Monday, 25 November 2013

Call of Duty: Ghosts - First impressions (Squads & Multiplayer)

So I finally got around to picking this up, about two weeks after it was released.  I'd go so far as to call myself a big fan of the Call of Duty franchise, and have been since I got the original Modern Warfare in 2007.  I've bought every Call of Duty release since although I'm not one of the people who apparently feel the need to queue up at midnight to get their hands on it a few hours before everyone else.  Nor do I see the point in pre-ordering when you can simply walk into any supermarket and pick up one of a hundred or so copies off the shelf the following day.

Anyway, I digress. This game is the fourth of the modern generation of the CoD franchise to be released by Infinity Ward.  Their previous offering was Modern Warfare 3, which brought an end to the MW storyline with the death of super-evil international terrorist Vladimir Makarov.  This game progresses down the new story arc of the Ghosts, a secretive elite special ops squad.  This is loosely linked in with the character of Ghost in Modern Warfare 2 who wears a skull mask similar to the ones seen in this game.

Powering the game up, you're greeted with four game options on the main menu, there's the ubiquitous single player campaign and online multiplayer modes, with the new additions of "Squads" and "Extinction" modes.  Heading straight into multiplayer, I'm greeted with a message advising me to check out "Squads" mode first.  Fair enough, give us a bit of that.

The only thing I can compare squads to is the Brotherhood features of the Assassin's Creed game, with online capability added.  You build up your own squad of soldiers, customising their looks, weapons, attachments, killstreaks, perks etc, pitting them against other squads of players around the world.  You begin with one soldier unlocked, the rest are randomly generated.  Before I go any further, the key to unlocking anything in Ghosts online are Squad Points (SP), these are randomly awarded in squads mode and multiplayer for assists, using support killstreaks etc.  You also receive 2 SPs when you rank up, and they are also awarded for completing Operations (previously known as challenges) and Battlefield Orders (which I'll get to later).  The first four additional soldiers are unlocked at a fairly reasonable 3 SPs each, the fifth costing a  whopping 100 SPs.  There are a further set to be unlocked, costing 200, 300, 400 and 500 SPs each, however considering each game is only played as 6 vs 6, I'm not sure what the point would be of spending hundreds of SPs on unlocking the additional soldiers, except perhaps for each additional multiplayer "banner" that you unlock for purchasing each one.

So, into the game.  The biggest difference between this and previous installments are the maps.  The formula for CoD maps are usually the same, two end points connected by two or three routes across the middle, sometimes with a large open area in the centre.  The maps in Ghosts for the most part are nothing like this, they're open and sprawling, looking more like maps from the Battlefield franchise.  It normally takes me a few hours of gameplay to start learning the layouts of the maps but these are in a different league.  The first map I started on, "Stormfront".  This is a large downhill sloping street with a row of buildings on either side, very similar to the Modern Warfare map "Crossfire", only on a much larger scale and much more detailed, with visibility from one end to the other obscured by rainfall which gets heavier as the game progresses.

Now before I go any further, let me point out that these thoughts are being written by someone who enjoys roving around the map, looking for someone to shoot at, not necessarily in "run & gun" mode, but very much anti-camping.  Sitting behind a doorway or lying prone at the end of a corridor for the majority of the game waiting for someone to run past you is not only mind numbingly dull but extremely annoying.  I can understand camping on an objective such as in games like Search & Destroy or Headquarters but when people are doing it in Team Deathmatch or Free For All, it gets pretty annoying pretty quickly.

Fortunately, the maps in previous CoD games are geared towards non-camping gameplay.  There are spots in most maps that were obviously created especially for snipers, although these are usually isolated and difficult to defend.  However the maps in Ghosts are so vast and detailed that there are literally hundreds of spots to camp in.  The largest map in the game that I have come across, "Siege" is extremely well detailed but with multiple doorways and windows overlooking the open areas, it's a camper's dream.  Same as on "Octane" with multiple elevated sniping spots overlooking the central street.

The upshot of this is that most multiplayer matches degenerate pretty quickly into snoring campfests.  I usually play Kill Confirmed online, as the fact that you actually have to move around the map collecting tags in order to score points for your team, means that this is usually the most fluid and fast moving game style, yet even this kind of game is plagued with camping, to the point that it becomes not enjoyable to play anymore.  In one game that I played last night on "Octane", I finished up with 12 kills, 16 deaths and 23 tags picked up.  On the other team was one person who had dug themself into a rooftop and stayed there for the entire game finished with 18 kills, 0 deaths but also with 0 tags.  I can't understand why people would join this game mode yet not bother picking up any tags.  The joke is on them, however, because they would have scored roughly half the points in KC that they would have gotten if they had put in the same score in a TDM game.

The aforementioned "Siege" map is a good example of the typical Ghosts multiplayer experience, you spawn at one end of the map, spend 2-3 minutes wandering around looking for someone to shoot at before getting zapped in the back from half a mile away by someone in a window with a sniper rifle.

At the moment, Ghosts online is just not enjoyable for me, due to every game degenerating into a dull campfest.  Because of this, I'm largely playing squads mode and levelling up that way, albeit a bit slower.  More on this to follow....


Hi.  I created this blog as a platform to air my views on some of the games that I play fairly frequently.  A bit about me, I'm 29, married and living in the UK.  I work full time as an IT Engineer for a large insurance company and am also studying for a business degree part time at university.  As you can imagine, free time for gaming comes at a premium for me.  Because of this I'm not proclaiming myself to be a professional gamer, or some kind of games expert.  It struck me though that the majority of blogs and YouTube channels I've seen are posted from this kind of perspective, so I wanted to offer an alternative viewpoint.  At the moment I'm mainly playing Call of Duty: Ghosts on PS3, while playing online quite late last night it occurred to me that I had quite a few opinions about this game that I wanted to get off my chest, and this would be a natural place to start...