Like a good sequel should, Call of Duty: Ghosts doesn’t captainqq.netore the formula of fast, fluid gameplay that has made the series famous, but introduces a unique new premise, unprecedented player personalization, and sweeping changes that breathe new life into the multiplayer experience. It’s over-the-top and at times unnecessarily complex, but serves both current and next-generation consoles with ambitious new ideas and tremendous replay value.
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Despite sharing a name with one of Modern Warfare’s best-known characters, Ghosts takes place in an entirely new Call of Duty universe set in the not-too-distant future. In a genre overwrought with antiquated Russian conflicts and ambiguous Middle Eastern terrorist threats, Ghosts takes on a refreshingly unique premise in which the threat comes not from the east, but the south: a federation of oil-rich South American nations rises to take over the hemisphere, pushing north and coming to blows with the U.S.
Those might lack to familiarity, but the variety of environments keeps the campacaptainqq.net fresh, not only in terms of visuals, but in gameplay as well. Instead of just fighting waves of enemies through a linear stage at ground level, you’ll find yourself rappelling down skyscrapers, flying helicopters, having firefights in space, commanding tanks, scuba diving through shipwrecks, playing as a dog, and evading shark attacks. Each requires new strategy, acute situational awareness, and – in the case of the space and water missions – special consideration for verticality and physics.Of course, it wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game without elaborate setpieces, fierce shootouts, and tense stealth missions, and Ghosts delivers some of the most memorable experiences in the series. I felt genuine dread as the ground and buildings collapsed around me during orbital weapons strikes, the zero-gravity spectacle of the Federation’s space station ambush is awe-inspiring, and bursting through a highrise window as the entire building crumbles during the Federation Day mission is exhilarating.
But like previous CoDs, the story of Ghosts struggles to remain in focus amidst the fray of explosive cinematic moments and relentless firefights. Narrated loading sequences with stylized story animations push the campacaptainqq.net forward, but only last for one or two minutes before launching back into the action. It’s there, on the front lines, that much of the plot progression is presented and oftentimes lost.
It's by no means an achievement in dramatic storytelling — it's more about dumb fun — and it lacks the player-choice element introduced with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, but when given time to breathe Ghosts actually offers some interesting human drama. The story centers around two brothers, Logan and Hesh, their father Elias, and yes, their dog Reilly as they fight the Federation as part of the battered remnants of the U.S. military, and later as the elite Ghosts squad. The family ties, specifically the relationship between Logan and Hesh, made me care about the protagonists in a series that's habitually made its characters a dispensable commodity. The voice acting is decent overall, though there are periodic moments of cringe-worthy dialog, like one superfluous moment when Elias reveals he’s a member of the Ghosts. And then there’s Riley. Though the subject of many a meme at this point, Riley not only acts as a useful tool for recon and silently dispatching enemies, but is integral to several dramatic sequences, saving your character on more than one occasion.
The story stumbles in the second act when it strays away from the more evocative character focus in favor of a long stretch of back-to-back missions driven almost exclusively by guns-blazing combat. While not poorly done, this visually arresting, action-packed, but ultimately hollow middle stands in stark contrast to the effective first and final acts. On the bright side, that padded out my play time to roughly 10 hours, making this campacaptainqq.net one of the longest CoD single-player experiences.
Or, in the case of those for whom multiplayer is the primary focus, it handily gets out of the way other than to serve as the inspiration for map environments, equipment, and weapon descaptainqq.net.
Ghosts preserves much of the look and feel of the traditional Call of Duty multiplayer experience, but introduces sweeping changes that make it more personalized, more diverse, and better balanced. At its core lies the expansive new Create a Soldier system, which affords us the ability to create and customize 10 unique characters, each with up to six loadouts, for a total of 60 available classes and 20,000 possible configurations. Create a Soldier also riffs on Black Ops II’s Pick 10 system, allowing you to forego certain equipment in order to outfit a primary weapon with extra attachments or enable extra perks. In all, there are an impressive 39 weapons, 12 pieces of equipment, 35 new perks, 36 scorestreaks spanning three categories, and various weapons attachments to choose from.
Create a Solider is ambitious in its scope, and the sheer breadth of options caters to and empowers every style of play. Whether you want to run around like a high-powered knife-wielding mutant or move stealthily through a map by using heightened senses, you can. But for all of its versatility, Create a Soldier is dauntingly complex next to previous Call of Duty games. Even after hours of matches and experimentation, I felt as though I had only begun to understand the nuances of each of the 35 unique perks and how to optimize my classes for a specific style of play. On the one hand, Create a Soldier’s depth will have enthusiast players honing their perfect loadouts for months, but on the other, it makes for a more challenging entry-level experience.
It's a credit to developer Infinity Ward that even while running around with a maxed-out weapon and the best complimentary perks I could find, at no point did I see a player gain a noticeable advantage. Unlike Black Ops II, which favors lightweight SMGs, Ghosts’ balance encourages you to explore a variety of weapon types. SMGs are considerably less effective, while assault rifles are faster to shoulder and have a reduced impact on speed. A new class of weapons, called marksman rifles, bridges the gap between sniper rifles and assault rifles, providing range and power with greater mobility. Sniper rifles remain largely unaltered with two notable exceptions: new optics that preserve (but blur) your peripheral vision, and aim-assist has been reduced to make obnoxious quick-scoping harder to exploit.
The added emphasis on ranged weapons is paired with considerably larger maps, which greatly outnumber those that feature more traditional tight-quarters descaptainqq.nets in the 15 included battlefields. In deathmatch-style gametypes, teams will often find themselves spread across smaller contingents at different sides of the map, whereas objective modes will draw everybody to certain points. Instead of just funneling players toward enemies via a limited number of paths, Ghosts presents an array of alternative routes, making team play far more effective than traditional run-and-gun strategy – in fact, running around these large maps gets lonely and boring. Traditional lone wolf-style play also throws a wrench in the spawn system, making enemies often appear nearby without warning. Playing in a well-coordinated group is more gratifying than ever, but more casual solo games can be frustrating.
There’s also the much-touted map dynamicism, which disrupts pathways and sightlines using everything from player-triggered gates to a missile strike that turns the environment to a smoldering wasteland. The effect is less impactful and cinematic than Battlefield 4’s crumbling buildings and dams, but with considerably smaller maps and faster-paced gameplay, grander scale or frequency would have been distracting. Instead, the traps and map events are only brief interruptions that can shake things up if one team becomes entrenched, but won’t fundamentally alter the course of a game.
Ghosts multiplayer introduces five brand-new gametypes alongside all of the series staples like Domination and Kill Confirmed, for a total of 13 different modes. Although many of the new modes expand upon existing gametypes, each adds a fresh dynamic. My favorite new addition, Grind, is like Kill Confirmed, except that it requires you to not only collect dog tags from downed enemies, but also deposit them in one of two “banks” on the map before being killed yourself. Another, Cranked, is like Team Deathmatch, but whenever you score a kill, you’re given a 30 seconds to rack up another kill – or else you'll explode. Although they’re simple modifiers, the new gametypes are immensely fun and breathe new life into multiplayer.
Extinction, Ghosts’ new alien invasion mode, is better compared to Valve's Left 4 Dead games than Treyarch’s zombie modes from Black Ops. It's a four-player cooperative mode wherein you fight off monstrous creatures through a miniature campacaptainqq.net set in a large, multi-stage level. Unlike zombies, the aliens are nimble and unpredictable, leaping over objects and scaling walls. It's a tough challenge, and teams must carefully consider their loadouts, special abilities, equipment, and power-up trees to ensure survival, making for an interesting strategic dynamic.
For a more traditional Call of Duty experience, but sheltered from the fierce competitive landscape of multiplayer, there’s Squads: a suite of cooperative modes that offers wave defense (AKA horde mode) and competitive bot matches. In a cool touch, Squads uses your custom characters and classes as the basis for A.I. soldiers that play alongside you to battle other bots or human players. Bot matches are hardly novel for the genre, but the soldiers in Squads are especially notable because of how easy it is to mistake them for human players due to their use of advanced tactics. It's impressive how they move through maps aggressively, and appear to be acutely aware of other players.
Squads is an excellent testing ground, and offers a nice respite from online multiplayer while also contributing to online character progression using the unified Create a Soldier system. Most importantly, the new Call of Duty profile system allows players to carry over their stats, unlocks, and characters created for Squads or multiplayer across generations. If you play on Xbox 360 and visit a friend who owns a Xbox One, your character and all progression is carried over, and comes back home with you.
This is possible, in part, because of cross-generation, cross-platform feature parity. Character customization, maps, dynamic events, weapons, gametypes, and constant 60fps multiplayer framerates are ubiquitous across current- and next-gen platforms. The biggest variations between platforms falls upon visuals and player counts. On the current-gen versions Ghosts looks nearly identical, though I did encounter occasional framerate issues during the single-player campacaptainqq.net on PS3 and PS4, whereas my time with the Xbox One version was stable throughout.
Like Black Ops II, the Wii U version takes advantage of the gamepad to present a secondary display for the in-game map and provide touchscreen shortcuts to custom loadouts. The gamepad’s display can also be used to play without a TV, though it also supports Wii Remotes and the controller. Graphically, the Wii U version is comparable to Xbox 360 and PS3, and overall, runs smoothly. Unsurprisingly, the PC version scales well from low- to high-end machines, and in most cases, looks superior to the next-gen experience.
It’s difficult to appreciate the variation between current-gen and next-gen in TV commercials or a browser window, but up close and personal, the difference is drastic. Whereas the current-gen versions look muddy with blotchy textures, characters, weapon models, and environments are presented in vivid detail on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Call of Duty engine fares surprisingly well on next-gen, but even then Ghosts lacks a lot of the added atmospheric effects and visual panache that makes competing games look so realistic. I’m eager to see what a future Call of Duty looks like when maintaining 60 frames-per-second on current-gen is no longer a concern.
When comparing the PS4 and Xbox One versions side-by-side, there’s little to no variation in textures and effects, but there is a discernible difference in resolution. While both are displayed at 1080p, the Xbox One version upscales the game from 720p resolution. In contrast, the PS4 version runs natively at 1080p, which makes character models, weapons, and environments look noticeably sharper and more detailed. The difference is especially apparent on larger-sized TVs, where pixel density weighs more heavily in picture quality.
It’s certainly going to be a sticking point for those who demand the highest fidelity experience, but the difference is harder to identify in absence of a side-by-side comparison.
Oddly, the Xbox One version makes no use of the haptic feedback motors built into the controller’s triggers, and the DualShock 4’s trackpad is used solely as a button to toggle the in-game scoreboard during multiplayer.
There is, however, one notable exclusion from current-gen. Historically, Call of Duty has limited a majority of its modes to 12 players, but offered an additional playlist that supports 18-player matches known as Ground War. While the larger-scale matches live on with the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, owners of the Xbox 360, Wii U, and PS3 versions are capped at 12 players. It’s a surprising step back for the series, and the larger maps could have benefited from the higher player count.
It should also be noted that my smooth multiplayer experience was hosted on a dedicated server hosted by Activision – and most of yours will be, too. Activision says that all platforms will use a hybrid of dedicated servers and peer-to-peer matchmaking, which should eliminate many of the lag issues we've seen in the past. If all goes well, the days of being tossed into a game hosted by someone 2,000 miles away on a dial-up connection will be behind us.
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Call of Duty: Ghosts isn"t a reinvention of the franchise, but proves there"s still room for innovation within its existing formula. Though at the risk of overcomplicating things at times, its robust multiplayer gameplay, surprisingly fun co-op modes, and lengthy, challenging, and varied campacaptainqq.net makes Ghosts one of the best Call of Duty games to date.