With the Modern Warfare saga seemingly tied up and Treyarch powering ahead with its Black Ops offshoot, Call of Duty: Ghosts will always be remembered as somewhat of an outlier. Although it marked the return of developer Infinity Ward, the series’ tenth mainline instalment arrived at a time of transition. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One had both just launched and, more importantly, we had started to see changes in the first person shooter genre with games like Destiny and Titanfall building towards release.
With Advanced Warfare having just touched down to a wave of critical acclaim, it’s hard to imagine the series going back on some of Sledgehammer’s latest innovations. Going back to play Ghosts, then, was definitely a strange albeit familiar experience.
What Ghosts does best is set-pieces – just like any other Call of Duty then, really. From the opening chapter’s earthquake and space sections to deep sea encounters and a frantic train battle, each level felt like its own contained blockbuster.
Though Ghosts still featured plenty of your typical shooting gallery segments, the more inventive portions of the game did well to balance the overall package, or at least provide some sort of distraction. Both the space and underwater levels stand-out, swapping out your regular on-foot controls to accommodate your character’s changing elevation. Even when the action started to lull, Ghosts still had some tricks up its sleeve, cutting away to rappelling sections as well as tank and helicopter gameplay.
Some may have lamented the absence of Spec Ops from last year’s instalment, though an equal number no doubt warmed towards Ghosts’ Extinction mode. Doing away with zombies and intense shootout challenges, this latest addition presented an aggressive form of survival gameplay with players seeking out and destroying alien hives. It’s appeal waned somewhat after a few runs but it still felt fresh and, more importantly, added something new to the series.
The worst thing about Ghosts is just how unremarkable it was as a whole. Though Infinity Ward certainly brought some interesting ideas to the table, the reformed studio’s latest instalment failed to boost sales in the way Activision had hoped. If not outright forgotten, it will always be remembered as “the one that came just before Advanced Warfare”. That, or “the one with the dog in it”.
One particularly underwhelming part of the game was its storyline. Poised on the struggles of two brothers and their father in the midst of this was, it was a confusing, tangled affair with no real sense of closure once the credits started to roll. In fact, Ghosts is the only game in the Call of Duty series in which I couldn’t work out what was happening or why. This was despite turning off all other distractions and focusing purely on the inter-missions briefings as well as character conversations. I knew there was a villain who had a bone to pick with one of the lead characters but that was it. Infinity Ward’s insistence on using the image of iconic Modern Warfare character, Ghost, didn’t help either and no doubt threw a number of CoD with little more sense.
With Advanced Warfare having launched, it’s hard to recommend that fans go back and play Ghosts. It may have some genuinely cool moments and an interesting online co-op but neither of these make up for how uninspired the end product is as a whole. In fact, the only reason we haven’t mentioned Ghosts’ multiplayer is simply because it was a straight-up rehash with nothing in the way of meaningful improvement, even if it did still live up to the series’ name. In short, though far from terrible, you shouldn’t feel bad for forgetting Ghosts and moving on to Sledgehammer’s more futuristic debut.