Infinity Ward launches a brand new Call of Duty franchise that brings all the usual explosive campaign moments and in-your-face multiplayer with it.
Call of Duty has, since its first days on the PC when it went head-to-head with Medal of Honor, been an absolute beast of a game. It sells in huge numbers and is loved by millions around the globe- not to mention looked forward to feverishly with launches that have almost become as big as the yearly releases of EA’s Madden franchise.
There’s just something about the series that’s incredibly attractive to gamers. Even taking a cursory look at it, it’s probably not hard to see why it’s become the fan-favorite that it has though. Call of Duty has some of the biggest, most over-ther-top single-player campaigns in gaming paired with some of the most competitive and brutal multiplayer communities around. Package both those things together and you get a winning proposition at both ends of the first-person shooter spectrum.
This year’s release sees a brand new IP dawn with Ghosts, which has shaken things up more than a little with a fan-base that was probably looking for another CoD with the Modern Warfare label attached. Developer Infinity Ward has become pretty well known for the MW titles after all and it would have been excessively easy to just slide out another Call of Duty based in that universe. What we got instead is Ghosts, and it’s a whole new animal.
In the world of Ghosts, a massive South American Federation has allied the nations south of the border in the Americas. Rich with oil and with a taste for power, the Fed moves on the US by turning one of America’s own space-based weapons platforms against it. ODIN, as its called, is then used to devastate the southwestern United States and usher in a shift of power that begins to change the world stage in ways that it can probably never recover from. In true Call of Duty fashion, these opening scenes are played out spectacularly as you’ll go from fighting in space itself to struggling to cross a San Diego that’s rapidly becoming a war zone.
And that’s where you’re introduced (formally) to the Ghosts. The Ghosts are a highly-trained military force unlike any other- think every special forces group in the US military all balled into one team to rule them all and you’ve got the idea. The Ghosts evac your character, Logan Walker as well as his brother Hesh from their family home and then jumps forward to years after that event with Logan and Hesh as members of the military. It ins;t too long though, till they’re under the direct command of their father Elias, himself a retired Army Captain and Ghost. From there, you’ll fight your way through gigantic set piece after gigantic set piece, as you battle to push back the Federation and take down a Ghost gone rogue by the name of Rourke.
If you’ve ever played a Call of Duty title, then you know pretty much what to expect from the storyline. This is big, Michael Bay type stuff with explosions, tense moments a-plenty and tons and tons of action. You’ll be fighting along with NPC’s pretty much the entire game and the plot has a nice exciting pace to it that never really lets up. At no time during play was I ever bored by anything and the missions varied just enough to keep Ghosts spicy and engaging. Oh, and yes- there is a dog. Riley is actually quite useful a number of times in the campaign, but really isn’t the major play element that I thought he was going to be. Not that I’m complaining about that by the way, I kind of thought Riley was going to be somewhat gimmicky and I’m glad to have been wrong in that regard.
The campaign, and the multiplayer for that matter, are things of beauty too thanks to an absolutely gorgeous graphics engine. Call of Duty: Ghosts is easily one of the best looking games I’ve seen this year on any platform and is a great way to kick off the FPS genre on the Xbox One. There were several moments during the campaign that scored pretty high on the ‘wow’ meter.
Some of the landscapes were beautiful enough all by themselves, but Infinity Ward went all out on the earth-shattering blasts that leveled huge parts of several stages throughout the game. This also might be the most varied Call of Duty title in history as you’ll fight in space, on land (in the snow, in cities and in the jungle) and under the sea. All of it looks startlingly good at times with a silky smooth frame-rate that keeps up with the action shot-for-shot.
The vocal work added a lot too with some excellent voice-work by Brandon Routh as Hesh, Stephen Lange as Elias and Kevin Gage as the villainous Rourke. Across the boards, it’s good stuff, and that actually leads me into one of the biggest issues I had with the game’s audio presentation- Logan is a silent protagonist.
I am no fan of the silent hero in any game. I was even annoyed that Gordon Freeman continued to have no voice-work done for him throughout the Half Life series, and you know if it bothered me about a game as good as Half Life 2 it’s a serious issue I have. Ghosts has such an excellent cast, who all do a terrific job in their roles, that I can’t imagine why Infinity Ward wouldn’t have written some lines for the guy that you pay as.
Sure I understand that you’re seeing the world of Ghosts through Logan’s eyes and nothing’s supposed to interrupt that, but I want to be playing as a badass and not a silent dude with no personality who’s brother is way cooler than he is. If the ending of Ghosts is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing way more of Logan in the future, hopefully with vocal chords next time around.
Quickly touching on the controls now, this is pretty much Call of Duty in that department. If you’ve played any of the bigger FPS’ in the past decade then you already know what to expect. I will say that Ghosts does a great job with it and the controls are spot-on with no issues of any major type.And now, the multiplayer. Almost a completely separate game unto itself, Ghosts’ multiplayer is a thing of beauty for gamers who may not be the sharpest in the multiplay arena. That’s not to say that there’s not the usual amounts of competitive multiplay in Ghosts as Call of Duty players would demand, but it’s also built for novices to dive into and get their feet wet before being blasted to pieces by more skilled gamers online.
The squads mode allows you to build up a squad of actual players or bots (or a mix of the two) and take them into combat against foes online or other bots and that’s the real innovation here. Sure bots are no match for ‘real people’, but it gives those who aren’t die-hards a way to play against enemies in the game’s multiplayer maps and see what’s what and just how multiplayer works. I’m not a big multiplayer guy myself and haven’t played a multiplayer shooter in any real way since Halo 2, so I really enjoyed Squads in a big way. It’s also nice to win a few rounds now and then instead of just getting hammered over and over again.
Ghosts’ multiplayer doesn’t stop there though. You’ll also be able to customize your character and even assign gender (a first for the series) and load outs that include attack dogs (another first). You won’t find Ghosts’ multiplayer features to be a reinvention of the wheel, but instead a nice streamlining and fine-tuning of the delicate instruments that go into the vehicle itself. Oh, and the Extinction mode (alien invasion) is pretty neat too and plays a bit like the popular horde mode from Gears of War crossed with the Zombies modes from Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles. If you liked either of those, then you’ll more likely than not have fun with this too.
Overall I have to say I was surprised by Call of Duty: Ghosts. I haven’t played a game in the franchise with any subtitle in a while and I really liked what Infinity Ward has done to shake up what I had thought to be a somewhat dull military shooter.
If you like single-player action, there’s plenty here for you to enjoy between the campaign and the Squads mode. If you like multiplayer, well, this is Call of Duty, odds are that you’ll be thrilled with what Infinity Ward and Activision has brought to the table for this go-around. And if you’ve gone next-gen, Ghosts is a fine way to break in that new console.
Personal quibbles aside (like the silent protag), this one’s a keeper. Here’s to hoping that these spirits don’t vanish into the ether because I’m primed for a little more paranormal activity in the future.