Call of Duty, a property created simultaneously by two games developers, Infinity Ward and Treyarch is back and this time Infinity Ward is back at the helm for the big jump to next-gen.
The latest release from a long history of war based games, Call Of Duty: Ghosts, tries to shrug off some of the disappointment of the last couple of games in the franchise with an all-new cast of characters, the introduction of a canine squad mate and, for those lucky enough to get their hands on one of the new consoles, a next-gen game with next-gen graphics.
Ghosts is the start of a new Call of Duty storyline, it’s Infinity Ward’s first original timeline since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It puts you in the body of a man named Logan. In the aftermath of a devastating orbital strike by the South American Federation, you and your brother, Hesh, are part of the scattered but apparently still effective United States military.
The plot takes you from killing space-suited enemies in orbit, quite literally within minutes, to the bottom of the ocean and everything in between. Sadly the explosive nature and excitement of the story is let down significantly by a number of factors. The characters have very little back-story, the reasons for the war are only explained in a 10-second intro and the main villain has all the makings of a 60s Bond villain, amazing finance and expertise though no real justification for his actions beyond being a little bit on the mad side.
There are however two saving graces with the story. The first is an amazing cast, including past-Superman Brandon Routh, who provided voice-over work well exceeding par for a game of this nature. This adds a level of realism which fights hard not to be cancelled out by the over-the-top, Michael Bay style, story-telling we’ve come to expect from Call Of Duty games.
The second is the now infamous German Shepherd, Riley, who ends up being a bright spot that adds variety to an otherwise bulk stand single player campaign. Although Riley isn’t a key member of your arsenal for a large portion of the game he is one of the more interesting characters and if, like me, you’re a dog lover, you will begin to feel genuine affection for the digital hound as the story progresses.
The single player campaign plays like most of its predecessors, a linear array of missions with the odd side objective thrown in. The first thing to say is the levels are stunning, even on current generation consoles, and extensive. The developers have gone to every effort to produce a realistic war zone from the weapons to the bomb craters in the far distance, purely from cinematic viewpoint the game is something quite special.
The gameplay varies from mission to mission, whether that be stealthily working your way through an overgrown jungle to taking out an oil rig in the Antarctic Ocean your first-person shooter skills are put to the test. The biggest thing missing, though, is the surprisingly elegant branching structure from Black Ops II. The game managed to give you options without presenting them as such. It was a small but effective way to personalize the story a just a bit. Ghosts is, unfortunately, strictly on rails.
Unfortunately this isn’t the only problem with single player. Although fun, the campaign felt like a short distraction preparing you for the multiplayer experience. This is common in Call Of Duty games and stretches back more than six years to the template created by the (at the time) mind-blowing success of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
The single player campaign can leave you disappointed and wanting something with slightly more depth, this writer completing the entire story on Veteran in a little over six and a half hours. It’s not particularly original, borrowing from not only it’s own predecessors but, in one instance, the prologue to The Dark Knight Rises.
Now multiplayer is where all of the action is expected in a Call Of Duty game and, for die-hard fans at least, it doesn’t disappoint. For us mere mortals however who do like to spread our wings to other franchises and game genres Ghosts is nothing truly original. The variation of multiplayer modes has increased significantly with each iteration of the franchise and Ghosts is no different. All of the old classics are there but strangely popular modes like Ground War and Hardpoint are missing.
The new modes are here in abundance, Cranked is similar to Team Deathmatch but it does reward for kill streaks and speedy kills. Blitz is basically, get to the flag before the other team. Even zombies make another appearance with Infected mode, my own personal favourite in which a random player is turned zombie and the objective is to remain uninfected for as long as possible.
Multiplayer is as enjoyable as ever by Call Of Duty standards but some of the new modes do seem directed at more skilled players and can be unfriendly for newer players. As well as new modes, the introduction of kill streak awards has become a fan favourite.
The biggest disappointment with this version of Call Of Duty is the current gen restriction on players per map, allowing only six per team, not 9. This drop in a third of the players can make some of the larger maps seem a bit too large as you soon run around like a lunatic for ages searching for an enemy only to be taken out the second you find one.
In addition to the extensive array of multiplayer modes are Extinction and Squads, for those looking for online modes without the stress. Extinction is unlocked once the story has been completed. This mode serves as a new mode allowing players to come together in a joint objective against an alien invasion.
The mode is fun, though I wouldn’t recommend ever attempting this alone, it’s difficult and does provide something of a challenge for even the hardened veterans out there.
The objective is to deploy a power drill at alien hives and protect the drill from hordes of enemies until the drill has done it’s business. During each wave of enemies each player is able to earn cash which can be used to purchase weapons upgrade along the way.
The only disappointment with this mode is the aliens themselves look like rejects from Gears Of War but the mode in general is a nice change if you’re sick of being massacred in competitive multiplayer.
Squads is basically multiplayer with bots. The interesting twist being that you are in charge and can design and level up your squad by playing as them in either Squad mode or multiplayer, the downside is that after a while is does feel like your raising an army of online players without the benefit to your own character.
Although not perfect, Squads does offer new players the chance to become familiar with all of the maps and at least provides a bit of a respite from other more standard online mayhem.
[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]Impressive graphics, even on current generation machines
Varied game-play, on foot, vehicles, underwater, dog cam
Introduction of Riley
Multiplayer variations and maps extensive and good fun
More of the same for CoD fans
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]The single player campaign is too short and little challenge
Riley the Dog is not used enough in the main campaign
Too aimed at experienced players. Unfriendly to newbies
Review copy provided by Premier