2013-11-20

Call of Duty: Ghosts – The Good Ol’ Same Old, Same Old

by Yo Snyder

[A big thank you to Activision for being so kind to provide
us with a copy of the game so we could do this review. Those guys are awesome.]

The problem with yearly iterations of any gaming franchise
is, well, that there’s yearly iterations. There’s only so much you can do from
year to year to make the game different. Now, I know that Call of Duty rotates
developers to try and offset some of that problem, but the simple fact is there
are certain expectation of a Call of Duty game and it’s risky to stray too far
from the established formula, just as it’s risky to stick too closely to it.
Call of Duty has arguably walked that line better than most franchises, and
while Call of Duty: Ghosts does offer
the expected tweaks and updates any yearly franchise needs, for better or for
worse (very much dependent on one’s personal tastes), it’s still
quintessentially Call of Duty.

When it comes to any non-sports franchise that puts out
regular sequels, and especially for first person shooters, typically the place
where the biggest change can take place is with the campaign story. It’s here
that new characters, settings and most importantly a new story can be added to
help set the game aside from others. Of course, with Call of Duty, there’s a
certain bombastic feel that’s expected from any story it tells, so even here
there’s that balance between expectations and doing something fresh. Ghosts
does something fairly rare for the series in that it takes a bit more of
reserved approach. Oh, there are still big set pieces and huge action moments,
but the story overall is fairly coherent and the action set pieces more often
serve the story rather than the other way around, as it has been in the last
few games. Granted the twists really aren’t all that surprising, and many
elements are fairly cliché, but all in all, this campaign probably rates as one
of the better ones in the series because it tells a tighter story that doesn’t
let big, over-the-top action get out of hand. One of the best elements is the
fact that things are changing so often; this isn’t just a shooting gallery. One
minute you’re in the jungle, then in space, then under the ocean, then in a big
shoot-out, then sneaking around, then watching the city flood, then flying a
helicopter. This is easily the most varied Call of Duty campaign in recently
memory. Plus, the characters aren’t having some sort of epic, barely survivable
crash every time they get into a vehicle. That alone was a nice change of pace.

One of the key moments of the story centers on the fact that
everyone has a breaking point. No matter how strong, determined or tough
someone may be; apply enough pressure and they will inevitably break. That’s
not just with torture, or psychological warfare, sometimes that’s just the way
life is. I think just about everyone reaches some sort of breaking point sooner
or later. The question is what do we do when our own strength runs out? What do
we do when we have nothing left? Although it may sound odd, but that’s often
the very point God has been waiting for us to get to. Why? Because when we have
nothing left of ourselves, that’s usually when we’re most open to accepting
help from someone else, to rely on their strength and reserves. God is always
ready to help, but we often brush that aside until we’re most desperate. I love
how Jesus pleads with us, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I
will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28). Whatever your breaking point may be, a
loving God is there just beyond it to comfort, help and restore. Indeed, he was
there long before that, it’s just that we often forget to look until we’re ready
to break.

Then there’s the multiplayer; the bread and butter of the
franchise. So Ghosts tweaks the perks
formula and the whole “Pick Ten” system. There is some nice strategy here, but
I still feel it’s a system where the “rich get richer”. If you just aren’t as
talented as some other CoD players you’ll never really have much of a chance to
play with them on equal footing. The squads mode is interesting, where
basically you build up a group of AI bots that you can use to play against
another players’ AI bots. Extinction mode replaces zombies with some fun co-op
against aliens. So while there have been some tweaks, this is still the same,
but refined and still fun, multiplayer one expects each and every year from
Call of Duty. Personally, I think multiplayer peaked with Modern Warfare 2 (loved all the different weapons one could dual
wield and the perk system felt a bit more balanced), but the refinements here
are quite nice, there are more customization options than ever. Familiarity is
something one will always have with a yearly game, or most franchises for that
matter, but that familiarity is either strength or a weakness. For Call of
Duty, that’s really a matter of opinion, but for me, the familiarity is really
more of a weakness. The last few games have all really felt the same,
especially in multiplayer. Some people like that, but it leaves me felling
fairly indifferent.

Ghosts tells a
decent story with its campaign and delivers exactly what one would expect, and
little more, with its multiplayer. The formula is so refined that regardless of
the developer, I think there’s reluctance to mess with success, and why should
they? It is fun, and for some the familiarity in new settings is wildly
appealing. For some the “it feels like Call of Duty” statement is just what
they were looking for. For others, such as myself, the “it feels like Call of
Duty” simply means it’s a game that’s passably enjoyable, but not one I’ll be
spending a lot of my time with. That has little to do with the game’s quality
and mostly to do with a personal preference.

Score: 5 of 7 – Call of Duty: Ghosts features some
pretty harsh language and some fairly grisly torture scenes in the single
player campaign. It definitely earns the M rating, so keep that in mind.
However, the multiplayer doesn’t have to deal with any of that narrative
darkness, and while it’s all action, there’s little blood or gore. As for the
pros and cons of being on a virtual killing field, that’s a debate for your own
household to decide.