Review: Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS4)
Title: Call of Duty: Ghosts
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (31.3 GB)
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Developer: Infinity Ward
Original MSRP: $59.99 / €69.99
ESRB Rating: M
Call of Duty: Ghosts is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC.
The PlayStation 4 digital download version was used for this review.
Portions of this review also appear in our PS3 coverage of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
It’s that time of the year again; leaves begin to change colors, College basketball starts up and a new Call of Duty game is upon us. Yep, that’s right, its November. While it may be far more entertaining to talk to you about College basketball, sadly, that is not why you are reading this. No, instead you want to learn about the latest entry in the long-running, genre-defining series Call of Duty. Well, you’re in luck, because that is exactly what you will be getting here, a review of Call of Duty: Ghosts; the first Call of Duty game from Infinity Ward that moves away from the story arch of the Modern Warfare series and on to something new.
For the last three Infinity Ward titles, we have taken a front seat for their version of World War III; full of Russians, fighter jet fights, helicopters crashing and nuking countless cities in the US. Now, finally, as a form of re-birth to the series, the developers have scrapped the old universe and brought in a new, less blown-up world; one that is ripe for the destruction of the USA. Sadly, Infinity Ward wasn’t brave enough to stray too far from the formula of their past titles, so the story, while fresh, still feels very similar to what we have already experienced – there is a group of people who hate what America stands for and wants to kill the country.
The fact that they seemingly took the easier route and followed the same formula that the Modern Warfare series followed is, just as you imagined, depressing. The backstory that revolves around Ghosts is very, very interesting and to see this half-assed, uninspiring story come out of that only can bring up thoughts of laziness out of Infinity Ward.
But I should stop talking about how the developers let me down with this lackluster story and actually review the story that is present in the game; as that is what we are stuck with. Fine. I guess I have to do that. So, the real story that makes up Ghosts’ single player campaign, while still enjoyable, doesn’t really give you much to care about; well besides that the USA will be destroyed if we don’t win. For a game that is built around soldiers shooting other soldiers, soldiers working together to take down a global terrorist and a story of patriotism that rivals The Patriot; it’s sad that the shinning character in the game is a dog. Now, I understand that the majority of people who pick up Call of Duty really might not care much for the single player aspects of the title, but at least previous installments had a story that had characters you could care about.
If you remember when Call of Duty: Ghosts was first revealed, it was being touted that Oscar-winning writer Stephen Gaghan (Syriana and Traffic) was penning this new universe to paper. Exciting, right? Syriana is easily up there as one of my favorite movies of all time; the script is great throughout. With that in mind, I was utterly foaming at the mouth at the possibility of a Call of Duty game from the brain of that man; then I was utterly depressed at the outcome. Don’t get me wrong, the story within Ghosts isn’t terrible, because it isn’t; it’s just not what I was expecting from such a great writer. Again. the story follows the same main plot themes that all previous Call of Duty games have followed, and I had hoped for so much more.
Throughout the 8-ish hours of the campaign you will travel the world as you try to take down the opposing force. The sheer variety of the kinds of levels you play through is one of the best things about the game; from fighting in Antarctica to stealthily moving throughout a jungle to swimming in the ocean; most levels are a treat to play.
The biggest new addition to the Call of Duty formula that has been introduced with Ghosts is your four-legged soldier, Riley. Ever since the first trailer where we saw Riley in action I was skeptical of how it would actually play. Would Riley act on his own accord and do what the developer thinks a dog should do in the middle of a battle, or would I have control over him to tell him what to do. Surprisingly, it is a bit of both. The majority of the time, Riley will go about his own business of attacking enemies, running around being a distraction and barking at the random bird. Yet, when you need him to come to your aid or attack a specific target, with just a click of the R2 button, he will go in for the kill. Occasionally even you will be prompted to take control of Riley and infiltrate an enemy base to get the drop on them. While these moments aren’t anything special to write home about (though I just did write about them), they are a nice new addition to the formula.
Thankfully, unlike the PlayStation 3 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts, the PlayStation 4 version is actually decent to look at and even at times teeters on the edge of being beautiful. Yeah, I know, I had to do a double take during a few scenes since they looked so good. I had to make sure I was actually playing a Call of Duty game. Don’t get me wrong though, don’t expect anything on the level of Killzone: Shadow Fall; but still, it made me happy to see a Call of Duty game look this good.
Sadly, as I mentioned in the PlayStation 3 review where I witnessed characters during a cinematic moment that had no shadow…well, yeah, that happens here as well. The only way I was semi-okay with that initially was because it was on the PlayStation 3 and that system just has less power than the PlayStation 4 – but it didn’t seem that the system was the issue.
You might think that since I changed my stance, somewhat, on the visuals for the PlayStation 4 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts that maybe I was going to do the same thing with the audio? Sadly, you would be wrong if you thought that. The lackluster audio that I talked about before is still present in this next-gen game as well.
There is nothing exceptional to write home about, at all. Actually, in some instances, the sound is rather dull – mainly in the multiplayer portions. Gun firing, which should be one of the most IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF A SHOOTING GAME, seem to be muffled throughout the entire experience.
Alright, here we are, the main reason why people keep picking a copy of Call of Duty year after year, that super-addictive multiplayer. I can boil the multiplayer down really, really easily for you readers; if you like Call of Duty multiplayer, then this is more of what you have already experienced, with a few slight changes. Infinity Ward took initiative, something they were lacking throughout the single player game, and made some changes to the standard formula that we have grown to know over the series. So, let’s just dive into the new stuff as those are the important things to cover.
Not a major game changer, but there have been new player movement mechanics that have been introduced. Players can now move around the maps much more fluidly in a couple of new ways. While running, hold down on the crouch button and the character will slide down to one knee, giving you the ability to pull off some awesome looking kills. Another new player movement mechanic was added to where a character can now move seamlessly over cover with the press of the action button when the screen prompts.
Each year the developer who has reign over Call of Duty adds in their own form of unique twist to the competitive multiplayer experience. Treyarch added in the Pick 10 system while Infinity Ward added in the various kill-streak classes. Upon the successful inception of a new feature, it is normal for the following year to use that new idea, at least in some fashion. This year, Infinity Ward has taken the Pick 10 system, but have added their own flare to the class-creation system – and have in the process, made a worse one.
The Pick 10 system in Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles offered a level of freedom that not only wasn’t available in the series, but also wasn’t available in any other FPS game on the market. It was a fresh departure from the level-based unlock system. Now, instead of having to wait till level 50 to unlock a specific gun or perk, you could unlock that same thing at level 3; it gave you unprecedented freedom, and it was awesome. Sadly, this is not the case in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Why? Because of the over-whelming amount of things to unlock.
Yes, I said it; there are too many things that are available to unlock. That might not seem like an issue if you are the type of person who only unlocks certain things and nothing else; but for people like me, who like to change-up the way I play constantly – it makes it rather annoying and overwhelming.
The entire multiplayer experience, minus Extinction, is built upon the idea that you control a squad of soldiers, all of which you can customize with their own loadouts of weapons which affect what kind of warrior they are. Each of the soldiers that you can create become your team that will go to battle for you in a new special multiplayer mode called Squads that I will dive into a little further down the article. Each of the soldiers can be customized to your heart’s content. Do you want to have an entire group of soldiers that look exactly the same? You can do it. Do you want all of your team to rock a certain outfit? Go for it. Though the customization could be far more in-depth than it is; this is a part of the game were Infinity Ward did something truly innovative. Well done Infinity Ward, well done indeed.
Below I will go over the new modes that are featured in Call of Duty: Ghosts that have not been present in any of the past games of the series, but be happy to know that all of the great older match types return as well, well in the PlayStation 4 version of the game at least. You will be able to take part in Search & Destroy and in Ground War (my personal favorite).
Call of Duty: Ghosts features six new game modes that have not been included in the series before. The six new modes give four brand new experiences, a mode taken from a popular FPS series or have made slight tweaks to existing game modes. Each of the modes are detailed below:
- Search & Rescue: Take what Search and Destroy was in earlier Call of Duty games, but add in the ability for you to revive one of your fallen teammates. When a person dies in Search & Rescue, they drop their tags and if an ally picks them up, they respawn. If an enemy picks up the tags, they are dead until the next round.
- Hunted: A rather enjoyable mode where everyone begins the game with a pistol. Randomly throughout the duration of the match crates will drop from the sky with more powerful weapons inside.
- Infected: The match starts with one Zombie on the map who can only use melee attacks while everyone else is equipped with a shotgun. As people get killed by the Zombie they turn into a Zombie to hunt down the other players. The last human standing is the winner.
- Cranked: Think Team Deathmatch, but with a twist. When a player racks up a kill, they are given a 30-second boost to their speed. If that person doesn’t get another kill within 30-seconds, they will explode.
- Blitz: Very similar to Capture the Flag. Infiltrate the enemy’s base to get to their “flag” site to score. You will be warped back to your base if you score.
- Grind: This is Kill Confirmed, but you have to deposit the tags you have collected into a bank in order for them to be registered as a kill for your team.
With Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward has created the biggest multiplayer offering that the series has ever seen. On top of the standard competitive multiplayer experience that I just covered, there are still two more modes that can be played; Extinction and Squads.
Extinction is a new take on the Zombies formula that Treyarch has mastered over the last few Call of Duty games. It will pit you and a group of up to three people against waves of aliens as they attack you and keep you from your goal
to take over the world! (sorry, I needed a Pinky and the Brain reference) to rid the world of these aliens. To progress through the level you will be tasked with taking out variously placed alien nests with a drill, while defending that drill from the alien onslaught.
Though initially Extinction is a fun mode and will keep you hooked for a while, that feeling of excitement will fade as the mode isn’t that deep; unlike Zombies mode. Once I realized that Extinction is a neutered version of Zombies, I lost all interest in playing it. Hopefully it can be different for you, but I doubt it. Until Infinity Ward gets around to releasing more maps for the mode, which only has one, I will keep a good distance from Extinction.
Along with the co-op mode of Extinction, there’s also a mode called Squads. Unlike Extinction, Squads is actually something that I can easily see myself playing for a long time. Earlier I mentioned that in Call of Duty: Ghosts you can own a team of soldiers that you can customize with various looks and weapons. Besides being able to become that soldier in the normal competitive multiplayer, Squads is where you will use your entire team in a match. When choosing a game mode in Squads to play, you will take the role of one of your soldiers while the AI will control the others, unless you invite people join your match.
If you create a solider with an SMG, then they will be the person who runs around the map very fast, ducking in and out of doorways and cover. Give a sniper rifle to a soldier and they will sit back and actually snipe any enemy that comes within range. All of the soldiers will react like they should based on the equipment you have equipped them with. While none of the soldiers hold a candle in skill to an actually person has, it is really enjoyable to play a match and see your team working great together with the class breakdown that you have made.
All of the different modes available for Squads pits your squad against another player’s squad. The interesting part is that you can play a person’s squad even while that person isn’t online. If they happen to be online, they could potentially be in the match against you as one of their own squad members.
Just as the many Call of Duty games that have come before it, I really, really wanted to like Call of Duty: Ghosts. While the single player story is easily the weakest of the series in a long time, there are some major additions to the multiplayer. In one instance, it looks like Infinity Ward just got really lazy with portions of the game; then you see how much time and effort went into the multiplayer suite, and you can see that they still are trying to add in as many new features as possible without breaking the “Call of Duty” feeling.
Basically, to play this game, it really comes down to whether you are just going to play the multiplayer or not. If you’re going to keep the majority of your time dedicated to the various multiplayer options, then yes, get Call of Duty: Ghosts. If you plan on playing the single player story only, then stay away.
* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.