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Title: Call of Duty: Ghosts Developer: Infinity Ward Platform(s): X1, 360, PS4, PS3, PC RATED: 18
In the ultra competitive world of videogames, few franchises have stayed at the top for as long as Call Of Duty. However staying at the top does not necessarily push developers to improve their product, arguably the franchise has changed little since the polished MW2 graced every eligible console across the gaming world. It wasn’t until Battlefield started to show itself as a true competitor to the fps crown, that COD started to up its game. Just like the best thing to ever happen to FIFA was Pro Evo, so is Battlefield to COD, and with BF4 attracting a lot of attention, it would appear Ghosts has had to up its game. If all that wasn’t enough, it marks the launch of a new generation. This is next gen COD!
It is clear from the outset that we are in the bosom of familiar territory, the gripping, at times, cliché world of COD is all about the big spectacle coupled with quiet manly chats that some how make the following mission ‘mean something’.So despite being familiar, Ghosts is set in its own world, independent of any of COD’s other franchises, giving them free reign to create some political unrest. So what’s the (spoiler free) story!? An oil rich South America unifies into a federation of nations that inevitably descends into combat with the US (to make a game), sounds pretty far fetched, but after a short but epic prologue mission in space! We pick up the story 10 years later of a losing United States desperate to make an impact of their new foe.
What do we do? A complex ground occupation, a nuke, lots of political bargaining? No. What we need is a small group of men known as Ghosts and a dog named Riley to take it to those oil rich South Americans! Yes, that’s right, the story focuses around the relationship between 2 brothers, their father and their fury friend (a dog). Wait, wait, ‘focuses’; what I was focusing on was the explosions, bombs and wave after wave of people etc… Needless the say the story plods along in a vaguely predictable fashion, however Ghosts does offer hugely varied missions, both geographically and in combat approach: space battles, tanks, helicopters, repelling down buildings and yes even punching a shark and playing as a dog. For the most part this breaks up the ‘grind’ of run and gun that has been a weak point in previous games.
That’s enough about why, more about the how! Like I said, Ghosts offers hugely varied combat approaches which will certainly serve as the most memorable moments from the campaign. However, let’s not forget, an incredible percentage of the 10-hour campaign is made up of shooting people and running about. This has been and always will be what COD is best at, Ghosts is no different. Gameplay is familiar, highly polished, responsive, engaging and incredibly immersive. Weapons are of course stunning and well textured, you feel every shot and every weapon feels different to the last. Not to be out done, environments are painstakingly detailed and feel organic in their textures and movement, especially evident in the opening level where we run through a suburban sprawl that is falling, breaking, burning all around us, and yet we are seamlessly interacting with a shifting environment (amazing).
The games presentation overall impressive, especially in low light levels, the next generation graphics are leaps and bounds ahead of the 360, capturing minute lighting changes and texturing even in the gloom. Great sound effects add to the immersiveness of battle and strong voice acting performances give characters a believability not seen in previous COD’s. The game does have some cheesy lines, but these are nothing we haven’t come to expect.
So as with every COD review, we reach the inevitable part that everyone is most interested in. ‘Is the multiplayer good?’, or more specifically ‘better than the last one?’. Well ‘better’ is subjective, what it certainly is, is more detailed. The first and most striking addition is the Create a Solider option, the level of customisation available is astounding, from your characters’ appearance (loads of options), to new loadout options, where similarly to BLOPS2 you can forego equipment in favour of more perks. This is not something I want to dissect as there are a total of 35 perks and an awful lot of weapons. All I will say is that the new options a) allow you to create an original looking avatar which reflects you as an individual and similarly create a character loadout which is tailor-made for your style.
Balance is important in COD, without it, most players will use the same loadout and weapon (boring). Thankfully, Ghosts has tackled this by making lots of play styles viable and ‘nurfing’ the things people used to complain about. Light machine guns for example have had their damage reduced, discouraging prey and spray. It doesn’t stop there… the aim assist of sniper rifles has been made less forgiving, seeing the once regular ‘quick scoping’ possibly a thing of the past, except for the skilled few. However, larger weapons now affect movement less, so it’s not all bad. Overall, weapons have been balanced to allow players to explore what they like and not be pressured into having to play a certain way to be competitive. Many players have reported lag, but I must say it felt pretty smooth. I think it is fair to say COD players love complaining.
Once you have that perfect build it’s time to get into the madness of COD online. Ghosts has 12 levels (standard more to come with DLC) from the vast medieval Scottish castle of Stonehaven to the tight and frantic Freight, there is something for every style, however I will say that Ghosts seems to lean towards the mid to long range player, I rarely found a level rife with close quarters skirmishes. Now, I know what your thinking: ‘It’s COD! The fast paced, frantic, every-man-for-himself style?’ Well no, this time around Ghosts has opted to encourage players to work as a team, with the more open levels demanding a more thoughtful play style. Without due care, you can find yourself wondering aimlessly around looking for an enemy, spawning too far or too close to enemies and being a total noob. Another issue has always been the predictable flow a match can get into, well Ghosts also tackled this in a rather inventive way. All new dynamic/interactive elements to maps, from missile strikes that change entire levels to player controlled gates that control the flow of battle. These elements break the flow and when used to full effect can turn the tide of a match.
I would love to keep singing the praises of Ghosts but there is an elephant in the room that must be addressed. Ghosts has a 12 player per map max. I cannot help but feel that this is a step backwards from the epic Ground Wars that became a staple of my COD game choice. You would expect this reduction in match size to usher in some mind blowing game types to make up for it; well no. We see a total of 5 new game types to make a total of 13 (many are similar). Our new personal favourite, Grind, requires players to collect dog tags and deposit them in banks on the map, leading to some great ambush opportunities. From what we have seen so far, most players are preferring the classics; Domination and Team Deathmatch.
Other modes include Extinction, a clear substitute for the ever-popular BLOPS Zombies. This time we along with friends tackle Aliens in a mini campaign based in a large multi staged area, not too dissimilar from Left for Dead. This mode is enjoyable and challenging at times and it certainly adds to the value for money. However, I feel many players will likely not return to this mode after completion.
Squads is a great mode single or co-op to prepare you for the hectic and, at times daunting world of online play. Squads allows you to play multiplayer online style matches such as Wargame, where you and 5 bots compete against six bots in varying game types, using the same perks and loadouts available in online mode. Or Safeguard that acts as the classic survival mode seen in many other fps’. I would have to say the bots in Ghosts are incredibly impressive and at times you would be hard pressed to believe they were not real players, fantastic preparation before taking that leap into Live.
Best instalment for a long time. Ghosts has come up with inventive ways of dealing with the things that made their games predictable. However, some irritating absences, namely reduction in player-count and the lack of the next gen jaw on the floor wow factor that £60 price tag demands. It’s certainly a must for the COD fan, but for people looking for a true next gen FPS I would wait to part with your hard earned money.
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