Xbox 360
Worth a Look
3 stars
List Price
$59.99
Amazon
$20.99 (65%)
3rd Party
Too low to display
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
3 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
2.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
3.5 Stars
Replay Factor
4.5 Stars
Bonus Content
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

Call Of Duty: Ghosts

Street Date:
November 5th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
November 17th, 2013
Game Release Year:
2013
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Activision
Developer:
Infinity Ward
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Editor's Notes

Version reviewed is for the Xbox 360. The game is available on no less than six platforms.

Introduction

Activision and about three separate development studios are back at it again, reinvigorating your addiction, and looking to build on a half decade of shooter eminence. With three 'Modern Warfares' and two 'Black Ops' out of the way, 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' has been billed as an all-new storyline and setting, featuring an apocalyptic landscape, against-the-odds numbers and everyone's favorite new mascot, the 'Call of Duty' Dog. Along with the traditional story campaign and meat-and-potatoes multiplayer, are some interesting new modes like Extinction and Squads. Of course, with so much new content, there is a danger of alienating the fan base, but if past installments are any indication, that danger is something of a nonfactor. Out for every platform under the sun, 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' has a lot of goals to accomplish and a ravenous audience to appease.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

So here I am, shooting my friends in the face, and all I can think about is tonight's dinner. 'Call of Duty: Ghosts,' is the next 'Call of Duty.' In and of itself, there's very little surprise, save one special mode that deserves its own digital release, and for every fan of the franchise out there: you're going to buy this game or you're not. That decision has very little to with the iterative changes they've made.

That's not because there aren't any changes or those changes aren't significant. Rather, every little refinement to the multiplayer, which, let's be honest, accounts for about 95 percent of the reason someone might buy a 'Call of Duty' title, is geared exactly in the direction of veterans and exactly in the opposite direction of the less "hardcore" 'Call of Duty' crowd. If you want to have some shooting fun but don't really consider yourself a 'Call of Duty' enthusiast, then, well, there are about 20 other games that are more accessible and worthy of consideration.

In many ways the game, and we're talking about multiplayer here, has sped up. Most obviously, the damage modeling has been altered in such a way that most guns are going to kill, at medium range, with two to four hits at extremely high fire rate. Sniper rifles are absolute killing machines. Recoil is almost nonexistent. 'Call of Duty' has never been an easy-going experience, it's most divisive factor being the ritualistic competitive nature it encourages in its most adamant fans, but these nuanced augmentations to 'Ghosts' indicate a mandate within Activision that is as clear as it is deflating.

"We have a loyal fan base, don't rock the boat." The flipside of this approach means for me that if I wasn't ready to be dedicated to the previous titles, 'Ghosts' is not a game-changer, which makes it easy to know that this game is not for me.

Maps are, for the most part, a fair bit larger than in past games. Without an increase in player count, this means there's a lot more sprinting around going on with intermittent clashes with one or two opponents in the less objective-stringent modes. Beyond a sometimes uneasy feeling of sparseness, and much like the damage model, these maps encourage the extreme version of past 'Call of Duty' play, where pure reaction time takes precedence over anticipation and those first-person shooter instincts and wariness are paramount to success. Again it's the veteran 'Call of Duty' player that's going to thrive here, propelled by a subtle but meaningful turning of the dial to 11.

A couple standout maps are wonderfully straightforward designs with meaningful chokepoints and intelligent utilization of various modes. Stormfront and Warhawk in particular, both featuring a promising level of symmetry, had me clamoring for the good old days. On the other side of the coin are the pseudo labrinths that feel like laser tag in a hedge maze. My instincts and reaction time are admittedly lesser of that than the average 'Call of Duty' player, so my enjoyment of these frantic sprint-for-alls probably doesn't speak for the majority, but I can't help it. Sweating around every turn is simply no fun.

On the other hand, these maps are supplemented by some fairly interesting new modes which, predictably, encourage fast-paced play over methodical consideration. Cranked, a take on team deathmatch where you're awarded with amped up speed and statistics after getting your first kill but cursed with a 30-second countdown towards your own self destruction, lest you keep the kill streak going, is bound to become a favorite. Zipping through maps in a desperate search for your own survival is admittedly thrilling and it's a great way to acclimate yourself to the increased pace.

Of the other newcomers, Hunted is the only other standout, which sees opposing teams with starter pistols sprinting around the map for weapon drops to gain the competitive edge. The mode is fun, but that enjoyment is more due to a distinct feel than a revolutionary design. All that pressure accumulated from constant sprinting and nervous twitchiness from the other modes dissipated upon realizing how randomized Hunted feels. It felt more like an open-ended free-for-all than serious competition, which was a much welcomed change of pace and had me smiling instead of straining.

Class creation takes a meaningless turn for the worse here, overcomplicating the assignment of perks and eliminating much of that fist-pumping feeling by opening up all weapons at the start of the game, requiring only the expenditure of in-game credits. Yes, you earn these credits by playing multiplayer, but knowing all I had to do to get exactly the gun I wanted with exactly the modification I needed was to sail through a couple of matches as fast as possible was not so satisfying. It felt more like a chore than ever before.

Perks, on the other hand, are unlocked according to level and offer a wider range of customization than before. Less impactful perks fill up a proportionally smaller amount of the perks bar, meaning you can load your class with a bunch of small stuff, like an extra tactical grenade, or you can go with fewer, heavier stuff. Of course, devoted players are going to be searching for the best combos for a while, but without any perks that really felt "new" or particularly suited to 'Ghosts,' the whole system felt a bit contrived. I miss the simplicity of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,' or even the clarity of 'Black Ops II's' pick ten.

But hey, this is 2013, and 'Call of Duty: Ghosts' is still a very playable game. Barrier to entry is, unfortunately, higher than ever, but I don't think that is the priority for Activision. They've a core to maintain. It all feels a bit calculated, but it does the job.

They also have trailers to create for marketing purposes, which is where the single-player campaign comes in. Set ten years in the future, two brothers, Logan and David 'Hesh' Walker, follow their father and his elite squad of Ghosts as they try to rebuild a crumbling United States of America. The Federation, a most certainly evil and destruction-worthy empire, hijacked a superweapon in space called Odin and basically blew up the USA. Cut to ten years later and the jingoism is still strong and thriving, there's that one special bad-guy-who-dies-in-slow-motion-at-the-end-of-the-game, and someone ranking from third-most important to fifth-most-important is going to die in dramatic fashion.

I could wonder aloud about the implications of one superpower turning another superpower's superweapon against its own people, who are themselves quite super, but then I'd be asking way, way too much. The irony of the final mission is palpable.

The set-pieces are larger than ever and a couple of the levels did, in spite of its plot, raise my level of interest from "nil" to "vague." Shooting guns in space at other guys shooting space guns has to count for something, right? It's all very ridiculous. Some levels take the vehicle warfare, in direct competition with 'Battlefield,' to new heights, while others are totally bogged down in point-to-point infantry combat that might as well play itself. All of it is perfectly linear and totally non-tactical.

On the bright side of things is Extinction mode. I love Extinction mode. It should exist as its own game. It never will because Activision hates me. A cooperative team of players carries a drill from hive to hive in 'Left for Dead'-style map, protecting it from aliens as they swarm around you. Aliens. Without its fairly steep pre-play customization system Extinction might simply feel like this game's Zombies mode, but Extinction deserves its own space.

After you've customized your loadout, which includes sentries, ammo-types, various explosives and more, your team of four are plunged into a constant desperation, supporting each other through various means as you make your way through the map. The action ramps up appropriately with new and more dangerous enemy types along the way, all the while you're maintaining balanced spending between ammo, traps, weapons and class-upgrades. With so much cooperation, coordination and actual thought going on, Extinction feels like the game 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' should have been. Squads mode, on the other hand, feels like the actual 'Aliens: Colonial Marines.'

Squads is multiplayer with bots. For all the oddities to the mode - allowing you to assign yourself a team of bots using multiplayer classes, going toe-to-toe with another player's squad, and facing off against a horde-mode style playthrough - it's basically multiplayer with less-interesting opponents. Great for newcomers, but boring for anybody after about an hour. I'm not sure exactly what the development team was going for here, but it's clear that Squads has more to do with mobile devices and yet another leaderboard than with first person shooting.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Having reviewed the Xbox 360 version of the game, one might expect this section of the review to be more predictable than ever. And yet, 'Ghosts' makes some odd alterations to the engine that, frankly, seem designed with next-gen in mind. While environments seem a bit more colorful, those colors are all muted in a way that can only be described as off-putting. While some multiplayer maps take full advantage of the visual twist - Stonehaven is a gorgeous and totally unexpected Scottish vista that actually had me a bit distracted – most of the time you feel like you're in a poor recreation of very old painting.

The same can be said for the single player mode, through Extinction, once again, is a breath of fresh air. With a paranoid and tense atmosphere, the eruptive blood splatter off the aliens and misty stretches of curved pathways really sell the setup in spite of the b movie scifi trappings.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

For the first time in a while 'Call of Duty' has really amped up its audio game. The guns are thunderous in a way that encourages you to keep pulling that trigger. I found myself sticking with certain weapons for far longer than I should because I enjoyed the echoing boom of its discharge. Though 'Battlefield' still reigns supreme here, 'Ghosts' amplifies the audio atmosphere of gunfights and warfare to a thickness that's fairly engrossing.

The voice acting, headlined by 'Superman Returns' Brandon Routh and 'Avatar's' Stephen Lang, is admirable but is lost amid the ridiculous plot and overtly masculine dialogue. Oddly enough, the same could be said for the score.

Replay Factor

It's 'Call of Duty.' If you've played it a million times already, than you're likely to play it a million times more. And if you've only played it a little or none at all, give Extinction mode a go and you might find some enjoyment after all. The campaign is one long trailer.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Certain versions nab you an extra multiplayer map called Free Fall. It features a collapsing building and absolutely nothing compelling from a gameplay standpoint.

Final Thoughts

The 'Call of Duty' franchise is firmly entrenched in a rut, and attempting to find fresh aspects requires a fine-tooth comb. While it can be remarkable to find where some creativity has shown through, it's difficult to escape one conclusion. All of the development might and resources that is poured into each new version reflects a group of highly-skilled, creatively hampered individuals who spend two years at a time playing with dials and adjusting statistics in order to justify delivering the same game over and over again. At $60 a pop, the distinction in a subtitle, like going from 'Modern Warfare' to 'Ghosts' for the non-Call of Duty Elite means just one thing: this one starts with a 'G'. Multiplayer changes are clinical and direct, encouraging the hardest of the hardcore to play hard and score mad kills on all the noobs, while the word newcomer has no place in such an uninviting place. The classic recipe still works. It's still enthralling in spurts, but seems as unchanging as any past glory. The single player retains its status as placeholder trailer-maker, while Extinction is a gem buried under bulletin points that could have come from any of the recent 'Call of Duty' installments.

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

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List Price
$59.99
Amazon
$20.99 (65%)
3rd Party
Too low to display
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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