Call of Duty: Ghosts ReviewMatt Andrews
As I stormed the beaches of Normandy in Call of Duty 2, the first game I ever played on the Xbox 360, I could not have imagined that eight years later I'd be captivated by a game under the same title. I also could not have imagined that my beloved grease gun would be replaced by a Vector, or the rubble of Carentan, France replaced by the concrete and steel of a modern arms factory. It's been eight years since Call of Duty first graced this generation of consoles with its presence and with the release of Call of Duty Ghosts, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 likely say goodbye to the series hereafter. So much has changed in those eight years, yet Call of Duty Ghosts will feel so immediately familiar those fortunate to have played any or all of its predecessors. Without further ado, here is Realm of Gaming's review of a game that needs no introduction, Call of Duty Ghosts.
The campaign mode in Ghosts begins with the chilling tale of a few brave soldiers; outnumbered and overrun the remaining men lie in wait amongst the bodies of their fallen brothers. When the enemy nears to claim victory those soldiers rise from the blood-soaked sand to strike. According to the lone survivor of the ambush those men appeared from thin air, disappeared into the shadows, moved silently, and claimed hundreds of enemy soldiers they were like ghosts. Thus goes the tale that foreshadows your first mission as Logan Walker, who is enjoying a hike with his father Elias, and brother Hesh, before that peaceful afternoon is interrupted by the bombing of the Walker's hometown. You soon learn that the Federation, a united force of all South America, has reneged on its agreement with the US in a satellite missile defense venture. The Federation has hijacked that satellite, ODIN, and has turned it against at least a dozen major US cities. In Call of Duty Ghosts, Logan, Elias, and Hesh lead their own outnumbered few against the Federation, to protect the ruins of the US against total invasion from the south.
If the plot has failed to captivate you for some reason, rest assured that the campaign gameplay itself will more than hold your attention. The variety of experiences offered is immensely impressive and it goes without saying that each was constructed and incorporated into the story with only the greatest skill, taste, and precision. Multiple missions will have you navigating the space environment that is ODIN, adding an extra, unfamiliar, dimension of movement to the FPS experience. If you enjoyed the challenge of space combat you'll love underwater combat when the challenges of reduced bullet damage and aggressive wildlife are added. Being attacked by a shark doesn't impress you? Perhaps conducting a helicopter assault on a Federation stronghold, repelling down a skyscraper, or navigating through a Federation-filled jungle with only a knife and pistol and completely alone will get your blood pumping. Undoubtedly the most uniquely enjoyable single player missions were those in Ghosts that allow you attack enemies with your bare teeth, as Riley, the Walker's beloved German Sheppard. The story may seem a bit fantastical by Call of Duty standards and the variety in play potentially distracting, however, the plot elements of father-son, brother-brother, and even master-loyal companion provides an engaging, and for many, very relatable emotional experience. What gamers are left with is perhaps the most masterfully constructed campaign mode in the series' history that will leave you wanting more.
The game departs from its theme of providing consistently novel experience in the multiplayer modes. Seeming to recognize that Call of Duty fans differ in their preferences when compared to Battlefield fans, Call of Duty Ghosts stuck with that timeless, fast-paced and ultra-clean feel that has been the bedrock of the franchise. Fans of the series will transition seamlessly to Ghosts multiplayer experience once they acquaint themselves with a few new features. First off, Ghosts allows one PSN account to create several different soldiers, each with their own loadouts, customizable name and appearance, and even rank. For shared consoles, the benefit is obvious, but even for a single user the potential to create an entire soldier with multiple loadouts that may excel in a specific game mode is a nice benefit. The addition encourages players to use the immense variety of modern era weapon attachments, secondary equipment, and previously unmatched number of perks and point streak rewards. On the note of perks, each new soldier unlocked can be assigned a temperament of sorts, which will determine which few high-end weapons are unlocked from the very first level. Of course none of the unlockables come free and like previous installments, both a certain level and number of squad points tokens earned by advancing in rank, completing challenges, etc. are required for new weapons attachments, and perks.
Perhaps the sole misstep in Call of Duty Ghosts multiplayer is the omission of a few game tried and true modes of play. Some notable exclusions include headquarters, ground war, sabotage, and capture the flag. Instead Ghosts offers a smattering of novel multiplayer experiences like Infected, where fast moving player-controlled zombies infect randomly selected humans who attempt to avoid infection as their teammates are inevitably claimed one by one to the zombie team. Another drops weapon crates into an otherwise standard team deathmatch; those crates are players only way to upgrade from a standard pistol loadout and achieve some tactical advantage over the opposing team. The game modes are undeniably novel and on almost all counts enjoyable, but they will not appeal to all gamers, and I imagine most will grow tired of them quickly as they nullify the massive potential for character and loadout creation with their predefined loadouts. When it comes down to lasting appeal of the multiplayer, gamers will likely find themselves playing a lot of team deathmatch or kill confirmed with far shorter intermissions to the objective based games than in past Call of Duty games. Fortunately the multiplayer maps in Ghosts are amongst the most visually stunning and hands down the most cleverly designed environments ever to grace online multiplayer, but spawn issues, even on the larger maps, seem to plague online play. To recap, our complaints are minor in the context of first-person shooters at large, however, with a legacy of excellence as strong as that of the Call of Duty franchise, the multiplayer in Ghosts does not feel as complete nor truly refined as its predecessors, and for the first time (perhaps ever) may not be a truly significant improvement on the last installment.
One inclusion in Ghosts that will certainly rub some longtime fans the wrong way is the new version of Zombies, called Extinction. Similarities in the general form of the mode are impossible to ignore otherworldly creature crawl out of holes in the ground to swarm players who explore the gradually expanding environment searching for weapons, traps, and any means of survival they can. No longer are the days hordes of some single zombie form parading around the map after players though, no, multiple alien-like forms are after you, some making chase, others actually evading to strike from afar. The departure from zombies to even more supernatural themes may dissuade some players initially, however, there are some pretty impressively implemented upgrades to this take on a survival mode of play. To begin, players can select a set of perks or abilities to enhance their character, and as you level up, more powerful perks become available. As players accumulate points within a single game, they can upgrade their selected perks on the fly, perhaps increasing their ability to replenish ammunition or improving their resistance to damage or speed of movement. Perhaps the most impressive change is that by making all of these perks beneficial to the entire team in some way, the dog-eat-dog mindset so common in zombies has shifted towards a truly team-based approach. Players can only accumulate a limited amount of money enticing them to spend often, and every dollar they spend will benefit the entire team in some way. Additionally, the perks facilitate specific roles, and teams that fill many roles will experience far more success than a homogenous group of lead slingers. All in all, the aesthetics of the survival mode in Call of Duty Ghosts have changed, in the mind of some gamers for the worse, but the experience as a whole far surpasses the previously addicting, though mind numbingly redundant Zombies mode we're all so familiar with.
For ten years now Activision has published annual masterpieces of FPS gaming, all sharing one familiar title, Call of Duty. In that decade no other series has released annual installments that offer legitimate reason to forgo the last while remaining true to the series' vivid history of excellence. Don't believe it? Play Ghosts for a while and then put in COD4: Modern Warfare (or Call of Duty II if you still have it!). Every Call of Duty installment plays just about the same, flawlessly, but each offers far more than the last. Call of Duty Ghosts is no exception to this legacy offering a campaign against which no complaint can be made, a multiplayer experience more novel and expansive than any before, and much needed innovation in a mode of play that cannot continue to captivate gamers in its old form. Call of Duty Ghosts is a near perfect game, but as the series reminds us each year, there is always room for improvement, room the next Call of Duty will find and deliver on. Call of Duty Ghosts earns high marks in our book.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.