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Call of Duty: Ghosts
Score: 96%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; LAN: 1 - 12; Co-Op: 2 - 6
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
A few weeks ago, Activision invited us out to peaceful Dana Point, CA for the Call of Duty: Ghosts review event. Here, we had the opportunity to not only play the latest version of our favorite game series, but on both the PS3 and the PS4. Keep that in mind, as I will reference both systems in my review, because I had the chance to play the game (and go through the entire Single Player Campaign) on both systems. While Call of Duty: Ghosts on the PS4 is gorgeous, itís no slouch on the PS3 by any means. It completely pushes the limits of this aging platform and stands side-by-side with its next gen brother. While the PS4 version has more of the minute details, I found that something strange happened when I played the PS3 after playing the PS4. I noticed details on the PS3 that I hadnít even seen on the exact same area in a level on the PS4. For instance, while you are in the jungles of South America, youíll come to a point where you must hide under a waterfall. While playing on PS3, I found myself enrapt in the water reflections on the cave walls, something I had never noticed while playing on PS4. There is also a glorious rainbow that fills the sky Ė again, I never noticed it on PS4. But youíll see plenty more than just jungles. Youíll fight your way across the rubble of the previously formidable United States, battle it out in zero-grav at the International Space Station, swim with the fishes in the depths of the ocean (literally, if you get too close to the sharks) and sneak into enemy territory in a frozen wasteland. Suffice it to say, Call of Duty: Ghosts takes you places, and then some.

The epic musical score is wonderful as always. It works well to immerse you into the feel of the game, but if you are looking for Eminemís song "Survival," which was written for the game, you'll have to finish the Single Player Campaign as it plays during the end credits. Sound effects get the job done well and I especially enjoyed the "thunk" of the underwater rifle shots. They have a fantastic depth to them. Itís also rather interesting to shoot in space while in a zero-gravity environment. The best part Ė how cool your character looks when reloading his gun. Voice acting is pretty good and includes Call of Duty veterans Brian Bloom and Jeffrey Pierce, as well as Brandon Routh (Superman), Kevin Gage, and Stephen Lang. Everyone does a good job in the Single Player Campaign. Multiplayer will typically feature the rantings of your online foes, if they are using a headset, but in Extinction, you can hear your in-game fellow team members shouting important info to help you out with your fight against the aliens, so itís a good idea to listen to what they say.

In the near-future world of Call of Duty: Ghostsí Single Player Campaign, the worldís fossil fuels have been depleted. In the wake of this chaos, The Federation arises and unites all of South America, sharing a delicate treaty with the United States, all the while lying in wait to attack when the opportunity presents itself. The game opens with a graphic novel-like cinematic, and continues this very effective and interesting aesthetic with the rest of the cut scenes Ė itís like a blend of sharp edges and bubbling oil with a life all its own. We learn the story of the Ghosts, an elite team of Tier One operatives who are sent in to protect a hospital full of civilians from an advancing group of 500 enemies. A fierce battle reduces them to just 15, but the Ghosts prevail, turning into something so powerful that old soldiers are compelled to tell their story over and over. Elias Walker is sharing just such a story with his sons, Hesh and Logan, when all hell breaks loose. Americaís own space-based weapons system is used against us by The Federation, thereby breaking the truce. Some 10 years later, Americaís resistance is still trying to pick up the pieces and rally their forces to go on the offensive against The Federation Ė and Elias and his boys are at the front of this movement. For most of the missions, youíll be playing as Logan, and together with your brother Hesh and your trusted German Shepherd, Riley, youíll do whatever is necessary to give The Federation hell and hunt down their leader. Missions will include search and rescue, attacking the enemy on your ground and theirs, gathering intel, escaping from hostile territory, and dodging both enemy fire and natural disasters as you attempt to navigate the world post-cataclysm. Riley wonít accompany you on every level/mission, but heís there quite a bit and has some definite benefits. You can "sync" with him which basically allows you to view the world from his perspective with a Riley-mounted camera. This allows you to scope out potential hot spots and dispatch enemies silently, using Riley. He can even bark to get the enemiesí attention and distract them while you move in for the kill.

Youíll have some high tech gadgets at your disposal like the Remote Sniper, which allows you scope out an area heavily armed with enemies and take a few out from very long distances away. Youíll use the MAAWS weapon to take down enemy helicopters by targeting them and launching guided rockets. During certain missions, youíll switch from Loganís point of view to that of a helicopter pilot clearing the area of encroaching enemies. Once you have eliminated the large threats, youíll seamlessly be placed back into your first person view on the ground. Itís been done before, even in Call of Duty games, but it is much more refined and quite fun to see things from both sides.

Activision put a lot into the Ghosts, especially in the Multiplayer experience. The new Create-A-Soldier feature allows you to greatly customize up to ten soldiers, complete with different appearances, names, weapon loadouts and more. Each of these soldiers maintains their own Multiplayer XP towards Prestige; You can take all 10 of your soldiers up to Prestige level, with each retaining their own in-game progress and unlocks.

Things that have been improved include the loadout budgeting system, the Perks system and Strike Packages, including the Specialist Strike Package which is perfect for the player who just can't get enough perks.

Two new Multiplayer game types worth a mention are Blitz and Search and Recover. Blitz is a Capture the Flag variant that gets rid of the time increment required to "capture" the flag, allowing players to simply make it into the goal square alive to score points, but adds a ten-second "cooldown" timer after each score - and you won't want to be sitting on your opponent's goal waiting for the timer to run out... you'll be a sitting duck! In addition to the Single Player Campaign and Multiplayer, there are two different cooperative game modes in Ghosts: Squads and Extinction (which is unlocked on completion of the Single Player Campaign).

Squads takes advantage of the new Create-A-Soldier feature and lets you design your own elite squad. One game type in Squads lets you play up to six-person cooperative gameplay, against others online or against waves after wave of enemies.

Extinction is an all-new mode that reminds me a good bit of the Zombies mode in the Call of Duty: Black Ops series, but instead of crazy Nazi zombies, you have aliens who have attacked Earth. You (and up to three others) will team up to eliminate the alien threat by drilling into their hives to destroy them, while fending off the onslaught of ghastly creatures.

For Single Player, Call of Duty: Ghosts brings back the same difficulty levels we have grown accustomed to: Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran. Recruit is pretty easy and is recommended for beginners, while Regular provides you with a fair amount of difficulty. I will say it seemed somewhat easier to me than previous games and I was able to beat the Single Player Campaign easily in 6 hours. While there are some frustrating areas of the game, such as shooting the annoying enemy choppers using the MAAWS, overall it has a nice level of difficulty on Regular. On the Hardened difficulty level, you will die with fewer shots, the enemies will require more shots to kill them, and it also seemed that it took longer for my health to recover. Itís a good challenge though. Once you have completed the Single Player Campaign, you will unlock the Veteran difficulty. This level is recommend for hardcore players and masochists.

Be aware of your surroundings as well. During the first level, you can get run over by out of control vehicles, and also left behind if you donít keep up with Hesh when San Diego is taking its licks from up above. Also watch Riley closely. Friendly fire on your pooch, accidental or not, will cause you to restart the area, and well it should. Just look out for manís best friend and give him backup and help when he needs it.

Outside of the Single Player Campaign, there are a variety of different gameplay options, making it easy to find something for everyone. If you like Cooperative gameplay and have friends that you coordinate well with, you've got Squads and Extinction. If you're more of the statistician, there's a game type in Squads where you can build your squad and then let other players challenge them. They'll be A.I.-controlled, but you'll be reaping the benefits of the Multiplayer XP they earn. These different types of gameplay should appeal to some players who either aren't great at - or simply don't enjoy the normal Multiplayer games as much.

For those who enjoy sniping, but know just how useless a sniper rifle is at close range, there is a new Weapons class just for you: the new Marksman Rifles. These bad boys fit in somewhere between Sniper Rifles and Assault Rifles, having nice range and a nice amount of stopping power, to boot. You may want to try a couple of these out to see if they're for you. While you're at it, check out the new Honey Badger Assault Rifle; it's the perfect gun to tote around when you don't care what gun you're toting around.

Also, if you're one of those players who thinks the difference between you and victory is a few more Perks, you're in luck. In Ghosts, you can really grab for the Perks, including gaining an extra point for Perks if you forego your Secondary Weapon, gaining the ability to pick up Perks as your reward for Killstreaks (via the Specialist Strike Package) and one Elite Perk that will grant you another randomly selected Perk. Perky!

Game Mechanics:
PS3 controls for Call of Duty: Ghosts are the same as always, that is, youíll use (L1) to aim and (R1) to fire. (L2) and (R2) are used for throwing grenades and your other tactical weapons. Youíll use your (Circle) button to crouch and lie prone, but also to slide while sprinting, which can come in handy if you are making a quick getaway. Your (Square) button is your weapon reload, but can also be used to sync up with Riley, and youíll use (R3) to zoom, whether you are viewing the world through Rileyís eyes or your rifle scope. (L3) is used to hold your breath while sniping or to sprint, while (R2) is used to launch Riley into an attack, once you have locked on to a target. He wonít attack randomly, so pick someone out and show them some Riley-style love. (X) is used to jump and (Triangle) is used to switch out weapons, including the Honey Badger Assault Rifle, one bad-ass gun that just doesnít give a sh- well, you know.

As in past iterations of Call of Duty, things you need to interact with will be highlighted in yellow. So whether you are rappelling down a sleek skyscraper in glittering Caracas, scuttling equipment in space, sabotaging the enemiesí computer equipment, or even planning for an inevitable barrage of enemy attacks by laying down Claymores or setting up a turret gun, you can always tell what needs your attention. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for knowing where to go. In past games, youíve always had that little indicator that told you how far you were from your next target. This only appears from time to time and it seemed it was mostly when you were playing as Riley. Iím not sure why the choice was made to not have an indicator as to the direction of your next target, but I will admit I spent some time in the jungle wandering about, coming across dead bodies of those I had killed before. While on this mission, it is really cool to have the little wrist-worn radar system to alert you to the enemyís presence, Iím just not sure why it didnít have your objective marked on the map, especially since your teammates could somehow see you as they mention it when you get closer to them.

The hidden goodies found in each level for completionists are called Rorke's Files in Call of Duty: Ghosts. They are laptops that contain background on Rorke, a key member of the Ghosts. Some were easy to find, but I always felt more compelled to get on with the mission rather than to look for them. When I did find them, they were interesting and included a few "surveillance" photos, as well as an audio clip giving more insight into the fascinating character.

Call of Duty: Ghosts packs in a lot of everything that people like in a Call of Duty game. There are 20 new Killstreaks, 14 Multiplayer Maps right out of the box, 7 new Multiplayer Modes, 2 Cooperative modes, more than 30 new weapons, including a new desperately needed weapons class, Strike Packages, soldier customization and an overhaul to the loadout budgeting and Perks systems, as well as the new Knee Slide tactical movement. A lot of heart and soul went into the creation of Ghosts, and it shows.

Overall, if you are a fan of the series, youíll want to get your copy of Call of Duty: Ghosts. It brings back everything we love and so much more. The story is compelling, the game looks breathtaking, even on the aging PS3, and youíll have hours and hours of entertainment long after you complete the Single Player Campaign, whether you are playing Extinction or the standard multiplayer modes. The story is interesting, even if it is a bit out there at times, but itís a game and you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. And itís a really fun ride. Be sure to stick through to the end of the credits so you can see the entire story. Something tells me this isnít the last weíll see of the enigmatic and bad-to-the-bone Ghosts.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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