Call of Duty: Ghosts marks the first game to come out of Infinity Ward since 2011’s lacking release of Modern Warfare 3 and the mass exodus of Infinity Ward founders Jason West, Vince Zampella and 46 other employees. In an alternate reality to the Black Ops story arc, Ghosts focuses on a smaller cast of characters, attempting to push the boundaries of first-person shooter narratives with a heartfelt story of a father and his two sons. And a dog.
Released at the start of a new generation, both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game aren’t a visual showpiece, but do run at a smooth 60fps with the PS3 version stuttering every now and again. The lack of anti-aliasing in the game and lower visual quality of the textures is almost cringe worthy, but the added focus of destruction helps to keep them world from feeling sterile. Considering the focus for millions of players revolves around the games multiplayer experience, a steady frame rate is much appreciated than a high fidelity of visual effects that could bog down the game.
After the credits role and Eminem’s new song begins to play, I’ve come to the conclusion that the campaign in any Call of Duty games can be best compared to a summer blockbuster movie. From the amount of explosions and action sequences I almost expect to see Michael Bay’s name to scroll across the screen every time. For Ghosts, the countries of South America have united to form what is referred to as the Federation. Peace between the surprisingly technologically superior Federation and the United States doesn’t last, as an orbital space station is hijacked and it’s destructive armaments are launched to destroy America’s south west. 10 years later, a wall is constructed separating the two nations, but as history has shown us, walls are never the answer.
Players are put in the role of the younger son Logan, who stays silent throughout the entirety of the narrative. Logan’s older brother Hesh, their proud father Elias and the remaining handful of Ghost soldiers are the primary focus of the narrative. The Federation and their leader, who happens to be a former Ghost, are targeting the Ghosts in an attempt to wipe out the dwindling United States military presence.
Surprisingly the dog, Riley, who garnered plenty of attention after the initial reveal of Ghosts, isn’t really featured throughout the game; only appearing in a few of the missions. You’re able to use him to target enemies when he is following you around, but when you are given direct control over his actions, stealth mechanics kick in forcing you to crawl through foliage and sneak behind barriers to scout ahead for the Ghosts.
In an attempt to match the versatility of the environments in the Battlefield series and the Frostbite engine, Ghosts tries to convey a sense of destruction. Near the start of the game, you are caught in your hometown as it destructed around you, with houses collapsing, streets crumbling and just about everything exploding around you. Other moments has you swimming through shark infested waters and rappelling down the side of a skyscraper.
In general, the multiplayer maps are much larger than those found in the previous games, and it’s not uncommon to spend additional time running around without seeing anyone due to the low player count; limited to 12 players on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. While the maps themselves have gotten larger, the amount of player health appears to have decreased. Already a fast-paced shooter, the multiplayer in Ghosts will surely test your ability to shoot first. Shooting first will almost guarantee a kill. Sorry Greedo.
Instead of creating custom weapon classes, you are given the chance to create different soldiers with varying load outs and customizable appearances. At first you only have access to a single soldier, but you can purchase additional ones using your earned squad points. Infinity Ward’s version of Zombies – Extinction – plays more like Left 4 Dead than anything else. Four players work cooperatively across multi-stage levels against aliens which are much more agile than zombies. Aliens hives must be destroyed by using drills or defending helicopters that will provide assistance.
The other new mode allows for you to experience the traditional Call of Duty multiplayer experience without having to deal with the immaturity that runs rampart online. Squads features different cooperative wave based modes and competitive matches against bots. Using your custom characters, the AI will play with you against other Squads controlled by the AI or another players. I was surprised at how well the AI performed, at times they could be easily mistaken for actual players.
Upgrading to the next-generation versions of the game (PlayStation 4 or Xbox One) is a breeze thanks to Activision’s upgrade system. Through both digital and retail locations you are able to upgrade a PS3 and Xbox 360 copy of the game for an additional $10. Since multiplayer stats are tied to your Call of Duty account, all of your progress will carry over.
As someone that doesn’t spend an exorbitant amount of time in Call of Duty multiplayer, Ghosts feels like a weekend rental at best. If you are one of the millions that play the multiplayer daily, Ghosts provides plenty of entertainment in the alien based Extinction mode and the new Squads mode. The rest of the multiplayer plays like Call of Duty, fans of the multiplayer will know exactly what I mean. I do have my concerns as specific existing game modes are missing, but the inclusion of dedicated servers should alleviate most of the issues with lag.Note: Call of Duty: Ghosts was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game provided by the publisher.