No Man’s Land

As a shooter originating from humble beginnings what seems like an eternity ago, few franchises have played such an integral role in shaping the future of online shooters. In a genre that has seen the single player experience become less and less prominent, and development become primarily centralised around the online experience, Infinity Ward and Treyarch have both made numerous attempts at refining and improving upon the groundbreaking foundations laid down by the original Modern Warfare. Innovation however is the root of all success and it is a serious lack of evolution and creativity that has seen the latest entry in the coveted series fail to make an impact on anything other than gamer’s wallets.

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of players who play Call of Duty neglect to even make the effort, nor have the desire to experience the game’s single player portion.  For the select few who take the plunge however the good news is that Ghosts takes place in a brand new universe with a fresh narrative, a new conflict, and a new band of elite soldiers known as the “Ghosts”. The bad news unfortunately is that the game’s transparent and lacklustre conflict tells the story of an overwhelmingly powerful federation of well resourced South American nations as they rise up in an attempt at conquering the United States. Naturally the Ghosts and the remaining American forces are all that stand between freedom and total annihilation. The plot however fails to achieve any form of cohesion as you are clumsily thrown from level to level with nothing more than a brief 15 second cut scene to tie it all together. The Ghosts themselves don’t fare much better in comparison and the ragtag band of heroes boil down to nothing more than a handful of generic uninspiring army grunts whose sole purpose is to pilot the game from start to finish.

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True to form for the franchise, Call of Duty Ghosts contains the same fast paced and fluid shooting mechanics that made it famous. Be prepared for an array of over the top set pieces and scripted events, from fast paced chase scenes through exploding environments, to shootouts in outer space, very little is left to the imagination. From the immediate onset of the experience however I couldn’t help but be engulfed with an overwhelming sense of familiarity, like I’d done this before and was just going through the motions. That’s because if you have played any of the previous installments in the franchise since the original modern warfare you have essentially already played the latest iteration. A few new weapons, flashy attachments, and the ability to command an attack dog on rare occasions aside, Ghosts brings absolutely nothing new to the table but a bunch of overused and dated experiences that have simply been recycled and relabeled as “innovations”.

“Ghosts brings absolutely nothing new to the table but a bunch of overused and dated experiences”

Luckily the most significant changes come in the form of small tweaks to the multiplayer suite.  Although Call of Duty has always relied on the grand sense of gratification and satisfaction one gets upon levelling up and unlocking a slew of new weapons and attachments, Ghosts marks Infinity Ward’s first foray into uncharted territory with the all new Extinction mode. In what could be seen as a reimagining of the highly rewarding and addictive zombies offering, Extinction instead decides to pit players up against a ravenous horde of aliens. It would be fair to say that Extinction draws inspiration from Treyarch’s signature zombies experience in more than a few ways and it ultimately fails to instill the same sense of urgency and desperation that made its counterpart so engaging and memorable.

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For those who feel the need to indulge in more of the same fast paced multiplayer mayhem fans have become so thoroughly  accustomed to over the years however I say fear not.  A fresh arsenal of new weapons, gadgets and attachments await as well as a generous number of new maps. Destroying your opponents online and reaping the rewards is just as fun as ever and if that’s all you are looking for in your next annual instalment  I suggest you give it the time of day. For those who were hoping for a brave new reinvention of the brand as we find ourselves on the precipice of a  new and exciting era in gaming should steer well clear of the franchise’s first “next gen” outing.

For a great deal of fans the problem of deciding which platform to splash out on can be a daunting decision with new hardware just weeks away. As a series fan who has always chosen to utilize the advanced hardware present on the PC platform to enhance my gaming experience, it was a bitterly disappointing revelation to behold upon spending a short period of time with the title.  First of all if Infinity Ward hadn’t placed such a pressing urgency on informing fans that Ghosts was running on a new engine it would be near impossible to tell. There has been absolutely zero visual enhancements made in the latest outing and on a great number of occasions can even look worse than its predecessors. This is made all the more embarrassing by the games truly outrageous hardware and install requirements which have been the topic of great debate amongst the community. Overshadowing even the depressingly outdated and ageing presentation however is the game’s performance.  Adversity is to be expected upon any large release but it is startling to comprehend how this product even passed through quality control. Expect everything from texture issues, audio issues, frame rate problems, stuttering, and lack of SLI and CrossFireX support to name a few. In short if you are still experiencing apprehension on which platform you should cash in on, the field was just narrowed.

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All shortcomings aside, the core multiplayer formula form which revolves the franchise’s entire universe remains largely unhindered.  For years now this has both been the franchises greatest ally and its worst enemy. Call of Duty Ghosts is definitive proof that even one of the most successful formulas of all time cannot survive without adapting. Although Ghosts may succeed in wetting the appetites of avid Call of Duty enthusiasts for another year, it has failed to evolve into an experience that would truly warrant the claim Next Gen.

Developer: Infinity Ward, Raven Software, Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 & Wii U – Xbox One & PlayStation 4

5.5/10