With a new generation of consoles comes a new universe of Call of Duty with the Infinity Ward developed Ghosts that brings players a whole new cast of characters to fight against another end of the world as we know it scenario. Infinity Ward finished the Modern Warfare universe decisively with Modern Warfare 3 and with the opportunity to branch out and try something new, Ghosts does almost nothing new. Sure there is Call of Duty Dog and 1080p at 60 frames per second on the PlayStation 4 but for better or worse Ghosts plays like it is Modern Warfare 4. Depending on how a person feels about the franchise, this is either a good thing or a bad thing.
Ghosts starts off a bit different than the typical Call of Duty by focusing on two brothers with their father in the woods when all hell breaks loose. The game then takes players back 15 minutes and transitions to a zero g space battle for a space weapon of mass destruction between the United States and the Federation — a coalition of South American countries now drowning in oil money. Needless to say the Federation is able to use the weapon before players finally destroy it leaving the United States crippled but still able to fight. Despite starting off interesting and different than previous titles, Ghosts quickly jumps back to the same old same old in the next level set 10 years later and follows the two brothers as they enter enemy territory.
The rest of the story centers around what could easily be called stupid fun, a summer blockbuster styled cinematic campaign. The excesses of craziness found in Modern Warfare 3 has been toned down in favor of a tour of beautiful vistas and ruinous war zones. There are plenty of all hell breaking loose moments still but they are mixed with a nice assortment of subdued atmospheric moments like the zero g battle or scuba diving that help keep Ghosts grounded. There are also those Call of Duty dog stealth moments. Sure everyone was laughing when the dog was first announced but there isn’t anything quite as bad ass as ripping out someone’s throat as a dog.
Despite having 18 missions, even playing on Veteran difficulty the campaign takes only around 6-7 hours. This go around of Veteran is also the easiest the series has seen. Veteran used to mean a nightmare of grenade spam and endless spawning enemies that only stopped as you crossed some imaginary line. Without that fluffed up difficulty, Call of Duty turns out to be pretty easy despite the fact one wrong step will send you back to last checkpoint. It really is a better experience compared to the controller tossing experience on the previous titles.
Anyone that has played a Call of Duty title post Call Of Duty 4 Modern Warfare will find the multiplayer instantly familiar. Ghosts represents run and gun gameplay at its best with the ability to easily take someone out with hip fire or a quick knife slash during those unexpected close quarter combat situations. Unfortunately for Ghosts, the map design kind of ruins what Call of Duty is good at by having larger open maps. The changes to assisted aim to disallow quick scoping and the addition of a new class of weapon called marksman rifles that sits between assault rifles and snipers in terms of range and mobility are more than likely the reason for larger open maps but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels that someone stuck Battlefield maps inside Call of Duty.
Openness set aside, the maps are gorgeous. Themes from grassy Scottish highland castle ruins to jungle prisons with some post apocalyptic city and town styled maps mixed in give a solid starting variety for the game with future map packs only adding to it. Most if not all of the maps have a way to alter it during a match from shutting doors to blowing up paths. While it isn’t the type of groundbreaking alteration that is featured in Battlefield 4 — Hello Collapsing Skyscraper! — the alterations have a limited cool factor to them Unfortunately they never feel natural and organic to the gameplay happening in the match since in most cases it is the result of hitting a single button to interact with an object.
Long range gun play and maps aren’t the only big changes as the loadout system has been revamped into a squad of 10 create a soldiers with 6 loadouts each. A form of the Pick 10 system found in Treyarch’s Black Ops 2 finds its way into Ghosts allowing players to load up their loadout how they want without being overpowering such as skipping using a pistol by using a perk to carry 2 primary weapons but missing out having another perk that may increase their damage or reload speed. There are no shortage of choices to cater to a players personal gameplay style once they level up enough to unlock the options.
All of the traditional game modes can be found in Ghosts like team deathmatch and domination but some of the new modes are something to get excited about. Instead of the whole “capture a flag and return it to base” style gameplay, Blitz has players rush to an objective in the enemy’s base to score and be teleported back to their own base. Cranked is team deathmatch with a twist of getting faster and better bonus for each consecutive kill without dying. Search and Rescue gives a new twist to popular mode Search and Destroy by giving the ability to resurrect a teammate by getting their dog tags.
If players aren’t up to jumping straight into multiplayer, there is a new mode to practice and try out the different loadouts called Squads. Squads has a couple different flavors such as going head to head against another human and their team of bots or teaming up with a couple other humans against waves of bots. The bots’ AI isn’t the greatest but they are functional and don’t make sailors blush with obscenities. The mode is a good idea in practice but multiplayer is always the better option if the player wants a competitive experience.
The Spec Ops mode in the Modern Warfare series was extremely fun and a nice counter feature to Treyarch’s Zombies. Unfortunately for Spec Ops fans, Infinity Ward decided to play a bit of me too instead and created a mode called Extinction or what it will be better known as — Aliens. Extinction pits 4 players in co-op against waves of jumping aliens that almost resemble the dog like necromorphs from the Dead Space series. Players move a drill up to marked alien hives and place it to start a wave of attackers that will try to kill them and the drill.
Extinction features all of the basics found in Zombies including cash prizes for killing that allows players to buy better equipment or start up traps. The only map that can be played in the mode tries to be a bit like Tranzit from Black Ops 2 by creating multiple areas to transition too but falls on its face by being a bit boring, small, and lackluster in comparison. The one thing Extinction does do well is add a loadout style progression system that allows players to unlock a better variety of skills. The one thing that can save Extinction is more map releases in future DLC.
The new generation of hardware has Call of Duty: Ghosts looking damn good, at least on the PlayStation 4. Activision always has their COD developers deliver on presentation but that next-gen juice really makes the game pop. There are some areas during the campaign that deserve to be oogled during lulls in the action. Of course the top-notch graphics come with top-notch audio. Explosions still sound like explosions and gunfire sounds like gunfire. There really isn’t much in the way of improvement that Infinity Ward could have done.