I’d hazard a guess and say that 99.9% of those reading this review would have played a Call of Duty game at some point in time. The series is after all, a massive hitter in the games market and constantly has three or more incarnations in the top 20 of Xbox games played on Live. Because of this, Call of Duty Ghosts is pretty well expected to top those charts straight from release.
But times are hard in the world today and gamers have had to split themselves into a few camps. Some will buy Ghosts on 360 and be experiencing the latest COD game immediately. Others will wait it out until they can grab a copy on Xbox One, whilst a few hardy souls may even jump on board with both versions. But not only that, there’s a bit of a rival in the form of Battlefield 4 lurking around, and so what was once an easy run to the line for the series, is now a little more tricky.
So, Call of Duty Ghosts, what have we got?
First things first and I’m afraid I have to mention a negative, albeit a small one. As soon as you fire the game up, you’re expected to install a 2GB content patch. This is contained on the second disk and as an ever increasing number of games roll like this, usually it’s very straight forward. Which is why it’s damn disappointing to see you having to jump back to the Xbox dashboard every time you change disk. Yes, you only need to install the content once, but most of us will throw disk number 1 into the drive from the start, only to be prompted to dash it and insert disk 2, install the content, jump back to the dash again and load up disk 1. All we want to do is play the game and the constant toing and froing is a pain. As mentioned, it only happens once, but many other games allow you to change disk on the fly, whilst the game is still running, and so I don’t really understand why that hasn’t been implemented here.
Anyways, with that little issue out of the way we can get on to the game in hand, and it’s a bit more of what you would expect from the series. We’ll get on to the class leading multiplayer modes later but first must mention the single player.
You start off seeing the action through the eyes of Logan Walker, a young man whose father leads the Ghost team behind enemy lines and into battle. You begin by learning the stories about the Ghosts themselves, and then witnessing a strike from an Orbital Defense Initiative Station, before the yarn advances enough for you to become one of those special soldiers yourself, fighting to defend what is left of the world. Throughout the single player campaign, you’ll be flitting back and forward in the timeline, to experience the different parts of the story as they unfold. Mostly playing as mute Logan, you’ll be side-by-side throughout with his brother Hesh (he’s the talkative one), and his trusty dog, Riley, as they go up against the forces of the Federation and the games main wrongdoer, Rorke. There are occasions when you’ll also take in some of the action in other peoples shoes, but to tell you exactly who and when that happens would ruin a storyline that is right up with the best Call Of Duty can offer….albeit one that is still way over-the-top. True Call of Duty style then!
But the story as a whole is pretty decent and engrossing. I had fears that it would become a little stale and repeat what has been seen in previous games, but at no point does it feel like that, with everything about it seeming fresh. Occasionally it feels slightly linear and even though each ‘level’ is huge, there are well placed barriers in the way to stop you from going out for a wander. It’s also far too scripted for my liking and regularly has to make sure ‘something happens’ before ‘anything can progress’. The best example of this is on one occasion when things start to kick off, and Hesh is found wrestling someone to the ground. I’m stood there with a pistol, able to fire, but no matter how many bullets I pump into the enemy, he refuses to die until the brother has strangled him. It might be slightly picky of me to pick up on it, but it happens a few times in the campaign and if it’s something you aren’t used to, it gets a little annoying. I suppose that’s how things are done in the Call of Duty world though, and if something ain’t broke, then it’s probably best not to try and fix it.
If there was one thing I would have liked them to fix though, it would be the character animations. On the whole, graphically the game is superb. The backgrounds and scenery are clean, crisp and first class, and you can feel it pushing the 360 to it’s absolute limits. Some of the experiences in the underwater levels really are the best out there, and everything runs superbly smoothly with very little lag. You aren’t going to see better until we get hands on with the next gen consoles, which is maybe why the characters seems a little disappointing. We’ve all been privy to shots from Xbox One games over the last month or so, and maybe this is to blame for creating an unrealistic idea of what things should now look like, but even with my big fat 360 hat on, the character graphics seem a little too simple with not enough attention to detail. And that’s a bit of a blemish that I really wasn’t expecting.
Thankfully, the same doesn’t goes for Riley, our trusty German Shepherd. Big things were made of Riley, so much so that the internet was on the verge of dog collapse when the first trailer dropped, with a big deal being made of the decision to include a dog in your team for the first time. The idea is great and the execution for the most part has also come straight from the top table. From the moment you meet him, right up until the end of the game, you feel for him, you want to look after him and any enemy that is trying to dish out a bit of harm to him will be fully in your sights. You also get to see a few moments of the game through Rileys eyes and these are outstandingly good. Crawling around in the undergrowth, sneaking up on enemies ready to pounce on them is a real highlight of the game, it’s just a shame it doesn’t happen a bit more often.
With four difficulty levels, one of which is the astoundingly difficult Call of Duty veteran mode, there’s enough here to keep COD fans busy for a long time yet. If you aren’t the biggest of fans and are just having a look to see what all the fuss is about, then you’ll like what you find, but probably won’t go back for more than one playthrough.
All that being said, you probably aren’t there for the single player game. Call of Duty easily carries the tag of ‘class leading multiplayer’ and if you’re prepared to throw a little time at it, Ghosts multiplayer is no different.
The usual Xbox Live multiplayer modes have been included, along with seven all-new modes. Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Kill confirmed etc… are staples of the COD multiplayer community and it’s great to see them back in here and playing as well as ever. Beware that if you are a newcomer to the series, or not the biggest shooter fan, then you will have a tough time to begin with. My first foray into the multiplayer madness ended with a kill/death ratio of 1/17, whilst my second attempt wasn’t much better. The COD community are relentless in their killing (and private message sending if you let them down!), and with the honour of prestiging so high on their agenda, any newbie is going to be pounced on like Riley stalking his prey in the single player. But don’t give up on it, because once you’ve learned a few tips, tricks and the maps in general, it’s very rewarding. You’ll also now find 30 new weapons to play around with and over 20 new Killstreaks to attempt to gain, so once you’ve got your head round things and got accustomed to the pace of things, you’ll have plenty to play for.
New additions to the Call of Duty online fun this time round include Extinction and Squads. There have been big noises coming out from the developers Infinity Ward about these game modes and rightly so. Extinction takes over from the much loved Zombies mode and blends some very fast paced gameplay (maybe a little too fast paced!), with a little base defence and a fair bit of character customisation. Up against swift moving aliens, you won’t survive long in Extinction without a great deal of teamwork and whether you are playing it on Xbox Live with randoms or sat on your sofa with a friend, communication is the key. Starting off with only a pistol for company, the aim is to survive for 20 rounds of alien invasion. You can level up your character the more you play it, and that helps to progress a little further, but rest on your laurels and you’ll be easy meat for the alien hordes.
Squads has also been bigged up to the nth degree and rightly so as this is by far my most enjoyable section of the game as a whole. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not dying every 5 seconds, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s a fresh approach to the madness, but whatever it is, it’s the gamemode that I keep finding myself drawn to. But what exactly is it you ask? Well, squads allows you the chance to build a team of players to compete in various game modes against AI controlled opponents. Best of all is that they don’t have to be online and playing either, so you can have those lovely bragging rights over your friends without ever facing them direct. ‘Wargame’ see you play against an AI controlled team of soldiers with a variety of loadouts, whilst ‘Squad assault’ is a cooperative mode where you and up to 5 friends can challenge the squads of offline players. ’Squad vs squad’ is as it says on the tin. You and your squad up against another player and their squad, and then finally we have ‘Safeguard’, a co-op survival mode for up to 4 players. Any XP earned in Squads is connected straight to your multiplayer progress, so even if there isn’t anyone online that you would like to play against at the time, there’s nothing stopping you from dishing out a bit of revenge to them.
And then we get on to extra content. The Ghosts Season Pass will throw in an extra load of multiplayer goodies over the next few months. It’ll cost you an extra £34.99 (which to be honest is a fair old whack for what it is), but you’ll receive four epic map packs throughout 2014. Unfortuately, at that price, it can only really be recommended to those who are going to stick with Ghosts for a long time yet, although you should be fine with it carrying over to the Xbox One should you be making the next-gen jump soon. There is also a fair amount of Avatar gear available to purchase and some of it is pretty cool indeed. It’s most definitely worth checking out if you wish to pimp your guy up COD style.
So Call of Duty is on the decline eh? If you listen to the doommongers, it’s pretty much the end of the road for the series, but Ghosts has had a fair bit of cash pumped into it and can’t really afford to fail. And to be fair, it doesn’t. The single player may be short and not offer an awful lot of replay value, whilst some may have had enough of the multiplayer modes and will decide to go snipe things up in Battlefield 4 instead, but that’s not to say it’s bad.
It’s not, it’s bloody good and still deserves a top rating, just it’s no longer a game changer.