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Call of Duty: Ghosts Review: a ghost of its former self

on 5 November 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts is the start of a new series within the mega-hit first-person shooter franchise, and it’s the first Call of Duty to land on next-generation consoles. Developed by the studio that started it all, Infinity Ward, Ghosts is a spiritual successor to the Modern Warfare trilogy. Last year’s effort by Treyarch with Black Ops II pushed the series forward in a number of ways, raising the bar for what players expect. Despite a number of new modes and features, Ghosts falls flat in disrupting the FPS landscape like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did, and it doesn’t instill excitement back into the annual franchise.

Ghosts’ biggest problem comes from Infinity Ward’s hesitance to take big risks in many aspects, which is a problem that has persistently stuck around following the exodus of nearly half of the studio following Modern Warfare 2. The single player campaign is a generic and derivative romp through a forgettable action movie plot. Having exhausted Russian terrorists, Infinity Ward has chosen that this time the enemy comes from south of the American border. The Latin American countries have banded together to form the Federation, and they’re hell-bent on taking over the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The United States crumbles after a massive missile strike on major cities and the ensuing invasion of Federation forces. You play as one of two young adult brothers who join a United States Special Forces military team named the Ghosts, tasked with liberating America. Remember those twists and turns in post-World War II Call of Duty games that actually surprised you a little? Be ready to experience them again in Ghosts, except they’re more obvious and laughable due to lackluster storytelling and inept writing. While filled with moments of ludicrousness, Ghosts’ campaign was never painful to play, a little enjoyable at times, with a few interesting set pieces and vistas to see. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help extinguish a feeling of derivation from past games.

However, millions of people pick up Call of Duty every year for the addicting and twitchy multiplayer. Loadouts are more customizable now, both from a gameplay perspective and an aesthetic one. More possible combinations of weapons, perks, and streak packages to select are possible, with over 20,000 combinations. There is additional flexibility now in how you choose perks and killstreak rewards. You’re allocated a number of spaces to use for perks and killstreaks, where some take up more space and others don’t. The system helps to maintain balance and is reminiscent of Black Ops II’s Pick 10 system. You can now choose whether your character is male or female, with a variety of races to choose from. Pick your background and design emblems that will be shown when others view your profile. The expanded customization options are reflected by the name shifting from “Create a Class” to “Create a Soldier.” The ten soldiers you are able to create can each Prestige, giving multiplayer fiends yet another goal to attain.

While I appreciated the added personalization, I couldn’t help but feel that it’s all to play catch-up to the work Treyarch has done with recent entries. Most of the perks and streaks are the same or variations on past ones for maintaining multiplayer balance. For example, the radar-scanning UAV is replaced by a SATCOM, a briefcase-sized box with a small satellite dish sticking out of it. The SATCOM functions as the UAV did, but it’s much easier for others to destroy. A few new killstreak rewards, such as the guard dog and hovering drone, help with covering your six and adding awareness to the space around you.