Infinity Ward wrapped up the Modern Warfare trilogy and released a brand new IP for the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty: Ghosts offers a fresh take on the tried and true multiplayer experience fans have come to expect from a Call of Duty game. The game feels familiar but a slew of changes help the franchise feel fresh. While Ghosts offers a brand new story for its single player campaign, this review is going to focus on where the real hours will be spent – multiplayer.
There is nothing revolutionary or expressly next-gen about Call of Duty: Ghost’s gameplay which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That being said, there are some minor changes that improve to the game’s fast-paced, tactical gameplay. One of the new additions is the ability to lean out of cover. When next to an edge, a yellow arrow appears on the player’s HUD. Pressing left trigger allows a player to lean out and inspect their surroundings without placing their entire body in harms way. In addition to leaning from cover, players can now slide into a crouch or prone position while running. This is especially useful for getting dodging a hail of gunfire and makes clearing open gaps much easier. Apart from a few new abilities, the gameplay is a standard affair. Players run around a variety of maps using a selection of guns in an attempt to rack up kills.
The maps this time around are much larger than in previous iterations of Call of Duty. Not only are they larger, they are also more vertical. One level takes place in a destroyed skyscraper where players can go up and down multiple levels. There are many places to hide and wait for unsuspecting players to pass by. The large levels can be a problem with the current limit of 6 players per team. Much of a match can be spent wandering around, looking for enemy players. Infinity Ward has talked about adding a ground war mode which would pit much larger numbers of players against one another. Most maps have set pieces that can be interacted with. For example, a gas station can be exploded to knock down a chunk of the building. Certain walls can be destroyed to create new vantage points for aiming. The series seems to have taken a cue from Battlefield’s book.
Ghosts has a plethora of multiplayer match types to choose from which means there should be a mode that suits most players tastes. There are standard match types such as Team Deathmatch, Free-for-all, and Kill Confirmed. Cranked is an intense new mode where upon getting a kill, players have thirty seconds to get another kill otherwise they explode. While ‘cranked’ a player is granted faster run speed, and quicker aiming. This match type creates a sense of urgency and gets players out in the open rather than camping out. Blitz plays like a game of football only instead of a ball, players have guns. Players must run to the enemy’s base to score points. As soon as they enter the base they are transported back to their own base and must run the gamut again. Hardcore versions of a few of these modes are available which offer a harder challenge – quicker deaths, no HUD, and friendly fire enabled. Some of these match types are more fun than others. The objective based games can force players out of hiding but many only allow a player to re-spawn after a round has ended which can mean a lot of down time. Team Deathmatch is a classic match type which can be played for hours on end whereas Infected may be fun only once in a while.
Call of Duty Ghosts places clans front and center. For hardcore Call of Duty fans, clans allow you to play and earn rewards with fellow players. There is a companion app for iOS and Android devices that allows players to view their clan, their soldier, and participate in Clan Wars. Additionally there are special Clan versus Clan match types. While it isn’t necessary to be a part of a clan, it is definitely a fun social experience.
Apart from the traditional multiplayer experience, Call of Duty: Ghosts features two additional multiplayer modes: Squads and Extinction. In Squads, players create a squad of AI team mates with custom loadouts and then compete against other squads online. Players can rank up their soldiers in this mode as well. Extinction pits players against waves of aliens, similar to Black-Ops zombie mode. These are both fun in their own right, but traditional multiplayer has always been the main draw for the series.
Call of Duty games are all about weapon customization and Ghosts is no exception. In fact, Ghosts takes this customization to a whole new level. Gone are the days where ranking up is the only way to unlock new weapons. In Call of Duty: Ghosts, players earn a currency called squad points. These points can be earned in a few ways. Firstly, every time a player ranks up their soldier, they gain two squad points. They can also be earned by picking up a special briefcase during a match which tasks players with completing a small challenge such as humiliating an enemy. Operations are global challenges such as running a certain amount of miles with the marathon perk active. Operations reset after a certain amount of time. Squad points are used to unlock everything from weapons to perks.
The customization goes even deeper in Ghosts, the heart of which lies in the Create a Soldier menu. Finally players can customize the look of their soldier and can even play as a female for the first time. Multiple squad members can be purchased with squad points, each of which can have multiple loadouts. Players can play with their preferred play style early on assuming they allocate their squad points in such a way as to purchase their preferred weapons and perks. Perks are unlocked automatically after reaching certain ranks but for the impatient they may be purchased early for squad points. As in previous entries in the series, there are three types of strike packages: assault, for players who are good at getting kill-streaks; support, for players who aren’t quite as good; and specialist which grants players extra perks with kills. The amount of perks and strike package options can be daunting at first. In fact, for players new to Call of Duty or for those who have skipped a few entries, the number of options available can be a little confusing – here is a definite learning curve.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is a pretty game. I found myself staring off in the distance at the beautiful environments before getting killed by an enemy player. There isn’t a lot of time to site-see while running and gunning but its nice to have such an attention to detail. It goes a long way to helping immerse the player in the setting. Some of the bigger maps have fantastic set pieces such as a freighter frozen in ice, or a destroyed city on the horizon. The environments feel bigger and more immersive than ever. There is an incredible attention to detail in the maps and a polish that helps this game stand out among others in the series.
The sound design is a huge step forward as well. Often times, player characters will yell out informative data revealing enemy locations. Footsteps allow players to pinpoint an approaching enemy as does gunfire. The sound feels more dynamic and far less repetitive than past iterations. This review covers the Xbox 360 version of the game but I can only imagine how immersive Ghosts feels on next-gen platforms.
Call of Duty: Ghosts takes some getting used to, both for new players and fans of the series. Once you delve into the tangled mess of customization options you find a well built shooter. The game builds upon past games in the franchise and adds a little something extra. Ghosts is definitely a step forward for the series, though not a leap.