From the very first minutes of gameplay in Call of Duty: Ghosts, I’ve been catapulted straight into a game that feels exactly like an American blockbuster movie. Although, its not quite a 21st century blockbuster movie.
I’m in space, in what appears to be an American space station. Very soon, everything speeds up. Someone passes me a machine gun. I’m shot from behind and everything explodes in all directions. Woah, I thought.
Despite the initial excitement, I can’t help but recall Moonraker, a film where James Bond is on the trail of a mad scientist that takes him from Venice to Rio before finally being blasted into space to fight people wearing pastel colors and shooting laser guns. It’s an avalanche of scenes, one more fantastic than the other. Entertaining, yes, but also very kitsch, the best of the worst with cardboard props and hanging strings seen from a mile away. Unfortunetly, this is the type of blockbuster that comes to mind when I played Call of Duty: Ghosts.
A bleak scenario
In a context of global economic crisis, several oil-producing South American countries combine to form the Federation, a new superpower that will benefit from its hegemonic position to turn against, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the United States. The single player campaign of Call of Duty: Ghosts begins the moment the Federation takes control of an American space station and launches a large-scale orbital attack on the United States.
Call of Duty: Ghosts awkwardly attempts to tug on your heart strings by telling the story of two brothers and their German Shepherd who, almost through no fault of their own, take part in reconquering their native land. No, this year, it will no longer be the single player campaign that will inspire people to buy Call of Duty: Ghosts.
One for thrill seekers… on rails
The heroes can count on Riley, their German Shepherd.
Like its illustrious predecessors, the single player campaign of Call of Duty: Ghosts takes it cues from blockbuster movies, throwing us straight into the action from the first minutes of play. It explodes in all directions where bullets abound and blood spurts, creating genuine entertainment for thrill seekers. The only problem, is that it’s mounted on its rails.
There’s no time to improvise. The single player campaign leaves very little room for interaction, which is the last thing you want in a video game. The player basically has to follow, more or less quickly, the orders that appear on screen, which have been given by the other characters.
I was surprised to find that level gameplay was a vague system of checkpoints and objectives that weren’t always very clear. Small flaws were compensated for by the linear aspect of the traditional corridor levels that we expect from this series.
But not everything has been thrown into the single player campaign in Call of Duty: Ghosts. Our two brothers in arms will always be able to count on Riley, their dog, in brief phases of gameplay that showcase stealth. Unfortunately, you’re not actually able to control their four legged friend at any point, what surely seems like a missed opportunity.
Multiplayer: (almost) all quiet on the Western Front…
The new customization system offers nearly 20,000 different possibilities.
Trigger-happy junkies can rest assured, Call of Duty: Ghosts hasn’t changed – or at least has barely changed – its celebrated multiplayer mode! The new features include 14 new maps, the ability to slide along the ground, a new customization system offering nearly 20,000 different possibilities, female avatars, 7 new game modes, and 20 new Killstreaks (bonuses that reward a certain number of enemies killed in succession), including the dogs of war!
As is common in the series, Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t really leave room for tactics, and it’s the reflexes, memorization, and attitude of the players that will reap the rewards.
The new Squad Points system allows all players, in theory, to customize their characters and adapt their equipment to their type of game play. Unfortunately, you need to play lots of matches online before you can raise the amount of points required to purchase better weapons and accessories.
The system isn’t particularly easy and could put off less patient players or newcomers to the game. Fortunately, beginners will have Squad mode to become familiar with the mechanics of the multi-player game and the chance to win Squad Points before coming up against hordes of bloodthirsty players.
These are subtle changes that hopefully won’t turn fans away from the genre.
Extinction: the diamond in the rough
In Extinction, you have to try and repel an alien invasion.
The real surprise of Call of Duty: Ghosts comes in the form of Extinction, a fabulous multiplayer co-op mode that’s fun, refreshing and full of great ideas. In Horde mode revisited, you attempt to repel an alien invasion along with 3 other players. Your main objective is to fight successive waves of enemies and destroy the hives of the invader with limited resources.
There’s also no more mindless shooting found in the single player campaign. In Extinction mode, you’ll need to buy your weapons and ammunition with money earned by completing the game objectives and shooting down aliens; it’s a crucial detail which adds a dimension of both strategy and invigorating survival to the mode.
There’s also the new system of exciting challenges, the terrible environmental traps (gas cylinders, electrified areas, and controlled fires) and the techniques involved in mastering aerobatics. In truth, Extinction is single-handidly good enough to justify purchasing Call of Duty: Ghosts, a real demonstration of the creative potential of Infinity Ward studio.
Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t shown its full potential on the current generation of consoles.
I tested Call of Duty: Ghosts on the Playstation 3 and I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly impressed with the graphics of the game. Between low-resolution textures and frozen facial animations, Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t show its full potential on current generation consoles. Fortunately, great particle effects, deformation of the maps, and the animations of Riley come together to improve a package that isn’t particularly showy.
Verdict: spectral pallor
With Call of Duty: Ghosts, Infinity Ward delivers a collection of disjointed experiences with mixed quality. The multiplayer mode, the major asset of the series, has been enhanced with subtle improvements that perfect an already proven game mechanic without taking enough risks to permanently draw attention to them. But if Call of Duty: Ghosts remains, despite everything, a good action game, it’ll be interesting to see how the Activision title will fare against a new generation of first-person shooters like the ambitious Titanfall and Destiny.
Despite a mixed critical reception, Moonraker remains one of the most successful movies in the James Bond franchise. With a billion dollar revenue on its first day of release, it’s likely that Call of Duty: Ghosts will share a similar fate.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.