The franchise has lost a step and the developers seem to be desperately grasping straws for fresh ideas; maybe it’s time for the developers to retire the series so that they may spread their wings and bring us something new.