Call of Duty: Ghosts
Quality: ★★ (out of four)
Rating: M for Mature for blood, drug references, intense violence, strong language
Available now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC
Available for the Xbox One on Friday
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Not much has changed in the “Call of Duty” franchise.
The very basic mechanics of the shooting game are the same in “Call of Duty: Ghosts”: Grab a variety of guns, customize them the way you like, get out there and fight.
But “Ghosts,” the latest in the “Call of Duty” franchise,” also makes some additions to the game, which has been nearly the same since 2007's “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Slick new animations and pretty graphics are a huge bonus for “Ghosts,” but there are also a variety of frustrating additions and refinements that are put in place to satisfy the hardest-core “Call of Duty” gamers.
I suspect many players may go back to “Black Ops II” or “Modern Warfare 3” after giving “Ghosts” a try.
The single-player Campaign mode in “Ghosts” puts you in the near future, where the Federation uses a space-based weapon to bomb much of the United States. Your characters eventually join the Ghosts, a black ops team of highly trained killers, and try to stop the Federation from messing up the world once more.
“Find the bad guys and get them” isn't exactly an original story, but Campaign does take you through a variety of locales, many of them part of a demolished, post-apocalyptic, urban America that makes for some very cinematic moments. The firefights are fun and put you in the center of the action, which involves raiding enemy installations (the Campaign's best and most tense moments) and traipsing through a beautifully rendered video game jungle.
Much of the game's plot relies on the fact that you play one of two brothers under the command of their father, but all of the supposed emotional tension in the story hangs on that very flimsy peg. Then there's the much-touted mode where you play as a dog, but it isn't actually very fun (sneak, wait, attack, repeat).
Multiplayer mode, which is the core of the “Call of Duty” experience, has unfortunately been stripped of all its fun.
At fault are the maps in the Multiplayer mode. In previous installments of the franchise, players would fight to gain control of areas on the maps. Hold down a certain bunker, for example, and your team may have an advantage.
“Ghosts” has none of that. All of the maps are enormous and full of so many nooks and crannies that it's going to be hard for anyone but the most dedicated player to memorize every detail. All that expansive detail leads to Multiplayer games either being boring tactical battles or completely random encounters when you turn a corner and — surprise! — there's an enemy right in front of you.
Neither kind of game is particularly fun.
Multiplayer mode's weapon customization system can be a rabbit hole as the game gives you access to every single gun and attachment right at the beginning. Instead of making you level up and acquire new equipment level by level, now you earn “squad points” when you level up and when you complete special objectives. The points can be spent to unlock weapons, attachments and items such as grenades. It's a tad overwhelming, especially for new players, but there's no more need to grind through the game to unlock your favorite gun.
There's also Squads mode, which allows you to customize an entire squad of soldiers (down to their faces, genders and guns) and lead them into battle. It could be pretty fun, but you'll have to slog through hours of the game to unlock all of the squad members and weapons for each of them. It might turn off more casual players.
Last, but maybe the most fun, is the Extinction mode. In it, you take a team around with a giant drill that destroys alien hives. As it does so, you must protect it from each wave of the advancing alien horde. It's similar to the “Zombies” game from past “Call of Duty” games.
All the modes are very similar to what has been offered by “Call of Duty” games in the past, but “Ghosts” makes additions to the successful franchise that feel occasionally unnecessary and that sometimes outright kill the entertainment.