Call of Duty: Ghosts Review
The Call of Duty franchise receives a lot of flak from the gaming community due to its annualized nature, but I’ve honestly been a fan of the series since Modern Warfare reinvented the brand in 2007. I don’t play it religiously online, as many do, but I’ve always respected the work that was put into creating the epic, Hollywood-style action set-pieces, the fluid gameplay and the addictive online components. Just as many look forward to summer blockbuster movies, I always anticipate seeing what the new COD will bring to the table. While last year’s Black Ops 2 felt fresh and gave the series a much needed-shot in the arm, Call of Duty: Ghosts feels expectedly competent, yet uninspired.
Yes, many of the people purchasing Call of Duty: Ghosts may never even touch the single-player campaign; quite a few only purchase the new entries to continue playing online with their friends. While a lot of gamers write off the campaigns as simply a box to tick on a features list, I’ve always found them interesting, and at times compelling. While Ghosts does pack a few interesting missions – including a few set in outer space and deep underwater – the overall plot feels a bit incoherent. The lack of Black Ops 2’s innovative (well, for an FPS) choose-your-own-adventure narrative style is a notable exclusion.
It doesn’t help that the acting feels severely phoned-in – both Brandon Routh and Stephen Lang sleepwalk through their lines, and the primary antagonist is easily the most boring yet. Infinity Ward had an opportunity to create a whole new world and timeline after ending the Modern Warfare series, and the story and characters in Call of Duty: Ghosts just never quite hit the mark enough to draw me in and keep me invested. It feels, for the most part, like everyone involved in the creation of the game was just going through the motions. The invasion of America feels very similar to Modern Warfare 2, and while the inclusion of the dog Riley is a positive note, it only served to highlight the fact that I cared more about a German Shepherd than any of the human characters. He’s also highly underutilized, appearing for a scant few moments throughout so that the player can use him as a sub-weapon. That said, he’s really well-animated, and easily the most likable and helpful ally in Ghosts.
The multiplayer, as usual, is the biggest draw here, and the gameplay is still fast, frenetic, and addictive. But it suffers from the same symptoms as the campaign – everything that Ghosts does well, Black Ops 2 did more of, better. The one real notable addition here is the ability to completely customize the look of your online character from dozens of head and uniform options – and finally, you can play as a girl – but without the upgrades and cool futuristic gadgets that BO2 had. The Pick 10 system is sort of here, in some form, but it’s needlessly complicated with the new Perk Points system. That said, you can still customize your loadout, and it’s up to you whether you want to forgo secondary weapons in favor of primary weapon attachments, perks, etc. Popular online functions like Theater Mode, League Play and emblem creation are also notably removed. While this is still a Call of Duty game, and thus sports some of the sharpest, smoothest online gameplay you’ll find in any shooter, it still feels like a step backwards from last year’s game. Additionally, the player count for matches has been capped at 12, which is unfortunate due to the larger map size.
I feel I should also mention that while the framerate seemed smooth during my time with the campaign and the online, the graphics are definitely a step down from Black Ops 2. Blurry textures are literally everywhere, and the resolution seems lower as well, creating a noticeable jagginess to edges and an overall blurry look – making long distance kills harder than before. I reviewed the PlayStation 3 version of the game, and so I can’t comment on the other versions. Still, the solid art direction in the aforementioned outer space and ocean levels makes for some inspired visuals.
The one area where Infinity Ward has managed to improve on something from last year’s Treyarch game is the new Extinction mode. It’s a take on the beloved Zombies multiplayer mode, but I personally found it so much more enjoyable and interesting. Cooperation is key in this mode, and you can spec your character to deal more damage with bullets, revive players faster, etc. Whereas zombies in past games would move slow and deliberately, the aliens in Extinction are nimble and run, leap, and scale walls to quickly overwhelm your team. While the Zombies mode always felt over-complicated and overly difficult to get into, Extinction is easy to pick up and play, and honestly just a lot of fun. Unfortunately, there’s only one map included, and overall it doesn’t add enough to the package to justify a purchase all on its own.
While last year’s Black Ops 2 reinvigorated the franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts feels a bit too much like filler. It’s still a perfectly capable shooter with high production values, but it just feels a bit stale and unambitious on the heels of a stellar release like BO2. While it will surely keep fans busy until the next Treyarch title releases, I was really hoping that Infinity Ward would try to one-up their fellow studio with this release. Maybe next time.