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Review

Call Of Duty: Ghosts Review

Teaching an old dog new tricks.

As Infinity Ward bring their franchise to a new generation of consoles, they have also decided to change the setting. Ghosts sets a new universe and timeline in motion, but how well have they done, and what changes have been wrought on the multiplayer?

Call of Duty’s single player campaigns have long been a roller-coaster ride of war, always pushing you from one location and pair of eyes to another. Ghosts sees you sitting down and strapping in for the latest attraction, starting in an alternate universe where the Middle Eastern oil has dried up, the South Americans are the rising superpower and an uneasy peace is breached by the invasion of an orbital weapons platform.

Following these spectacular and cinematic opening events, the United States fight to a bloody stalemate, but ten years later the country is at risk once more with Logan and Hesh – the two brothers through whose eyes you witness the catastrophic ODIN orbital weapon strike – right at the heart of it all, alongside the eponymous Ghosts.

The first third of the story is easily the weakest part of the game. The lines are hammy and delivered by inconsistent performances that can vary from sentence to sentence at times. It’s also where it sticks closest to the standard Call of Duty formula, but somehow doesn’t quite hit the mark. A helicopter mission, for example, has strangely poor event timing, and there’s a persistent lack of objective pointers throughout the whole game, meaning I was too often hunting for where to go next and what to do.

However, once the obligatory time jumping mission has passed, something just clicks into place. It starts to feel like an action oriented spy film, or perhaps more accurately, a series of heists. Yes, it still descends into shooting and gunplay regularly, but one mission you’re rappelling down a skyscraper, the next it’s blowing open a vault and busting your way back out.

“Once the obligatory time jumping mission has passed, something just clicks into place.”

It knows when to speed up and slow down, but by the time the final act kicks in, with the game’s pace ramping up quite formidably on the way to the climactic sequences, I’m in for the ride to simply enjoy this Hollywood-esque blockbuster.

That’s not to say that there’s aren’t those problems along the way. To my previous grievances you can add a fairly uninspiring nemesis and a disappointing hangover from previous enemy and ally AI systems. Poster-dog Riley, for example, is a lovely creation, but exhibits the exact same ability to switch from one action to another in the blink of an eye, and just watching him breaks that lifelike facade very quickly.

ghostsbig1

Between console generations the animations, AI and set pieces are replicated identically from PS3 to PS4, so that the current generation only suffers in comparisons through the lower resolution, lower detailed and sometimes bad looking assets, and sees noticeable pop-in in places. The PS4 version though, is a delight in 1080p and has plenty of opportunity to impress you. The opening in outer space is a particular highlight, with a mass of debris flying everywhere, and there are plenty of other spectacular moments throughout. It’s difficult to go back to the current generation after that.

Instead of the AI in single player, Infinity Ward have crafted Squads for multiplayer, a new section of the game which to all intents and purposes bring bot matches back into the limelight. The key focus has been to make them play in as human a fashion as possible.

“Squads provides a nice diversion for those that don’t want to head online into the fray and who still want to earn experience”

It’s an addition off the back of being able to customise the appearance of your soldier, from gender to uniform suit, for the first time. Now you can curate a group of ten characters, levelling them up, creating load outs for them, and taking control of individuals in the online battles. With Squads you can then take your soldiers online as AIs to do battle with other squads in a handful of ways, from co-op to head-to-head.

On the whole, I’d say they do a fairly good job. They will camp to a certain degree, while an AI equipped with a sniper rifle will go and try to actually snipe while shotgun toting AI will zip around and get up close. There is just that feeling of being able to see the inner workings under the surface, as I saw (admittedly high levelled) AI swivel and gun me down quite unerringly, via the killcam.

It’s an aspect which will no doubt iterate over the years, but for now provides a nice diversion for those that don’t want to head online into the fray and who still want to earn experience, which folds back into the main multiplayer progression.

Extinction mode is another intriguing diversion for the series, somewhat akin to Treyarch’s Zombies, setting you the task of fighting through a series of alien hives to set off a nuke at the end of the level. It’s brutally difficult, as you deal with a small amount of randomness in the succession of hives you need to destroy with the portable drill. You have to buy equipment, ammo and boosts as you play, but teamwork is of the essence, and complimentary loud outs paramount to your survival.

We only got to the end of the second major area, where a helicopter has to help destroy a hive as you defend it from ranged aliens, but this was barely half of the map. Even this took a long time to get to, but my main issue lies with just a single level being available at launch.

There is plenty of replay value to be found here, as you have a distinct level progression, learn the tricks and nuances of what is available to pick up and buy, but it is just this one map, and it is crying out for more.

As ever, so much of the game will ride on the multiplayer, and this is where the majority of people will spend their time. Simply put, it feels like it’s more Call of Duty, but with some of the tweaks that you would expect to occur.

The new setting naturally brings new guns, with the excellently named Honey Badger Assault Rifle and a new class of Marksman rifle added to the roster, sitting a step below sniper rifles for medium to long range and quick firing. Assault, Support and Specialist return as the three Strike Packages, rebalanced since Modern Warfare 3, while the perks system has been shifted to a more open system.

You can pick whatever you like, up to a ten point limit. The balancing comes in how many points a perk costs, so the more powerful ones cost three points, while the more subtle changes are just one. I found it very easy to cobble together something with speed and stealth in mind.

It all comes together nicely in battles, with a variety of new game modes added to the mix. Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed are where most people will play, but there’s a bunch of variations on these themes. Search & Rescue takes Search & Destroy but allows you to revive comrades, Grind sees you needing to bank your kills in two control points, Blitz is like a frenetic form of Capture the Flag where every player is a flag, and so on.

ghostsbig2

“This isn’t the big sweeping change to rejuvenate the series”

Some of the maps are quite lovely, in a fairly subdued fashion. Stonehaven sees a sprawling British castle ruin turned into a war zone, in what is surely one of the biggest and most open maps to have featured in a Call of Duty game. It compliments the range of maps which are mostly derived from single player locations, and shifts the visuals in a new direction.

Each map features some elements of destruction, but these are definitely on the more subtle side of things. Strikezone does feature a player triggered map-wide explosion that transforms it into a smouldering wreck, but generally it’s the small scale changes, which maybe deforms some cover or sets a pile of logs rolling. It’s nowhere near the destruction that can be wrought in Battlefield, and I’m not sure fans of the series would want it to be.

That’s where the game is stuck, in finding the right balance between change and staying true to the core. Even a minor shift can turn the large and vocal fan base away, and so this isn’t the big sweeping change to rejuvenate the series in the eyes of those who have tired and moved on.

What’s Good:

  • A single player campaign that builds into something new and interesting.
  • Squads AI, new game modes and new maps add variety online.
  • It’s more of the ultra-fast paced Call of Duty multiplayer.
  • Extinction mode is something completely different to the rest of the game.

What’s Bad:

  • Single player’s often clichéd script, inconsistent acting and an uninspiring first third.
  • Disappointing lack of improvement to single player AI.
  • Level destruction is generally small scale and very minor.
  • Not the big shift in gameplay that many would like.

Call of Duty: Ghosts does a good job on all accounts. The single player eventually goes in a direction which I liked and enjoyed, while the multiplayer holds onto what it does best, with a few tweaks to the formula. It even manages to straddle the generational divide quite well, even though the current machines suffer badly in comparison.

However, it is generally more of the same, and really doesn’t push itself hard enough to overhaul and redefine what Call of Duty can be.

Score: 8/10

This review is based on the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, which were played at a dedicated two day event, hosted by Activision. This involved a hotel stay at their expense and playing the game under tailored and ideal conditions.

32 Comments
  1. Kamokazi-UK
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    I wish more people put a disclaimer like that at the end of their reviews. Enjoyed the review, I’ve not bought a COD since MW2, although I’ve played them all since then. I never expected great leaps and bounds and it does look like just more of the same. I’m sure i’ll play this one at some point but i won’t be buying it for a while as i’d like to try something a little different.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 08:28.
  2. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    “This review is based on the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, which were played at a dedicated two day event, hosted by Activision. This involved a hotel stay at their expense and playing the game under tailored and ideal conditions”

    Lucky, even if CoD isn’t someone’s cup of tea, being allowed to play an unreleased game for two days and be put up in a hotel is pretty cool. I sure hope you abused the mini bar, they can afford it! ;)

    The main things that I want to know is if the MP maps are large this time? I do not want all CQ maps where SMGs are always king, and especially with that stupid running-knife-maniac killstreak; and when you can tailor your setup to be a super-fast, silent knifer – as the Marathon/Lightweight/Commando setup was fucking annoying in MW2.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 08:36.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Glad to hear the Assault, Support and Specialist strike packages are back, the latter being excellent! I do hope hard-earned killstreaks aren’t too easy to take down though – it seemed annoying in MW3 when a 15-killstreak chopper could be taken down in seconds. I hope that you can also allocate a different strike packages to each class again, I was surprised Blops 2 didn’t allow this. I also like the sound of the new weapons class, especially as I was a fan of guns like the M21-EBR in MW2 and the MK14 in MW3…we just need the maps to be fairly big for them to be useful.

      Good review, I’m really looking forward to this now. I hope some TSAers are getting it on PS4 so I can play Extinction co-op!

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 08:52.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Hehe. I didn’t even try the mini bar, but someone said that theirs was locked! There was plenty of coffee, though.

        There’s a mixture to the maps. The Stonehave map I mentioned in the review has quite a few open spaces, and there’s a snowy map the name of which I can’t remember, which is also really quite big. However, I’d say that most maps have that close qurters focus, and there’s always plenty of cover about the place.

        Not 100% sure what you’re after with the classes, but you can have up to 10 soldier slots, each of which has a bunch of loadouts, and each of these you can set up however you want, with different strike packages, perks etc. etc.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 10:38.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Thanks for the details Tef…shame about the mini bar! ;)

        What I meant was, you traditionally could only have one strike package (or killstreak) loadout selected (e.g. UAV, Harriers, Chopper), but in MW3 each class had it’s own strike package setup (so you didn’t have to keep changing your killstreaks everytime you changed class, particularly when you have limited time in between matches). Does that make sense? It meant that rather than having a “master” strike package, you could have a tailored one for each custom class.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 10:59.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        You should have put the locked mini bar in the “What’s bad” section and made it a 7/10 because of that! :P

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 11:40.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        KeRash has got a point… I think you should re-evaluate your score in relation to the mini bar dilemma. I can only guess you didn’t try yours in case it was locked too as there were probably no counsellors available to help you through what could of been a terrifying ordeal.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 13:14.
  3. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    So glad you haven’t felt pressured to rate this 10. Most other sites just seen to automatically give cod 10s without even thinking about it.
    I might end up getting this on ps4 but in the short term my fps time on the new console will be spent between kz and possibly bf4.
    No new ps3 games will be bought by me. All my gaming money going towards ps4 now.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 08:40.
    • Kamokazi-UK
      Member
      Since: Sep 2009

      Likewise, I was playfully bullied at my local Game when I did a load of trade ins when Black Flag was released as well as Batman. But for me I’ll have plenty to play with PS+, my PS3 and PS4 for what remains of the year.

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:29.
    • Bilbo_bobbins
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Same here, BF4 and KZ will be absolutely amazing on PS4, can’t say this will be the same for COD, especially after seeing some gameplay vids recently.

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:39.
      • double-o-dave
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        I should imagine I’ll just be playing BF4 and Killzone so I might have to see if I can change the KZ controls so they’re the same as BF4 or it’s gonna confuse the hell out of me… especially playing online.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 13:17.
  4. job
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    Has quick scoping finally gone ?

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:29.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Sadly it’s doubtful but it bloody should be – Sniper Rifles are huge (in real like) and as such they should be heavy and clunky like LMGs in-game, and you certainly shouldn’t be able to sprint around with them and fire from the hip. Removing aim-assist would also help eradicate quick-scoping.

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:43.
  5. Voolar
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    Damn, this is looking better than I thought it would. I was hoping to give COD a miss for once… Hmmm, maybe the PS4 version…

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:35.
  6. three_leg_jake
    Member
    Since: Aug 2011

    I’ve seen word on the webs that the multiplayer has been hacked already. Anyone have any definitive info on that?

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:36.
  7. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I’m hoping this is purely based on current gen only and no sway from next gen. I’ve seen videos of the PS4 version up and running and have to say it looks absolutely terrible, no different and if anything worse than current gen. I’m guessing when that review comes that will be mentioned.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:37.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      This review is based on the PS3 and PS4 versions and we’ll have something on the differences a little later, hopefully.

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:45.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        I’m really not sure what video you’ve been able to see, but the PS4 version doesn’t look worse than current gen. I think that’s fairly obvious to be able to point out.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 10:56.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      “Between console generations the animations, AI and set pieces are replicated identically from PS3 to PS4, so that the current generation only suffers in comparisons through the lower resolution, lower detailed and sometimes bad looking assets, and sees noticeable pop-in in places. The PS4 version though, is a delight in 1080p and has plenty of opportunity to impress you. The opening in outer space is a particular highlight, with a mass of debris flying everywhere, and there are plenty of other spectacular moments throughout. It’s difficult to go back to the current generation after that.”

      and

      “This review is based on the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game, which were played at a dedicated two day event, hosted by Activision.”

      Did you even read it? :p

      You must have watched some bad videos – whilst it doesn’t look as good as Killzone Shadow Fall, it certainly doesn’t look “absolutely terrible” on PS4. Tef evens says “It’s difficult to go back to the current generation” after some of sections.

      Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:52.
      • Bilbo_bobbins
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        yes I did read it, I just wanted to make sure. I think I saw IGN (could be wrong) playing it live and it looked horrendous. It was about a week ago.

        Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 12:08.
  8. djdustb
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Looks like this may be a PS4 purchase for me.

    Is there any local co-op options on this other than the option to have a split screen head to head multiplayer? I would like to have a split screen mode to play two players online at the same time.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 09:55.
  9. Eldaveo
    Member
    Since: Oct 2013

    Sounds like a solid game. I’ve developed a bit of a COD addiction (particularly over the last 12 months) so I’m sure I will buy Ghosts, the only question is whether I grab it as a launch title for my X1 or hold out until a price drop.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 11:17.
  10. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    It certainly doesn’t sound terrible but they’re probably fortunate not to be launching same time as Titanfall, i think that game will eat into their user-base when it’s released.

    Comment posted on 05/11/2013 at 11:53.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Developer:Infinity Ward
  • Publisher:Activision
  • Platforms:PS3, PS4, X360, X One, PC
  • Release Date:05/11/13
19 hours ago
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