Call of Duty: Ghosts Review

December 7, 2013

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.


Since completing the campaign in a single sitting, I’ve invested several hours in multiplayer of both the current and next-generation versions of the game. Essentially, Ghosts is still very much the traditional fast-paced first-person online shooter, with the usual tweaks here and there. The largest addition is the Create a Soldier feature, which allows players to choose the visual details of their character, as well as the usual loadout of perks and weapons. Players can make a total roster of 10 characters, each with a different uniforms, class and gender – yes, you can now play as female soldier in multiplayer. Black Ops II‘s pick 10 system also returns to a degree, allowing loadouts to remove certain items in order to gain extra weapons attachments, for example.

Ghosts also boasts an impressive list of 35 perks and 36 scorestreaks. Players will have fun experimenting with different combinations of perks, and unlike some of the previous games, unlocking all of them requires a significant time investment. The perks system has also been tuned for balance, with no particular one or combination seeming overpowered. Likewise, weapons also feel fairer, with rapid-firing SMG’s no longer dominating. Ghosts also introduces a new weapons class, known as marksman rifles, which are a hybrid between sniper and assault rifles. They allowing for longer ranges and quicker handling, meaning there is even more for players to experiment with and adapt to their particular playstyles. Notably, aiming has been modified so quick-scoping is now much harder. Or course, pesky snipers will always be highly irritating, but Ghosts offers a far lesser incentive.

Map design generally adheres to Infinity Ward’s legacy, with simple, multi-route and multi-layered environments filling out the roster. Each maps possess its own unique look, but the traditional Call of Duty gameplay continues. Certain areas favour close-quarter combat, while others accommodate ranged skirmishes with long sightlines. There is less opportunity for camping, with several points of entry and viewpoints to most areas of the map. Whether playing objective or deathmatch modes, the ebb and flow of combat runs smoothly. And thankfully, I’ve yet to greatly experience any issues associated with spawns. Dynamic map design, such as blowing up a fuel depot, is miles away from Battlefield, but these small changes can make you change tactics on the fly as new pathways and sightlines emerge.

The stable game modes like Domination and Free-for-all can still be found, along with a few offerings, including Grind and Cranked. Whereas previous Call of Duty have added entertaining new modes like Kill Confirmed, Ghosts new additions don’t bring much to the table. Cranked gives you 30 seconds after making a kill to get a second kill, or else you explode. I didn’t really find this mode at all entertaining, but did have some fun in another mode called Grind. It emulates Kill Confirmed, but requires players to drop their collected tags off at a particular point on the map. Nevertheless, I still cannot see players deviating much from the traditional game modes. I found that all my multiplayer matches run very smoothly and were largely bug-free. It should also be noted that only the Xbox One, PS4 and PC versions support 18-player Ground War, while all other consoles are limited to a total of 12 players.


The final element of Ghosts multiplayer suite, known as Squads, allows players to road test their roster of 10 personalised characters, from Create a Soldier, as AI combatants. You can pit your soldiers, along with their pre-selected loadouts, against others players or even pit two squads against each other. Players wanting to become familiar with Ghosts new maps and loadouts, outside of traditional multiplayer, can instead face computer bots in squads’ testing grounds. Fans of Modern Warfare 3‘s Spec Ops wave defence can also enjoy a similar horde mode in squads, but this time with access to multiplayer perks and scorestreaks.

In answer to Treyarch’s Zombies, Ghosts also introduces its own survival mode, Extinction, but with reptilian aliens as the menace. While not a wave mode as such, Ghosts charges players with trooping across a hostile map while fending of droves of predators. The mode calls back to Left 4 Dead, as four players work cooperatively to destroy alien hives and reach an extraction point. This slice of the game features its own levelling and perk system. Successfully reaching the end is great challenge, requiring teamwork and a good level tactical planning for which abilities and equipment will work best. Once you successfully complete the mode, however, there is little reason to replay it again.

The final question is whether the next-gen versions of Ghosts are worth buying, or even if they are significantly different from their current-gen counterparts. I have played the Xbox 360 version, and now possess the Xbox One game. I have also viewed the game running briefly on PlayStation 4. The game renders as a constant 60 frames per second on all hardware, but there is a discernable difference is graphical quality between the hardware generations. The Xbox One version features much more detail in the textures and modelling, and is overall a much more stunning game. It doesn’t have the flair of Frostbite 3, but if you have the option of purchasing Ghosts on the latest consoles, I would recommend it. As an added benefit, players can carry their stats, unlocks and squads back and forth between the current and next generation of Xbox and PlayStation systems.

Call of Duty Ghosts introduces a solid new campaign chapter while continuing to deliver well-designed multiplayer. The bump in technical prowess on next-generation hardware is noteworthy, and I encourage early adaptors to witness the update. The additions of an alien survival mode and squads make for an excellent package, but overall, the game isn’t radically different from any previous entry in the series. This may or may not be a positive thing, depending how partial you are to the franchise. Every year, Call of Duty is essentially just that – Call of Duty. It goes without saying that Call of Duty Ghosts is an excellent Call of Duty game, and I can recommend it to all Call of Duty fans.

Editor’s note: This review covers the entire Call of Duty Ghosts game, and incorporates a previously published review of the solo campaign.


Well-designed multiplayer / Engaging campaign / Squads and Extinction are enjoyable additions


It's still Call of Duty

Overall Score: