Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Call of Duty - Ghosts (PS3)

Since the series went yearly in 2005, the gaming community has come to expect a new iteration of Call of Duty each holiday season.

Each year it seems like the latest instalment in the series breaks the previous years sales records.  Regardless of sales figures, many gamers feel the series has grown tiresome and stale. In addition to that, Electronic Arts Battlefield series holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers. So, Call of Duty: Ghosts has it's work cut out for itself.

Call of Duty: Ghosts features a new story that no longer follows the characters we've grown to love in Modern Warfare games.  Ghosts is set a decade or so into the future and follows an Elite Team of US Soldiers called "Ghosts" who are involved in a covert war with a group of oil producing South American nations. The South American nations have turned into a global superpower and expanded north occupying central America. America teeters on the brink of collapse and it's up to you and your squadmates to stop this from happening. As new as the story is, game's levels feel at times like a rehash of Modern Warfare 2 and 3.

Last year's COD game (Black Ops 2) offered some great new elements to the game's campaign, giving players the ability to make choices that impacted the game's story and featured some open ended environments.  Unfortunately none of this is present in Ghosts campaign.

In fact, Ghosts campaign feels like a step back for the series and the least enjoyable campaign of the entire series.

Sure the campaign is extremely polished and features the typical "Michael Bay" moments we've seen in past iterations of the game, but the formula just seems to be getting old.

Infinity Ward has attempted to add some new features to the campaign such a trained German Sheppard called Riley who fights alongside you early in the game. The game lets you control Riley at times and attack or spot enemies. Riley is a cool addition, but he feels a little underutilized as he seems almost absent from the second half of the game.

Ghosts offers some new environments in the way of having you fight enemies in space. These levels feel eerily reminiscent to the movie Gravity, but don't really feel all that fresh since the core of the game feels the same. Go from point A to B, shoot and kill enemies, jump into a vehicle mow down some more enemies and rinse and repeat.

Ghosts also introduces a new mode called Squads. Squads is basically the online portion of the game, only with AI controlled bots. The developers stressed that you created soldiers that behave like human-controlled players and they surprisingly do. Squads is a great mode for those who are new to the series or want to learn the intricacies of each map. What's even better is that the you can build your own AI controlled squads and challenge other players squads online.

There are several new multiplayer modes including Blitz, Cranked, Grind and Search and Rescue. Blitz is COD take on football where both teams have an endzone they need to protect and points are scored by running into the opposing teams zone. Blitz is a blast to play as it really encourages teamwork. You need to be protecting your own zone, while scoring on the opposing team. Cranked is a mode inspired by the Jason Statham movie of the same name. Cranked is a team based mode whereby your characters speed and reloading will increase as you keep increasing your killstreak. The only catch is that once you start a killstreak a timer goes off whereby you need to kill a person on the opposing team otherwise your character blows up and dies. Cranked is fun, but it feels like it would have been better suited to a free for all style play rather than a team based mode.

Both Grind and Search and Rescue are variations of Kill Confirmed. Grind sees you collect enemy dog tags and deposit them in team banks around the map. Search and Rescue is a round based map where collecting enemy dog tags will knock them out of the match, while collecting ally dog tags will revive your teammates. Of the new modes introduced to Ghosts, my personal favourites are Blitz and Search and Rescue.

The core multiplayer experience still feels similar to past titles. Most of the changes are to the outer shell of the competitive multiplayer including a new create a soldier system and perk system. You can now create a roster of multiple soldiers, with each having their own customized weapons and combat gear. On top of that, you can level up each character independently of one another. In fact, your created soldiers form the basis of soldiers you'll fight against or with in the Squads mode.

Ghosts' perk system has also undergone some changes as you now have a set number of points to spend on perks. It's up to you on, which perks you want to spend your points on. These changes are terrific as Ghosts offers more freedom over how you would like to customize not only your characters loadout, but appearance as well.

Unfortunately, Spec Ops Mode, which had been a staple of the past two Modern Warfare games, does not return. Instead a new mode called Extinction takes its place. Extinction is similar in some respects to Treyarch's Zombies mode. You play cooperatively with up to four players and fight waves and waves of aliens. Extinction has its fun moments, but if felt quite repetitive to me. I was always a big fan of Spec Ops Mode, since the game would throw you into so many different types of cooperative situations.

The visuals are really starting to show their age. The character and environments look bland up close and the only moments of beauty are found in the game's explosions and lighting effects. The audio on the other hand sounds amazing. The guns have such a sense of power that you would swear you are standing in the middle of a real gunfight.

After loving the campaign in Black Ops 2, the single player in Ghosts feels like a step back for the series. The campaign felt tiresome, familiar, predictable and linear. The multiplayer on the other hand, saves the day as the tweaks to the gameplay and the new games modes make this the best multiplayer COD experience to date.

- Sidd Masand

The Good:
- So much content packed onto one disc.
- Squads and new multiplayer modes still make COD one of the best multiplayer experiences around

The Bad:
- Campaign feels stale and a step backwards for the series
- Visuals look spotty in certain areas
- No Spec Ops Mode

Score: 8.0 / 10

Note: Activision provided a copy of the game to review.