Review: Call of Duty Ghosts (Xbox One)
Another year, another revival of one of last generation’s most profitable game franchises: Call of Duty: Ghosts comes with a slew of promises to entice a potentially trigger-tired legion of gamers.
The first of which is the epic new storyline that forgoes any sense of realism the previous titles in the Call of Duty series might’ve had going for them. A group of ruffians have somehow managed to take over a space station where they have gained access to — and fired — a massive, world-ending weapon.
The games’ story takes place in this post-apocalyptic world. A large group of rebels from the American South have formed to overthrow whatever lingering thread of government remains. It’s a sub-plot straight out of the pages of J.J Abram’s Revolution, complete with on-again off-again besties who are now leaders of the opposing forces.
The story is not something most will play Call of Duty: Ghosts and that’s a shame, purely for the fact that the developers don’t really try anymore. It’s common knowledge that the solo mode is not the main reason to buy any Call of Duty game, so innovation goes out the window.
As does any sense of freedom. Call of Duty: Ghosts is predictably but agonisingly, disappointingly linear. Lost in a jungle? Don’t worry, you can’t go off a set track. Swimming through a flooded city? Not down that street, you’re not. Even the mission where you’re in space — the big black, the endless nothingness — where your space station is destroyed and nothing separates you from the huge vacuum that is the universe, the game makes sure you cannot put a foot wrong. Float about 10cm off a predefined path and you’re dead.
Clearly, the game isn’t designed with massive open worlds in mind, but some exploration would go a long way. When you’re going through mission after mission, the linear nature of the game becomes mind numbing. Enemies are set in pre-defined areas, there’s only one path to go down. Even the dog — new to the series — is remote controlled! I mean that literally, by the way.
Perhaps the only ounce of freedom one has during the story missions is figuring out which weapon to use, then only if an enemy drops something different to what you’re already using. And just when you think the game is throwing something awesome in your face in the guise of an dramatic action sequence, all time stands still as a flashing ‘X’ appears mid screen. Quick Time Events are a relic from the PlayStation 2 days and I am disappointed that in the year 2013 a headlining, “AAA” title will fallback on this ridiculous “gameplay” mechanic. There are some games that use them well, Square-Enix’s Tomb Raider comes to mind, but Call of Duty: Ghosts uses them in the cheapest most insulting way possible.
For all the disappointment of the solo campaign, Call of Duty: Ghosts wont be losing any points for presentation. The game looks beautiful, if a little safe and border-line boring in this “dime-a-dozen” world of first person shooters. The Xbox One hardware means we can have more shiny particles and better lighting which I won’t say adds to anything in terms of realism but sure looks pretty. For the frame rate junkie, the game is silky smooth at 60FPS even in online multiplayer where most the action will take place.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is predictably but agonisingly, disappointingly linear.
Call of Duty: Ghosts does introduce a lot more varied environments over its predecessors such as the previously mentioned space levels, scuba diving sections and actually piloting (sort-of) a helicopter. The problem is that the game doesn’t embrace these new situations. Space and scuba sections are frightfully linear and while there’s the ability to worry about things like 360 degree physics, you wont find much threat floating above you. Enemies tend to appear in the logical, “straight-forward” position. These new sections look great, but they don’t add anything in terms of strategy or new ways to play.
Multiplayer has been refreshed with a new ‘Create a Soldier’ system which gives players the ability to customise one of ten characters (including a g-g-g-girl!) each with up to six load outs, sixty available classes and some 20,000 configurations in total. Players will no doubt love the huge amount of customisation options at their disposal, it’s unlikely you’ll be pitted against a similar character to your own on the battlefield.
Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer is a much more balanced experience than previous titles. Sure, campers and their sniper rifles are still the norm, but when it comes to close quarters, one-on-one dogfights it’s nice to know that even at their most powerful, you foe is no more advantageous that you are at yours. There are a total of 13 multiplayer modes on offer which features both old favourites and a mixed bag of new modes.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is at heart a multiplayer experience. So much so that one needs to wonder at this point why Activision doesn’t launch it as a service, similar to games like World of Warcraft rather than release yearly updates. That way, we can forego the ridiculous story mode and focus on the fun and frantic multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is a technically sophisticated title with pretty graphics and nice performance but I fear this has come at the expense of a fun, rewarding and complete experience. When we’re paying up to AU$100 for a game, it’s not okay to simply say “single player isn’t really important anyway”.
That said, the multiplayer is the most complete and best Call of Duty experience so far with lots of game modes and thousands of customisation options at your disposal.