Call of Duty Ghosts (Xbox One) Review
- Solid multiplayer as expected
- Good looking and as spectacular as ever
- You know exactly what to expect going in and it delivers just that
- Solid voice and sound work
Not So Much?
- You've seen and played this game over and over
- Steps back from the Black Ops 2 attempts to push things forwards
- A slew of technical issues early on left me unable to even boot the game for days
- The game feels stagnant, as if it just wants to play it safe
Call of Duty Ghosts is a mixed bag on the Xbox One. Graphically it’s a small step up from the current generation vesions. Put next to the PS4 or PC versions though and it looks like a poor third place. Potential misgivings over the new controller come to the fore also as stick travel feels that little bit too far.
Call of Duty Ghosts is the return of franchise creators Infinity Ward to the helm. Aided by some pretty influential friends – namely Raven and Neversoft. How does this new Xbox One version stack up against the competition?
What Call of Duty Ghosts aims to do it move away from the Modern Warfare moniker and stamp a new direction for the franchise. Infinity Ward will be looking to take the limelight back from Treyarch, long considered the “off year” studio, as their previous two Black Ops entries in the franchise have proven to be the best to date.
The story in Call of Duty Ghosts is nothing spectacular and it lacks a lot of the crazy elements that distinguished the ever escalating ludicrousness of the Modern Warfare series. Personally I find this to be a great thing. Modern Warfare 2 was ludicrousand Modern Warfare 3 just pushed it over the edge in to total nonsense.
We follow the exploits of two brothers… and their dad. Joining them at the start
the whole world goes to hell in a handcart as rogue elements target a super-weapon on the earth. Years pass and the two brothers and their father are deeply entrenched in the armies fight to end this tyranny. Sure it’s cheesy and throws spectacle at you for little to know reason – but it sure is good fun at times.
The campaign is relatively short lived though and steps back greatly from the small strides that Treyarch made with Black Ops 2. Gone are the in-campaign optional missions. Gone are the small choices and the ability – however small – to influence the story. These are both great shames and are a detriment to the overall campaign offering. Those small steps from Treyarch were massive improvements in the right direction for the series and it seems ludicrous that Infinity Ward didn’t roll them in to their build of the game.
Campaign characters are forgettable and serve merely to move the game from one shooting gallery to the next. When you get to each of these areas you just seem to run through the same paces as you’ve done on earlier COD titles. The addition of your canine chum, Riley, offers a few alternate moments where you control the hairy fella. These feel a little disjointed and offer up a slightly lighter note to the constant onslaught of destruction.
Graphically the game looks solid enough. Frame rate is, for the most part, still solid and there is, as ever, an impressive amount of debris flying around the screen. Plenty of destructible scenery, explosions, water effects, sparkles and blooms – it all looks pretty impressive when running. Small glitches here and there do bring the look down and at times some of the texture work looks a little flat – more so than it did in the PS4 or PC versions of the game.
Call of Duty Ghosts fails to stand up to the look of Battlefield 4, but for the most part, it exceeds what’s gone before. There’s no denying though that Call of Duty Ghosts is trying to squeeze every last drop out of now rapidly ageing engine technology. This is far more evident here on the Xbox One than on other platforms. Textures seem a little muddy, pop-in is very noticeable – especially for items in the distance. The action on screen can sometimes just feel a little sluggish despite no apparent frame drops in that section. Call of Duty Ghosts on the Xbox One is clearly the weakest of the three “high-end” editions.
Sound design and voice work is once again top notch. This is an area that Call of Duty has excelled above and beyond its competitors. Battlefield 4 has done a superb job of catching up but COD still takes the lead here once again.
Now, as we all know, multiplayer is where the modern day Call of Duty titles make their stand. Here, surprisingly, Call of Duty Ghosts seems to have taken a step back and maybe taken it’s eye from the ball.
Stripping out a lot of the regular game modes and opting for a character progression system all add up to a large number of changes in how you approach the game. Some might relish the changes, others will feel a little at sea.
Instead of building your online profile up you instead select one of a series of operative types. This character is then slowly built up in the different areas – engineer, assault etc. On top of this weapons will also slowly increase in XP and unlock further attachments and buffs as they do. This means that you can sculpt a character to perform a certain task with certain equipment and weaponry. You can then select a new character and do to the same with this one – maybe specing them out to perform a different function on the battlefield.
This approach is a little different and frankly feels a little under realised. The casual player is going to feel a little abandoned in this mode to slowly build a specific character – maybe never fully realising their potential in other areas. Those that have plenty of time to sink in to the game will benefit the most though and I presume it is to these people Infinity Ward are talking to with this refinement.
Removal of things such as Headquaters leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth – being as it was one of my go to game modes online. Instead we have . A new addition comes in the form of a new twist on Search & Destroy which incorporates the dog tag retrieval mechanics of the Kill Confirm mode to good effect. Search & Rescue, the before mentioned new mode, also adds the elements that if you get a team mates tags before the enemy then they’re revived. A neat addition that plays well. Blitz also offers a new twist on capture the flag where you score by entering the enemies score zone.
Squads is a limited version of the online multiplayer where you create squads of AI characters to take on enemies online. It’s novel but short lived. Cranked has to be the most chaotic addition and offers very little to the mix other than confusion.
Extinction, touted as Call of Duty Ghosts’ answer to Treyarch’s Zombie mode, is not as it would seem. Zombie model has you fighting off a endless assault, shoring up locations and metering out reserves for as long as possible. Whereas the Extinction mode in Ghosts sets you the task of taking down a set number of “hives” and then escaping via a helicopter at the end of the level.
Extinction relies on characters working together and employing the different classes on offer to protect the drill that must be carried from hive to hive to destroy them. Pretty soon you’ll work out that sentry guns tear the enemies to shreds and after that the challenge seems to drift away. Add to that the fact that there is little reason to return to the level after you’ve completed it and it’s a very short lived mode that appears to have been positioned as a DLC cash cow.
The PC version looks pretty great when you slide it all up to the highest settings and it easily keep pace (and outshines) the next generation console editions. The entry requirement is a little steep though with the game requiring a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or 8 and a minimum of 6GB or RAM. I encountered a number of issues just getting the game running as it got muddled between my onboard Geforce 650m card and the Intel HD4000 card in my gaming laptop. Only by downloading someone else’s .cfg files and then setting the graphics up manually could I even get the game to launch.
Call of Duty Ghosts walks the line its predecessors have walked. And, by the laws of diminishing returns, now starts to feel stale. Ghosts offers something we’ve seen several times before in the past Modern Warfare titles. The small steps forward taken by Treyarch in Black Ops 2 have been lost and as such Ghosts feels like a step back for the franchise.
That said you just can’t deny the multiplayer still is fun and has great appeal. You play it partly because it feels like returning “home” to a familiar game. Within moments I was back in the old rhythm and this could have been literally any COD title from the last five years.
Call of Duty Ghosts is not a bad game, not by a long stretch. What it is though is a stale game. Like the old sports hero from school telling you one last time just how awesome he was “back in the day” – there are only so many times you can hear those stories before you look for the door. Ghosts feels like it’s pushing you towards that door.
Call of Duty Ghosts is, as expected, a solid game. Good looking, bombastic and full of spectacle. The multiplayer is robust, well populated and good fun. It has a few new twists in it to help try and make you feel it’s doing something new. Fans will eat it up, detractors won’t feel any better and hopefully next year we might truly get a game that moved Call of Duty along towards the next generation – I sincerely hope we don’t just get more of the same!