Call of Duty Ghosts review: rank and file

Call of Duty: Ghosts is a capable, if unremarkable, entry into the series. It plays a little too safe with the campaign and multiplayer, but does add some cool new ideas, like the co-op Extinction mode and the customizable Squads.

Another November is upon us and with it comes a new Call of Duty game. Instead of continuing the highly-successful Modern Warfare series, Activision and Infinity Ward are starting a whole new story with Call of Duty: Ghosts. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ghosts shows brief flashes of freshness before ultimately settling back into familiar territory. Ghosts ventures into the near-future and tells the story of two brothers--Logan and Hesh--part of an ultra-elite group of special forces known as the Ghosts. The boys are called to action when the Federation, a rogue nation comprised of a united South America, attacks the United States. The single-player campaign will be largely familiar to anyone that's ever played a Call of Duty title. Comprised of linear paths and scripted setpieces, Ghosts' single-player doesn't do much to break the mold. However, there are glimpses of originality. The Internet was quick to adopt Riley the Dog as a meme, but he ends up being a substantive addition to the franchise. There are sequences in which Logan can activate a satellite feed attached to Riley, giving players a chance to take control of the capable canine. Not only can players take a bite out of the opposition, but Riley also plays the role of scout, creating interesting opportunities for stealth. Unfortunately, these moments are cut far too short. Riley, for example, is only playable in the game's opening minutes, never to be utilized again. Any time the game ventures into novel territory, the game quickly settles right back into franchise staples. Not all of the additions are for the best, either, as the game's few instances of space combat are thematically jarring and somewhat dull. But, at least these moments offer proof that Infinity Ward is grasping to find something new to offer.

Sequences like this underwater combat stage are all-too-short

While the campaign is largely by the numbers, Infinity Ward proves more daring with Ghosts' new Extinction mode, unlocked after the campaign. Inspired by Treyarch's popular zombie modes, Extinction has players team up to fight off aliens. While the mode has players similarly fending off waves of alien Horde-style, the mode slowly forces players to take the offense by destroying their nests. Like Treyarch's co-op modes, teamwork proves essential to surviving. As Extinction sessions move along, players can earn cash and skill points to upgrade their equipped abilities. They can increase their health, power-up their weapons, or beef up their loadout resources. Fending off aliens proves fast-paced and exciting in itself, but there's ample reason to come back, thanks to the leveling system that's normally reserved for traditional multiplayer. Higher levels means unlocking additional player classes, weapons, and loadout abilities, which helps keep the experience fresh. While players can opt to go solo in this mode, it's at its best with three friends. The series' traditional multiplayer also returns with some interesting new twists. The overhauled perk system is perhaps the most notable change, as each perk is now weighted a certain amount of points. A player can load up on numerous low-tier perks or stock on a few high-powered elite perks. Instead of focusing on perks giving outright advantages (like the much-maligned Stopping Power), perks instead focus on an individual's play-style. For example, I had the option to equip Resilience (fall damage resistance), Agility, Marathon, and other similar perks to focus purely on speed. Having five loadout slots suddenly makes more sense with so many options on the table. Players can shape their kill streak packages in a similar fashion. As someone that dies frequently, I loved having the option to select packages that required low kill counts. Of course, high-skilled players can opt for truly punishing weapons, like a Loki satellite at 15 kills. While it's still annoying to get blown to smithereens by an unavoidable explosion, at least this time, I get the added treat of watching the map dynamically change. The first time I saw the abandoned town, Warhawk, go up in flames was pretty neat. Like the campaign, multiplayer takes few chances. Cranked, Search and Rescue, Blitz, and Grind are all variations of tried-and-true formulas. However, while they may not be entirely new, these game modes remain frantic and fun to play, especially with the ability to seamlessly slide under and vault over objects on the run. One mode that did get my attention, however, was Hunted. The mode completely throws out loadouts, kill streaks, and perks and only starts players off with a single pistol. Weapon crates filled with random weapons are dropped in various places, leaving both teams fighting over the heavier artillery. With the key of this mode being pistol proficiency, as well as knowledge of all of the game's weapons, Hunted feels the most like a skill-based game mode with the evenest odds. There are still ten levels of Prestige, as in previous Call of Duty titles, but they're now a little bit easier to reach, thanks to the new Squads feature. Squads allows player to customize a team of AI-controlled teammates that will fight alongside you against humans or AI. Players can not only collect their own XP, but also XP earned by their Squad members, making the leveling up system significantly faster. There is some time investment involved in creating the perfect squad, but it's worth it to have an army of near-doppelgangers to go to war with. Call of Duty: Ghosts is yet another serviceable entry to Activision's long-running franchise. The franchise's staleness increasingly leaves something to be desired, but at its core, Call of Duty is still reliably fun. New additions like Extinction and Squads will likely suffice for series fans, who don't mind the franchise playing it safe. [6]
This review is based on retail Xbox 360 code provided by the publisher. Call of Duty: Ghosts is now available at retail on PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U for $59.99. It is also available for download on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and PC. The game is rated M.
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 5, 2013 10:30 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Call of Duty Ghosts review: rank and file.

    Call of Duty: Ghosts is a capable, if unremarkable, entry into the series. It plays a little too safe with the campaign and multiplayer, but does add some cool new ideas, like the co-op Extinction mode and the customizable Squads.

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      November 5, 2013 10:53 AM

      And that is why it doesn't matter if its 720p or 1080p..

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      November 5, 2013 12:36 PM

      It does not ... 0wn?

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        November 5, 2013 12:41 PM

        Here's the spread of Metacritic-registered scores from the most reputable outlets, and Destructoid and Quarter to Three:

        88 IGN
        85 Machinima
        80 OXM UK
        80 OXM US
        75 EGM
        65 Polygon
        60 Shacknews
        60 Giant Bomb
        50 Destructoid
        40 Quarter to Three

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          November 5, 2013 1:01 PM

          HEH @ Machinima.

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          November 5, 2013 6:40 PM

          As usual there's a pretty wide range of opinion on COD. I think it started off 5 years ago as fresh and fun and now it's hit and miss. Going back to the same old engine I think is the #1 issue, has been for the last couple CODs. Look forward to what can be done for next gen & with a new engine instead of checking this one out.
          Enjoyed the review Ozzie!

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          November 6, 2013 1:38 AM

          You can always count on IGN, Big Publishers!

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        November 5, 2013 4:22 PM

        even the chief dudebro gerstman who has had a boner for the series since its inception was lukewarm bordering to the negative about it.

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      November 5, 2013 1:05 PM

      This fucking game still looks like 2004

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        November 5, 2013 3:07 PM

        Might be time for you to upgrade your PC, son.

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        November 5, 2013 4:10 PM

        With all video settings at max I have to disagree. It looks great.

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      November 5, 2013 1:09 PM

      I've only ever played BLOPS2 and I didn't even finish its campaign, though I did get into the multiplayer for a long time. That said, I probably won't be buying another COD game for a long time.
      Thanks for the review Ozzie.

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      November 5, 2013 1:49 PM


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        November 5, 2013 3:47 PM

        CoD never gets discounted substantially. I only play the campaign so I usually wait 8 months for the Steam Summer sale, at which time it generally goes on sale for $30.

        For it to be discounted below that you have to wait 2-3 years and then it only goes to $20, so it's not worth waiting any longer than the summer sale.

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          November 5, 2013 5:03 PM


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            November 5, 2013 5:40 PM

            That's why I bit and bought it at $48.

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          November 6, 2013 3:43 AM

          Look on Amazon Christmas Day. Last year I got Black Ops II for $30 and the year before I got Modern Warfare 3 for $35. Both Steam codes.

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        November 5, 2013 9:54 PM

        Black Ops II is still $59.99. Modern Warfare 3 is $39.99. That should tell you all you need to know.

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      November 5, 2013 3:06 PM

      Another poor score assessment, imho, and I normally trust Ozzie. :(

      This is a lot more fresh-feeling, from what I've seen of it so far and very few bugs or crashes unlike another big-name recently released FPS ::: cough, BF4, cough :::

      Quite enjoying this so far - the new graphics engine really shines and the new modes and extra content is pretty impressive.

      This is much more of an 8 than a 6, that's for certain.

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        November 5, 2013 4:04 PM

        New graphics engine eh? Keep on drinking that Kool Aid.

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        November 5, 2013 4:57 PM

        You gave your critique in your humble opinion; Ozzie gave his in his humble opinion.

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        November 5, 2013 5:04 PM

        this is fresh feeling? o_O

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        November 5, 2013 5:09 PM

        Honestly, I think Activision would be so much better served by taking a bit of a break from this over-used but famous property. Let them settle a bit, build up more anticipation for it. Meanwhile develop some all-new IPs, start fresh, see what happens.

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        November 5, 2013 9:46 PM

        This is much more of an 8 than a 6, that's for certain.

        these statements are the worst

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        November 5, 2013 10:01 PM

        How is it a poor score assessment? Shacknews has defined it's score system, and Ozzie believes a six accurately reflects his opinion of the game. I'm not a fan of scoring systems, but I'm not going to try and delegitimize another individual's judgment.

        Battlefield is a buggy piece of shit, but it's actually a fun game. Your shitting on it in every thread, Battlefield related or not, is getting to be insufferable.

        • ArB legacy 10 years
          November 6, 2013 4:02 AM

          They're about 15 years too late to define what those numbers mean.

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        November 6, 2013 4:06 AM


        I still dunno what these colons mean

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      November 5, 2013 6:35 PM

      Man this game is crashing for me much more than BF4.

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        November 5, 2013 6:35 PM

        Needs some serious patching.

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          November 6, 2013 4:01 AM

          Something is wrong with your pc, it would seem.

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            November 6, 2013 5:05 AM

            Every other game is running fine so I'm not sure about that.

            Other people are recording crashes as well.

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      November 6, 2013 2:00 AM

      Good review, although I don't quite agree with the score (I'd say maybe a 7 or an 8 at a push). I've not touched the campaign yet but stuck about 2-3 hours into the multiplayer. It's a good game, nothing special but still a good addition to a worn out franchise. At times it feels a little less hectic than previous Call Of Duty titles which I would put down to the map size but that is a good thing I'd say.

      I'm glad that the reviews aren't all coming in at 9/10 or 10/10 though, just because it would be good to see the franchise take a breather or move in a new direction. I'd really like to see some more WWII games again as this modern warfare business is fucking old hat.

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      November 6, 2013 4:25 AM

      This is likely to be the first CoD I don't buy at full price since MW1. I've loved every single SP campaign to date, and despite them being short, every one of them has been worth the price for me. I'm just really into the whole silly, super polished Bruckheimer game experience. MP never interested me, I'm more of a TF2/BF guy.

      Ghosts sounds like a disappointment in all the ways that matter to me. A campaign without proper setpiece high points? Check. Poor performance (at least for some) even with good hardware? Check. PC version lacking basic options? Check.

      When a guy like myself, a dedicated fan of the series who hasn't questioned spending the 60 bucks even for a second so far, goes "meh" after reading the reviews and impressions, it seems like a turning point for the franchise. Eagerly awaiting sales numbers.

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      November 6, 2013 9:42 AM

      It looks great on the 360. It's the first COD I've bought full-price since Black Ops 1, and am finding it to be really fun. Multiplayer maps are excellent. I'm playing for the fun factor with friends and it's checking all the boxes, apart from it actually being COD4 MW!

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