Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox One and PS4)

Call of Duty: Ghosts has been one of the most anticipated titles of the franchise, and is predictably one of the most pre-ordered titles of 2013. It didn't start off so positive, though. A poor response from the gaming community at large due to a fear of more stagnation from Call of Duty placed Ghosts in the hot seat. However, after the worldwide multiplayer reveal, people began to gain much more excitement for the upcoming title in hopes that it would revamp the series in preparation of a new generation of gaming. 

We've played the game on Xbox 360 and PS3, but does its next-gen variant place it in the premier seat of the Xbox One and PS4 shooter lineup? 

For most of you who have experience with Call of Duty's past, you may be pleasantly surprised with the various game modes available at the main menu. You get to choose from Campaign, Multiplayer, Squads, and Extinction.  The first two modes are more traditional. With squads, you can either play alone or with up to five friends where you can build your own squad which will then compete against another, which can even be composed of A.I. at a difficulty of your choosing. It's an elementary step toward giving Call of Duty a proper competitive mode, but it needs some refinement before it really commands the attention of competitive gamers. 

In regards to Extinction, it is very similar to the Zombie mode that Treyarch is known for. It does differentiate itself through a perks system that is instantly usable via the D-pad (supposing you can afford them), and various defense mechanisms that are more significant than similar systems in Zombies. It also has a different game flow since there are no waves of enemies to account for; you're always on your toes. This is a nice touch by Infinity Ward, and it does provide a great challenge for you and your friends. 

The campaign starts off as exciting as ever with a small space firefight that's quickly followed with trying to stay alive as the city of San Diego is demolished by the ODIN system, alongside countless other major cities. From there the game cuts into a storyline and background on the history of the world powers and what leads to the extermination of millions of people. Sound familiar? 

ghost 2
Quickly after you learn that you get to control your beloved dog companion, Riley, as he sneaks around tearing into people’s throats. However, just as quickly as the game escalated in the first few missions, everything following becomes uninteresting. Characters are underdeveloped, and the game is fewer than five hours in length, so personal attachment is near impossible. It really lacks the emotion needed to feel like a memorable experience. It is also short on key moments, such as those in Modern Warfare, that became etched in our minds. Made worse, if you are one of those people that loves stealth missions, you'll be sorely disappointed by their low quantity. 

If you were looking for a strong campaign that makes you go back for more just to figure out what happened, then this may not be a great choice, but if you just want to run and gun with minimal story interference, then this game is a blast with all the weaponry and ordinance you will get to play around with. The amount of toys at your disposal is undeniably impressive.

Aside from the various game modes, and the letdown of an intrinsically enticing campaign, there is the multiplayer, which tends to be the biggest reason for you to purchase this game. It's very familiar, but does weave in some nice touches. Create-a-soldier is what it was hyped up to be and allows you to personalize how other players see you, giving it an edge against its FPS competition. Also, the maps are now dynamic making one match feel like two unique experiences that are part of a greater battle. Both of these key additions are sure to become a standard for Call of Duty going forward, and will certainly be expanded upon. 

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Out of several new game mode additions, Infection is the one that will hopefully stick around for future iterations. In Infection you get thrown on a map, and at random one person becomes the infected and is forced to fight against a legion of shotgun and I.E.D. equipped fighters. But once one person goes down, just like a set of dominoes, the rest will follow. It's one of the more enjoyable "fun modes" that Call of Duty has seen during its tenure. 

Cranked is also an entertaining mode, but is too chaotic for regular play. In it, two teams compete, and when a player earns a kill they are granted heightened stats, including movement speed. It's fun for a few matches but you're likely to spend most of your time in the common game modes that are timeless. 

As usual, there are tons of unlocks to earn, and prestige levels to grind. If you love playing Call of Duty with your friends, your stay in Ghosts could be a while, especially with an affordable upgrade to the next-gen versions. 

Xbox One and PS4
The next-gen versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts take advantage of their newfound hardware with improved visuals. Textures and character models are more sharp. You can really tell the difference on the first-person gun models where fidelity has taken a very noticeable jump over last generation's offerings. That said, Call of Duty: Ghosts has still let us down in terms of presentation. The UI and animations are good, but the game environments look dated. This is not the game to buy to benchmark the Xbox One or PS4. 

Between the two, you'll be hard pressed to find a difference. The Xbox One version runs at 720p upscaled to 1080p, while the PS4 version runs at 1080p. The pixel rendering difference is astronomical on paper, but in practice only means a crisper image free of the fuzziness around object edges. This difference presents itself more on larger displays or if you sit close to your television. On the flip side, we noticed fewer framerate dips on the Xbox One version which may hint at the PS4 being stressed by the game's code at 1080p.  

Additionally, the next-gen versions have a Ground War mode that offer 9v9 battles. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions didn't have this as they were limited to a 12 player capacity. If you want to combat with a larger mass of players, the jump to next-gen will definitely be worth the game's asking price for you. 

Final Verdict
Taking everything into consideration, Call of Duty: Ghosts is the first in the series to fall short of its potential. Even though Infinity Ward is working with an entirely new group of people after its collapse and resulting drama in 2010, this game doesn't feel like it was produced with a new vision. Its campaign isn't particularly memorable, and side-by-side it's difficult to tell it apart from its predecessors. However, the package is reinforced by a fun co-op mode and a multiplayer component that can provide hours of entertainment with endless unlocks and dynamic maps. As unimaginative as it is it's still one of the most cohesive and feature-packed shooters out there; it's just in serious need of renovation.
Xbox One and PS4 section written by Jonathan Leack, CraveOnline's Gaming Editor. Original review written by Kyle Ames, a Contributor for CraveOnline.

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