For many years now, the Call of Duty franchise could rely on success purely from being the Call of Duty Franchise. As anyone reasonable could tell you though, this does create quite the negative feedback loop, where stagnation abounds and could eventually cripple the franchise. And although Ghosts is a new mini-franchise within the greater COD world, it feels very much like the tipping point where things could go in one of two distinct directions for the franchise. And we can only wait and see what happens.
Well, why don’t we first get the single-player campaign out of the way, small as it is. I’ve always have a soft spot in my heart for the COD campaigns, which alternate between purely ridiculous war mongering, pro-American, bald eagles flying down and shedding a tear sort of affair; and some surprisingly aware criticisms of the over the top style of warfare that this franchise itself has popularized in gaming. However, the second type of message mostly comes in the Treyarch produced games, such as Black Ops 2, whereas this ones from the main Infinity Ward team. Which means what we have is a hilarious tale of the Middle-East being destroyed randomly and pointlessly, and a united Federation of South America forming up to invade the United States just because, you know, why not. The main action takes place ten years after the invasion and most of the USA is now a warzone, and the player controls a member of the legendary Ghost squadron of covert assassins, with the help of his brother and their German Shepard, who is perhaps the best part of the game. There are some great, Michael Bay-ish set pieces, but the same problems the COD series has always has persist: there aren’t so much mechanics that are given to the player to enjoy, than rather random assigned points in the linear corridor of gameplay where the player gets to push a button to Do The Cool Thing Now. Nevertheless, within the over the top world of COD, this kind of campaign is par for the course if you like that kind of thing, and you will get what you expected.
Well, now onto the meat of the matter, the multiplayer portion. What COD I think needs to realize is that even though they have a guaranteed level of sales each year from their target audience, that same target audience has spent the very last year up until your new release playing the previous one. Which means, if you make anything worse, your mistakes are going to be far more visible.
In terms of modes, Ghosts has the fewest for many years now, and fan favourites such as Headquarters, Demolition and Search and Destroy have all been removed. Blitz is an attempt to replace Capture the Flag, but somehow misses the point, by giving everyone a flag and making it an entirely different mode. Two new ones, Cranked and Infection are at least mildly interesting, with Cranked forcing constant movement, lest your player explode, making it an anti-camping mode, and Infection is similar to the Zombie modes from before, except in this case one player takes on the role of the primary infector, which I knew right away would be lots of fun. For the rest of the time, the game modes are what one expects, but there seems to be an uneven distinction between gameplay designed for pro players and ones for new players, which may be good or bad in your opinion.
As for maps, most are along a destroyed city theme, with not much deviation in design, but at the least they seem relatively well structured for the most part, however, the best one is the Pre-Order map, Free Fall, so all we can hope is that is released for general use at some point. The gameplay in previous titles had already nearly completely devolved into Sniper+Pistol combos with no other loadout being viable in a world of No-Scope instant kills, and in Ghosts this system is even more encouraged with even more Sniper friendly maps, and better options for Sniping weapons. In my opinion it makes gameplay quite staid, samey and boring, with less skilled players easily frustrated to the point of leaving by the fact that using any other weapon is simply impractical, which I don’t see as a good thing.
The major addition that is relatively interesting is the Create a Soldier feature; in which the player creates a squad of AI soldiers that he may join in fights against other AI players, or send them out against other players Squads. Mostly this allows for a greater, extended tutorial or testing space for the player before moving out into PvP, and it is fun to experiment with the perfect team construction, although the individual micromanagement of each soldier can get a bit tedious sometimes.
Ghosts seems to have taken a look at itself and removed bits at random and added bits back at random again. This is not always good or bad, but rather a sign that the franchise needs to be doing something more. Especially when considering titles such as TitanFall that are being released this year too. As far as COD goes, I personally still prefer Black Ops 2, as that title feels more balanced and thought out as a complete package. What I appreciate from Ghosts is its desire to mix things up, but I only hope they look at what people want and work from there to a greater extent for this years (inevitable) release in November. As a final word, I played this on PS4, and the graphics and visual clarity are noticeably better, so if that is appreciated by you, and you are able to, pick it up, as it’s a pretty good port.