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Call of Duty: Ghosts is one step forward, two steps back for franchise

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Here we are, the beginning of Call of Duty season, as some of us call it. Another year, another shooter and this time it has Battlefield 4 (released in October) to go up against. Call of Duty remains the industry standard when it comes to first person shooters, but does Call of Duty: Ghosts stack up to the other games available and to those past Call of Duty titles?

This year it was Infinity Wards turn with the Call of Duty franchise, their last outing was Modern Warfare 3, a successful in sales yet so-so with critics offering that gave fans little innovation. However with Infinity Ward there’s a lot expected, this is the team that brought us gamers out of World War II and put us into modern times with Call of Duty 4. Today’s review will cover the Xbox 360 edition of the game, bear that in mind. With Ghosts having IW, Raven Software and Neversoft backing it up, we should get a sound quality game, right?

The single player campaign has a Red Dawn feeling, putting players in the shoes of Logan and Hesh, two young sons of a retired Army Captain who help the “Ghosts” fight a war against the Federation spread across the globe. The story itself is by the book, bad guys have taken over and you’re a small resistance against them. It’s all a reason to have big set pieces, quick time events and even go into space. The single player has the usual action moments, twists you can see a mile away, and forgettable characters. We’re a long way from Call of Duty 4.

The achievements/trophies in the game are standard fare, you get plenty for beating levels and little ones for collecting items and doing other random tasks. The levels look good, lighting and textures come across great and the sound is impressive. Again, this is all the same thing we’ve seen before, with the exception of introducing a dog to help you in battle, there’s no innovation here, which is a shame as the single player is often ignored when it could be the showpiece of the game

To be fair, the single player is something the developers put into the game just to pad out the length, and it’s something most COD players don’t bother with. The multiplayer is what’s brought people back to the franchise year after year. Call of Duty: Ghosts tries to bring back the addictive quality the other COD games had in their multiplayer, and while it hits some of the right points, it’s a system that is riddled with problems, and in need of refinement.

Let’s talk about the good with the online first. Right away, there’s a great big selection of guns to try your hand at. There are plenty of assault rifles, sub machine guns, shot guns, sniper rifles and marksman rifles to choose from. Depending on how you play, if you’re a rusher or a camper, the gun will make or break your game. The leveling up system is back thankfully, and you’ll find yourself unlocking patches, weapons and perks as you work your way up the levels.

The guns sound and feel great, along with the equipment, like grenades and flash bangs. The controls are smooth, best in the FPS genre, and help cement Call of Duty as being an industry leader. No other game available today or yesterday has the same quality controls that COD does, and you can really tell when you go from COD to say Halo, other companies just don’t have the same quality control engine that Activision does.

A great feature added to the franchise is a lean function. While it’s not perfect, you can now take cover and lean out staying somewhat safe while picking off enemies. The maps look great as well, I wasn’t blown away but things don’t look smeared or muddy. The sound works well too, and you’ll hear your teammates call out enemy locations as you’re playing, which comes in handy more than you think.

Leveling up is addicting still, but now you’re not just prestiging your one guy, instead you have ten guys/gals, all with their own levels and weapons that you have to prestige, should you want to “finish” the online, which many people do. Prestiging, as many gamers know, means you reset your rank, weapons and everything else, but you keep the stats. It’s a way to show off that you’re good enough to keep starting over, like a badge of honor.

You can also customize your character, providing you unlock gear and clothing, and faces. Still, it’s neat to pick out certain features and take your crafted guy into the battlefield. The pick ten system introduced in Black Ops 2 makes its return (trading items for perks and vice verse), and here it’s just as good as it was before.

All of the game modes you love are here, from Team Death Match to Domination, there’s new modes like Search and Rescue and Cranked. Cranked is sorta based off the movie it’s named after. In this mode, players who get kills will instantly move faster, but they also get a thirty-second countdown timer on the screen. If they kill another person in that thirty seconds, said person will move faster and get another thirty seconds, and if they don’t, their head explodes. It’s a rush trying to keep your head from exploding and earn your killstreaks.

However with all the good things so say, there’s plenty of bad. Assault rifles are incredibly overpowered, to the point that taking a sub machine gun or a shotgun up against someone with an AR is a lost cause. Recoil on the AR’s is incredibly low, damage is high (two shots to the stomach in come cases) and range is incredible. The only guns that can match the damage of an AR are the sniper rifles, guns that not everyone can use. Unfortunately this makes the non-AR guns completely useless, as you’ll always be out gunned.

Another issue with the game are squad points, the currency used to unlock weapons and perks (although you can unlock perks by leveling up). Squad points are not just handed out left and right, unlike the point system from say Black Ops which always gave you points to spend, even if you lost. Here you get points for completing challenges, like taking down the top member on the enemy team or capturing a flag first (in Domination). Average players will be lucky to rack up three or four points, while lower end players will walk away with one or two if they are lucky.

The problem with this system is that these points are the only ways to unlock other guns and equipment, and starting out you’re very limited to what you can use. This is turn means that to find your gun, which all players need to do, they need points, but they can’t get points because the guns they have don’t work for them. For those players, it’s one step forward, two steps back. They should have stuck with the level up, unlock weapons system, as it’s clear they can’t handle a currency system correctly.

Another issue is the spawn system, and while most players will always complain about spawns, we’ve had many videos come out recently documenting just how bad the system is. On smaller maps, it’s not uncommon to see someone on the enemy team pop up out of thin air directly in front of you. It’s gotten so bad that I personally stopped killing people when they spawn in front of me, as it’s just not fair.

The maps run between small affairs and large maps, and you’d think having large maps would cure the spawn problem, but it doesn’t. Another issue the maps have is they provide almost no cover for people. This does stop people from camping to a point, but in objective games where you try to hold a flag and defend a position, you’re constantly in the line of fire. There are areas of the map that can be changed during the game, from explosions or other odd events, but for the most part these changes serve no purpose other than to make the map look different. The changes won’t affect the way you play the game modes, making the whole idea pointless.

Killstreaks return, and unfortunately none of them are very good. Gone are the days of helicopters buzzing the map, with dogs all over the place. Instead you’ll be lucky to see one attack helicopter, and some people with guard dogs running around. This is a good and bad thing, as it makes people rely on their guns to get kills, but what’s the reward for having a good gun game? Squat.

Call of Duty: Ghosts is good competitive multiplayer shooter, but it’s clear to see that Infinity Ward has run out of ideas for the franchise. Ghosts features nothing that pushes the series forward, no innovation at all. Instead it’s relying on its formula from past years, only this time they’ve pulled so much out that the outlandish fun of Black Ops 2 is not here to be had. It’s a shame as well, with Battlefield 4 and Grand Theft Auto V available, and the next-gen consoles on the scene, Call of Duty should be the game to have this holiday season. Unfortunately, this is just another game that you should rent.

Call of Duty is in dire need of change, or at least, a year off to figure out what to do next. As a seasoned Call of Duty player, I can only hope Activision steps back and gives Treyarch and Infinity Ward time to come up with something new, something creative and something fun.

Overall Rating: 3/5

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