With the next generation of videogame consoles now fully underway we turn our attention to the Mother of All shooter titles, Call of Duty, and ask the questions posed by readers if this really is a current gen game on a next-gen platform? Will Infinity Ward step in to save the franchise, or is Call of Duty just a ‘Ghost’ of it former self? Let’s find out together as we review Activision’s powerhouse FPS title.
Let’s get one thing right from the off shall we? Then, perhaps, we’ll understand each other a little better? We kinda like Call of Duty. So, with that sentiment ringing in your ears understand us when we say that we will not be jumping on the negativity band wagon, nor will we be taking large chunks out of the game for not being ‘original’, or that it is ‘just another shooter like its predecessor’. Call of Duty is, and always has been, a first person military shooter, if this offends you, or if you think that because it still is a military based shooter that it hasn’t progressed enough to be worthy of your mediocre praise, then this is not going to be the review for you. Battlefield 4 will be along shortly….or maybe even Killzone Shadowfall if you’re really bored?
So, for the rest of you, the guys and girls who just like to get online and mix it up in the fastest playing shooter title with the most addictive gameplay, let’s begin shall we?
Back following its latest annual change of hands we now have Infinity Ward at the helm of the Good Ship Call of Duty, and boy! Does it ever show! Ghosts explodes back onto your TV screen with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and all of the usual visual and interactive delights of a Hollywood blockbuster. Looking like the bastard lovechild of a Michael Bay movie and an Andy McNab novel, after its parents had unprotected sex during a drunken encounter at E3, Call of Duty Ghosts is back with more bang for your buck than any other FPS title on the market.
The storyline, this time around at any rate, see’s players stepping into the sneakers of a teenage boy as his father and brother are out exploring the woods around their home. Sounds like one of those perfect ‘Father/Son’ moments that you never had with your Dad. All is going smoothly until a series of ‘tremors’ rocks the vicinity. Rightly puzzled our three family members head towards home for safety, but not before a massive explosion rocks their world. Whatever it is, and Dad seems to know more than he is letting on, as he frantically screams at his two boys to get home whilst at the same time shaking his fist at the sky like some kind of extra from Beowulf yelling: ” Its Odin, I tells ya! ”
Okay, well, maybe not the ‘I tells ya’? We may have ad-libbed a little there, but you get the general idea, yes?‘
From here on in everything is pretty much as you would expect from a Call of Duty title, in that we have all of the usual suspects of whistles, bangs, explosions and missiles by the proverbial bucketful. With the ‘enemy’ this time being made up of a United States of South America, as the Southern Hemisphere countries of the American continent unite under a single banner to form the new ‘Federation’, ( insert scary music here ). The scene is set, then, for the upcoming tale of a country brought to its knee’s by a shadowy foreign power, and with its military being scattered to the four winds they now rely on the skills of the elite few men and women, ( yes! you read that right! ‘women’ are part of the Call of Duty line up for the first time in the franchises history ).of the secretive ‘Ghost’ squadron as the tables are turned on the former super power US as they are attacked from within by their own weapons, following some ingenious hacking by some cyber types and action-boffins. Ghosts offers up a mesmeric tale of terror and battling against the odds. The question of whether or not the mission will be a success requires only one more thing to tip the balance in favour of the ‘Good Guys’, and that, dear GmP reader…..is you!
Make no mistake about it, although the franchise may now be clocking on in years, Call of Duty still enters into the FPS arena with a spring in its step more representative of a younger man, and let’s be honest here, what it does…it always does very well, and far better than the competition.
The single player may have come in for a little bit of flak from the world’s gaming media, often being labelled as ‘last gen’, but ‘last gen’ in comparison to what, exactly? There is no doubt about it that when you see Call of Duty: Ghosts being played on the Xbox One then it is a far superior version than even its well established Xbox360 sibling, ( and head and shoulders above the PlayStation 3 edition ), but if the truth be told of the quality of the gameplay and the handling of the features the Call of Duty has never looked better, across any of the available platforms.
Speaking of the available features, Call of Duty Ghosts is positively littered with new additions to the single, co-op and multiplayer formats. One cannot even begin to mention the solo outing without first embarking on a glowing testimonial of ‘Riley’, the now infamous Call of Duty attack hound.
Named after the much renowned ‘Ghost’ character from the Modern Warfare storyline, Riley is the German Shepherd ‘Ghost-est with the most-est’. Packed with pixels and polygons that grant this canine character some truly lifelike attributes, this is one pooch that you wouldn’t want to bump into down a darkened alley after a few rounds of sherbet’s at your local boozer. Riley is anything but a token sideshow and, thanks to a veritable arsenal of tech and weaponry all strapped to his Kevlar combat harness, he is a definite attribute to his duo of Human partners.
Players are able to take control of the K-9 unit at various points along the way as the game’ storyline progresses, and they will soon discover that having their four-legged friend at their beck and call to smash through windows and savage the Hell out of enemy soldiers inside buildings is a definite bonus.
Riley is also available for an excellent slant on a staple of any FPS title, in that Infinity Ward have allowed the player to take the reins, so to speak, of the dog itself as you sneak through a stealth level deciding to bypass or kill targets along the way as you see fit. This new take on an old favourite works very well indeed, and if anything only serves to leave the player begging for more of the same in later levels. Alas, however, such segues into the stealth ninja doggy are few and far between.
But it isn’t just your new-found puppy that has all the good gadgets and guns, not by a long chalk. Everything from abseiling, sorry ‘rappelling’, down the side of exploding skyscrapers to swimming with realistic fishies has been given a far glossier touch by the collective of developers all pulling together to make Call of Duty Ghosts the far prettier spectacle that it so very much is. Especially in comparison to earlier offerings in the series.
Players are also treated to a new armoury full of updated AK’s, MTAR’s and sniper rifles with all of the present day firearms being given a gloss of fresh paint and some snazzy new attachments to bring them screaming into the next generation of firearms.
Naturally with the new weapons come new issues, such as the far more realistic recoils, pulling to the side with the faster firing sub machine guns and assault rifles, as well as the noticeable weight difference when carrying say, a pistol to a heavy belt fed or box fed machine gun. Gone are the days of merely point and shoot as players must now learn to compensate for life threatening weave and bob as you blast away with your weapon of choice. It is in these kinds of details that Infinity Ward have given Call of Duty a far greater sense of realism.
This sense of added accuracy when it comes to everything from the way that the weapons handle to the damage dealt and taken does not end there either, the environment now comes in for greater attention, also, thanks to the new engine adopted by Infinity Ward. This now allows the player to experience a far deeper sense of immersion into the game’s storyline as they dodge falling chunks of masonry from shattered citadels and church’s. Players now get treated to a much more believable sense of urgency in moments of high drama as they strive to avoid being crushed, drowned, blown up or decapitated by falling tree’s, crumbling skyscrapers and flaming vehicles being tossed around the battlefield like confetti thanks to some truly impressive physics all supplied by that aforementioned new Infinity Ward engine.
Although still not as long as some people may wish for, the staff here at GmP included in that sentiment, Ghosts does supply an excellent outing for the single player mode, and should you wish to return to the event with the difficulty level set a notch higher each time, then there are four returns available to you, but be warned: The learning curve when you increase the settings from even Recruit to Hardened will give even the most competent shooter player a run for his money.
One totally new addition to the series is the competent ‘Extinction’ mode, where players will take on waves of re-spawning alien beasts as they attempt to battle their way through the screeching hordes hoping to destroy the monsters’ nests before they rip your character to pieces.
Obviously a move to try to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for Zombies built up by their counterparts at Treyarch, Infinity Ward are definitely onto a winner with Extinction, although quite why the two studio’s could not have just come together in a meeting of minds to bring the Call of Duty faithful the mode that they really all wanted is, quite frankly, beyond us? But, nevertheless, Extinction will still satisfy that itch and reach the parts other shooters cannot.
Co-oP is back for more of the same, and if you haven’t played through any Call of Duty title with a friend or loved one in tow then shame on you! Co-oP is one of the most endearing and positive aspects to any title, but in Call of Duty it is a definite reason to keep on returning time and time again to the main storyline’s missions. Whether you want to try to beat your last scores and times, or whether you just want to get together with a few pals and settle in for some manic mayhem of the military kind, then Call of Duty Ghosts has the perfect mode for you.
Another shining new feather in the Call of Duty cap is ‘Clan Wars’, the mobile app that has set the forums alight with its bonus content, additional attributes and even achievement earning features. Players are able to create, manage and compete with their own clans all thanks to the new Smartphone/Tablet app, ( available here ), and all for the added price of ‘nothing!’. Brilliant!
Another ‘brilliant’ inclusion into the gameplay mode list of lovelies is the gentle introduction to the games’ multiplayer with the training grounds that are ‘Squads’. This is as to tutorial as L plates are to learner drivers: compulsory and necessary. If you are a total novice, or if you are familiar with the format of Call of Duty online but just feel that you would like to get to grips with the new weapons and maps before you throw yourself headlong into the chaos that is multiplayer warfare, then Squads is the place for you.
Fully customizable load-outs and weapons, as well as being able to populate the opposing teams with both friends and extremely competent AI combatants, Squads will be the place where a lot of players cut their teeth before they get down to main course of the full multiplayer mode. But do not underestimate the computer assisted opposition, as you will do so at your own peril.
One excellent advantage to stopping off at the all-new Squads section of the game is that this is where Activision and Infinity ward allow players to build their own personalized personae from the ground up in the ‘Create a Character’ feature. A definite tick in the plus box, Create a Character means that players can earn XP, sample and try out a variety of new weapons and attachments, as well as earning enough points for snazzy *uniform upgrades, ( * NB: although do be advised that you only get a ‘preview’ of what the new uniform and its colour will look like, and the game itself will auto-select the appropriate outfit for whichever map you are about to play ).
The bonuses to be earned in Squads do not finish up with mere aesthetics, however. Players may also transport their character with them wherever they go, as they travel to friends, for example, they will be to sign in on any Xbox360 and/or Xbox One, and the newly crafted character, complete with attributes, skills and arsenal, will be automatically taken across with you. This works exactly the same for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
However, if you are one of the legion of avid Nintendo gamers playing Ghosts on your Wii U, then you will be able to command and control your Clan Wars crew, as well as customize your created character, from the comfort of the excellently taken advantage of Gamepad. Which, in effect, takes over fully the features of the Smartglass-cum-App Store application.
This seamless transition of data from one platform to the next across the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live is not the only silky smooth switch made by Infinity Ward when it comes to Call of Duty Ghosts, though. As those players who have had the benefit of spending any time on the Xbox One version will attest too. The brighter, more detailed environments of the next generation edition of Xbox One’s Ghosts is clearly superior to the PlayStation 4, but that’s more a fault on the part of Sony’s own network rather than on the transference of gameplay and data made by the developer. Nowhere is that more blatantly obvious than when players see Call of Duty Ghosts being enjoyed in its natural habitat of Xbox Live as it silkily plays through at a constant 60 frames per second with consummate ease.
Speaking of silky smooth….
Moving on to the multiplayer and here we come to the mode that most of you out there will be spending your time with. Now with the added bonus of having Activision hosted dedicated servers Call of Duty Ghosts steams into the FPS action with all the ferocity of a pouncing tiger! But if you were expecting things to have gone back to the good old days of the run and gun masterpiece that was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, as promised by Infinity Ward yet again, then you may have to change your initial thoughts.
Back for more explosive online action Ghosts kicks off proceedings with an all-new layout, points systems, weaponry, uniforms, create a character and load-out menu. It does not disappoint. Players can opt for their own Squads character, or they may choose from any one of the available preset selections including, for the first time, female avatars.
Once you have selected your gender, kit and choice of uniform then it is on to your first major decision of your online career: weaponry.
Infinity Ward have been nothing if not inventive when it comes to beefing up the arsenal of players who are being asked to imagine available weaponry that may only be but a few short years away from genuine production. With that in mind, then, how hard it must have been to stay within the realms of the realistic and not venture off into the science fiction is truly an understatement, indeed. It may appear a trifling matter to design a few weapons of the future based upon todays current technology, but to then add the attachments, performance, handling and range whilst all at the same time making the rifles and guns appear believable, and not look like they come straight out of a Babylon 5 episode, is quite something else.
All of the weapons, Primary, Secondary , with the exception of the optional secondary launchers, come with their own particular gadgets and gizmo’s to enhance the feel and performance of the chosen death-dealer. Everything from armour-piercing rounds and extra magazines right through to the more tactically advantageous items such as the Variable Scope and the Handgrip are on offer to players once they have performed the mandatory requirements and collected enough ‘Squad Points’.
Squad Points can be earned via challenges, of which players are tasked with things such as killing with particular weapons or performing streak kills and capturing objectives, and also from within Squads itself, albeit at a far slower rate due to the combat taking place between AI Bots and Humans.
Although a great many game types are on offer to those players selecting the Standard, or ‘Core’, gameplay option, there are somewhat limited choices for those of you looking for the more challenging action to be found in the games Hardcore mode. Indeed, there were only a meagre three options until the recent inclusion of Domination to the Hardcore line up.
This does, somewhat, explain the rather disturbing lack of attention paid to the more genuine gamer, when it comes to the online segments of Call of Duty, as well as other similar FPS titles. The men in suits that make the decisions could really care less about the ‘real gamers’, and so instead pander to the masses, often permitting even the most loathed parts of the gameplay which allows the ‘non gamer’ to simply camp down surrounded by everything from radars, booby traps, mines, IED’s, attack dogs and so much more, as they select those same predictable ‘one shot kill’ weapons of the sniper rifle, over powered pistols and shotguns as well as then adding the most game enhancing of perks as they sit back and build up enough points to let the killstreak rewards then take over and play the game out for them.
This ‘dumbing down’ of the Call of Duty franchise has left the ‘real gamer’ with little doubt that their days are numbered in the series, and so because of this Call of Duty has seen a gradual movement of players shifting away from Ghosts and Black Ops II, and into the arms of titles such as Arma III, Battlefield 4 and even older titles such as S.T.AL.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat and Red Orchestra, for example. Hell, even Left 4 Dead has seen its player numbers rocket.
But, as we have seen in the past this will not affect the way that Call of Duty as a multiplayer game panders to its non-gamer masses as, at the end of the day, they are the ones in the majority and they are the ones buying all of the DLC, Season Passes and other such additional content as the infamous reticule and weapon skin packs.
Of course, some may argue that labelling the large proportion of these players as ‘non gamers’ is somewhat ‘elitist’ in its approach, however, we can only sympathise with the sentiment. How many times have you looked into a players gamer card and compared games only to discover that they have only ever played Call of Duty, and not even bothered to manage the solo campaign on its simplest setting. As we say, ‘non gamer’ is about as perfect a moniker for these ‘players’ as it gets.
So, then., with that what does the future hold for Call of Duty? Well, only time will tell, but what Activision fails to realise is that even those players who were the last gen’s ‘non gamers’ and ‘campers’ have themselves ‘grown up’, so to speak, and with that they are actually looking for more challenging gameplay, as opposed to merely hiding in any one of the purpose-built corners surrounded by claymores and bouncing betties for the duration of hostilities. With that, they themselves, the one-time ‘non gamers‘ are now also looking for genuine gun-on-gun action, of the kind that made Modern Warfare and the Call of Duty franchise synonymous with having the best online shooter action.
Aside from the teeth-gnashingly frustrating time that the corner-hugging campers deliver in Activision and Infinity Ward’s seminal shooter series, Call of Duty Ghosts is still, nevertheless, ‘the’ FPS title of the year once again. Maybe there was a new engine built from the ground up for the Xbox One and the next-gen introduction of the world’s favourite shooter, and maybe there wasn’t? Whatever you choose to believe the facts do remain the same that Call of Duty is still the ‘go to guy’ for first person shooter players around the globe.
The sheer weight of new additions to not only the graphics, but also the gameplay, features, modes and even the very character models themselves should mean that Call of Duty Ghosts has been scoring even higher in the reviews than its predecessor, Black Ops II, did? Shouldn’t it?
Well, if you have been reading some of the short and sweet ditties from any one of the host of websites and publications who have been giving Ghosts a somewhat frosty reception, then ‘no’, would have to be the reply.
Quite why and how some of these publications, from apparently reputable journalists, have come to their conclusions and awarded Call of Duty Ghosts the scores that they did is, quite frankly, beyond us? These are the same publications and journo’s that positively applauded Black Ops II, and then when they get all of the improvements and all of the upgrades, as well as a good deal many more, not to mention a veritable feast of extra features and modes, then they score the next game in the series ‘down’? Just seems a little odd to us, is all. Yes, we may have our own personal online gripes with Ghosts, but at the heart of this review is the fact of the matter that what call of Duty does do, they still do better than anyone else out there. That is just a fact.
So, with the facts being delivered like a round to the chest from a high-powered sniper rifle all we have to do now is give you our own conclusions and final scoring for Call of Duty Ghosts. Given the tough task that both Treyarch and Infinity Ward have on their hands to deliver to the ever-growing, ever-demanding Call of Duty community a new and stunning title every twelve months, then we have to say that what we believe that IW have achieved is nothing short of remarkable. To be constantly improving, tinkering and updating their basic franchise package, but in such a way as to not totally alienate their entire customer base, is nothing short of miraculous, to say the least.
The fact that in one year alone Infinity Ward have managed to update and reinvent their title is a testament to the dedication that these men and women who make up the development teams, have to themselves, their fans and their ‘baby’: the game itself.
Quite what the naysaying detractors and the biro carrying boo-brigade expect from a title that has somehow managed to stay a constant one step ahead of the competition for some considerable years now, is beyond us here at GmP? But, we have to say that we think that the developer has done a stellar job of bringing Call of Duty into the next generation.
Looking far sharper, and with so much detail at times you almost forget that they are not actually ‘your’ hands clutching your spiffy new rifle, Call of Duty Ghosts has brought with it, this year, a whole wealth of content and features that any other game would absolutely kill for! Not content with merely wiping the floor with the competition on consoles, they have also given both the PC and the mobile gamers something to craw about with an excellent app addition which allows players not only to keep a tab on their profile, and mark their progress throughout the game, but the Call of Duty app also grants payers access to a new world of wonders with the simply excellent: Clan Wars. ( and another bonus on the mobile is Xbox Smartglass and Call of Duty Elite ) On top of that comes the sheer spectacular quality of the game running on PC, as most of our readers can already attest too.
All in all Call of Duty Ghosts still does more than most, and better than everyone. It is still the number one shooter title, and it still has the largest online console community for any title in any genre. ( even FIFA doesn’t topple this FPS juggernaut ). So, if it’s multiplaying magnificence with the fastest fighting format in the shooter genre that you are after, then Call of Duty Ghosts just has to be the game for you. Building on the success of last years Black Ops II with a wealth of features, new additions and enhanced graphics we give Call of Duty Ghosts a whopping 8 out of lovely 10.
||Activision Square-Enix (Japan)
||Call of Duty
||IW Engine Havok
||Microsoft Windows PlayStation 3 PlayStation 4 Wii U Xbox 360 Xbox One
||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Wii U & Xbox 360 November 5, 2013[ November 14, 2013 December 14, 2013 PlayStation 4 November 15, 2013 November 29, 2013 February 22, 2014 Xbox One November 22, 2013
||Optical disc, download