Call of Duty is the biggest franchise in gaming, and at this point you’re either onboard or you’re not. Call of Duty’s particular style of setpiece driven, heavily scripted gameplay certainly has it’s upsides, but it’s not without fault, either.
With Ghosts, you know what you’re getting. Infinity Ward hasn’t reinvented the wheel or given us something new; It’s the same Call of Duty you’ve been playing for years. CoD can get away with this more than most franchises because the core gameplay is incredibly solid – no shooter on the market feels better when it comes to actual shooting – but Ghosts shows that the formula might be getting a bit stale, with everything giving off a “been there, done that” feeling.
For the campaign, Call of Duty: Ghosts barely even attempts to do anything new. You play as Logan Walker, a special forces “Ghost” who is tasked with helping fight off the Federation, a group of allied South American states bent on conquering America. This is one thing that ghosts does right; The scenario is interesting and not just a retread of your standard European and Middle Eastern theatres. Unfortunately, while the backdrop may be interesting, there’s not a whole lot actually done with it. There’s a few missions that show promise by taking place in interesting settings (such as a crumbling San Diego or in space) but for most of the game you’re fighting through the same environments you’ve seen before: jungle, military base, etc. Even the story, despite it’s interesting premise, focuses too much on the predictable conflict between the Walker family and the ex-Ghost primary antagonist. The backstory ends up being wasted on boring characters and a wholly forgettable and cliched plot.
As far as the mutliplayer goes, it’s standard Call of Duty through and through, but this isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always been a fan of the CoD multiplayer (if not it’s playerbase) for it’s fast pace and rewarding system of pregression, which means I am perfectly happy to get another chance to level up again and unlock more guns. A small addition to the multiplayer are the briefcases. Once picked up, the briefcase gives you a small objective (such as get a headshot, or kill 5 enemies with one gun) that rewards you upon completion, or gets passed to the next person to pick it up upon your death. Not a great leap forward for the franchise, but it is a small step on the evolution of CoD multiplayer.
Finally, we have the two new modes introduced in Ghosts: Squads and Extinction. Squads is really more of an extension of the standard multiplayer. As you play, you’ll unlock squad points to unlock new members and outfit them with gear and perks. You can play and level each character individually over the course of standard multiplayer matches, but then you bring them into Squads where you’ll take on AI controlled teams of other player’s squads, either by yourself with the AI filling in for the rest of your squad or with friends joining you. There is a bit of fun to be had in here in building your team and challenging your friends, but most of your time is likely to be spent playing regular matches with humans rather than fighting AI. Still, it’s inclusion is appreciated for the new modes it offers and for allowing players to fight AI controlled bots at all (something which many other shooters still lack).
Then we have Extinction mode, which is probably my favourite part of the entire package. Extinction is a co-op, class based mode where you fight off an alien invasion in a small Colorado town. It’s similar to the Horde Mode found in Gears of War in that you fight off wave after wave of enemies, but it provides an interesting twist where you have to constantly move from objective to objective and defend them. Different classes provide different buffs to allies, and teamwork is heavily encouraged by forcing players to spawn ammo and explosives for eachother. There’s also a meta game where you level up as you go and unlock newer and more powerful abilities, as well as earning money to buy new weapons and ammo for your allies (similar to how it works in Zombie mode in the Treyarch made CoDs). Extinction is surprising in how good it is, especially when enemies are swarming from all directions and the action becomes frantic as you and 3 other players load up explosive rounds and lay waste to anything that gets too close. I’d go as far as to say it’s a more enjoyable experience than the campaign.
One area not often mentioned for which Infinity Ward should be praised is the interface. It’s smooth, good looking, and most importantly, functional. This is in stark contrast to Black Ops II where important data and unlocks were often buried several menus deep with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Ghosts let’s the interface do it’s job: show information then get out of the way.
Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t attempt to break the billion dollar shaped mold of gaming’s biggest franchise. Whether this is good or not is up to you – a Call of Duty fan is probably going to enjoy it, even if the campaign is a little weak, while someone not already invested into the series isn’t going to find anything they can latch on to.
*Activision provided Slimgamer.com with a copy of the game for review