Activision hasn’t skipped a beat with the launch of the PlayStation 4. Their flagship franchise looks better than it ever has on the new console. Depending on where you sit with the additions and subtractions to the modes, weapons, and maps in the annual shooter, Call of Duty: Ghosts is yet again a solid outing from Infinty Ward. The native 1080p action on the PS4 is an eye-opener as to what console players have been missing out on for the last few years. While the visuals and effects aren’t quite the leap that we’ve seen from games like Battlefield 4 and Killzone: Shadowfall on the new hardware, it’s a sharper more colorful experience in both the single player campaign and online modes.
The small bouts of frame rate choppiness on the PlayStation 4 is almost worthwhile considering how much better the game looks. Instantly noticeable, visuals are sharper, the maps more colorful, and this definitely improves all facets of the many game modes in Ghosts. But the improvements to the game really are only cosmetic when it comes to this version.
Those who have been playing Call of Duty on the PS3 over the years, will get a nice lift from the better DualShock 4 Controller as well. The new controller is just better suited for shooters, and Call of Duty is a great showcase for reiterating this point. Without a doubt, it makes the game more enjoyable right away. There are a couple of other benefits to the next-gen version of Ghosts. Player counts are higher for some of the game modes in the PlayStation 4 version of the game. There’s the inclusion of the traditional Ground War playlist. But these are things we’ve seen on the old consoles for years, it’s not exactly ground breaking. While it’s pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who picked up the PS3 version of the game and then later purchased a PS4 with the $10 upgrade path, Ghosts isn’t exactly the best showcase for what’s possible on the new console from a technical standpoint.
Call of Duty: Ghosts across all platforms is something old, and something new. While it’s easy to discern that this game is built on core pillars of gameplay that haven’t changed much since 2008, there’s a lot of welcome changes into the many game modes in this shooter.
Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer
Year-in and year-out, millions of players log-in and play Call of Duty on a daily basis. While the game has always been fun for both the competitive shooter player and weekend warrior, Call of Duty: Ghosts continues their tradition of a gentle learning curve for new players. It also helps these new players along with new game modes, and a completely separate affair that allows for AI squad-based gameplay. The lion’s share of value is to be found in Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer, and it quite literally has something for every taste.
The Next Gen of Multiplayer
On the PlayStation 4, multiplayer in Call of Duty: Ghosts will be entirely familiar for those who played the game on either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. It’s also the part of the game that gets hurt the most by frame rate issues on the console. Some choppiness in the online multiplayer has been persistent during the launch of the PS4, and it’s really unclear if this is something that’s going to be fixed in the future, or just a fact of life for Call of Duty Ghosts players on the PS4. If it ends up being something that sticks around, it’s too bad for the game. The improvement in fidelity is nice, but the choppiness that crops up now and again, takes some of the enjoyment out of the game’s most popular mode.
But on the PS4 there are bigger player counts. Ground War lobbies open the game up to bigger encounters, raising the players allowed from 12 to 18. While nice to add on next-gen consoles, this isn’t exactly a next-gen feature. Call of Duty players have had Ground War modes with higher player counts for year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but they mysteriously vanished on those consoles in the game’s debut. Unfortunately, Infinity Ward didn’t save any new content for the next-gen game. All of the same changes, maps, modes, and weapons that were released with Ghosts on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are found in the PS4 version.
Communication is also an issue that’s not to be overlooked on the PlayStation 4. While the PlayStation 4 Party Chat is probably the best system to communicate with friends on the console, the native lobbies and chat functionality in Ghosts is odd. Perhaps its the included headset microphone or the people that are using PlayStation Eye, but there is a ton of background noise going on in the Call of Duty: Ghosts lobbies on the PS4. Online shooters haven’t exactly been the bastion for great conversation, but I found myself muting entire lobbies due to issues in being able to isolate specific heavy breather culprits, echos, and other annoying communications coming over the headset. Infinity Ward doesn’t make it any easier, either. With no option to mute all players in the lobby itself, you’ll just have to deal with the problem until you get into a game. Once in a game you can mute everyone pretty easily, but if you are looking to isolate a specific user, they also make the discovery of this person a hassle. While the HUD should tell you who is talking, it doesn’t always work, especially for constant background noise.
But in-game, things are very familiar. The new field orders mechanic puts an element of meta game into Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer. One player will carry around a briefcase with the field orders in it. If the player that is carrying the orders can accomplish the task that the field orders give, they’ll be rewarded with a power-up that is dropped in through a care package. These field order challenges range from the very easy (get a single kill), to moderately difficult (get a kill while in the air), but all are definitely doable. The stakes are higher when the field orders are in your hands, especially as the rewards can be very beneficial to you or your team. If you die while carrying them, a blue glowing briefcase will be noted on the map, and the next player to pick them up will have the opportunity to earn a reward.
Speaking of picking up things, there’s a new sliding mechanic in Ghosts that allows for quick movement through small spaces. This sliding move is performed similarly to how the dolphin dive was used in previous games, and comes in handy when picking up enemy tags or the field orders. It can provide for narrow escapes from explosive devices, or give you some breathing room if running from any enemy.
Old hands at Call of Duty will slide right into Ghosts. It’s really not that much of a change from Black Ops 2, but aside from the progression and customization features, its more like Modern Warfare 3. The familiar game modes are back, and some new ones as well. Legacy Modes include Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy (which was recently added via a game update), Kill Confirmed, Domination, Infected, and Free-for-all in the standard lobbies. In Hardcore Mode, there are three options: Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, and Search and Rescue.
A few new modes make their debut in Ghosts, and they are welcome additions. Cranked, playable only in standard mode right now, is a new type of game that ratchets up the speed of the already fast paced shooter. The objective in Cranked is to get kills, as in a Team Deathmatch. The catch is that when you do kill other players you get extra abilities, and earn more points for successive takedowns. If you don’t kill another player within 30 seconds, you die. It’s as hectic as it sounds. This is a game mode for the run-and-gun player. For those that are comfortable with the speed of a free-for-all mode, this one’s for you. The other new mode in Call of Duty: Ghosts is Blitz. This is a new objective based mode. In Blitz, each team has an objective zone at their base. Entering into the other team’s zone scores points for you team. Since a lot of Call of Duty players dig the pace of the shooter, Cranked is probably a keeper. I’m not quite sure if Blitz will be met with the same enthusiasm. Right now, both of these modes are only available in the standard playlist, but if Ghosts is anything like previous games in the series, we could see some major playlist changes as the game matures.
Progression and XP are tied to your Squad in Call of Duty: Ghosts. While “Squads” is a mode in itself in this year’s game, it carries over to multiplayer as well. Your squad can be unlocked with Squad Points to include up to 10 members, and these members can be customized in any way you see fit. It’s the game’s new prestige system of sorts. Each squad member can Prestige once. Ten squad members in all, gives you ten levels of Prestige. Players can choose names, gender, faces, headgear, and other features to differentiate them from others members. Creating a new squad member, you’ll set this new character’s general ability from a series of pre-set classes. These are Assault, CQB, Covert Ops, Heavy Gunner, and Marksman. Each default class gives you a set of tools to work with right away that will fit that playstyle. Perks, weapons, and streaks are all different for these starting classes. If you never want to fiddle with the customization and purchasing of new weapons and equipment, these default loadouts could suit you just the same.
While Infinity Ward and Treyarch make different games, it appears that they have come to an agreement on the loudouts system for Call of Duty. It’s all about player choice, and you’ve got the power to cook up just about any type of loadout you can imagine. All primary and secondary weapons, lethal, and tactical grenades are unlocked from the very beginning of the progression system, but must be purchased with Squad Points. As you play multiplayer, you’ll earn these Squad Points and can spend them on a variety of weapons, equipment, perks, streaks, and other items in-game. While perks are awarded as you earn rank, they can also be unlocked early by paying with these points.
Included in your loadout are your Strike Packages. Like Modern Warfare 3, there are three options to choose from. You can opt for either an Assault, Support, or Specialist class. The Assault Class offers killstreaks that depend solely on how many kills you can rack up in a single life. Hardest to get, these streak rewards are the most powerful, and include things like Attack Helicopters, Juggernaut, and the devastating Loki Strike. The Support Class, on the other hand, offers perks that will help your team as a whole. Easier to get, because they don’t rely on you staying alive to earn, these streak rewards include things like bullet-proof vests, radar, and other perks that have a less devastating effect on the field of play and can be picked up or used by your team. The third class, the Specialist Class, allows you to pick additional perks that will be added to your soldier as you rack up points. Up to 11 perks can be earned in the Specialist class, making you a formidable opponent if you can upgrade your character fully. The system is nearly identical to what was seen in Modern Warfare 3, the last Call of Duty game by Infinity Ward. This part of the game is familiar territory, and the only thing that has changed is in the actual streaks themselves. There are some newcomers added to the list, but for the most part, the functionality of most legacy streaks is still there. The big changes are in the UAV systems and incorporation of the Attack Dog as a low level streak items. UAVs are now placed on the ground, and players will need to hunt these down on foot, instead of just plucking them out of the sky with launchers. Attack Dogs are also going to be seen frequently in Ghosts Multiplayer. These are low level kill streak that are easy to earn. They guard you in close proximity, and will take down enemies looking to creep up on you.
Call of Duty: Ghosts Multiplayer features fourteen new maps, and a wide variety of level designs. There’s a good mixture of small and large maps, but on the whole, maps feel larger. Some of them include events that can be triggered that change the landscape of the maps entirely, to the extent of which we’ve never seen in a Call of Duty game before. It’s not quite as impressive as what we’ve recently seen from DICE in Battlefield 4, but if anything, it seems that Activision can feel the other shooter series breathing down their neck. Something is left to be desired from the aesthetic of Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer maps. Dull is a word that comes to mind, despite the minor destructible elements, many of the fourteen maps feel samey, due to their general theme of modern war-torn America featuring locales from the Ghosts single player campaign.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is once again the everyman’s online shooter. It’s still fun to play, hyper-competitive, and built on a solid foundation. If you’ve come to love Call of Duty over the years, this game delivers what you are accustomed to. If you’ve been put off by it in the past, competitive multiplayer in Ghosts probably isn’t going to reel you back in. Fans of this mode will also see some of the same problems in multiplayer that the game has faced over the last few years. Spawn Points are still a mess. The ever changing nature of them has you spawning in front of players for instant deaths, often. The intermittent lag that started cropping up in Modern Warfare 3 has returned, and yes, you still can get shot seconds after rounding a corner.
Infinity Ward introduces a couple of brand new modes in Ghosts. The first of which is Squads. Squads has you outfitting a group of ten soldiers to take into battle in numerous scenarios. These soldiers can be customized with all of the perks and equipment from Call of Duty multiplayer, and then used across a variety of game modes within the Squads Mode, or taken into competitive multiplayer to be used in matches.
Within the Squads Mode, there are a few different game modes to choose from. You can take your squad into an online match called Squad vs. Squad that pits them against other squads in a 1 vs. 1 battle. You control one of the squad members, while the other soldiers on your team are controlled by the AI. They utilize the perks and equipment that you outfit them with, and the bots aren’t half bad at emulating an online match that is filled with human opposition. Game modes from competitive multiplayer can be found in Squads Mode, you can change your default to Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Search and Rescue, Blitz, or Cranked. The computer controlled bots will attack objectives and fight off the enemies on their own.
Other modes include an HQ Assault and a Survival Mode which has you holding down points on the map as wave after wave of AI Infected enemies attack. The most interesting thing about Squads Mode is that it gives players a chance to earn points and perfect their ultimate loadouts, without facing the competition of the traditional human opponents. The bot modes are probably going to be a hit or miss feature for Call of Duty fans who have been playing the game for years, but it definitely shakes things up. On other hand, the survival mode that has you battling the infected AI enemies is a great co-op mode, and it’s one of the two cooperative additions to Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Cooperative play is nothing new to the Call of Duty series. Black Ops fans have had their fill of the Zombies Mode that Treyarch introduced back with Call of Duty: World at War. It’s popularity is undoubted, and probably prompted Infinity Ward to introduce this new “Extinction” Mode. Best described as a cross between Treyarch’s Zombies Mode and the Horde game that was found in Epic Games’ Gears of War 3, this new mode has you battling aliens in Call of Duty for the first time.
Extinction Mode is a faster paced game than Zombies fans are used to, but it does offer a lot of the same core gameplay mechanics. Earning currency for kills, players must defend areas as alien enemies attack. The more aliens you kill, the more money you have to purchase supplies, weapons, and other powerups to help you progress further into the mode. While it forgoes the wave based mechanic that Zombies employs, it functions similarly in that you have to hold out specific positions while alien hives are taken down one by one. Extinction gets pretty hectic, pretty quick. By Hive 10, you’ll be swarmed with various types of aliens, attacking you with projectiles and up close and personal attacks.
If just for its rapid pace, Extinction Mode is the addition that the Modern Warfare arm of the Call of Duty series has been needing for years.
Call of Duty: Ghosts Single Player
Call of Duty: Ghosts’ single player campaign is probably the biggest benefactor of the graphics upgrade found on the PS4 version of the game. It takes what was already a pretty good looking game, and makes it a lot easier on the eyes. Does that instantly make Ghosts a campaign that you should play through again if you’ve already been there and done that? No, not really. But it is a significant upgrade, and a nice looking campaign with plenty of those big trademark Call of Duty moments.
Single player campaign is a separate entity. It is not in the Modern Warfare and Black Ops timelines. It doesn’t have any of the familiar characters from the series’ previous games. After making my way through the 7 hour-ish campaign, it’s clear that this is a whole new branch in the franchise, set to span sequels of its own. This new branch in the series introduces us to a new cast of characters, one which has a Federation Army hell bent on taking down the United States.
And while the story isn’t familiar, it does have some of the characteristics of previous Call of Duty single player games. It’s short and sweet, and filled with explosions. It’s the video game equivalent of a summer blockbuster action film, and Infinity Ward has no problem delivering their grand, sometimes ludicrous brand of story telling. But they don’t take any real chances either. Unlike some of the design choices in Black Ops 2, which introduced an interesting branching storyline and mode that had you commanding fleets of soldiers and vehicles, Ghosts stays close to home, shuffling players between shooting galleries and tried and true action sequences for the campaign’s entirety.
What is new to Ghosts in single player is of low impact. The campaign takes the fight both into space, and sea. Low gravity shooting galleries make up a nice portion of the game’s campaign, and are a change of pace from the normal environments. These settings are something that hasn’t been tried before, and the results are OK. If not for these sequences breaking up some of the monotony, Ghosts would wear out its welcome pretty early on. The formula is pretty straight forward. Fight through shooting galleries, and your reward will be commanding a powerful weapon. Whether that be taking command of planes in a massive bombing run, or just mowing down enemies in a helicopter turret sequence, you’ll have ample opportunity to thoroughly discover all the weapon types of the game.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is all about spectacle over substance. It offers up bigger than life scenarios, and puts you front and center in the theater of carnage. It’s once again a passable campaign, that’s just the right length to keep you from getting terribly bored by its end. It’s not gonna win any Game of the Year awards for its story telling, but it tells a good enough story to keep you interested. It also adds color to the many maps of multiplayer, as most are lifted straight from the single player story.
Despite leaving the Black Ops and Modern Warfare names behind, this is not a huge departure from what those games are. In fact, Infinity Ward takes all of best parts of this generation’s previous offerings and crams them back into Call of Duty: Ghosts, while also leaving some features on the cutting room floor. The solid foundation for multiplayer and single player isn’t going to disappoint Call of Duty fans, but it’s also not going to surprise them with anything revolutionary. If you’ve been playing previous Call of Duty games, you’ve been down this path before. The PlayStation 4 version is a near carbon copy of its sibling on the PS3. For those that will be satisfied with more of the same from Call of Duty: Ghosts with slightly better visuals, Ghosts won’t likely disappoint you. For those that the game hasn’t left behind over the years, Ghosts is the most complete game in the series. Multiplayer is still rock-solid, aside from the ocassional frame rate hiccup on the PS4. There are numerous cooperative modes to tackle with friends. And the progression system is by far the deepest that we’ve seen in the course of the series. Single player mileage will vary, but there’s no arguing that Infinity Ward puts on a show with their latest campaign. Expect more from Call of Duty: Ghosts in the future, this is the first chapter of the next-generation of Call of Duty games.