Ghosts' brutally good new game modes make up for some poor design choices and terrible spawn logic.
By Joab Gilroy on November 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm
While Call of Duty: Ghosts‘ singleplayer campaign might be incoherent nonsense, at least the multiplayer is fairly decent. It’s not good, like Modern Warfare 3‘s, or even great like Black Ops 2‘s, but it’s not a terrible attempt at a multiplayer mode. It’s serviceable.
The fact that players can now manipulate the map is cool — though this dynamism pales in comparison to another recent release – and it adds an element of strategy to the way you approach the game. Map knowledge has become something of a lost art in First Person Shooters ever since they did away with healthpacks and weapon pickups, so I’m happy to see it return — even in a small capacity.
The maps themselves are fairly interesting as well — a flooded city in South America provides some nasty pitfalls for those not paying attention (you drown rather quickly) and a European stronghold claims the title of ‘the biggest Call of Duty map ever’. There’s considerable effort to create multi-level combat areas, and chokepoints (almost) always have multiple avenues of attack available.
This makes the objective based modes interesting — when playing Search and Rescue (a variant of Search and Destroy with the dogtags from Kill Confirmed), Domination or Blitz it’s easy to feel like you can lock an area down — and conversely easy to feel like you can liberate a held area, provided you understand the map well enough.
In the Deathmatch variants — Cranked, FFA, Kill Confirmed, TDM and Grind — the game betrays this feeling thanks to poor spawn logic. Players will repeatedly be spawned behind their enemies, and while this is forgivable in FFA it is inconceivable in the other modes. Worse still, this spawn logic is apparently by design — there were complaints that it took too long for players to get back into the action, and so they decided players would always be in the action.
This doesn’t make any sense to me. It used to be that Infinity Ward told players what they wanted — they didn’t listen (or cater) to a bunch of impatient idiots, they ignored them and were trusted to know better. In Ghosts that philosophy rings hollow, and you’ll often watch a killscreen with a person spawning in behind you for an easy kill.
The issues don’t end there, sadly. As always, the easiest way to win at Deathmatch ( which is nearly half of all game modes, since most of them are poorly dressed-up DM variants) is to pick a fast gun and make it faster. This means unlocking an SMG and the Burst Fire attachment and spitting out as many bullets as you can — until eventually you unlock the ChainSAW.
The ChainSAW is a chaingun-style squad automatic weapon — a heavy machine gun, and you can put the Burst Fire attachment on it to make things properly ludicrous. Once I equipped this combination it took maybe one round before half of everyone playing in my game was also using it — and the effects were quite lopsided. The Rate of Fire issue has plagued the Call of Duty series for a long time, and instead of curbing it the addition of the ChainSAW actively makes it worse.
With that said, multiplayer still offers a good deal of entertainment — especially in the weirder game modes like Infected or Hunted. Infected is simple — all players have shotguns except for one — the Infected – who is equipped with a knife. Every person the Infected player kills converts to their team until either time runs out or everyone has been converted. It’s a tense mode which relies on wits, chokepoint knowledge and your reflexes, but I’m afraid it won’t get the love it deserves.
Hunted drops random weapons in crates around the map, forcing teams to compete for them to get the upper hand — you spawn with a pistol only, but the crates hold something better. The beauty of this mode is in its randomness — you might get an Assault Rifle, but you might instead get a Rocket Launcher, and while you fumble with whatever weapon it gives you the other team knows exactly where you are and what you are doing.
It’s in these modes, coupled with S&R and Blitz, where Infinity Ward shows the most promise and talent. Here are modes which show actual growth and change — evolution which draws upon the series’ enormous history and legacy. Of course the depressing irony of Call of Duty is that nobody will ever play these modes for very long, but when they’re being played it’s a lot of fun.
Another area where the multiplayer shows growth is in the Squad arena. Along with an impressive approach to character customisation is the new way players Prestige. Instead of Prestiging the same character 10 times, players can now take 10 different characters to Prestige — and the Squad arena allows you to use all 10 of those characters in a variety of different ways.
You can take your squad, with their loadouts and appearances, and take on your friends in a squad vs squad scenario, where you and your friend control one squad member each and the AI controls the rest. The AI is quite sophisticated — I watched as they would flash around corners, complete fairly elegant pincer attacks and they even attempted to bait attacks when another journo and I equipped everyone with knives for some melee-only action.
The Squad element of Call of Duty: Ghosts is fairly impressive and a seemingly great way to avoid having to play with people who might be above your skill level – and there are even a few co-operative modes in there if you don’t want any sort of competitive experience.
On the subject of co-operative modes, Ghosts features a Black Ops Zombies-inspired mode called Extinction, where players will fight aliens as you attempt to detonate a nuke in their hive. There’s not a whole lot to say about Extinction — it’s a four player co-op experience that a group of Aussie journos finished on their second attempt. It’s a lot of fun, but extremely shallow — there’s just the one map, and once you put down enough sentry guns it’s simply a question of time before it’s all over.
I noticed some framerate stutter on the PS4 version of Ghosts, and while it was probably only noticeable because the game was flawless the rest of the time, it was there. On the other hand the texture issues I noticed in the singleplayer were less evident here. With many of the maps having little to do with the singleplayer at all I’m inclined to believe the two modes could have been created by different teams.
Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer is fine, and if all you’re looking for are new Call of Duty maps it will do the job well enough. I would have loved to see a space map, or an underwater map, but it’s not a huge loss that they don’t exist. I was blown away to see the Headquarters mode eliminated, and I think a grave error in judgement has been made there — but otherwise it’s a decent addition which suitably eclipses the failures of the singleplayer campaign.
- Squad modes are a great environment for goofing around in.
- Fantastic map design, and the map destruction isn’t that bad.
- Looks gorgeous the whole time, despite some stutter.
- Love game modes like Infected, Blitz and Search & Rescue.
- Poor spawn logic sees players spawn behind enemies.
- Rate of Fire is even more OP than ever.
- Too many Deathmatch variants.
games.on.net attended the Call of Duty: Ghosts review event in Los Angeles from October 21 – 24. Travel and accommodation costs were met by Activision.
This review conducted on a PS4 version of the game, as no PC review code was available. We’ll have a PC-specific follow-up article as soon as possible.
Screenshots used in this review provided by Activision.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is available on Steam for $89.99.