Developer: Infinity Ward
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360,
PS4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: 11/5/2013
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game
You've probably heard a good deal about Call of Duty: Ghosts, whether it's the 720-1080p debacle, the combat dog Riley, or the infamous scene that appears to have been lifted directly from Modern Warfare 2. As I played through the PC, PS4 and PS3 versions, I wanted to have the experience that would surpass all of those controversies. I wanted to feel as though I could recommend Ghosts as a fantastic entry into the next generation of gaming, the perfect place to start for franchise new-comers and series veterans alike.
What this latest iteration in the Call of Duty series left me with, however, was the sour taste of spoiled milk. The formula that Activision and Infinity Ward pioneered years ago is no longer fresh enough to keep the franchise afloat. With Call of Duty: Ghosts, the franchise is finally starting the sharp decline gamers have forecasted for years.
Let's get the obvious out of the way - Ghosts is not the same sort of revolution that Black Ops II attempted to forge. It takes a step back and reverts to many of the same conceits and gameplay elements that were found in the later Modern Warfare games. Mechanically it feels almost identical to Modern Warfare 3. It even bears some of the same mass-conflict, post-apocalyptic vibes in the environments and missions. That wouldn't be such a detriment to the experience if I felt like I'd really enjoyed what Ghosts had to offer. Instead, I left with the impression that the only developer with any creative leanings was the former second-son, Treyarch.
The tightly-scripted and narrative-driven campaign, arguably one of the biggest dividing lines between Battlefield and CoD, is an entertaining amusement park ride that offers little substance and few lasting memories. In fact, the coolest parts are the ones that made no sense, like random bits of semi-Zero G space combat and remote-controlled dog sequences. While CoD has always tried to keep a little sense of believability, Ghosts goes all out in the absurdity department, which may have actually made the campaign more fun in the end. Set pieces, however, can only carry a game so far. Ghosts claims to have an engaging, emotional story and strong characters. This is where things truly start to go wrong.
It's a shame the characters couldn't have been better written. Everyone feels like the stereotypical grim soldiers we've come to expect from the franchise. As the protagonist (whose name I forget), you're supposed to feel a connection for your brother and ally Hesh. Instead, I ended up wishing the guy would just shut up and go away. His writing, like many characters, felt a bit forced and annoying. I much preferred the best character in the whole CoD franchise, Riley.
The unenviable companion of the lead brothers, Riley is the loyal and ever-deadly tool of your enemy's demise. He can be given orders to attack and flush out enemies, adding a small level of strategic application. Moreover, Riley's just an awesome sidekick. There's even a portion of a level devoted to carrying him to safety after he gets shot. Clearly, Infinity Ward's focus for Ghosts was the dog despite marketing attempts to convince players it's about gameplay. If the average narrative and boring characters had been given as much attention as Riley's fur, Ghosts's campaign may have ended up a better product.
The next-gen "engine upgrade" isn't the technical leap gamers were hoping for. While the visuals aren't awful, they don't really differentiate themselves from previous entries. There are more particles and higher-definition textures but don't be fooled; this very much looks like a Call of Duty game. When the landscape is exploding in tearing apart in spectacular fashion, it looks pretty great. But it's the lack of improvement in the small details that disappoint. At least the audio is solid, with some great vocal performances and a good soundtrack to back up the cinematic action. I just wish it added more to the aging experience.
The multiplayer is the biggest draw for this franchise and that hasn't changed with Ghosts. Several new modes, including Cranked, make an appearance alongside the usual Domination and deathmatch-style modes. While the variety is nice, Ghosts doesn't do enough to make the experience feel fresh or exciting. If anything, the newer open maps are aggravating at times and the major advancements Black Ops II spearheaded have been reversed. The most notable change is the confusing Squads mode, which eschews regular class creation for spending earned squad points on soldiers. These troops, which double as class set-ups, are also used in the Squads game-mode that pits players and their AI buddies against other units. It sounds novel in concept but isn't all that entertaining. It further complicates the class building process while adding an unnecessary, poorly-executed game-mode.
Probably the best new addition is the Extinction co-op game, which pits teams of players with limited resources against a vicious and aggressive alien enemy. The humans will have to destroy alien hives while fending off fast-moving enemies that kill as quickly as they vanish. With limited ammo, Extinction can really get your pulse going. It's too bad there's only one map included because Extinction could have been one of Ghosts surprise saving graces. Hopefully, Infinity Ward adds more content for this mode in future DLC packs.
When all is said and done, Call of Duty: Ghosts is a disappointment. The next generation of gaming held so much promise for this franchise. Instead, Ghosts is a lackluster entry that struggles to reach the lofty heights of shooters like Battlefield 4. There are flashes of brilliance amidst the muck but the overall problem is that the franchise is just getting old. A campaign with forgettable characters, aging production values and ho-hum multiplayer don't inspire confidence. For once, I can't wait to see what the creative minds at Treyarch have up their sleeves for next year.
+ A campaign that can offer intense moments
+ Better visuals than previous entries
- Production values just aren't there
- Unexciting multiplayer
- Not enough content for Extinction
- The addition of Squads
Overall Score: 4 (out of 10)
Call of Duty: Ghosts is one of the weakest entries in the series. It's showing its age and doesn't have enough content to warrant the purchase. It's a recommended skip.
A retail copy was provided by the publisher for this review