The (2nd) biggest game of the year hit store shelves last Tuesday and Activision was nice enough to send us a review copy for the Xbox 360. We already have our Xbox One version on pre-order, so it was nice of them to hook us up with the 360 version so we didn’t have to bother with the upgrade deal, or wait until after the 22nd to get our review up. I’ve spent the last week blazing through the single player campaign (on veteran of course) and giving the different multiplayer modes a try. Infinity Ward has done a good job of changing things up enough to where the game feels like a new game, yet keeping enough things the same that it still feels like a Call of Duty game. This makes me happy since they’ve basically been sleepwalking through their last few versions of the game with Modern Warfare 2 and 3. So with that being said, let’s jump into my thoughts on the single player campaign first.
Single Player Campaign
I always play the Call of Duty campaigns on the hardest difficulty level I can, mainly because I like the challenge, but also because the other difficulty levels are a joke. The logical thing to do would have been to play through the campaign on the easiest level so that I could get this review up in a reasonable amount of time, but I don’t usually do the logical thing. I started the campaign Tuesday evening once the multiplayer servers went down. I managed to get about an hour or so into it when my wife came home and I had to shut it off. Thankfully I knew she was going out Friday so I’d have time to sit down with it again.
The campaign starts off in space… yes, space. A group of terrorists have boarded the space station ODIN. ODIN was designed as a defense space station loaded with missiles and rockets ready to strike at a moments notice. So naturally when a group of terrorists get a hold of the controls and launches the missiles at targets in the United States, all hell breaks loose. The country is turned into a wasteland and apparently the only ones that can save it are a pair of brothers and their father… and the GHOSTS.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but expect some twists and turns typical of the Call of Duty franchise; as well as some awful button mashing sequences. I get the point of the cut scenes where you’re required to mash the “X” button, but at least make the instructions a little clearer. Apparently putting the “X” button the screen and making it animated doesn’t tell you enough cause it took me about 4 times to actually get passed on part. I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to mash the button as fast as I could (like most games) or match the speed of the animation. In the end I just got lucky and got passed the part, but it was super annoying having to re-watch the same cutscene 4 times in order to re-attempt the mashing of the “X” button.
Button mashing aside, I thought the campaign was pretty solid. It took me about 6 hours to complete on veteran, which is about typical with the prior installments in the serious. I think Black Ops 2 might have taken me 7, but who’s counting. I do feel like the difficulty, even on veteran mode, got a little easier. I can remember, in previous games, getting stuck at certain points and literally spending 30-45 minutes trying to advance and continue the story; there weren’t any of those instances this time. Not that I was really disappointed by that, since it meant less frustration for me, but I really thought veteran mode would have been a bit more challenging.
Along with the story came a few new gameplay mechanics that I felt were just kind of forced into the story to make things seem different. Let’s start with Riley the dog. I love dogs, so the inclusion of a dog character in the game was very cool, however pointless. There’s only one mission where the dog really comes into play and for the last 3/4’s of the game he’s just not there. Also, the contextual lean feature, where you can peer around corners and shoot, is dumb and pointless. I never used it on purpose, it was always accidental. The Call of Duty series has never had this feature and it’s been fine. I get trying to switch things up a bit and add a little bit more range to the gameplay, but it doesn’t add anything at all. They did add a couple cool levels that I don’t want to divulge, but it was a nice break from the normal run-and-gun style of gameplay that we’re used to.
So while the single player was fun and kept me occupied Friday night, that’s not why people buy the Call of Duty games. Call of Duty has become the goto game for multiplayer fans all over the world since Call of Duty 2 was released for the Xbox 360. I’ve been one of those people that has bought into the hype year after year, skipping work on release day to sit home and level up my character, figure out which guns are best, which load outs to use on certain levels, and more importantly, pwn newbs. Not to toot my own horn here, but I’m a pretty solid player when it comes to Call of Duty… usually. Ghosts has changed things up enough that it’s going to take some practice for me to get back into my groove.
Multiplayer – Classic
This is the multiplayer mode that everyone knows and loves. Ghosts introduced a few new multiplayer modes into the mix, but we’ll get to those in a second. As I said above, there are definitely things that I’m going to have to get used to when it comes to multiplayer in Call of Duty Ghosts. For one, I’ve been playing Black Ops 2 for a year now and have gotten very used to the way that Treyarch does things. So to go back to an Infinity Ward title has a bit of a learning curve. It looks and feels more like Modern Warfare 3, as it should, but I don’t remember having this much trouble when Modern Warfare 3 first came out. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m doing horribly, it’s just I’m not having those 30-5 games yet, but I’m sure they’ll come soon, especially around the holidays.
So obviously a few things have changed with the way the game itself plays, and the mechanics of it all, but there are also changes within the menu system and how you create your characters and load outs. I’m sure you’ve all seen the videos that have been online for a few months already, but I’m going to go through a few of the changes quickly anyways. You no longer “prestige” your character the same way you did in the past. This time around you are building a squad of soldiers. There are 10 soldiers you can customize with different load outs, etc. throughout the game. So each time you max out a soldier’s level, you just move on to the next one and start over. You can always go back and use your maxed out soldier if you so choose, but this way when you “prestige” you don’t lose everything you worked so hard for with that first character. I actually kind of like this idea. And this whole squad thing plays into a new multiplayer mode they introduced called Squads, which we’ll get to shortly.
Along with the new squads in multiplayer, comes a new way to unlock guns and assign perks. Guns and equipment can be unlocked the normal way, by leveling up, or by using squad points. Squad points are earned throughout multiplayer by completing challenges, winning matches, etc. You can use those squad points to unlock guns and equipment well before you reach the required unlock level. So say you start over with a new squad character, but you know you love a certain gun, you can spend squad points and unlock that gun as soon as you want without having to level the character back up. It’s nice because I usually stick with one gun once I find one I like, so having the ability to instantly unlock that gun for other squad members is a real help for me.
Perks are also a little different this time around. For starters, there are a lot more of them, and where Black Ops made it so that perks no longer affected your weapons (attachments did that), Ghosts goes back to the original method, making perks affect you as a soldier and/or your weapon. For example, slight of hand was not a perk in Black Ops 2, but rather an attachment for your gun. In Ghosts it’s back to being a perk. In addition to that, the way perks are assigned to your load out is different as well. You get 8 “perk points”, as we’ll call them, to do with what you choose. Each of the perks has a number value assigned to it. The more powerful, important perks have a higher value and the lesser ones have a lower value. You can select any combination of perks so long as the value doesn’t exceed 8. Meaning you can have 8 perks worth 1 point if you want, or 4 perks worth 2 points… you get the idea. This allows you to really maximize the load outs for certain levels and characters based on maps or game type. The rest of your load out should seem very familiar if you’ve played Modern Warfare 2 or 3. For killstreaks, we’re back to point streaks, so you do get points for capturing domination points, kills, etc., but they are broken out into strike packages just like MW3.
I could go on about the load outs and the weapons, but what’s the point. Everyone is going to find the gun they like and stick with it, so let’s talk maps. The maps in this game are much larger than in previous games. There is a map that’s roughly the size of nuketown, but it’s not nearly as open as nuketown, so not quite as fun. The rest of the maps seem quite large in scale, but jam packed full of obstacles and hiding spots. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because it tends to slow the action down a bit making it feel a little bit like battlefield without the vehicles, it also makes it very easy to corner camp and sneak up on people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned a corner and gotten killed from behind because there are so many ways you can turn the corner. That all comes with learning the maps and figuring out the choke points, so I’m sure there will be less of that in the future. At the same time, I like that there are so many places to go in each of the maps and that things can change throughout the course of a match. Buildings can come tumbling down, gas stations blow up, etc. All these little things change the lines throughout the map making things more interesting. And speaking of that let’s talk about the KEM Strike
The KEM Strike can only be acquired through a care package, as far as I’m aware (maybe 30 kill streak?) and it’s essentially a nuclear bomb; however, it won’t end the game. If you’re team gets the KEM Strike you will stay alive, if the other team gets it, it’ll wipe out everyone until they respawn… and that’s not all it does. The KEM Strike absolutely annihilates the map and changes it completely, at least the map I was on when it happened. The first time it happened to me I had no clue what had happened. Nothing was the same as it was before; the map totally changed… and it’s awesome. It creates a whole new experience on certain maps and I can’t wait to see what it does to others.
Infinity Ward has done a good job changing things up just enough that it doesn’t feel like they just copied Modern Warfare 3, yet left things well enough alone to still make it feel like a Call of Duty game. The menu looks nice, the new HUD is pretty cool, aside from the fact that you have to press start to mute single players, and pressing back doesn’t reveal who is speaking on the mic. I know, minor inconveniences, but they are annoying if you’re used to a certain button doing a certain thing.
Multiplayer – Squads
I’m not going to lie, I don’t get the point of this mode really. I get that in classic multiplayer you are now building this squad of soldiers, but bringing them into AI battles doesn’t really appeal to me. I guess it’s kind of cool that you’re playing against AI versions of other Call of Duty players’ squads, but what’s the point? I guess the horde mode game type might interest some people who want to co-op against waves of enemy AI… but I am not one of those people. Squads has an array of different game modes you can play with your squad, or with friends, but I’m guessing most people are just going to skip this all together and just play the classic multiplayer… or Extinction, which we’ll get to in a minute.
I’ll give Infinity Ward credit for trying to do something interesting and new with Squads, but it’s not really something that people wanted, or thought they wanted. I would have much rather had Spec Ops mode make a return, than Squad Mode.
Multiplayer – Extinction
Infinity Ward had one more secret up their sleeves leading up to the release of Call of Duty Ghosts, and that was Extinction mode. Treyarch has been very successful with their Nazi Zombie mode in their last few installments in the franchise, but Infinity Ward has never brought that style of gameplay into their versions until now. Extinction is the exact opposite of zombie mode in that it’s aliens instead of, well, zombies. You and your friends fight to rid the world of alien hives that have attached themselves to the ground as they spew out angry aliens. It’s similar to zombies in that it’s a semi-round based, survival gameplay, where you have to drill into the hives to destroy them while angry aliens try to stop you.
I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with this mode as I’ve never been one of those people that got excited to play the zombies mode in the last few games, but I did run through a couple rounds on my own. The first thing I have to say is that this mode is a lot more fun with other people; don’t bother playing it on your own. The gameplay is fast and chaotic at times, and the aliens are a nice change of pace from some of the stupid AI in the single player campaign. The aliens make you switch up your strategy as they are jumping around buildings, speeding across the ground, and flying through the air; it brings a whole different dynamic to the game.
I didn’t make it too far into it, but I can definitely see this mode appealing to those people that were die hard fans of the zombie mode in Black Ops 2. Personally this is another one of those modes I won’t be playing very often and probably will never get good at. I’d rather continue to level up my characters in the classic multiplayer, and listen as little kids flip out and tell me they’re going to do inexplicable things to my mother.
So to wrap all of this up, should you buy Call of Duty Ghosts…? If you’re a fan of the series, then absolutely pick this up. There are going to be some things you’ll find annoying at first, but I think you’ll warm up to them. If you’re not a fan of the series, this game isn’t going to change your mind and you should probably just stick to GTA V for now. I’ll continue to play this on the 360 until I get my Xbox One version of it in a couple weeks, at which point I’ll switch over, and thankfully any progress you make in multiplayer on the 360 will transfer over to your player on the Xbox One. So if you’re looking for someone to play with, we’re always looking for new people to play with. Feel free to join our clan, “The MEN Clan”, or just send me a friend request on Xbox Live at xACslater1.
Let us know what you think of the game so far in the comments.