The last time we heard from Infinity Ward, it was to finish out the Modern Warfare storyline with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Even though it gave us one of the best multiplayer modes (Kill Confirmed), it had one of the most thoroughly underwhelming campaigns ever, with the “final” chapter of the Soap McTavish mythos seemingly directed by a 13-year-old Michael Bay; that is EXPLOSION EXPLOSION EXPLOSION, narrative break, EXPLOSION EXPLOSION, narrative, EXPLOSION, narrative, EXPLOSION finale.
At first glance, the commercials might have you thinking Ghosts is more of the same. Yes, it does have several moments of massive, over the top action, but it never comes off as cheesy. Without giving anything away, the core concept of the story is an “us” (or U.S.) vs. “them”, with the United States as the definite underdog. Basically, a larger contingent of the world finally takes umbrage with the United States continually attacking rich, oil-producing nations…and said nations decide to unite against the United States. The Federation start by recruiting ALL of South America. Nice proximity, eh?
The majority of the story takes place several years after the first attack, with brothers Logan and Hesh, and their father, Elias, as semi-key players in the American resistance. From the first second to the last, the entire story revolves around the mythical Ghosts; a special ops team that may or may not still be in operation, in the shell of the ravaged United States.
Unlike MW3, Ghosts takes a less of an “AMERICA FUCK YEAH” approach, and opts for a more humanistic angle. Thanks to excellent scripted dialogue and voice acting from Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as Hesh, and Stephen Lang (Avatar) as your father, Elias, Ghosts’ narrative is extremely compelling. Sure, much of it is heavy-handed (overwhelmingly so, at times), but your emotional investment serves to drive it forward. Plus, the backstory of ”U.S. vs. the Federation” makes the ridiculous, seemingly endless enemy parade more believable, especially since 90% of your skirmishes are a result of your small team being dropped deep into enemy territory.
Unfortunately, the main campaign is a rollercoaster that’s over far too quickly. I’m talking 5-ish hours max (and that’s with exploration).
No, really. Just when you become emotionally invested in the plot, the credits roll. Don’t get me wrong, the ride is intense and exhilarating, and there’s enough variance in the levels and activities that you don’t get bored. Plus, the first hour (give or take) is based in San Diego, so exploring the levels meant even more to our SoCal team.
The only real pitfalls you’ll experience are bizarre graphical hitches. Even though the majority of the game features excellent graphics, especially for a current-gen title. But the fourth wall is constantly broken by jagged (and I mean *really* jagged) shadow textures, splash/water animations straight out of the original Modern Warfare and weird texture pops. Considering how cinematic the campaign feels, hitting those snags will yank you out of the moment. Of course, textures are muted in online play, but the maps still look outstanding.
Speaking of online maps, not only do you get 14 right out of the box, but you’ll notice that 2/3 of them are massive. So massive, in fact, that you’ll actually get a lot of use out of ranged weapons…especially sniper rifles. As fun as huge maps can be, you’ll often get lost on your first couple outings, so it would behoove you to buddy up. Given the constant exploration, Ghosts multiplayer is also one of the first times where I literally used every one of my loadouts in a single map, during the same match.
Yes indeed, if you’re an online/multiplayer junkie, Call of Duty: Ghosts will deliver in a huge way. In addition to “Kill Confirmed”, there are a ton of new modes to choose from. Sure, you can go free-for-all (deathmatch), team deathmatch, Cranked, Blitz (scoring be dashing into illuminated areas), Search and Rescue (plant a bomb and detonate the target), Domination, Infected, Hunted and Team Tactical.
The “Infected” mode pits your squad of uninfected soldiers (with limited weaponry) against a quicker, stronger Infected target, armed only with a knife. If you’re killed by an Infected player, you join the ranks of the infected, and hunt the survivors. It’s similar to the Flood mode in Halo 4, and a nice respite from the conventional multiplayer modes.
“Cranked” gives you additional modifiers, upgrades and speed for every kill you rack up (in addition to the normal deathmatch/team deathmatch bonuses), and you’re rewarded with extra time on your team’s clock for every person you take down. Plus, there’s a bonus for chaining kills! Additionally, in nearly all of the multiplayer modes, you’ll occasionally get additional “field orders” which will give you a bonus for completing them before getting shot. For example field orders that tell you to get two kills with your secondary weapon might give you turret. Not too shabby.
“Hunted” starts you with a pistol and limited ammo. In order to get better weapons, you have to secure drop crates, which offer five randomized guns. Once all five are taken, the crate disappears and another drops somewhere else. It not only forces you to familiarize yourself with different guns and attachments (which previously may have been out of your comfort zone), and it also makes you keep moving to new areas of the map.
But the two biggest draws will no doubt be “Squads” and “Extinction”.
Hands down, the biggest component of Squads is customization. With the ability to choose from (after unlocking, of course) 10 characters, with 60 class options and up to six (again, after unlocking) possible loadouts, Ghosts will have you striving to unlock every last option. With each player that you unlock, you can outfit their AI profile to better assist you. The key to making a successful squad is trial and error. The maps are huge, so you’ll want to experiment with the number of snipers, close-quarters shooters, assault troops and specialized gunners you have on your team. When they become available, each player unlocks with 3 squad points (you get awarded 2 SP every time you go up a level), and weapon unlocks use the same currency. So you’ll often be torn between unlocking a new player and outfitting them with class-specific gear…or souping up your “main” soldier with the latest and greatest weapons and attachments.
There’s also a strong, strong emphasis on weapon exploration in all of Ghosts multiplayer modes, but especially so in Squads. You’ll have to pay to unlock each gun, so you’ll want to spend extra time playing with dropped weapons to find the perfect fit for your character.
If you’re a player that thrives on perks, you’ll find 35 new ones to choose from. Of course, like Black Ops II, if you want additional perks, you’ll have to sacrifice (or balance) your equipment. There are also nearly 40 guns to unlock (each with a complement of unlockable attachments), 12 new pieces of tech to utilize and a massive 20+ scorestreak bank, spread out across three distinct categories.
However, I am going to rant about one stupid thing that should (and likely, will) be nerfed soon. The stupid, godforsaken guard dogs are a bullshit addition. They’re pretty much the Odd Job of COD: Ghosts. That is, they’re extremely hard to shoot, they one-shot kill, and so long as their stupid master stays alive, they roam the vicinity near him/her. So if you’re a little camper bitch, hiding up in a rock formation, letting your dog do all the damn work for you, great job. Seriously. People are figuring all the exploits for the maps early on, and they’ll kill until they get a dog, then lie prone in an area that’s hard to notice, and let their dog run around heavy-traffic zones. If the dog gets shot, they just jump down, kill s’more and repeat. It’s like camping, only shittier. Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Clans are also a huge part of Ghosts. Even if grouping yourself into a Clan isn’t your “thing”, you can earn percentage boosts on your XP, unlock additional stuff by competing in Clan Wars. Basically, every two weeks a new Clan War is offered, spread out across multiple modes and maps. You’ll be competing against other similarly-sized and balanced Clans, and can win your Clan points just by playing the game maps modes that you usually play! So be sure to join a Clan and check out the Clan War details today as soon as you start playing online!
Extinction, on the other hand, is Modern Warfare’s answer to Zombies mode, only this time you’re taking on aliens. You’ll partner up with a well-armed group to accomplish a series of objectives, to save the world (or, at least, the area) from the alien menace. You’ll be able to interact with the environment to glean money and items to further unlock weapons and areas. “Prestige-ing” is happens at level 30, and will unlock a relic for you to use on your next go ’round. Though there’s only one relic per Prestige rank, you’ll get to keep your weapons…so that’s nice. Casual gamers will find Extinction to be a bit more forgiving than zombies, and the storyline is a fun digression from the bloodthirsty “normal” multiplayer. Plus, unlike Zombies, there’s an attempt at a story, and scenarios/chapters really drive you forward. Good stuff.
All things considered, Call of Duty: Ghosts is a massive step-up from Modern Warfare 3 in every way, save for single-player campaign length. The multiplayer is perhaps the deepest we’ve seen in a CoD title yet, thanks to Squads. Plus, for the first time you can actually play training/bot matches to boost your XP. Clan modes actually have strong incentives and the amount of game modes and maps ensure outstanding replay value, even without DLC. Sure, the maps are huge, but that just means there’s more to learn…right?
My advice to newcomers is spend time learning the maps by playing local bot/training matches. Boost your levels, unlock guns and players and enter the *extremely unforgiving* online arena with a stronger skillset.
Oh yeah, and don’t buy Battlefield 4…for current-gen systems, at least. Ghosts is infinitely better.