The lights are on
Since 2007, when I first saw glimpses of Call of Duty 4 at E3, I knew this series would be something special. All through high school and into my college career my group of friends and myself would eagerly await November for the next installment in the series and new online adventures. And every year we would have to step back and have an ope mind about the game we were playing. Some days we would enjoy it, some days we wouldn't. But in the end, we would be able to say that the game was solid despite some inherent flaws that held it from our gold standard of the first Modern Warfare. Black Ops 2 thoroughly tested our patience and it pains me to say Ghosts completely smashed it.
He's totally getting ready to assassinate how I feel about Call of Duty.
With Battlefield 4 already out and the new console looming, I decided to play tester and pick up Ghosts alone and test the waters to report back to everyone else. I should have just stayed home. Overall, is Ghosts an unplayable mess? Not at all. Is it sad and heartbreaking for fans of a simpler time? Most likely.
Let's start with the overall concept, Infinity Ward has had a thing for bringing the war to the homefront the past couple games. Modern Warfare 3 was one of the better "war-in-America" shooters of the latter half of the 360's run and IW seemed to want to keep the motif going for the gen's last product from them. Again, the US is attacked, having our own ODIN satellite weapons system used against us and ravaging the country into a stalemate war. You and your brother are part of the resistance who become recruited by the elite Ghosts squad that your father used to tell you about around the campfire. And guess who leads the current group? No spoilers here, just cheesy one liners from bad Van Damme movies. And don't forget one of your main villains, a former Ghost he left to die once upon a time.
On to the campaign as a whole. Many CoD players aren'y buying the game for the story. Despite this, Infinity Ward and Treyarch have done exceptionally decent in the past making compelling stories with memorable characters and just plain unforgettable "oh-***" moments. From the final pass of Cpt. Price's gun in Modern Warfare to the Reznov reveal in Black Ops, both companies can keep a largely multiplayer audience entertained. This time around, I feel like they fell drastically short. The beginning scenes, which I don't want to give too much of away, were visually and spatially entertaining enough just to watch but it quickly fell flat. In six years, nothing about the combat has changed. Which, if it ain't broke don't fix it, but when the AI becomes increasingly predictable like carnival shooting game ducks on a track, maybe spice it up. I will come completely clean and say I could not stomach the entire campaign, which I'm sure the end has some great moments eventually. From the half that I did take in, it was littered with pretty stale almost rail-like character movement, braindead AI, and some of the downright most cheesy and predictable storytelling and dialogue that I've seen from a FPS in a long time.
Riley is an entertaining addition during the scenes where you control him. Revolutionary? Not quite.
For many, the online experience in Call of Duty is the cornerstone that will be the foundation of your gaming for likely the majority of the year. It has seen some drastic changes through the years. Abandoning the 3-5-7 killstreak system, pro perks, and more weapons and attachments than one person knows what to do with. For what Ghosts brought to the table as far as multiplayer innovations, I salute them. I have always been a fan of the 3-5-7 because to me, keeping that system simple is what makes the game flow. Anything more and you'll never see a UAV again because someone thinks they can get the nuke. Simple things like that tend to ruin the flow for me. Ghosts wouldn't dare resurrect that now archaic practice, but they did flatten out the edges and cut the fat from killstreaks. We now see maybe 2/3 of the MW3 list and none that will have you hearing "Wow, that's so OP" in your headset. The major change being the UAV equivalent is now a ground placed dish. You don't realize how exposed you are shooting down a UAV until you see the difference between destroying the two. Small change, big difference. On the first night, the dog was giving me some problems, but from what I observed a couple days later, he tended to stay by the players side more and not go completely crazy and chase down everyone on the map.
The newly envisioned perk system is what I found most interesting. Every perk and their subsequent pro perk seemed to be split and made separate. Putting it simply, there's a ton of perks to choose from. But unlike past games, you don't pick one from every color and weigh your pros and cons. Each perk has a number value 1-5. You can have as many or as little as you choose, staying under the cap limit. So you can have a couple of the lower value perks, or spend big and have a 5 and maybe one more low value. Such a lengthy system, you'll have to put some time into it yourself to get your bearings. For me, I thought the Gambler perk was fun to use, giving you a random perk every time you spawned. Sometimes you'd win, sometimes it wouldn't matter and most times you just plain forgot what they gave you.
One of my favorite new additions, slightly hurt by giving you their equivalent of UAV Jammer right away.
As far as unlocks go, the only thing I noticed that was unlocked by good old fashioned level progression was the perks. Each one had its own level that would unlock it for free. That being said, anything in the game can be unlocked at any time for the in game currency they call "Squad Points" this time around. Very similar to the CoD points from the past Black Ops games. I understand this is a great way to keep the every fleeting gamer attention, but I do yearn for the days of grinding to 43 all night to unlock Triple Frag.
Now for the online play itself. Aesthetically, it looks a lot like MW3 and BO2. Graphics never seem to be a problem for the Call of Duty series and fans are generally happy. The first thing I noticed was my characters movement. It just did not feel fluid. It felt like he was wearing the Brotherhood of Steel armor from the Fallout series. Compared to the feel of MW3, it seemed extremely slow and clunky. This, paired with the problem I had with the last Black Ops led to a very frustrating start and that is the maps. Looking at overheads from previous games, maps were generally very open, even ones indoors had enough open areas to where you weren't pivoting around a wall every three seconds and meeting someones knife. As with the killstreak debacle in MW2 with their infamous nuke and reward kill chaining, the best intentions lead to the worst outcomes. I can appreciate Infinity Ward trying to compete with Battlefield and DICE's "levelution" in their games and try and make maps more dynamic. But when your entire series has been based off of and preaches fast faced action, decreasing the diameter of the maps and making them five stories tall makes it a death trap for anyone still trying to play that way.
One of the new features added was a long awaited response from Infinity Ward to the popular zombies mode that Treyarch struck gold with. Extinction is the closest we've come to a rebuttal. Sure, Spec Ops was fun but only for some bragging rights. The main premise is like zombies, only aliens. On a deeper level, you guard a drill taking out alien hives while waves of them come for your group. Just like we know, kills get you currency and traps and upgrades use it. One of the more refreshing things to see was the options it gave you. It didn't really have a perk system, rather droppable upgrades such as ammo, timed perks and ground turrets. Leveling up gave you the option to upgrade each of these and when used strategically could save the whole group. A big hit to the fun I was having was the fact you can only carry one gun with your pistol. Meaning you can never drop your pistol for anything better as far as I could tell. Was it a zombie killer as far as entertainment goes? Absolutely not but neither was the Black Ops versions. Was it fun? Of course, except a similar experience to the zombies if you play with friends.
Totally not zombies. They are much faster.
It's hard to be impartial when writing a review for a series and game so close to who you are as a gamer. But when it comes to simply how much fun a game was and the facts behind why you just didn't enjoy it, things like frequent multiplayer frustrations about rat cage sized maps and broken spawns (I got stabbed in the back off a spawn I kid you not three times in a row) need to be said.
All in all, Ghosts could be a great game or the worst thing in a long time depending on who is playing it. If you know you are like me and prefer the older versions, those servers are still up. You can still play them. That was the realization that I came to about trading it in anyway. But if you enjoyed Black Ops 2 and many of the more recent things brought to the Call of Duty table, I have to say you should give it a try. Would I ever try it again? Probably. And will I try the next one? Absolutely because no matter how frustrated I get with one for a time, in a true Cleveland sports fan attitude, there's always next year.
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