As countless shooters cloud the gaming market, it’s hard to stand out as something fresh and note worthy. With Call of Duty’s increasing roster of titles year-on-year, however, do Activision have what it takes to continue the series in a fashion that keeps it from going stale? For the most part I’d happily say yes, but for other the side of the coin I’m concerned about the future.
Once again, I geared up ready for another jump into the sugar induced gameplay of Call of Duty, but this time not only did I experience it on the current generation, I also had the fortune of basing most of this review from the PS4 entry. With development studio Infinity Ward taking the reigns this year – alongside Raven Software and Neversoft – it’s now brought with it a bit of a refresh. After retiring the ‘Modern Warfare’ series that reignited the shooter scene back in 2007, instead we’re treated to a brand new sub series, with Ghosts doing all it can to convince us that it’s still got plenty of life left to call itself relevant.
Unlike previous titles, where you’d follow in the footsteps of countless soldiers all heading towards the same objective, you’re instead placed mainly in the shoes of Logan (one of two brothers), whilst his other sibling, David (voice by Superman himself, Brandon Routh) tries to keep him out of harms way. To keep it short, these two characters follow in the footsteps of their father, Elias Walker, a captain in the U.S. Army. In typical fashion an extraordinary amount of peril is placed firmly at their doorstep and the family trio have to stick together in order to unravel the mystery. But behind that is another story thread, which follows an illusive force known as the Ghosts, as they track down those responsible for devastating attacks, generally saving the day, no less.
Mechanically, everything remains largely the same, as you shoot and knife your way past countless enemies. However, in a bid to mix up the gameplay, next to providing another emotional connection, a German shepherd by the name of Riley also accompanies you for the journey. Suited up in a Kevlar vest and sporting a whole range of goodies, as well as a sharp set of teeth, Riley is mostly used during reconnaissance sections. Here you’ll be able to maintain direct control of the K9, navigating him through certain areas via a series of attached electronics, much like the army does today. Amidst the battlefield, though, you can highlight an enemy for him to set his jaws into, should you find yourself a little overwhelmed by insurgents.
Beyond the Battleground
As fun as a dog may be, I still found it hard to bring Ghosts to the nostalgic point that Modern Warfare Two still holds in my head today. Perhaps for me, and many others, the start of the modern warfare series is still held up as the pinnacle of shooters. Back then there were a healthy number of stealth oriented missions and objectives.This is unfortunately something that many games sorely miss, instead forcing you down a straight and narrow path of, ‘shoot and don’t look back’.
I enjoyed the campaign of Ghosts, but rarely felt the pull I’ve experienced from other entries. Just like before, it’s the multiplayer in which the quality shines, once again. But before going into the changes of the main mode, there are a few alternative online components to consider. Looking to offer a worthy rival to Treyarch’s popular Zombie mode, this time we’re given something a bit more story driven with Extinction.
Offering online or local co-op with up to four players, Extinction sets you the task of destroying alien hives that are growing on earth. Allowing you to choose between four different character classes, it’s up to you which equipment set offers the best tactical advantage. It’s a fun approach to something that’ll add a few hours of fun with friends or solo, but it doesn’t quite hit the same chords as ‘Special Ops’, seen before. I know I might sound like a broken record going over MW2 past times, but there was something to be said about its addictive nature and amount variety.
Another alternate mode goes by the name of ‘Squads’, wherein you’re able to create your own A.I operated squad to compete in a series of different objective types. It’s your aim to fine-tune your squad, as you venture online/offline and compete against other players’ A.I controlled groups. I didn’t spend much time with the mode, but it’s an interesting approach to something a bit more tactical.
Moving onto the main multiplayer mode and it’s very much the same affair, bar a few extra features. The most noteworthy inclusion is environmental hazards, which, even in their small capacity, bring some neat changes to the battlefield. If you’re headed around ‘Octane’ in particular, then try to throw explosives at the gas station, or better yet, keep an eye out for walls painted with a red ‘Ghost’ symbols – this signifies their destructibility. There are many different changes that can affect the layout of each map, though I was a little disappointed to see their limited availability. Hopefully, given their introduction, we’ll get to see maps completely designed around evolving terrain and scenery in the future. Of course without fail, all the usual range of modes and maps are present once again, though Gun Game remains sadly absent.
Shiny Coat of Paint
Over the course of this review I played on both Playstation 3 and 4, but overall found it far more enjoyable on the newer platform. Instead of seeing major changes in actual gameplay, except for the new control types lending themselves to a better feel throughout, the biggest enhancements have come through its graphics. It may seem small, but I never knew how much I’d appreciate a clean-cut scope, as I peered through my sights with a reassuring amount of precision, in every respect.
Finer details worth paying attention to are coupled alongside complex tessellation, being able to form terrain with a far smoother and fuller texture, instead of flat and dull sheets of rock. If you’re playing on a particularly small tv set however, then don’t expect the changes to become too apparent, but on slightly larger screens you’ll revel in the beauty. Altogether though, it was a compilation of smaller things that built up to a more beautiful package. As the next-gen entries were built amidst a console transition, you can expect next year’s entry to push the envelope even further.
Adding to the precision, I found the new PS4 controller really came into its own, offering tighter control via the ultimate combo of far superior analogue sticks and back triggers. Also, giving me the chance to share my favourite moments at the touch of a button definitely helps on bragging rights.
- + Extra graphical fidelity on next-gen helps smoothen the engines rough edges
- + Multiplayer still reigns supreme
- + More of an engaging story, compared to other entries
- - Run too far, too fast and expect some catch up to the rigid routine
- - Slower paced sniping missions would be welcome, against its fast relentless action