We take the Xbox One version of Call of Duty Ghosts for a ride.
Anyone who’s played any of the Call of Duty games pretty much knows what to expect by now. Expect the unexpected. Moments after leaving the relative safety of the menu screen, we’re controlling astronauts in a space station and firing semi-automatics to deter terrorists from taking control of the ODIN super weapon. The aggressors still manage to fire off a few powerful beams towards Earth, however, wiping out cities in the US and setting the scene for what’s to follow.
In Ghosts, Activision and Infinity Ward tell the tale of the US confronting the threat of a new superpower, South America, and trying to scupper the malevolent plans of Gabriel Rorke – former special forces and all round bad egg. Besides outer space(!) you get to wander through many varied environments from dense forests and destroyed stadia to an impressive underwater level.
"Much has been made of the lower 720p resolution when compared to the PS4’s 1080p but in practice you won't notice the difference with both still running at 60fps. Those moving from their 360s and PS3s will certainly appreciate the sharper graphics, textures and tones and really shouldn’t care much about so-called resolutiongate."
The Xbox One plays identically to those on the other systems but boasts a few next gen tweaks visually. Much has been made of the lower 720p resolution when compared to the PS4’s 1080p but in practice you won’t notice the difference with both still running at 60fps. Those moving from their 360s and PS3s will certainly appreciate the sharper graphics, textures and tones and really shouldn’t care much about so-called resolutiongate.
Ultimately, it’s the gameplay that counts and as usual, Activision and Infinity Ward have followed the winning formula to provide a few relentless hours of action, explosions and high octane set pieces. Despite a slew of additions such as new game modes, dynamic maps, female soldiers and customizable characters that can slide and lean round corners, it all feels strangely familiar.
The developers have certainly tried to address the issues that typically blight these short and hollow shooter campaigns by introducing an emotional element, with the story centered around the relationship between father and sons, and of course the much heralded inclusion of Riley the dog – who, by the way, is controllable in some missions. As usual though, it’s all very linear with little opportunity to stray off the beaten track, except for when you’re looking for lost intel.
"Cash is earned for kills and can be spent on new weapons and upgrades. It’s thoroughly addictive and a really nice change from slathering zombies. Enough with the zombies already!"
Graphically, Ghosts can look lovely in places with sweeping vistas full of colour and detail, and an environment speckled with sunlight or the smoke of explosions. It still falls shy of the graphical prowess of Battlefield, and is perhaps not the game to showcase the abilities of your shiny new console. Nonetheless, it is a good looking game.
On Easy difficulty you’ll have no problems wiping out the waves of enemies that run towards you but ramp it up to Veteran and it’s challenging without bordering on controller-smashing frustration. But as we all know, Call of Duty isn’t about playing alone, is it? There’s plenty more to keep you occupied beyond sending your beloved hound to nibble enemies’ ankles in the campaign.
Although it’s with much chagrin that the Special Ops co-op mode has been omitted from this year’s edition, there are a couple of new game modes on offer beyond the usual multiplayer offering. Squads sees you and a few friends – or a team of AI bots – taking on enemies, whereas Extinction is the obligatory Horde mode by another name, trying to replicate the sheer madness of Treyarch’s acclaimed zombies mode but with the undead replaced by aliens.
The aim is to team up with others to withstand wave after wave of aliens as you try to destroy their hives. Sounds simple but each level gets increasingly tougher and before long, you’ll be calling on your teammates to resuscitate you, replenish your ammo and to prise the slime-spitting creatures off your back. Cash is earned for kills and can be spent on new weapons and upgrades. It’s thoroughly addictive and a really nice change from slathering zombies. Enough with the zombies already!
It’s all good fun, but I’ve no doubt the average gamer will spend most of their time navigating the many maps of the multiplayer mode. And don’t worry about the lobbies being empty given that this has been released to coincide with a new console launch… they’re awash with people waiting to snipe, camp and frag their way to the top of the leaderboards.
"Multiplayer is definitely the main draw and offers a huge amount of character customisation to keep even the most diehard fans happy until next year’s edition. It’s a real shame that Special Ops mode fell by the wayside, but Squads and Extinction almost make up for it."
There are loads of modes to dive into, ranging from the usual Team Deathmatch and Domination games to a few more inventive offerings. Cranked, for example, charges teams to reach 100 kills. But there’s a twist, each kill initiates a 30-second countdown to rack up another, otherwise you’re a goner. Others of note include Kill Confirmed – where fallen comrades drop dog tags, which enemies have to collect to gain a point – and Blitz, which sees you and your team race from one end of the map to the other to capture a zone in your rivals’ base.
Maps aren’t vast but are still a decent size, meaning that even with the higher player limit on the Xbox One (18 compared with a miserly 12 on the Xbox 360), you’ll still have periods roaming about without straying upon other players.A welcome change to this edition is that maps are dynamic – although not on the same scale as those seen in EA’s Battlefield 4 with its “Levolution” feature. In fact, they seem far more natural and less jarring to the gameplay.
Released early last month, the statistics suggest that the series’ popularity is still unparalleled; by 26 November, a matter of weeks after its launch, more than one billion multiplayer matches had been played, players had Prestiged more than 2.2 million times and they’d amassed a staggering 3.3 trillion XP. What’s more, it’s also earned the title of most pre-ordered and biggest selling game on the Xbox One. Call of Duty: Ghosts is definitely another top offering from Infinity Ward and its purchase should be a no brainer for every FPS fan.
Sure, it’s more of the same but you kinda knew it would be. The campaign is certainly better than some of the previous games but it’s still linear, predictable and terribly brief. Multiplayer is definitely the main draw and offers a huge amount of character customisation to keep even the most diehard fans happy until next year’s edition. It’s a real shame that Special Ops mode fell by the wayside, but Squads and Extinction almost make up for it.