Who you gonna call?
These aren't the kind of Ghosts that the Ghostbusters deal with. Call of Duty: Ghosts represents another solid entry in the CoD franchise, but the IP is looking a little thin and the yearly release schedule is a case of familiarity breeding contempt amongst some gamers. However this said, the Infinity Ward instalment of this popular gaming franchise does attempt to bring some interesting ideas to the table and presents a longer campaign compared to previous CoD entries.
The Federation (Not Star Trek, no sorry), uses the ODIN weapons platform to level the US in a series of orbital bombardment strikes. Now pushed on all sides the US struggles to maintain its last cities and relies on the help of a secretive group of warriors called the Ghosts: living legends that operate in No Man's Land outside of the last remaining defensive wall.
It's a Call of Duty sci-fi scenario meets a dash of post-apocalyptic shenanigans with all of South America as the bad guys.
It's a little cut-paste from previous CoD games, but if you can blast your way through it you can find some reasonable storytelling, some solid set-pieces and a pretty good setup for further games in this universe.
Single player casts you in the shoes of Logan Walker, brother of Hesh Walker and the sons of Elias Walker (he's supposed to be a famous badass in this timeline). You'll pop into the shoes of other soldiers, chopper pilots and tank drivers now and then through the (roughly) ten hour long campaign and experience a variety of familiar CoD based gameplay. There are some refinements to the typical shooting action, the usual QTE's, slow-mo breaches and rail shooter style sections. Atop this you have some simple vehicle controls (such as choppers and tanks) that are a lot of fun to play.
There's an (optional) auto-lean system in place when you're in cover that's quite nice. All you need to do is get behind something, look for the yellow arrow on your reticule and when you aim you'll lean out from cover. This little iteration makes for some better tactical options and allows a modicum of stealth if you need to minimise getting your head blown off.
Then there are remote sniper rifles to control and the chance to synch up to A-10 tank hunter drones, your bro's dog Riley (in a few stealth sections) - Riley is a pretty neat mutt to control and you can order him onto the attack quite simply when Hesh gives you command of the dog. Otherwise at times you'll synch up with him through a remote camera-vest and control him in dog-cam.
These stealth sections are pretty neat and Riley can perform sneaky takedowns, trick enemies by barking and savage them when they come to investigate.
You won't be customising weapons, or toting around a badass ninja-arsenal of gear with you. You'll get the mission loadout, picking up new guns and trading weapons with the enemies when you run out of ammo.
There are some familiar shooting mechanics at play here and it feels familiar, comfortable and that's perhaps the danger. Like an old pair of shoes it fits and why bother to change, if it's going to work and it's not too worn.
Unfortunately the new mechanics and set pieces don't quite pull you out of the feeling that you've done it all before elsewhere. There is one section that I really loved, where you get to sneak into a heavily guarded base and you need to use disguise tactics. It's quite heavily scripted but it works in the context of the story and the gameplay elements are nigh on flawless for this particular sequence.
The game has generous checkpoints and doesn't punish you too hard for failing a particular section. It also has the usual slew of difficulty modes, with the hardest showing a badass level of difficulty.
Finally: the game comes on two discs, with disc 2 being a mandatory content install for the single player. You'll need to throw that second disc on for the single player campaign to function properly and it seems to contain the high-def movies and video files used for a lot of the single player game's intermission sequences and on-screen sfx videos. Such as computer banks and hero tools.
The CoD engine on current gen is looking a little bit dated now, but don't get me wrong, this is one pretty game for a current gen machine. It's got a good level of detail in terms of the mission areas and the design itself. The character textures are solid and there's a broken realistic beauty to the environments that means it's not just all browns and greys, there's crumbled skyscrapers amidst the wrecks of devastated US. There's lush jungles/forests and snowy arctic conditions... there's even a beautiful set of underwater sections, as well as zero gravity space sequences with their unique textural palettes and lighting effects.
The frame-rate remains solid and there's no texture pop or tear.
A significant step up from previous CoD entries, the animations for Ghosts are excellent and extremely lifelike. The character interactions and the lip synch, facial animations are some of the best I've seen yet for the CoD series and the context sensitive AI kill interactions are solid stuff. Riley's takedowns are quick and brutal and there are various nuanced animations throughout the whole game that feed into both the single player and multiplayer.
The typical level of physics is found in the game, the various calibres of bullets do different levels of damage and explosives explode. There's very little in terms of free form destruction and a lot of the destructive effects are built into the level scripting, they work well though and the whole thing feels solid enough on the physics side.
AI is good, and you need not worry about your squad mates and fellow team-members overly much. You're not babysitting them in this game. You can still earn a mission fail if you kill a friendly soldier so make sure you keep your sight lines clear at all times. Pick your shots since you don't want a friendly fire accident as a grunt runs into the way of your bullets.
The enemy AI provides a good challenge and love grenades, they always love grenades. They know how to use team tactics and cover to the best advantage. On the harder difficulties you're going to be using a lot more in terms of tactics, popping out and sprinting from cover to cover since the enemy are going to flush you out with grenades and then use suppressive fire to try and box you in.
I've not really see the friendly or enemy AI do much in the way of stupid actions. So this is a big tick for good AI.
The multiplayer AI is interesting since the AI will adapt to the weapon and 'load-out' it's using. Give your squad mate (I'll come to Squads later) a sniper rifle and they'll be an effective sniper. Give them a heavy machine gun and they'll provide a support role in the battle.
I'd say the sound design for Ghosts, as for many of the modern CoD games is pretty flawess. With the usual meticulous detail in the whole audio suite, from weapon sounds, vehicles sounds to the range of ambient effects layered carefully in each mission level and area. It's a gorgeous thing to hear.
A powerful score follows the on-screen action perfectly and sets the mood for this interesting take on the modern combat scenario. At times it's suitably pulse-pounding and others it has a beautiful surreal quality to it (underwater and space) that provides a solid backdrop to the task at hand.
Then of course you have Eminem's involvement which goes without saying, he does his thing and he does it well.
The script is at times suitably OTT gung-ho, and other times fairly intelligent. The dialogue is fairly well written though regardless and it's like being in a big budget Hollywood action movie as the star.
A solid set of voice actors provides much of the driving force behind the script, thankfully they're in abundance in Ghosts and there are no real hum-dinger bad performances in the game at all. When the OTT gung-ho parts of the script kick in, you tend to find yourself accepting the way the characters sound and just get on with the task of putting more bullets into the enemy than they do to you.
System Link, Local Play and Xbox Live Play are all supported on the console.
Multiplayer in general remains the same in terms of modes, save for the Headquarters mode being missing.
That said... CoD Ghosts has done a fair few changes to the way the gameplay in MP works. I'm not going to bore you with how the killstreaks work, or how IW has attempted to balance various tricks and tactics prevalent in the CoD experience. Black Ops 2 remains the better multiplayer in terms of gameplay, but there are some nice little things in Ghosts that make it a fun game to play in multiplayer regardless.
First off you can customise your soldier's right down to their physical appearance this time (including gender), giving them new equipment and new looks with a plethora of gear and outfits to choose from. This is integral to Squads mode and allows you to build a fully customised squad of soldiers for the online squad component of the game.
See Squads is interesting, it's new and feels pretty fresh. It lets you play various modes against bots with the aid of AI players and human players. You earn XP and squad points (to customise your online squad) allowing you to take on bigger and better squads.
All the classic fun of old school deathmatches and so on are available in Wargame mode, here's a quick rundown of the modes.
Blitz - Make it to the portal zone on the enemies spawn point.
Domination -Hold the flags after you capture them. Every 2 seconds a flag is held, the team gets a point. First team to 200 points wins. This is a fast, furious and fun game mode.
Free-for-All - Every man for himself. First player to 30 kills is the winner. Classic Deathmatch basically.
Grind - Recover dog tags and take them to the objective marker to score for your team.
Hunted - Available in both team and free-for-all. Resources are limited. Fight for control of weapon drops to gain superiority.
Infected - Eliminated players become Infected. Last player to survive when the timer ends wins.
Kill Confirmed - Recover dog tags to gain points for your team. First team to 100 points wins.
Search and Destroy - Teams take turns defending or trying to destroy the objective. Every player has
Search and Rescue - Teams take turns defending or trying to destroy the objective. Recover dog tags to allow or deny respawns.
Team Deathmatch - Kill players on the enemy team. First team to reach score limit wins.
You can setup quite a few options here and refine the amount of bots, enemy/friendly as well as the AI types. You can change a massive amount of things in all the game modes and save these off as custom settings, so you can easily get back into the action with a minimum of fuss when you're playing with groups of friends who like to play differently.
Other Squad modes
Taken from the official site:
Squad V Squad
Equip your squad and head into battle against another human player and their squad. Squad v. Squad matches you up against another player of similar skill level and rank in a game of Domination, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed or Blitz. Level up your soldiers and create the ultimate squad to ensure victory.
In Squad Assault, you can invite up to 5 friends to play cooperatively as your created squad members, taking on another player's AI-controlled squad. Test your squad's skills against another player's customized team of soldiers across a variety of game modes.
Play cooperatively in a group of up to four soldiers taking on waves of enemy combatants. You start with a very basic load out and a friendly AI squad member that you can call in for support, and throughout the game, support drops arrive containing various weapons, perks and kill streaks to help you defeat the enemy onslaught. As each wave passes, the difficulty level increases, with 20 waves in a standard match, 40 waves in "Safeguard Extended" and unlimited waves in "Safeguard Infinite" - see how long you can survive.
There's a lot to see and enjoy here, with the trademark CoD stability on these servers being rock solid and relatively lag free. Solid match-making provides a good experience and the game attempts to match you up with those of a similar skill level.
For those of you who don't like playing against human players, you can play with your friends vs. AI and have just as much fun.
There are around 14 maps out of the gate and a season pass on offer.
This mode is unlocked after you beat the first level of the single player. Extinction is a horde-based mode similar to the zombie mode of Treyarch's fame, except it tasks you as a group of 4 players (with 4 classes) of an elite squad sent to eradicate an alien menace. You need to drill the hives and survive against a harsh and overpowering enemy.
The usual cash for goodies system is in play, with ranks, levels to gain and various toys to buy and upgrade. Teamwork is essential and it's tricky to play this one on your own, though not wholly impossible.
It is more fun with friends since you can pick the classes that complement each other.
The Tank, the Engineer, Weapon Specialist and Medic are the four roles you can play and level up.
From what I tried of Extinction it was a fun mode, it has lots of legs and it seems a little more forgiving to begin with than zombies with a player-survival ratio slightly higher.
The whole package
When you add everything together you're getting a superbly solid game which offers a ton of replay value. It might not make many new in-roads in the genre or innovate enough, but it's a decent entry into the CoD-machine franchise and whilst it doesn't quite beat Black Ops II... it holds its own.