Call of Duty: Ghosts Campaign review
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of those crazy people who can get so caught up in a gaming franchises that I will let it take over my life. Mass Effect and Battlefield are among the list of titles that I will always go out on a whim for. Call of Duty also used to be on my ‘great games’ list… who am I kidding, I still love my bombastic Call of Duty solo campaigns. So much so that I ran out at midnight to pick up Call of Duty: Ghosts and finished the story mode in a single sitting. And then I penned this review of the single-player campaign.
Infinity Ward is truly back in the driving seat for Ghosts. The studio paired with Sledgehammer Games to help nut out the last Modern Warfare, following the mass exodus of the original Call of Duty devs after a disagreement with Activision. The Call of Duty series has been a slow downward slide the last few years as a result, with some seeing the other annual tag-team of Treyarch as the current crowning developer. Ghosts brings good news – Infinity Ward is back on course with a campaign that, while suffering some flaws, is a hugely enjoyable romp.
The plot of Ghosts begins with the ‘Federation’ – the latest enemy conglomerate – assuming control of a United Stated experimental satellite weapons platform. The Federation proceeds to unleash gigantic rockets all across America, reducing the country to half its former territory, and a fraction of its military strength. The President dials the ‘Ghosts’ – the best of the best of the best – to reassert the United States’ dominance and kick the Federation in the backside. One of the original Ghosts inducts his two sons into the elite unit, and again, players perform the most unlikely of special military operations, with an explosion guaranteed every few minutes, or your money back.
The character development is mostly superficial, and attempts to inject emotion into the story usually miss the mark. The main villain has the required persona, but again, is conveyed as a blank slate. The one standout star, however, is the new canine companion Riley, who displays more personality then the entire Ghosts unit put together. He accompanies players on several missions, can be controlled in segments with an in-game iPad. I actually found myself looking out for Riley, and was the one cast member I wanted to ensure was standing at the end.
For all intents and purposes, Ghosts could have easily been Modern Warfare 4, but it eventually shows enough of its own identity to stand apart. Players are transported all over the world, but the effect is nowhere near as jarring as in MW3. Players are also given context to their actions, rather than just being told to go to location A and shoot stuff. The game paces along nicely, building up to a solid middle act. However, the final few chapters go too quickly.
There are some truly amazing levels in Ghosts, and Infinity Ward possesses commendable, if somewhat predictable level design. Infiltrating an enemy compound and assaulting an oil platform brought back happy memories from playing the first Modern Warfare. Of course, no Call of Duty would be complete without the obligatory vehicle sequence, and Ghosts delivers in spades. Whether flying a helicopter or driving a tank, these sections control well and provide an entertaining distraction from the shooting gameplay.
The locations you visit in Ghosts are varied and immersive. Shooting gameplay is sometimes let down by enemies, who seem fewer in number and intelligence this time around. Ghosts includes a good number of chapters, and playing on Hardened should guarantee at minimum a seven hour sitting. Sound design and voice acting – notwithstanding the script – is solid, and as you would expect, the shooting is the exact same silky-smooth gameplay. Despite all their noise over building a new engine, Ghosts hardly looks any sharper than previous games, at least on the current generation of consoles. The animations, modelling, lighting are impeccable, and there are a few cool effects, such as when you troop through a waterfall. The engine, however, lacks the high resolution to be as breathtaking as other games, but at the end of the day, it is still more than serviceable.
Call of Duty Ghosts is a commendable effort from the rebuilt Infinity Ward, and I am sure no one would be surprised to discover that, like Black Ops, it will be their new brand going forward. The story is engaging and logical, despite some lacklustre characters, thrusting players into another global war. Improved and varied level design will also immerse players in the fight, with spectacular and (yes, I hate using this word) cinematic engagements. The Call of Duty engine is truly showing its age now, but the developers can still construct an impeccable war simulator. Ghosts solo campaign shows that Infinity Ward are still very much in the fight, and delivers a fantastic half to the Call of Duty package.
Stay tuned for my impressions of the multiplayer and next-generation versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts in the coming weeks.