You have a dog. You love your dog.
1,532SRP: £54.99For years now you have been playing together, after a bad day from work he was always there, you and your mates spent hours with him night after night, your missus started to think you loved him more than you loved her. Things were good. Fast forward several dog years and the old boy isn't as spry as he used to be, like Sean Bean reading his next script we all know he will eventually die, nothing lasts forever, the question is when?
Infinity Ward know this too, they are surely in perpetual fear of the series being taken to the same farm as Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk to frolic in the fields forever; never to be seen again.
Enter Call of Duty: Ghosts, another edition of the FPS juggernaut with a fresh subtitle. Things start off well with as much of a clean slate as a wildly popular AAA franchise can have, out are Soap, Price and pretty much every other recognisable thread they had previously been clinging to. In are the military family including brothers Logan and “Hesh”, their father Elias and the show-stealing German Shepherd Riley.
In are the military family including brothers Logan and “Hesh”, their father Elias and the show stealing German Shepard Riley.
Single playerBefore the ink has even dried on their name tags a pesky coalition of South American countries known as “The Federation” turns one of the USA’s most devastating weapons against it and puts the superpower on the back foot; beginning a long war which we join several years later during a bitter stalemate fought largely in the destroyed southern states known as “No Man’s Land”.
So it begins, left trigger, right trigger, advance at all costs. It's a drill most are familiar with and has long outstayed its welcome. Which is where is gets weird, Ghosts is filled to the brim with ideas to distract from its ageing core gameplay, you rarely spend an extended amount of time with just the core mechanics. Almost as if Infinity Ward designed the game for chronic sufferers of ADHD there is always something new to have a go at, shooting in space, shooting in water, shooting in a helicopter, shooting in a tank. None of them are bad, the vehicles sections could certainly use more work, but the variations on the standard controls are largely enjoyable twists on the worn formula which they seem to be avoiding at all costs.
You may be enjoying that underwater sequence which has you struggling with buoyancy and decreased bullet damage while trying to keep track of enemies in shark infested waters, but after a short period it’s back to running in front of AI and wondering why you never get to open doors anymore or spinning the globe and taking control of generic grunt #867 for just long enough to witness his death and advance the plot.
Each new idea is treated as a palette cleanser but often these moments outshine the core gameplay. Riley for example can be remotely controlled in certain areas and is used to add in stealth gameplay which has him sneaking through long grass, barking to get the attention of guards and then making sure they are relieved of their throats. It’s a fun idea which has some undertones of the spectacular “Ghillies in the Mist” from COD4 but it is under developed and underused like many of the temporary distractions placed in front of you throughout the campaign.
MultiplayerIt’s the yearly dose of single player mayhem which still has the same series bullet points of constantly pushing forward to find the next checkpoint, following AI to the next objective and things going horribly wrong at the last minute before fading to black. It’s like Nemesis at Alton Towers, you've been on it a hundred times yet you continue to line up for it because that’s why you're there.
Last years Black Ops 2 was a veritable smorgasbord of multiplayer options to shoot through. This year's edition is a little slim in comparison. Possibly symptomatic of the supposed rift between studios; Ghosts counters Treyarch's package and even deliberately side steps some of the advances of its established cousin. The comical dolphin dive is replaced with a slide, Pick 10 returns but without being called Pick 10 and the survival wave based elements from Zombies are re-envisioned with Aliens in the new Extinction mode. It’s strange behaviour from a franchise on the ropes and some elements are more successful than others, but moving forward the duelling studios model would seem to be offering diminishing returns and might even be a problem for the series at this point.
It’s like Nemesis at Alton Towers, you've been on it a hundred times yet you continue to line up for it because that’s why you’re there.
There are some things that never change though, the frame rate returns, solid as ever and maintaining the feel that each Call of Duty match requires for its competitive quick-paced action. New to the formula are some elements of the map design, to begin with the maps are noticeably bigger and more intricate, with many boasting different elevation and vantage points with some often long sight lines to be had. Most importantly though is the attempt at a response to its nemesis Battlefield 4's destructibility with the addition of the generously named "dynamic maps". They offer a snippet of interactivity, collapsing a log stack or toppling a Petrol station, the most drastic of which is Strike Zone which can be completely destroyed when using the KEM killstreak which triggers a straight swap out of assets and completely changes the map. The implementation here is far less impressive than the competition and has far less of an effect than the bullet point on the back of the box would have you believe.
Something genuinely new is Squads mode which has had a fairly fundamental effect on the Create-A-Soldier process you might be used to. No longer do you concentrate on a single multiplayer character with multiple classes, now you can unlock up to 10 characters. Each with their own level and loadout for you to rank up and unlock. In a way it makes the mountain of time some players were putting into a single character of more use by spreading out the progress into a wider experience. For those who are over the 8 hours a day Call of Duty hump though, it’s a lot of options you will never unlock as you continue to Min/Max the unlocks with your one chosen character.
Unlocks are shared amongst all your characters (or Squad), Squad points is the new currency you will use to purchase new killstreaks, weapon upgrades and any number of customisable cosmetic upgrades for your squad members. Class building retains the fundamentally brilliant idea of Pick 10 and then proceeds to use a far less clearly defined system of squares and tiles to represent it. Still, the basics of stripping a class of superfluous side arms and projectiles to tack on extra attachments or perks remains great to play around with.
Those coming from Black Ops 2 will notice a giant wager match sized hole.
Co-opGame modes have been drastically boiled down to just the series favourites and some new modes such as Cranked where each kill increases your speed and ADS (aim down sight) but also sets off a 30 second timer causing the player to explode unless they get another kill. These new modes are fun but again the removal of past options is bewildering; those coming from Black Ops 2 will notice a giant wager match sized hole... and it's not the only hole, a bunch of other options including Hardcore Free-for-All, Hardpoint and Ground War are missing.
All of which it seems has been omitted to add in the new Squads mode where all the hard work levelling up different members of your squad pays off. There a several different modes with various combinations of you, your friends and AI on both sides of the battle. It is an interesting addition perhaps more suited to those not fond of the often aggressively competitive multiplayer arena. For those already committed to and squarely focused on the traditional multiplayer aspect though it’s an option which is largely useless and has had a big impact on the Create-a-Soldier aspect for little or no positive change, aside from to say there is one.
The same holds true for Extinction, yet another twist on a co-op survival mode, similar to zombies in many way you earn cash with kills, purchase weapons and equipment. Progress is completely separate from your normal multiplayer progress and here you only maintain one character, which you should probably spec out to complement the other members of your party; handily there are four classes to choose from - Weapons Specialist, Tank, Engineer and Medic, each with unique perks and abilities. Equipment falls into different categories such as Ammo (explosive, incendiary), Team Support (Armour and Weapon buffs), Strike Package - which offers a choice of five kill streaks - and Equalisers which include turrets and other high powered weapons in order to get through the "hives"; hives being the alien strongholds you must destroy by placing drills and protecting them until they finish doing their work.
Extinction is fun, there is a deep mode to get stuck into with challenges and prestige levels, it requires a level of team work which is hard to reliably find in conventional multiplayer modes and when all roles are being correctly filled it can be a blast. We can only hope it doesn't get thrown away in the next iteration.
Good Boy Riley
- Some good ideas in campaign
- Solid Multiplayer foundation
- Missing features from previous iterations
- Superfluous squads mode
- Lacks focus
Call of Duty: Ghosts Xbox 360 ReviewRiley is the embodiment of Call of Duty: Ghosts, apart from being a majestic canine with the heart of King Leonidas, he is an interesting element placed into a far too familiar experience and is criminally underused. Which is also the problem with most aspects of the campaign, as ideas they all individually have merit, but put together they seem disjointed and even a little insulting at a point. Perhaps focusing on a few of the good ideas and making them more than distractions would have genuinely made the campaign feel fresher than it actually is.
Multiplayer and Extinction are even more conflicted. Fundamentally the online portion of the game is largely as solid as ever, the dynamic maps are inconsequential and all the requisite options that make Call of Duty the action packed twitch shooter it is are present and accounted for if that is what you are looking for.
In the grand scheme of things though the series needs to stop for a minute and take stock, each year two studios develop new ideas seemingly independent from one another, borrowing and ignoring each other's work in equal measure, which leads to a puzzling disparity between releases and often feels like it's moving the series backwards. More disappointing though is the lost opportunity of moving the series back to one team, knocking Infinity Ward and Treyarch's heads together and focusing all their hard work in one unified direction.
As it stands Ghosts is trying so hard to not be a boring Call of Duty game by changing many of its tiny moving parts but when you step back and look at the whole it's somehow more disappointing than usual.
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