Call of Duty Ghosts - a new entry in an old FPS franchise
By Jim Bray
If you've enjoyed Activision's Call of Duty series of first person shooters, you'll probably dig the new "Ghosts" entry into the franchise.
It doesn't really break a huge amount of new ground as far as conventional game play is concerned, but it's an interesting and believable scenario in which to off bad guys, and it also offers some interesting new wrinkles on the multiplayer side of things.
I tend to eschew online gaming because my casual gamer mien means I last about two seconds against those folks in cyberspace, but I found enough to enjoy in the basic campaign mode to keep me interested right through the end of the scenario.
That scenario puts you into a new Call of Duty universe that, rather than being set in a past war or pitting you against Middle Eastern terrorists, sets its time in the future and its eyes on the south, where a federation of South American nations has set its sights on the United States. Or what's left of it: you'll be fighting in the ruins of places such as Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area, as well as in space, under water, on platforms in the sea, and more.
I loved the space bits, not that the rest was substandard, but floating around a space station while fighting off baddies was a real treat for this sci-fi buff. And you get to do this basically right off the bat, and then again much later when you're approaching the end of the story.
Pay attention, too! On more than one occasion I found myself stuck with nowhere apparent to go and had to restart the level to get out of "neutral" and on the road again. Once, I was supposed to follow the dog but didn't notice that instruction my first time through - making the level extra, well, "ruff." I missed similar hints in other places, too, causing quite a bit of lost time and added frustration. But it was my own fault.
Needless to say, I felt pretty stupid, but once I had things figured out again progress was quite satisfying. Oh, sure, I got stuck many times, and often "died," but overall - remembering that I played in "easy" mode so I'd get through the missions before I retired - progress was steady and I had a lot of fun.
It doesn't hurt that the graphics are top notch, or that the game play is fluid and almost feels as if you're in a movie. And you get to do a lot of other neat stuff besides just shooting people and blowing things up - such as rappelling down buildings, firing rockets, controlling a tank's cannon, etc. It's kind of like a Walter Mitty adventure you can do from the comfort of your easy chair.
The audio is very enveloping. I played the PS3 version of the game, using a 5.1 channel home theater setup and the sound fills the room with voices, explosions and other sound effects positioned well around the listening area. It's very cinematic - as are the high definition graphics.
It all feels right, too, with gravity working as it should. And the variety of tasks you're, well, tasked with keep things interesting. Sure, you still have mighty firefights that'll get you wound up tightly and leave you spent (well, that's how it worked out for me, anyway), but it's not all about shooting the bad guys; sometimes you merely have to escape with your life as buildings collapse around you, or as you hide from enemy divers underwater, etc.
Naturally, as you're moving through the landscape, seascape, or spacescape, you can pick up the weapons dropped by other characters, which comes in very handy when your ammo runs down. And it will!
It's all quite exhilarating!
The action is interrupted as new levels load, but you're kept involved thanks to typical cinematic segments that give you background info into characters and situations. The missions themselves are kind of a family affair, not only via blood relations but because the Ghosts of the title appear to be a special elite force reminiscent of Navy Seals.
The story revolves around brothers Logan and Hesh, their father Elias, and their dog Reilly - the canine who you get to control periodically and who keeps popping up as you progress. The relationship between Logan and Hesh helps make you care about the heroes and it's kind of neat to experience a dog's-eye view of the theater of action, even down to leaping at and tearing to bits some enemy dudes. Yeah, I was imagining some people I'd like to see that happen to and it was quite satisfying to pretend.
See, this vicarious violence means that video games can actually prevent violence in the real world! Well, not that I was going to get down on all fours and tear someone apart anyway…
Call of Duty: Ghosts' voice acting is good, the graphics are top notch, and the gameplay is excellent. I was particularly impressed with how naturally lifelike the other figures move, as well as with how well developer Infinity Ward has created believable backgrounds and settings, without (I assume) actually going to the International Space Station or into sunken ships.
If you're familiar with Call of Duty games, Ghosts will look and feel familiar, though the creators have also upped the ante via stuff like the new Create a Soldier feature, which lets you create and customize 10 unique characters, each of which can have up to six weapon loadouts (for a total of 20,000 possible configurations). There are more than 30 new weapons from which to choose, from new assault rifles, SMG's, LMG's, shotguns, sniper rifles (which are particular fun!),rocket launchers and more. There's even a new "Marksman" class of rifle that kind of splits the difference between sniper and assault rifles.
Multiplayer mode brings five new game types to the experience, such as Grind in which you not only have to collect dog tags from killed enemies, but must also deposit them in a bank somewhere in the level before you get killed. Or there's Cranked, which gives you a fixed time to make another kill before you explode. Talk about getting a bang out of a game!
Extinction is a new alien invasion mini campaign mode in which you set up a cooperative group with which you fight off horrible creatures. Squads is a suite of cooperative modes that lets you use your custom characters as the basis for virtual soldiers that play alongside you.
There's even an online app for mobile devices that supposedly lets you stay connected to the game when you aren't near it. Activision says it offers new features such as "second screen functionally and the all-new Call of Duty Clan Wars metagame, to create an even greater experience."
Call of Duty: Ghosts may not be an all-new concept in the first person shooter realm, but it's a dynamic game that ups the ante of the existing Call of Duty franchise well. And how bad can that be?
The game is rated M for mature (you think?) thanks to blood (heads explode quite nicely when you shoot for the cranium, for example), drug references, intense violence (and why else would you be here?) and strong language. It's available for PS3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, PC and Wii U.
Copyright 2014 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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