Before I delve into this review, a disclaimer: I haven’t played a Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 2. As such, treat this review as one written in the point of view of a returning fan who is curious to see how the franchise has changed since they last left off.
I started off with single player and so I’ll go into that first. Ghosts does have nice gameplay variety, especially in the beginning when you constantly switched scenes between different sets of characters. Literally one of the best parts in the game was the outer space sequence. Honestly I wish the whole game was that segment extended, since the concept and execution were spot on. Naturally after this segment the game goes right back to formulaic plots and boring war-torn settings just because.
I’ll just get this out the way now: the protagonist, his brother and their dad are incredibly yawn-inducing one-dimensional characters and no one cares or will care about their story. The gameplay is the sole saving grace of the single player. You’ll be traveling around the world completing different missions with the same objective–kill all the brown skinned foreigners and run a lot while comrades yell at you to hurry up and move.
Controls and overall gameplay are unchanged from previous Call of Duty games, which is great for me because I haven’t played the series in so long but must be terribly boring for those that play each year. You also get plenty of toys to try out, like the amazing Remote Sniper, as well as the adorable but deadly squad dog Riley. The turret still leaves you wide open for bullet spray but thankfully those sections are few and far between. The only area I had real trouble in was the helicopter scene–the controls were horrible and mission objectives were frustratingly unclear.
Delving into our very cute addition to the team a bit more, you can target enemies and have Riley rip out their jugulars, which is really useful for disposing units that may be in awkward or hard to reach positions. Riley gets his chance to shine when you take control of him in brief stealth missions. They’re a bit hard but fun and controlling the dog is intuitive.
Going back to the point I made earlier, the game tries a little too hard to rush you along and create a false sense of urgency. Protip: don’t actually “hurry up and move” because you will run into an ambush. The best course of action is to take cover and snipe when you have a clear shot, which I learned the hard way.
I played Ghosts on PC so the game’s controls were amazing. I can’t recommend the mouse enough for aiming–having such pinpoint accuracy while sniping is a godsend. Getting used to moving with the keyboard was tough at first but also works pretty well Weapons were pretty balanced but there aren’t that many to choose from, which worked perfectly fine for me (I do prefer simplicity).
The graphics…haven’t changed that much from previous titles, which is to be expected as Ghosts is still using the same engine from 1999. Not only does this mean criminally hideous textures (on the highest settings no less) but the objects and corners in any given area take up way too much space. This became problematic for me when I tried to pass through a narrow space and my character got inexplicably hung up on a corner like I was playing Final Fantasy VIII again.
Next up is multiplayer, which I honestly never tried before in a shooter, so you can imagine how terrible I was. Since I’m rather adverse to playing in team-based modes I stuck with one of the most populated single-player ones: Free-for-All. Getting a match there took no time at all and soon I was on my way to be molded into the perfect noob for veteran players to rack up kills with. Scoring my own kill is satisfying, especially on a player that just killed you.
There were other modes I wanted to try out, such as Infected, but a good chunk of them had very little players in the lobby, which was pretty disappointing if you didn’t want to play the modes that were heavily populated.
Multiplayer suffers from serious frame-rate issues. Drops are extremely noticeable and there were moments when the game would literally freeze for a moment because it slowed down so badly. I can understand the occasional tiny hiccup but to go down to nearly zero frames per second is unacceptable, especially on a high end gaming PC.
I didn’t have issue with camping players and the hit detection seemed pretty decent. However, in one of my matches two players were complaining about a third one that was apparently hacking the game to win, which he did by an incredibly large margin. I won’t take sides but experiencing the whole ordeal was uncomfortable and made me lose interest very fast in becoming active with the Call of Duty community.
The maps themselves are okay in design but nothing really stands out–pretty standard in terms of makeup. It’s a shame because the single player had some really beautiful areas but it seems that only the dullest was chosen for multiplayer. While for the most part I encountered other players frequently enough, there were areas that were almost lifeless, meaning that I had to make sure I only moved around in certain parts.
At least the development team did try to add new mechanics to spice things up, like being able to create your own AI controlled squad or the addition of Squad Points instead of the old Progression system. Unfortunately trying isn’t good enough and these new features don’t really enhance the game much.
The multiplayer is fun but unforgiving, as new players like me must simply jump in and learn all the nuances very quickly. It’s not bad per se but that sort of cruel survival of the fittest attitude can be a little unfeeling; unless you have a nice group of friends to play with, the constant fast-paced running and gunning in Ghosts can end up a bit cold. Sometimes I wish the action would slow down so I can better enjoy matches but alas, in Ghosts everyone is doomed to run around like idiots trying frantically to look for unlucky victims. No strategy, just blind luck.
Call of Duty: Ghosts isn’t a terrible game. It just happens to be a small, yearly released cog in a franchise that continues to resist innovation at every turn. Coming back to this title after playing Modern Warfare 2 in 2009, I should have been overwhelmed by a multitude of exciting new changes. Instead I was hit with the realization that I hadn’t missed a thing.