|Call of Duty: Ghosts|
|Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-12, co-op 2-6
Call of Duty Ghosts is so clearly aimed at the multiplayer market now that if, as I did, you foolishly want to start out by playing the solo campaign the game actually messes you about; insert the “Game Disc” and you’ll be told you have to insert disc 2 and install the game. Then select ‘Campaign’ and the game tells you have to re-insert the game disc! Aye Caramba! Given that sort of treatment at the start I wasn’t expecting much from Ghosts’ story mode. How wrong I was.
In the campaign you mostly play as Logan Walker, usually accompanied by his brother Hesh in an unexpectedly family-centric story that includes their Dad Elias, now a retired soldier but a man so institutionalised by the US military that his head is the same shape as the Pentagon. Anyway, I’ll come back to the look of the game a bit later, now back to the plot; suddenly a normal family day at the Walker home is shattered as there’s a violent attack by an incredibly powerful and unknown enemy weapon. Next comes a thrilling, if short, sequence in space, fighting your way to and through the international space station and in orbit with the Odin orbital weapon platform. Astronaut Baker disables Odin and then it’s back to terra firma with Logan. It’s a great high-tempo almost Bond movie-like start to the game, and the pace seldom drops for long.
I mentioned Elias’ pentagonal head earlier and this slightly disappointing look to the character models seems like a couple of backward steps from previous CoDs to me, and extends to much of the scenery, structures, vehicle detail and various effects throughout the game like flames, smoke and explosions. As smooth as it is (and it really does run like a greasy weasel), the game engine is really looking its age now, and even the Xbox One and PS4 versions don’t really look like a truly “next gen” game. Ghosts plays as smoothly as CoD games always have but when darting for cover I found that my character’s sprint distance is still pitifully short; around 25 paces maximum depending on the setting, but hey, it used to be only about 10 before your character wheezed his back to walking pace. The running animation is also still unintentionally amusing, your character’s arms pump in a wildly over-the-top way for the speed at which you’re travelling (if you’ve ever tried running in the shallow end of a swimming pool you’ll know what it feels like) and it looks like a lot of effort for little gain. On the good side you can now hold ‘B’ (the crouch button) when sprinting to slide into cover, a game mechanic I think I first saw in Bulletstorm, it works really well, looks really cool and should be in every first person shooter.
I poo-poo’d the idea as a silly gimmick when I first heard of it but Riley the German Shepard dog is probably the best new feature in the game. With default controls you press ‘X’ on Xbox (‘Square’ on PlayStation) to sync with him and thanks to a camera strapped to his harness you get his point of view on your in-game tablet. You then basically see the action from his point of view, and can then make him go wherever you want. You can press the left shoulder button to make him attack an enemy and can make him bark, possibly luring a previously concealed enemy into suitable spot for an ambush or even into Hesh’s field of view so he can take him out. The only problems I had with Riley were that when controlling him his “sprint” doesn’t seem to work consistently, and also like seemingly every other AI squaddie I’ve ever played with he likes to push me around, sometimes even pushing me out of cover! Merrick & Keegan are more traditional human squad mates who, along with your Bro Hesh, do a pretty good job of making you feel like you have some backup along the way.
Ghosts’ campaign throws a few more new gadgets and toys your way too; starting with a remote .50 cal sniper turret. Naturally there’s no need to hold your breath or steady the sight, so you can guess how much fun that is! Later you’ll be controlling drone strikes and A-10 attacks and ripping tanks apart from high altitude, and even flying an Apache attack helicopter or driving an M1 Abrams main battle tank (admittedly with extremely simplified controls and physics compared to Battlefield 3 and 4). The game possibly reaches its highest point (pun intended) with a couple of shootouts in outer space, which may sound naff but trust me, these missions look fantastic and were over too soon.
Ghosts’ solo campaign is one of the longest in recent years, and one of the more interesting too, it does a great job of portraying the potentially devastating power of orbital satellite weapons, and the importance of having “boots on the ground” too. Some rather strangely styled (it’s as if the graphic artists from Metal Gear Solid, Sin City and Transformers had too much cheese for supper then collaborated on Ghosts’ cinematic style) cut-scenes fill in the story. There are collectible ‘Rorke Files’ stored on various laptops to search for which add some replayability to a very, very playable campaign story mode.
Okay, so let’s just get to the facts about Ghosts’ multiplayer mode. There are some new perks in categories such as Speed, Handling, Stealth, Awareness, Resistance, Equipment and Elite, things like Marathon (unlimited sprint), Quickdraw (faster aiming, Extra Tactical (additional equipment), Fully Loaded (start with maximum ammo capacity) and Fully Loaded (carry two primary weapons!) There’s also the usual gamut of weapons and the ability to mix and match attachments (sights, barrel type, underbarrel attachment type and ammo mod.)
‘Create a Soldier’ offers more customisation than ever before, and the choice of being a female soldier for the first time—it was bound to come. In the vanilla game there are 14 varied maps, some seem a lot more interesting than others and importantly offer varied options for tactics and loadouts. Game modes include a nice mix of basic PvP, team play and objective-based gameplay and include; Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, Domination (capture designated positions), Kill Confirmed (recover dog tags to score and deny enemy kills), Search and Rescue (take turns defending and trying to destroy an objective), Grind (recover dog tags and return them to the objective marker), Blitz (enter the enemy team’s objective zone to score), Cranked (kills give you extra perks), Infected (eliminated survivors become infected, infect the others or survive to win) and Hunted (fight for control of weapon drops to gain superiority.) There are a few new features like Field Orders (bonus cases like get a kill with a picked-up weapon, a melee kill or 2 kills while crouched.) All in all this is yet another highly-polished multiplayer game that is sure to have a massive following and just as many doubters and critics. It does nothing radically new, rights a few wrongs from past games and gives us a good selection of new maps… and you’ve almost certainly already made your mind up as to whether Ghosts is more your cup of tea than MW2 or 3 or Black Ops 1 or 2 - enough said.
Extinction is an all-new online co-operative multiplayer mode for up to 4 players taking on waves of aliens (yes I said aliens!) instead of zombies. The gameplay might seem old hat for COD veterans who will find it plays in a similar way to the previous Zombie modes, but this shouldn’t be considered any sort of criticism at all. You can choose to go public 1 to 4 players or solo and custom matches (you can allow up to 3 other players to join in play once you have started). You start at level 1 and have a starting loadout, a class loadout, pistol loadout and 4 abilities loadouts for your player.
The class system has 4 for you to choose from; Weapon Specialist, Tank, Engineer or Medic which will determine your role and play style in the game.
Then you’ll want to choose your:
As always you start at level 1 advancing to 30, once you cap out you will automatically prestige and there are 5 prestige levels which each give you a relic you can use. These will only show on your loadout once you hit first prestige. Loadouts can only be changed when you start a new game. The patches and backgrounds you can get from completions in Extinction are a nice bonus; these can be found in the Ghosts multiplayer loadout system.
Now the basics are out the way, Point of Contact is the first map available with other maps coming with DLC releases. If you have just got the game you will need to play the online multiplayer for a little while, 10 to 15 minutes, at which point Extinction will unlock. Point of Contact is also an introduction to a new threat to our Ghost team; The Feds have torn the fabric of the planet to pieces using their Odin Satellite weapon, thus allowing an alien threat to surface from the depths of planet Earth. Ghost team are sent to find out what is going on and to remove the hellish threat that’s consuming the planet.
When the game starts up you find a heli with an NPC telling you that something is up and you will need more intel. Then you are instructed that you need to use a drill and place it on the hive which is represented by an orange icon in front of an alien type pulsating flower. Once the drill is placed, screeches can be heard and you are introduced to your first alien (a scout which looks very slick and quite creepy.) The weapon of choice for your player will be default pistol and you will have a blade to melee with.
From the start you get challenges, i.e. “don’t take any damage till hive is complete”. Some challenges can be completed before the hive is finished, at which point you will be informed that you have a point to spend, as well as being awarded another point on completion. These points are used to improve the loadouts that you set up at the start of a game, and more points equals more upgrades. Once you receive a point you can use it whilst the drill is running; I found this handy as this can improve your loadout drops both for yourself and the team. Once drilling is completed you will find you can progress forward into the map. You will find a housed area and three more orange drill icons highlighting which area to go to, there is no set way of completing the hives, it’s all down to your choice. As you explore you will find electric traps and fire traps which will have a monetary cost. Cash is earned by killing aliens (in the same way as zombie kills earn cash in previous CoD games) and your loadouts come at a price too, and it’s worth being aware that there is a maximum amount of cash you can hold. Crates are strewn around the map which can be searched for money, gun mods and other items (flares, spec ammo, trophy system, grenades etc.)
Each hive completed will increase the level of threat from the aliens and introduce a more fearsome alien species. Once all hives are completed you will have a barrier to breach. This does not, as I initially expected, use the drill and instead you will have a support helicopter shooting at the barrier. Your job will be to protect the heli and be introduced to an acid spitting alien (a nice scorpion-like creature of fluorescent yellow) which will spit at the heli as well as cover areas on the ground. These acid puddles will hurt you in a very violent manner so beware! (Aliens: Colonial Marines veterans will be familiar with this hazard.) If the heli takes too much damage, it will bug out for a time so you will be dealing with waves of aliens whilst it repairs before returning. When the barrier is complete a dollar sign will appear on it and it’s recommended that you spend some of your accrued cash and call in a drop for team support items. You now progress forward to a new area on the map, heading into the city and repeat the same as you did in area 1. Weapons and other items are again strewn around, and a feature of the game is that uncollected search items can be revisited any time.
As you’d expect the aliens in the second area are more aggressive than the first and a new alien type will be introduced at the final barrier which makes the game much harder. On completion of the second area you should have a good understanding of what to expect and how your loadouts work. Without giving too much away there are a total of 14 hives and 3 parts to the map; there are several different species of alien and the Point of Contact map has an ending which requires an exciting escape. There are about 10 achievements for Extinction and challenges on your multiplayer patches and backgrounds (i.e. escape 10 times and so on.)
Whilst playing I never saw lag, the graphics are impressive and the gameplay is perfect for all levels of player skill from newbies to veterans, as well as being a good challenge for co-op groups for hours and hours of fun. Extinction is a perfect replacement for the Zombies modes and I, like thousands of others, am salivating for the DLC map packs which will be available for Extinction in forthcoming months.
So then, what we have yet again from Infinity Ward is another quality package, one that doesn’t re-write the text book or set any new benchmarks, but does without doubt supply a cracking solo campaign, a slick, accessible and playable multiplayer mode and in Extinction what is quite possibly the most exciting and addictive 2-4 player co-operative mode around at the moment. If you haven’t been a fan of the Call of Duty franchise in the past then Ghosts, with its huge variation in play styles might just be the one to change your mind, and if you’ve hungrily gobbled up all the others then get your chompers ready for a whole lot more.
- Thrilling solo campaign story.
- It’s still the most accessible and playable multiplayer FPS, the one all the others have to beat.
- Extinction brings a thrilling new co-op mode to the CoD table.
- Fully customise your soldier, or your soldieress.
- Graphics are as smooth as ever, but the character models look basic at best (check out Elias’s penta-head.)
- Doesn’t do anything radically new.