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

Graphics & Sound:
A few weeks back, Activision invited us out to beautiful Dana Point, CA for the Call of Duty: Ghosts review event. Here, we had the chance to not only play the latest iteration of our favorite game series, but on both the PS3 and the PS4. Keep that in mind, as I will make some references to both systems in my review, because I had the opportunity to play the game (and go through the entire Single Player Campaign) on both systems. First things first, Call of Duty: Ghosts on the PS4 is so pretty, it literally hurt my eyes for the first few minutes of gameplay. Everything is so exquisitely crisp, clear and realistic that it seemed almost surreal until I adjusted to it. Talk about a First World Problem! Your surroundings are fantastically detailed, whether you are walking through the hills of your neighborhood pre-cataclysm, or making your way through the rubble-covered debris of what was once America, or even exploring the dangerous wilds of outer space. Yes, Call of Duty: Ghosts literally takes you all over the world and beyond.

Your journey as a member of the elite team known only as the Ghosts will have you traveling through the ruins of California, delving into the underwater depths of the frozen tundra, picking your way through the rubble of Las Vegas, trying your best to stay alive in a lush and steamy jungle, and even attempting to survive a very Gravity-like experience at the International Space Station. Did somebody challenge Infinity Ward and say that they just don't visit enough exotic locales or something? Outer space is pretty darn different for a Call of Duty title and the challenges of the zero-gravity atmosphere make for some very interesting gameplay… but more on that later.

The musical score is great as always. There's lots of sweeping musical pieces, but if you want to hear the famed Eminem song "Survival," which was written for the game, you'll have to beat it as it plays during the end credits. Sound effects get the job done well. Weapon reports sound as they should and environmental sounds really help with immersion. If you think no one can hear you scream in space, you just wait until you play Call of Duty: Ghosts. The voice actors do a good job in their respective roles and include such folks as Brandon Routh (Superman, Brian Bloom, Jeffrey Pierce, Kevin Gage and Stephen Lang. Everyone sounds as they should in the Single Player Campaign. In Multiplayer, specifically Extinction, you'll hear your in-game fellow team members shouting important info to keep you on top of the situation such as when an alien is attacking a drill and such.

Continuing where the customization options introduced with Create-A-Class left off, Create-A-Soldier allows you to customize not just one soldier, but your own squad of 10 soldiers. Do you play with a few different strategies? Now, you can create your own elite team; build out a female sniper inspired by La Femme Nikita or build up a heavy gunner to be extra intimidating. Use your imagination; you've got ten different soldiers to play with, here. You can customize appearance, gender, heads, body types, gear, insignia patch, Perks, uniform, name and multiple loadouts per soldier, for a total of 20,000 possible unique character combinations.

In the near-future world of Call of Duty: Ghosts' Single Player Campaign, fossil fuels have been depleted. In the wake of the ensuing turmoil, a group calling themselves The Federation has united all of South America and shares a tenuous truce with the United States, all the while plotting to pillage us at the earliest opportunity. The game opens with a graphic novel-like cinematic telling the story of the Ghosts, an elite team of 60 operatives who are sent in to protect a hospital full of civilians from an advancing group of the enemy numbering some 500. After a fierce battle reducing their number to just 15, the Ghosts turn into something resembling more myth than man… or so the Ghost Stories go. It is during an outdoors bonding moment that Elias Walker shares this story with his sons, Hesh and Logan, and that's just when all hell breaks loose. What first appears to be an earthquake is actually our own space-based weapons system being used against us by The Federation. Chaos ensues and some 10 years later, America's resistance movement is being led by none other than Elias Walker, with some help from his sons, among many others. Most of the time, you'll be playing as Logan, and together with your brother Hesh and your trusted German Shepherd, Riley, you'll take on missions doing whatever is necessary to take the fight back to The Federation. Missions will include search and rescue, attacking the enemy on your turf, intel gathering, escaping from hostile territory, and dodging both enemy fire and natural disasters as you attempt to navigate the world post-cataclysm. Riley won't accompany you on every level/mission, but he's there quite a bit and has some definite benefits. You can "sync" with Riley which allows you to view the world from his perspective from a Riley-mounted camera. This allows you to scope out potential danger zones and to know what lies ahead, waiting for you. Riley can also silently take out foes and even bark to get enemies' attention.

You'll also have several opportunities to use some cool weaponry 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. You'll use the MAAWS weapon to take down enemy helicopters by targeting them and launching guided rockets. During certain missions, you'll switch from being the boots on the ground to a helicopter pilot clearing the area of enemy traffic, then effortlessly slip right back into your first person view on the ground. It's not something we haven't seen before, even in Call of Duty games, but it has been refined to seamless perfection and is really fun.

As for the multiplayer, Activision has pulled out all the stops. It seems that everything that was there before is back again, but more goodies have been added in, to boot. The loadout budgeting system is back, but has been updated a bit. Your budget is used for balancing your choice of primary and secondary weapon, lethal and tactical equipment and your Perks, but weapon attachments and killstreaks aren't goverened by the budget, so you can use any that you've unlocked.

The Perks system has also undergone a lot of changes, with more Perks than ever before, and now they've been categorized. If you're really crazy about Perks, there are options that will let you get your hands on a good number of them, such as foregoing your secondary weapon or selecting the Specialist Strike Package to select Perks as your bonuses for kill streaks.

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 get rid of the crazy Nazi zombie theme and replace it with 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 horrific creatures.

For the Single Player Campaign, Call of Duty: Ghosts comes standard with the same difficulty levels we have come to know and love. There's Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran. Recruit is fairly easy and is recommended for beginners, while Regular provides you with a moderate amount of difficulty. I will say it felt a little bit easier to me than previous games and I was easily able to beat the Single Player Campaign in 6 hours. While there are some frustrating portions of the game, such as shooting the relentless enemy choppers with the MAAWS, overall it has a good 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. It's a nice challenge though. Once you have completed the Single Player Campaign, you will open up the Veteran difficulty. Play on this level if you are hardcore and/or enjoy watching your character die often. Also of note is the fact that you can get run over by vehicles, and also left behind if you don't keep up with your brother in the first level where San Diego is being destroyed all around you. You will also watch your gameplay come to a screeching halt if you accidentally shoot Riley or don't protect him when he needs it. Just a few things to take note of.

Multiplayer difficulty is always a function of your skill level, your knowledge of the map, your opponents and, well, a good bit of blind luck. Unlike Single Player Campaigns, you can't simply start a Multiplayer match over with knowledge of exactly what the enemies are going to do. You can get better at playing, in general, but you can't "learn" a level and use that knowledge to progress. This makes it difficult to really analyze the difficulty of the Multiplayer aspects. However, the one thing that can make Multiplayer easier to play is to make it fit your gameplay style better. Ghosts introduces some things that help out in that regard.

First, there are new weapons, including a new weapon class: the Marksman Rifle, which fills the gap between Sniper Rifles and Assault Rifles, for those of us who like sniping, but end up in CQC more than we like.

Secondly, they've thrown in not one, but two Cooperative modes: Squads and Extinction (which is unlocked upon completion of the Single Player Campaign). This offers some Multiplayer action for those who like to work with others against A.I. enemies. (Yes, we're out there.) There's even a mode in Squads that lets you create a squad, let them loose on the world and earn Multiplayer XP when others fight against them, even though they're A.I.-controlled. In turn, you can use this Multiplayer XP to improve your soldiers and unlock new weapons, which may make the game a bit easier.

Game Mechanics:
As I said earlier, I was able to play the PS4 and the PS3 versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts and I found it pretty crazy that the default controls on each of the systems were the opposite of one another – for no apparent reason (at least to me). You'll aim using (L2) and fire using (R2) on the PS4, while the PS3 has you using (L1) to aim and (R1) to fire. Be aware of this if you went ahead and pre-ordered the PS3 version of Call of Duty: Ghosts and plan to upgrade to PS4 when the new system drops. Sure, it can be reconfigured in the Options Menu and changed to Default Flipped, but it just struck me as odd. (L1) and (R1) are used to shell out your grenades and tactical equipment. You'll use your (Circle) button to slide while sprinting, which can come in handy if you are scrambling to make a quick escape. It is also used crouch and lie prone. Your (Square) button can be used for things like synching up with Riley and reloading your weapon, and you'll use (R3) to zoom, whether you are viewing the world through Riley's eyes or the lens of your rifle scope. (L3) can be 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 will not attack if you haven't first specified someone to attack. As always, (X) is used to jump and (Triangle) is used to swap out weapons, one of which is called the Honey Badger Assault Rifle, a personal favorite.

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 enemies' 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, you've 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. I'm 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 enemy's presence, I'm just not sure why it didn't 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 pickups found in each level for completists are called Rorke's Files this go round. They are laptops laying around that contain background on Rorke, a key member of the Ghosts in the game. 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.

All in all, Call of Duty: Ghosts brings back everything we love about the series and more. It's got an interesting futuristic story to it, and I do love a good apocalyptic scenario. It does have some parts that are a bit far-fetched, but I don't play Call of Duty as a simulator. It's a game and it's lots of fun. It definitely excels at what it's trying to do. I will admit that I wasn't as emotionally invested in the Walker family throughout the whole game as I was with the characters in Black Ops and Black Ops II, by the end of the game, they had won me over. As always, watch the credits - an interesting video awaits. No Avenged Sevenfold hilarity, mind you, but you'll want to see how the story plays out.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.