Another year, another Call of Duty. 2013 brings us Call of Duty: Ghosts, developed by Infinity Ward. As is tradition, the game focuses on an elite group of soldiers who, as you might have guessed, are called the Ghosts. This is a brand new story, but does it do anything to make itself stand out?
What Is It?
Call of Duty: Ghosts presents some similar situations we’ve seen in the franchise. In Ghosts’ pseudo-alternate universe, the Middle East has been ravaged by nuclear warfare. This allows South American oil producing countries to become the new global superpower called The Federation. The United States is left in a very vulnerable position; vulnerable enough to be severely attacked and occupied. The Ghosts focus on crossing enemy lines to weaken Federation efforts.
I found it easy to forget what’s really going on. Previous Call of Duty storylines were able to grab and maintain my attention. Ghosts had a tendency to lose me because of oddly paced story jumps At times, your antagonist is The Federation as a whole. But personal issues within your squad sway the direction towards Rorke, who is part of The Federation but is a different type of threat to the Ghosts. I couldn’t fight the feeling that elements of an elite team wearing “cool” skull masks and a war dog companion were trying to compensate for a mediocre story. That said, the end does provide some glimpses into what could turn into a more interesting sequel.
You’re primarily in the shoes of Logan Walker, another silent Call of Duty hero. However, the silent, faceless element doesn’t completely work this time, as you’re supposed to be a squad mate’s brother and your dad is in charge of your operation. Generally in a first person shooter, you want the gamer to identify and become the protagonist. The brother element takes that away. You do have some limited time in other roles, and the lack of identity there is fine. As Logan, it’s odd. Not that I expected to see Ghosts take a very different approach and bring in third person elements or cutscenes. But considering the emotion and dialogue that was put into the game, I would have liked to see Logan have some more interaction.
Why Should I Care?
Thankfully, how the game is played offers some compensation. This also bleeds over into an unsurprisingly strong multiplayer offering.
Ghosts’ campaign gameplay is varied. Occasionally you will encounter simple waves of enemies, but not quite as often or as monotonously as before. You’ll be controlling tanks, rappelling down skyscrapers and participating in space and sea shoot outs. For whatever reason, you’ll also be sliding down inclines a lot. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just oddly noticeable. This will carry over into multiplayer, where it tends to be a more useful tactic. So in the gameplay respect, the campaign is solid. But the setting itself in terms of the story just isn’t entirely engaging.
The setting graphically, though? Incredible. There is a vast amount of detail in the world. Your squad mates look great, especially your dog Riley. The action creates a very beautiful disaster of scenes. You’ll be encountering crumbling buildings, scenic vistas and other such things that you can appreciate while you aren’t getting shot at. This also applies to multiplayer, as one bonus map, Free Fall, is actually a skyscraper that’s falling apart during your battle. One of the more impressive campaign level designs takes place in a wonderfully laid out baseball stadium. Granted, as a baseball fan, this may have stuck out to me regardless. However, you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the details reached in here. You’ll make your way throughout parts of the stadium and see the fine details, such as concession stands, underground batting cages and the like. Things like that are just one example of how much detail goes into the physical world of Ghosts.
Call of Duty’s true treats lie in a slew of new multiplayer options. The biggest addition is the Squads mode. It’s a mix of live and AI multiplayer. You build out a squad using the new in-game currency, squad points (also applicable for your general multiplayer use). Your default squad consists of AI soldiers, but you can invite friends into your squad and go head-to-head against others. It can be more casual than your typical game types. As one who doesn’t take my Call of Duty gaming to extremely serious levels, I see myself putting in a lot of time into Squads.
Other enhancements serve the multiplayer element well. As mentioned, you generate squad points as in-game currency to unlock new weapons, perks and other options. This will potentially allow you access to weapons at an earlier rate, as you don’t need to be a certain overall level. Though, many items, weapons and perks alike, can be costly, so don’t necessarily expect to get all the good stuff all too quickly.
These customization items go into building a soldier rather than a class, hence the change from Create A Class to Create A Soldier. The game clearly wants you to build out somebody you can truly see as yourself within the game. It even goes so far as to allow you to select a female character to work from and change your character and squad names. It’s simple, but it was nice to have my Danger Zone squad running around with that name.
Newer game types in multiplayer breath some solid life into Call of Duty as well. Blitz is a Capture The Flag variant, but has a football-like mentality because the point is to touch your opponent’s goal. Cranked is one of the more intriguing offerings. You have unlimited time to earn your first kill in a streak, but once you do, you have 30 seconds to kill again before you die. During whatever kill streak you put together, you’ll have increased speed and strength. It can be fun, but won’t necessarily be for all. Zombies will not make an appearance here, though. What you’ll get instead is aliens in Extinction, which I found to be more interesting than any of the previous zombie offerings.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
While I can’t fully get behind the campaign offerings, there are enjoyable elements and Ghosts’ multiplayer aspect more than compensates for anything the campaign lacks. So should you pick this up, the campaign can be played at a leisurely pace on the side. I would need to recommend heading straight for the multiplayer and especially Squads for the more casual of Call of Duty players. Call of Duty: Ghosts is a fine effort, but I’ll be more interested in the full package of any upcoming sequel we’ll likely see in a couple years.