Review: Call of Duty: Ghosts

As a Nintendo gamer, it feels slightly strange thinking about how to review Call of Duty: Ghosts. On the one hand, should we all just be extremely thankful that Activison have stepped up where the likes of EA have baulked and brought arguably the biggest gaming franchise onto our humble, under performing console, whack a 9 or 10 on the score at the bottom (or just to your right) and spend the next year praying that come November 2014 we'll get the next instalment? Obviously not (you've already seen the score anyway...) but it feels like it's been that sort of year for Nintendo as far as the Wii U is concerned.

After a bit of confusion when it was unveiled, Activision finally confirmed Ghosts was coming to Wii U, specifically developed by the team at Treyarch, and they wanted it to help sell consoles. While it may not do that, the multiple developers who have had a hand in this game have brought us a solid, classic Call of Duty experience that gives players more of the same, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Flawed and frustrating, anyone yet to be convinced by the Call of Duty juggernaut won't find themselves turned into lovers by this entry that rarely strays from what the series has done before. However, complete newcomers and veterans should enjoy the chance to test themselves on new maps, new modes and a new campaign, all while retaining the same feel the franchise has seen for many a year.

Call of Duty isn't a 'bad' game. I'd argue since the first Modern Warfare there hasn't been a 'bad' one released. But, as it always seems, it becomes popular to bash success and anyone who doesn't play Call of Duty generally seems to despise it. Take a look at Metacritic's user score for this and past entries, outrageously low. But the reason the series became so popular and really hit the stratosphere with the first Modern Warfare was because it is fundamentally a good game. Smooth 60fps speed, nice graphics, often emotional storytelling and a multiplayer that has pretty much become the main game itself now all help create the package, which consumers pick up in their millions every year.

I know this isn't the popular thing to say, but I've always preferred solo-player campaigns to the multiplayer aspect. I beat 00 Agent mode on Goldeneye, unlocked the 007 option, and did the equivalent on Perfect Dark as well back in the day. But put me in a room with other players, and a routinely third or fourth place finish was the best I could hope for. So, with all Call of Duty experiences since my first, which was the previously mentioned Modern Warfare, it's the single player I always dive straight into. And the term 'experience' has never felt more appropriate after seeing Ghosts through to its brutal ending. I usually play on Hardened first time around, but for the purpose of getting the review done as quickly as possible I started on normal and crashed my way through it. What unfolded was classic Call of Duty: huge production values, vast cinematics and a compelling narrative all mask what is essentially a simple A to B adventure. Follow a certain squad member, shoot some people, and move on to the next bit is what it all boils down to. If last year's Black Ops II gave players more choice and different story branches to enjoy, Ghosts plays it straight - holding your hand, getting you where you need to go next and pushing the story on to its next beat without wavering.

Call of Duty Ghosts

Often you'll play a game and say "yeah it was good, but it's not like it would win an Oscar or anything is it?" Well this year Ghosts has been scripted by an Oscar-winning writer, Stephen Gaghan, but still falls into the category of 'good but not quite there'. When I first heard the title I dared to hope we might get a prequel focussing on Modern Warfare character "Ghost", however although there are a few nods to him, that's not the case. Centred around a father and his sons fighting off the South American (rather than Russian or Chinese this time) invasion, elements of the story are compelling, but ultimately fall short in creating real dramatic tension worthy of announcing an Oscar-winning writer was penning it.

Apart from some snazzy looking loading screen videos giving a brief of the next mission, most of the story telling is done in game, on the fly. Whilst this does work when the game slows down to accommodate it, during hellish gun fire or battle it gets lost amid a panic of "what am I doing next?" or "Where did my team mate go?" ruminations. A good barometer of this was that me and my girlfriend have just moved in together, and as such she had no choice but to sit through me playing the game. She actually quite enjoyed the set pieces (she loves an action film) and the bigger moments, and found the infiltration of a hotel at the dead of night tense and intriguing. But ultimately too many times she asked "what's going on?" or "couldn't you have saved him?" To which my replies were more often than not "I don't know either" and "no, because that's the story." The linearity also frustrated her having never seen or played a Call of Duty before, but I guess I'm used to that.

As well as an Oscar-winning writer, the other headline stealer was the inclusion of a dog as part of your team in the game. Sadly Riley has been fobbed off as window dressing here, being used and included at the start before going AWOL pretty quickly (surely not having a scuba dog is a missed opportunity...) then a quick re-appearance towards the end before disappearing, whereabouts unknown, at the campaign's conclusion. It is a shame as the parts where you do control him are fun, and he's quite a vicious animal when he attacks too. It was a nice idea but sadly it is poorly implemented. The names of Infinity Ward, NeverSoft, Raven and Treyarch all appear as developers before the start of the game, and it makes you wonder if one dealt with the Riley sections and the others completely forgot about, missing the memo completely.

Call of Duty GhostsI have been quite critical of the campaign, but as much as some things niggle at me, it is still an experience like no other and ultimately I did enjoy it. Some fun level design and battles both under water and in space provide stand out moments, and enough levels mix up the 'shoot everything to move on' principles you'd expect. Yes things could have been done differently, or implemented in better ways, but the fact is it's entertaining and immersive, a throw away story which gives you the chance to feel like you're at war whilst never having to face the actual horrors of it, from the comfort of your favourite chair. Perfect? No. Frustrating? Yes. Recommended? Absolutely. Again to go back to my opening paragraph, if you enjoy Call of Duty games, I have no doubt you'll enjoy the campaign. If you've never played one before and fancy dipping you toe in, again I think you'll have a great time. If you hate this series with a passion, you won't be swayed by this story. I fall into the first camp, I know what to expect and I enjoy it for what it is.

Alright, so it's not that I don't like multiplayer, it's just I'm not very good at it. Still, I've had enough fun and late nights on the various iterations in the series to appreciate and, when I'm doing particularly well, love a good Call of Duty session. Here, much like the campaign, the formula is as you would expect, and if you've done it before you won't find anything new. Ghosts has, on launch at least, failed to correct a few of the problems seen on Black Ops II's multiplayer, whilst still retaining that "just one more game" feeling of desperation when you feel you're on the verge of getting the hang of it.

Classing up, Prestige, perks and kill streaks are all here present and correct. Certain things have been adapted for Ghosts, like the 'Riley' perk, where you can unleash your version of the dog who will run off and earn kills for you. Again different styles have been accommodated for. Run and gun all you want, take your time and earn your kills, or sit back, get the sniper rifle out and pick people off when the opportunity arises. Some styles are more popular than others but you're given a choice thanks to much more expansive maps. All of the one's I have played on have been, in my opinion, too large. I've found myself wandering around trying to find people for ages, with no luck at all.

Call of Duty GhostsHowever, one of the bigger problems I've found with the title so far is the re-spawning, which can bring you back into play right in front of an enemy player. Picture wandering for an age unable to find anyone, getting taken out and then immediately getting a face full of lead as you come back into the game. It can get frustrating pretty quickly. As can some lag compensation issues that still plague the title, despite the promise of dedicated servers. It's a shame but, ultimately, hasn't ruined a game for me yet, so perhaps this is something that will be ironed out sooner rather than later. I'm almost getting sick of writing this so apologies if you're fed up reading it, but if you've been a fan of previous Call of Duty multiplayer games, I can't see any reason why you wouldn't enjoy this, taking into consideration getting used to new maps and load outs. If you're new to the series, imagine an interactive version of laser quest from the safety of home. If you're not a fan of the get the picture.

All the multiplayer modes are present and correct as well as a new 'Infected' game style, but truth be told whenever I've been online I've only been able to play team death match, as that's the only one enough people have been enjoying. This is frustrating and says more about the Wii U's user base (or lack of) than the game itself. Still, you'd think Nintendo might make a bit more noise about having a free online service to play Call of Duty through. You can just buy the game and you're good to go.

GamePad support is minimal, although the always welcome off-TV play is nice, especially for online multiplayer. Additionally, uou can have one playing on the TV, one on the GamePad, so it's almost exactly the same as Black Ops II last year. Wii Remotes are supported, as is the Pro Controller, so there is plenty of choice suiting your preferred control style. It's just a shame the GamePad is so under used and reduced to being a map and mission objective reminder when playing on the TV. Saying that, having the map right in front of you while sneaking around the locales can be advantageous when the Sat-Com goes up and you can see enemy players locations. Still, it's not quite enough, having just been playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and seeing that games exceptional use of the GamePad.

Two new modes have made their way into Ghosts as well - Squad and Extinction. Squad mode very much reminded me of matches versus computer controlled bots on Perfect Dark. The progress you make in Squad mode will add to your multiplayer experience points overall, and you can take these squads online to battle against other people as well as the computer. As you may be able to tell I haven't had the chance to spend a huge amount of time with Squads, which probably frustrates Activision when people moan about them not changing things up enough, and here I am not playing them that much. Honestly, I just want play the campaign and standard multiplayer. Still, Squad mode seems like there could be longevity to it and could be quite fun playing with or against friends.

Call of Duty Ghosts

Extinction mode plays like an alternative to the Zombies game usually found in the full Treyarch developed entries in the series. Jarringly it tried to link into the narrative of the main game, playing out as a consequence of something that happens in the single player which results in aliens appearing on the planet, and you being charged with taking them down. It's a fun if frivolous extra that can be played on its own or in co-op and has the usual high score incentive and weapon improvements along the way. Again, good on them for bringing something new, but one of the big things I've really enjoyed about the Infinity Ward games is the Spec Ops mode, specific co-op play that linked to the single player missions and provided a fantastic opportunity to bring some genuine camaraderie to the game locally (something that Nintendo constantly pushes) so consider me massively disappointed that this has been excluded from Ghosts.

Call of Duty: Ghosts does exactly what you would expect from it. It provides a solid campaign and good multiplayer offering that follows the blueprint of previous Call of Duty games exactly. This review may sound quite harsh in places, but as I consider myself a Call of Duty fan, I feel I can be but still recommend the game as a strong piece of software. I mentioned in my opening paragraph that maybe we should just give it a 10 and hope we get it next year by supporting it. Well my copy didn't come from Activision, it was bought by myself as a fan of the series, so I don't owe anyone a score apart from myself and you reading this. This isn't a 10/10 game. But it is a solid game in a stalwart series. Do I really have to peddle that sentence again? One more time, in case you didn't get it, abbreviated. Newcomers, welcome to Call of Duty. Lovers, welcome back. Haters, not welcome.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Call of Duty: Ghosts is a good entry game for new comers to the series, and veterans will enjoy themselves too. Anyone yet to be convinced by the Call of Duty franchise will not find any reason to be bowled over here. It's classic Call of Duty. Only you know whether that's a good or bad thing.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability3
  • Visuals3
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Solid, enjoyable campaign
Solid, enjoyable multiplayer
New modes
Classic Call of Duty play


Classic Call of Duty play
Graphical imperfections
Doesn't stray from the blue print
Some online issues still not resolved

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