What time is it? Call of Duty time. Regular as clockwork, Activision have released another edition of the world's most popular first person shooter, and gamers everywhere queued up last night to be among the first to get their dose.
What makes it a sensation? No one really knows, but one thing is clear: it's not about the singleplayer campaign. Call of Duty captures hearts and minds thanks largely to its outstanding, deep multiplayer gameplay - something fans will be very happy to hear is once again intact in this year's iteration of the franchise, Call of Duty: Ghosts.There have been plenty of tweaks to it, of course, as it would be difficult to justify a year's worth of development without wading in and changing something, but rest assured, this is still Call of Duty at the core.
In order to properly assess Ghosts, and give each of the many segments its due, our review is split out into several sections that will independently assess a component (or group of components) as to its relevant merits. You can, therefore, quickly skip over the singleplayer stuff, if that's not your cup of tea (spoiler alert: it's up first), to find out how the new perk system spices up multiplayer, or what we thought of the brand-new Extinction mode.
Additionally, while this review is for the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which is where we spent most of our time, the PlayStation 3 version (which also got a fair thrashing) is largely the same, albeit with a reduced level of graphical fidelity and support for only 12 players (maximum) in multiplayer (down from the usual 18.)
Despite not being the focal point of Call of Duty for most, it's clear that the singleplayer campaign is still worthy of some considerable investment from Activision. Each year, alternating between lead developers Infinity Ward and Treyarch, Call of Duty bundles together a sequence of blockbuster set pieces - each connected by some sort of narrative element - which generally totals something like 5 hours of gameplay.
Ghosts is no different. Developed this year by Infinity Ward, the campaign's something of a step back in terms of structure from last year's Black Ops II, losing that game's innovative strategic elements and the way in which you were forced to make choices that would have consequences. Instead, what you get is something more traditional in terms of flow: here, you blow away a series of bad guys in all sorts of exotic locations then watch the credits, much as you might expect in pretty much any other first person shooter.
There are several standout levels, but highlights include those set in space (physics be damned, it's fun and new, and I liked it), sneaking around underwater, and a high-adrenaline sequence set atop some sort of crazy super future train that moves around like it's trying to liquify everything inside it. There's plenty of other fun stuff in there too, including the first ever Call of Duty sequence in which you're in full control of a tank. Sure, it moves like a dune buggy, but it's a tank, and blowing stuff up with it is fun (if not even remotely realistic.)
Despite the big-deal reveal of female player characters in Ghosts' multiplayer announcement trailer, there are basically no women in the singleplayer campaign at all. There's one at the very start, and then some random helicopter pilot has a female voice, but otherwise it seems like women still occupy only small supporting roles in the dystopian future world of Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Your dog - Riley - is another feature that seemed, pre-release, to be a big deal but in reality he's hardly used at all. The few times he does appear are interesting enough, for the most part (aside from one super annoying section of gameplay which I won't ruin but you'll immediately recognise), but it seems that, just as you figure out how to factor him into your playstyle, he's taken away, never to return.
All in all, the singleplayer stuff, as you might expect if you've played a Call of Duty game before, is forgettable but still fun in the same way watching a silly action movie is. This aspect of the title won't win any awards, but if you're buying the game anyway, you might as well have a go - everyone likes popcorn from time to time, right? Just be sure to stick around until the very end…
Brand new to Call of Duty, Extinction mode is probably most similar in structure to Zombie mode, which features in Treyarch-developed Call of Duty games (World at War, Black Ops, Black Ops II.)
The idea is simple enough: you (and up to three friends) must head into a post-apocalyptic township and place drills up against alien hive sites. Aliens will come in waves, and you've got to fend them off, working together to defeat the increasingly difficult walls of terror that come your way until ultimately you manage to nuke the township (or, more likely, are all killed.)
Working together is essential, as Extinction is crazy hard. Fortunately, you can offset the difficulty (a little bit, at least) by leveling up and choosing from a series of perks that, with a clever team, will mean you have what you need when you need it.
Continue reading on page 2.