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Call of Duty: Ghosts PS4 Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Image © Activision
When will the “Call of Duty” franchise stop treading water? I don’t necessarily mean that to sound as critical as it probably does but I don’t even think the most hardcore fans of this franchise or those who make these games would argue that they’re pushing their genre forward or breaking the patterns they’ve helped define. The best games of 2013 – “The Last of Us,” “Bioshock Infinite,” “Tomb Raider,” “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” – took what those in their genre did before them and advanced it down the field. There’s never been a survival game quite like “The Last of Us.” There’s never been a pirate game quiet like “Black Flag.” Even on the PS4, even with next-gen graphics, “Call of Duty: Ghosts” feels familiar. It feels like something you’ve played before (possibly even as recently as “Battlefield 4,” a superior game in multiplayer offering for sure) even if it’s undeniably a smash hit, already selling millions of copies around the world. My concern is that the “CoD” franchise has reached a point of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They’re coasting on their success instead of pushing the envelope. At the same time, “Ghosts” is a ridiculously entertaining game, especially in its single-player campaign. I enjoy the multiplayer offering here and it’s notably more customizable than in past years but it’s the single-player that surprises and beats out recent games like “Spec Ops: The Line,” “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” and, yes, even “Battlefield 4” for entertainment value. Of course, one could successfully argue that when you have the biggest franchise in the world that’s not named “Grand Theft Auto,” why would you do much to risk falling off that pedestal?

Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Infinity Ward
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Pros: Deep Multiplayer, Great Graphics, Intense Gameplay
  • Cons: Thin Storytelling, Repetitive Action

Gameplay

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Image © Activision

I think most of us who saw those early commercials for “Ghosts” with Megan Fox, in which a group of guys who look like they know “The Hangover” by heart rappel off a Vegas casino and do other ridiculous things in the name of video game warfare asked the same question – “Is there really a part of this game that takes place in outer space or is this another Gravity commercial?” Believe it or not, the answer is yes. Early on in “Ghosts,” you’re in a space station, exchanging gunfire with those trying to commandeer a missile system on their own terrorist behalf. You don’t succeed and very bad people drop very big bombs on most of the U.S. population. You become a part of the “Ghosts” team, those fighting for a return to American freedom in a world in which much of our society has been decimated by warfare. You will traverse desolate landscapes in which you have to stay unseen and often use your dog to do your recon and even take down enemies. You will also, of course, blow up a whole lot of junk. A LOT of junk.

The single-player campaign starts off with a bang, literally, as the world as we know it comes to an end and you run for safety. The space mission, the dog controls, etc. start to give one the feeling that “Ghosts” is breaking some sort of mold, but then the regular expectations and standard blow-em-up action settles in and “Ghosts” gets pretty straightforward. Despite that, I found the singleplayer campaign, as I have most recent “CoD” campaigns, pretty entertaining. It’s a rollercoaster ride – you don’t question the lack of narrative thrust or character worth caring about when you’re being this forcefully propelled through the action.

Of course, there are millions of gamers who probably don’t even know there’s a singleplayer campaign in “Ghosts.” They jumped into this multiplayer world and never looked back, saying goodbye to friends and family, who understand their loved one’s addiction by now. And this multiplayer is more addictive than most in that it is constantly offering customizable ways to upgrade. Unlike most multiplayer games, how you upgrade your character in “Ghosts” is very much up to your own discretion. Yes, things unlock at certain ranks but you also need points earned through gameplay that can be spent on various weapons, attachments, abilities, and even characters. Everyone’s multiplayer experience in “Ghosts” is going to be a bit different than mine and I like that sense of authorship here.

For me, multiplayer customization is important but map design is the key ingredient to an enjoyable experience. Fans of About.com will know that we broke down most of the maps of “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” one-by-one as they were released on DLC offerings like “Uprising” and “Apocaplypse” throughout this year. I have played hundreds of maps throughout the years and the ones in “Ghosts” are….OK. There’s nothing here that stands out like “Siege of Shanghai” or “Rogue Transmission” do in “BF4” and I even long for a few “BO2” maps like “Grind” and “Vertigo.” The best here are “Freight” (especially in objective modes given its natural division), “Octane,” and “Prison Break” but even the names here hint at a relative predictability. A multiplayer shooter machine would spit out something similar to “Flooded,” “Warhawk,” and “Siege.” I hope that the first game designed truly for the PS4 or even the DLC releases for this one are a bit more adventurous in their map design.

To be fair, there are new game modes in this world of “Ghosts,” including a Squad structure and the coolest new mode in “CoD” in years – “Cranked.” In this mode, every kill gives you special powers for 30 seconds, in which you have to kill someone else or die yourself. It creates a marvelous sense of chaos, especially when multiple players are cranked at the same time. Squads are a nice introduction to multiplayer gameplay, allowing you to build your rank up in a less stressful environment. It’s still all about “Kill Confirmed” for me.

Graphics & Sound

We’re going to do a straight-up, one-to-one comparison between “Battlefield 4” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts” on the PS3 vs. the PS4 next month but I was a little surprised at some of the lack of detail, especially in the multiplayer modes, in both the last-gen and next-gen versions of “Ghosts.” In particular, water, which looks so amazing in PS4 games like “Need For Speed: Rivals” and “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” looks PS3-flat even on a PS4 in this game. Having played both high-profile shooters on both the PS3 and PS4, there’s a NOTABLE upgrade when you move from the 3 to 4 in EA’s hit game and less of one here. Having said that, the single-player campaign in “Ghosts” looks fantastic in both versions, and also features strong voice work. Judged purely on its own terms, this is a great-looking game. It’s only when one looks at games like “BF4” and “Black Flag” that it suffers a bit.

Overall

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Image © Activision
What is there to say about a new “Call of Duty” game? It’s hard to believe that there’s anyone in the current or beginning generation of gamers who has yet to play one of these games. Telling you what I think of a “Call of Duty” is like telling you what I think of McDonald’s. You already have an opinion about the Big Mac. Having said that, I have to form an opinion on this specific installment and it feels like a nice transitional title, one that successfully takes the franchise to the PS4 but doesn’t do much beyond that. One could call it treading water but it also certainly doesn’t drown. It’s a familiar, enjoyable, addictive experience that can bridge the system for millions of gamers. Mission accomplished.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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