Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts—known to some as the OTHER modern military shooter—is out, and we got quite a bit of time with it. What’s special this time around is a supposed new game engine that works well on both the current gen as well as next-gen systems. We didn’t get to try it out on either of them. Instead, we took what should be the most superior version of the game (if logic is to be followed) out for a spin—the PC version.
A major annoyance managed to pop up right off the bat—the massive 30GB download. After the initial wave of annoyance owing to my woeful internet connection subsided, I got a bit excited, thinking that this would truly be the next-gen version of CoD that both Infinity Ward and Activision had been talking about. Sadly enough, that’s not entirely true. After starting up the game and playing the single player campaign for a couple of hours, another wave of anger hit me: why does the game have such high hardware requirements? Where are my 6 gigs of RAM being used? What is in the 30GB I downloaded? Infinity Ward even goes as far as to assume that it knows what's best for gamers: there's a complete lack of any way to change the field of vision in the game, and it is locked at 60. While it was fine for me, I still prefer to have at least 85-90 degrees of FoV, and playing Ghosts makes me feel like I have tunnel vision.
I can feel the next-gen graphics oozing all over the place
Well, it sure as hell isn’t in the textures. I played the game with every setting (save for Anti-Aliasing) cranked up to the max on 1080p, and the game doesn’t look that much better than Black Ops 2 did. Sure, there are some minor extras here and there, like some tessellation effects and enhanced particles. Overall, however, the high system requirements feel quite unreasonable. Even worse was the fact that there were moments where my computer was brought down to its knees. For a game that looks like this, my reasonably powerful rig shouldn’t be facing much of an issue, especially when I was able to play the vastly better looking Battlefield 4 without so much as a hiccup (save for a couple of bugs here and there).
Moving on… the single player campaign is nowhere nearly as good as Infinity Ward’s previous outing—Modern Warfare 3. It’s a very American story told through an American point of view where anyone or anything that isn’t American gets painted as the villain. As the story goes, some unspecified catastrophe wiped out the entirety of the Middle East, which in turn gave South America a monopoly on the world’s oil supply. The continent decided to merge together to form an alliance called the Federation, which was at an uneasy peace with the US. Eventually, the Federation got bored and decided to add the US to its empire.
Once again, there is an over-reliance on setpieces
Players take on the role of Logan who, with his brother Hesh, joins the remnant of the US army which is commanded by his father. As for the titular Ghosts, they’re supposed to be an elite taskforce, reminiscent of the SAS from the first Modern Warfare or Task Force 141 from Modern Warfare 2. Logan and Hesh eventually become a part of the Ghosts unit as they undertake a bunch of missions all over the Americas. The missions themselves aren’t that good either, owing to the series’ ever-growing reliance on larger-than-life setpieces that would make Michael Bay want to retire from the movie industry. The game uses some incredibly cheap tropes to get you to sympathise with its characters, such as making you related to your CO and partner. This still falls flat in some supposedly dramatic moments, and the much-hyped dog—Riley—ends up getting the best characterisation in the entire campaign.
Ghosts eschews all of the innovative things Black Ops 2 did, such as the branching storyline and mission structure. Instead, it opts for a much more linear path. Owing to it doing away with Black Ops 2’s pseudo-sci-fi setting, Ghosts is much more boring to play. Sadly enough, even when compared to other modern military shooters, Ghosts’ single player campaign is pretty bad, and nowhere near the awesomeness of the original Modern Warfare or Bad Company 2. Use of setpieces doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing, as was proven by Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Sadly enough, Ghosts does little in terms of originality, and one of the setpieces was straight out lifted from The Dark Knight Rises.
The Call of Duty franchise, however, is much more popular for its multiplayer, so that’s what I’ll talk about now. If you’ve played the multiplayer for any game in the series since Modern Warfare 2, you’ll know exactly what to expect: close-quarters-focused maps with short 6-on-6 fights and a reliance on snowballing and killstreaks. Sadly enough, Infinity Ward is still stuck in some backwards world where a server list is supposedly a bad thing, and so you’re forced to queue up for multiplayer games with random people you don’t know.
Luckily, Ghosts does retain one awesome thing Black Ops 2 brought to the table—the Pick 10 system. It is, however, a highly modified version of the system, where not only the weight of every equipment slot is different, but also the weight of equipment itself. For example, opting to not use a tactical grenade in your loadout will let you get an extra 1-slot perk. Ditching a primary weapon altogether will let you use a 3-slot perk. This isn’t communicated very well in the UI and we mostly figured it out using trial and error. Despite this, however, I think that it’s a damn good system, and I hope Treyarch evolves it even further next year. Also worth noting is that players can now pick female soldiers in multiplayer. While it doesn't add anything to the gameplay, it's still quite a progressive move: kudos to Infinity Ward for that.
Stonehaven is a great map
The maps are great. The one reason I disliked Black Ops 2 maps were because they had a simplistic three-route-layout in narrow corridors, which didn’t leave much room for tactically sneaking in behind enemy lines. Infinity Ward remedied this with some great maps that not only have a number of ways through them, but also with a varying amount of verticality. This not only encourages better teamwork where everyone has to look out for their fellow player, but also an element of stealth. The map line-up is great, with personal favourites including Sovereign, Freight, Stonehaven and Octane.
Game modes feature the return of essentially every one we’ve seen since Modern Warfare along with a couple of new ones, including Cranked, Blitz, Hunted and Search and Rescue. Of these, I found Search and Rescue to be the least fun, and found myself queuing for Hunted, if I wasn’t already queuing up for a match of Domination or Kill Confirmed. The other major multiplayer mode is Extinction, which is Infinity Ward’s own take on Treyarch’s popular Zombies co-op mode. It’s essentially the same, except instead of zombies, you’re fighting aliens. Games of Extinction were hard to come by, and my attempts to try them out solo didn’t end well. It still has quite a bit of potential, especially because of the not-taking-itself-seriously “plot”.
Multiplayer is the same as every other Call of Duty game
Sound design has been pulled off about as well as you would expect Call of Duty to, with some of my major gripes following from earlier games, like guns essentially sounding like toys and the clichéd and boring orchestral score. The ending credits, in a bizarre example of cross-marketing, plays Eminem’s recent single Survival. I’m not exactly sure what the overlap in consumer bases is here, but it’s still a decent song and I didn’t want to kill myself after listening to it. A new gripe I have in this game is the fact that with some of the missions being in space, complete with characters wearing space suits, not only were guns usable (which, correct me if I’m wrong, but should be unusable), but you could also hear the sound of gunshots.
Ghosts also lacks a lot of the great features we saw in Black Ops 2, such as the ability to stream to Twitch from right out of the game. Overall, except for the modified Pick 10 system and multiplayer maps, it seems like a giant step back for the franchise, especially after the awesomeness of Black Ops 2—both in single player and multiplayer. To that end, our verdict sits at buy either Black Ops 2 or Battlefield 4 (despite me giving it a less-than-favourable review) instead of Ghosts. The story isn’t very good and the multiplayer is more-or-less the same, barring the more epic Battlefield 4 multiplayer. Despite boasting high production values, the game needs an unnecessarily beefy rig to play it, an unjustifiably large download, and overall does nothing to justify its hefty Rs 3,899 price tag.
Platforms: PC (tested), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
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