Call of Duty: Ghosts is the latest in Activision’s long-running shooting franchise. This year’s Call of Duty faces stiff competition from Battlefield 3, which is upping the ante with dynamic maps and stunning next-gen graphics. Does Call of Duty still have what it takes to remain the go-to first-person shooter?
First, let’s talk a little about the single-player campaign. Call of Duty: Ghosts does not even pretend to have a compelling storyline. The Middle East apparently no longer exists due to a nuclear explosion, shifting the world’s primary energy production to South America. The South American nations unite into a Federation, and then inexplicably decide to attack the United States. Why would South America attack their largest oil customer? Who the hell knows.
Infinity Ward is obviously out of ideas. The scenario in Ghosts is so laughable that even the late Tom Clancy would have to admit that it is ridiculously over-the-top. The game feels like a propaganda piece for the armed forces to justify the United States’ bloated military budget. The game’s story will only appeal to a shallow and geopolitically uninformed audience.
If you can somehow get past the mindless story and cheesy, canned action sequences, the single-player offers a few neat ideas. Call of Duty Dog is a bulletproof-clad German Shepard that you can control at certain points in the game. These sequences vary slightly. You may use the dog for scouting or to stealthily take out guards. You can also use him as a support character in battle, having him attack specific enemies on command.
Extinction is the new co-op mode that replaces Nazi Zombies. Instead of the undead you take on hordes of aliens. Similar to Nazi Zombies, Extinction allows for a number of different purchases such as turrets, Bouncing Betty-like mines, weapons and the like. It’s definitely a mode that you want to play with a full lobby of four as the waves can get quite intense. The mode supports split-screen for two and up to four people total online.
The online multiplayer is the heart of any Call of Duty. Ghosts is no different in this respect. While the single-player is not very satisfying, the multiplayer is actually quite fun, despite having the same basic Call of Duty formula. A few new gameplay mechanics have been added, such as leaning around corners and sliding. Oh, they also allow you to play as a female character if you want (yay?). The developers at Infinity Ward tried to mix it up a bit with a highly customizable class and perk system. You can play as everything from a sniper with an IED to cover your behind to run-and-gunning machine gun-wielder with a shotgun attachment.
The strongest parts of Call of Duty remains the variety. There are nine game modes to choose from as well as the all new “Squads” mode, which is sort of a training ground for beginners. My favorite modes include “Cranked” and the classic team deathmatch. Cranked sets a thirty-second timer after you kill an enemy. If you don’t kill another player within those thirty-seconds (or get an assist), then your character blows up. It encourages players to move frantically around the map rather than camp. Kill Confirmed similarly requires constant movement as a kill is only counted towards your score when you pick up the dog tag off of an enemy’s body.
One of the major selling points for multiplayer from Activision was “dynamic map events”, which they claimed would “allow gamers to strategically redirect the action and transform maps to deliver new levels of strategy.” My experience with the game has shown that this feature fails to live up to the hype. The maps are dynamic to the extent that you can shut a metal door inside of a medieval castle to prevent enemies from gaining a direct frontal entry; another level lets you blow up a gas station. These events are not cutting edge or game-changing. In fact, they’re barely even noticeable.
The company also initially touted Ghosts as a fresh take on the series with a new game engine. It’s only a modified game engine, although you can barely tell the difference between this and 2007’s Modern Warfare. To be fair, the next-gen versions on PS4 and Xbox One look nice, but the current-gen versions have muddy graphics that lack detail and polish. Frankly, it looks like ass on PS3 and Xbox 360.
Call of Duty is one of those franchises that has turned into an annual affair. Activision is milking it for every penny that it is worth. For whatever reason, people keep coming back for more. Just like the last few games, it is not bad per se; it is just tired old retreaded territory. When your newest feature is a dog, you really need to consider taking a break. Even worse, the “next-gen” version offers nothing in the form of improvements aside from prettier graphics. Hopefully next year’s title will offer a rebooted, next-gen gaming experience.