Thursday, 21 November 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts review

The Call of Duty series hasn't changed much in the last 6 years. Modern Warfare took the series in a whole new direction, ditching the World War setting in favour of a more up to date, relevant story. And boy, was it awesome. But since then, each new entry has been less interesting, whilst somehow managing to repeatedly break records. The stories are interchangeable, the set-pieces tiresome and the characters more and more forgettable each time. The two development teams have become lazy, which is understandable when you look at the profits, but it's also a disservice to the fans. Now, Ghosts is here, hoping to shake things up a bit. It is the first Call of Duty to be released on the next-gen (as well as current-gen) consoles, so you would expect Infinity Ward to step up, and once again deliver a game full of genuine emotion, excitement and general awesomeness. Did they succeed? Read on to find out...

The first level of the game is set ten years before the rest of the game, and sets up the story in an awesome way. The United States is attacked by their own missiles, fired from a satellite named Odin, by a powerful enemy known as the Federation. This is what's different about Ghosts; America is not an all powerful nation. It has been crippled by a deadly, precise attack, and is on the brink of falling. Not far into the game, you get to meet a group of soldiers from an elite team, known as the Ghosts. The Ghosts carry out complex operations to belittle the enemy forces, and take back America for the people. It's a nice difference to be on the weaker team, with fewer allies and weapons, whilst still having an awesome array of weapons and gadgets. But someone is systematically killing Ghost operatives, and you have to take down that someone, whilst simultaneously saving the world from the Federation.

The levels take place in space, oil rigs, underwater, secret bases, destroyed cities such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles and have you controlling not only your character Logan, but tanks and helicopters. There's a massive amount of things to do in the Ghosts campaign; it's definitely one of the most exciting campaigns in a few years. The story is still not quite up to scratch, and the characters are still mainly forgettable, but the missions themselves go beyond anything that the last few games gave us. The set pieces are phenomenal, and there are such a great number of them that you've always got something to look forward to across each of the 18 missions. There's even a set-piece taken right out of The Dark Knight Rises, as a plane you're in is hooked by another plane, and dragged underneath as the enemy escapes. Whether or not it was directly inspired by that is another question, but it does seem like an odd coincidence considering the movie only came out just over a year ago.

Meet Odin. He likes to shower the earth with fiery death

The dog, Riley, is relatively fun to use, but he's barely in the game at all. You get to use him for just a few missions, which was slightly disappointing as Infinity Ward sort of made a big deal about it. You can either command him to attack, and in some instances, directly control him using a remote video camera. When you're controlling Riley yourself, it's actually a lot of fun, but this only happens in one level. There also doesn't seem to be too many kill animations, so it does feel like you're watching the same thing over and over. It seems like they lost faith in Riley along the way, and he's used much less than he should be. Perhaps one of the best new features, however small it may sound, is the ability to lean. It's been missing from the series for far too long, and it makes popping in and out of cover much, much better, and allows you to stay in cover much more effectively than in the past.

The multiplayer, which is the main reason the game sells millions each year, is obviously back and better than ever. The core gameplay and mechanics are exactly the same, but there are some cool new modes which is exactly what the series needed. We know about ranking up, unlocks, perks and kill-streaks, we've seen them all a million times, and Call of Duty games of the past seem to rely on these more than actually putting much effort into adding to the experience. That's not to say there haven't been any additions over the years, but there haven't been any game-changing ones. Ghosts is trying to remedy that with a number of awesome new modes, which should sate the fans wanting more than just deathmatch and capture the flag. Cranked is one of these new modes. In Cranked, from the moment you get a kill, you have thirty seconds to get another, and if you do, the countdown resets. With each kill, you get handling and speed perks, making you a faster and more lethal opponent, and you get double points. It's a great mode as it almost completely eliminates campers, as you have to be in the action to carry on your streak. If the countdown reaches zero, you die in a spectacular explosion. Cranked is just one of a few new modes, and it's a great step for the series. Activision should take note, before the next game is churned out in a years time with the same old modes and no surprises.

You don't see Riley often, but when you do, you're glad he's on your side

There's also the new Squad mode, which lets you and a group of other players take part in a series of different game types. You can go for a standard deathmatch, with your team against bots, which is quite fun if you want to practice your skills in a much more relaxed game than the online multiplayer allows for. The best Squad mode however, is Safeguard. This is basically a survival mode, with waves of increasingly tough enemies. In between rounds, you are often awarded with random care-packages which can include automatic turrets, ammo, perks and many more. It's a lot of fun and a great opportunity to work as a team cooperatively, outside of the Extinction mode.

Instead of the obligatory zombie mode that has been a major part of the series for a good few years, there is a new mode called Extinction. This time, you'll be fighting aliens, and trying to clear out the hives from which they come. You do this by carrying a drill to each hive, and fighting off waves of aliens whilst the drill does it's business on the hive. You earn money for kills, much like the zombie modes of previous years, and you can spend them on new weapons, access to turrets and a selection of gadgets to help. You also earn skill points which you can spend on upgrading the support gadgets and weapons. It's fairly similar, but there are enough differences that it doesn't just feel like they've re-skinned the zombie mode.

From space to the bottom of the ocean, Ghosts has a great variety of locations

Call of Duty: Ghosts is a good game, there's no doubt about it. It has the most exciting set-pieces in years, and whilst the story isn't very interesting or gripping, it's probably not the reason most people buy the game. The multiplayer is definitely improved, but like all of the multiplayer modes since Modern Warfare, it feels like just a slight upgrade to the same formula. You could say "if it isn't broke, don't fix it", but that's not the point. We're being given basically the same game each year. They need to shake it up massively for the next title. They need to build the next game specifically for the new generation, and use all of the resources that they have to really make something new, something that once again excites us and makes a difference to the genre. If they don't, Call of Duty won't last much longer.


by Louis Gardner

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