Call of Duty: Ghosts Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: Activision Developer: Infinity Ward Genre: FPS Players: 1-18 Age Rating: 16+
Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One
The box calls it the best-selling first-person action franchise, but this is an important new entry for the series as the next generation arrives. Does it make good use of current hardware, and how does it compare to the previous best sellers?
The first thing to note is that there are two disks in the box, requiring the player to install disk 2 (taking up 3GB of hard drive space) before the campaign can be started. Multiplayer does not require this install process. Adjusting the brightness and controls before starting is also recommended.
The prologue begins with the story of the Ghosts, before something shocking happens. We are taken back in time 15 minutes to Earth orbit to see what is going on, before time jumps forward ten years. Here Hesh and the player’s character (his brother Logan) are joined by a new ally – Riley, the trained dog who was the centre of much hype in the build-up to release. Abilities and controls are introduced as the battle progresses, with cutscenes and flashbacks advancing the story.
As in previous instalments, the action moves between countries and protagonists to give more variety. The action takes place on and below the water, in mountains and jungle and back into space. When the final twist has happened and the credits roll – accompanied by music from Eminem – there is the additional Extinction mode to play, bringing a different kind of threat and the option to play co-operatively online.
Of course as much of the attention is on the multiplayer modes as the campaign, and here there are several important changes and new ideas. Twelve maps for up to twelve players are complemented by some new modes. Safeguard is the wave-based option, pitting the players against huge odds and giving a brief respite between each wave of the onslaught. Infected returns from Modern Warfare 3 and sees one player become infected, turned into a fast-moving killer out to infect the others. Players must survive as long as possible before being infected for points, or infect the survivors for more points. Hunted adds a new twist to the team deathmatch, giving a limited set of weapons to start with and forcing players to find better guns from the supply crates as they drop. Blitz is most like a sport, with points scored by reaching the opponent’s goal. For a more interesting take, Domination has three zones to capture and defend that creates a nice ebb & flow to the action. A personal favourite is Kill Confirmed, with players picking up dog tags to score points (or deny the opponent). Clan matches offer 4-on-4 combat. The Squads option allows offline play (with and against bots) to help acclimatise new players or hone skills.
For fans of previous games, there is a noticeable change to the way kill streaks are earned. Multiple kills earn basic perks based on the loadout. Field orders (which appear as a blue briefcase dropped by a dead soldier) must be followed to earn a care package, which is deployed by throwing a smoke canister to mark the landing spot. Picking up items from the dropped crate gives extra items – the attack dog, Vulture drones and others, chosen and activated with the D-pad. As the games and the body count rack up, so too do the squad points. These are used to unlock more characters, weapons and perks. The flexibility of the system is in allowing players to customise their loadout to suit how they play or the mode. More points can be earned by completing operations. These are challenges ranging from sprinting a set distance to collecting kills with a certain weapon.
For a game late in this console generation, Ghosts is polished and well put together. Environments are detailed and there are very few glitches. Sound design works well as it adds dynamic music to well-tuned effects. The campaign is bombastic and filled with explosive set-pieces, as well as the cliché and gung-ho attitude that is a staple of the series. The sporadic Quick Time Events feel stilted, even when they lead to a life or death moment. Vehicle sections can feel difficult to control at pace but do add some much-needed variety.
If the campaign could be better handled, there is no doubt that multiplayer is a robust and deep experience. The lobby system is well designed and easy to jump into a match, with joining friends just a button press away. It can be overwhelming for a newcomer, but practice does improve performance. A good crop of Achievements is awarded for playing through the campaign. The rest, including several secret tasks, reward skilful play in the multiplayer games, with the promise of more DLC content made cheaper with the purchase of the Season Pass.
It would be too easy to end the review by saying that if you liked previous games in the series, you will like this one too. The truth is, while there may not be much in the way of innovation Ghosts does present a good overall package of single player campaign and multiplayer experiences. By the autumn of 2014, the next generation of Call of Duty will have to do more to impress.