Call of Duty: Ghosts (Wii U) Review
Call of Duty has always been a bit of a ghost. Something to fear, it can lead to publishers delaying their games or even developers wondering just how their own projects will stack up against it. As such, it seems fitting that Call of Duty: Ghosts has taken upon this name. But once you’ve been spooked, will you ever be the same?
Call of Duty: Ghosts is set in the near future and while set in the same universe as previous Call of Duty, it features none of the previous cast from the most recent titles in the series. No Soap, no Price – it’s a blank slate. You play as Logan, who alongside his brother Hesh, must defend what’s left of the United States. A South American group called ‘The Federation’ has used an orbital weapon to hit most of the United States and turn it into a wasteland. During the course of the campaign you’ll team up with the Ghosts, a legendary group of soldiers who jet all over the globe to stop The Federation.
In typical Call of Duty fashion, the game’s campaign is filled to the brim with great set pieces. Going behind enemy lines is fun, floating around like Sandra Bullock in Gravity in space (with a gun) is spectacular and taking out that base toward the end of the game is intense. You get a break from the shooting every so often as well, you get the play as the dog Riley, mount up on turrets, remote snipers and there’s even a mission where you transfer between on the ground inside a facility and back outside into a chopper (the chopper controls are a little wonky). Your squad mates (the Ghosts) AI has been improved a lot – the enemies can either be dumb as zombies or will become the Terminator and be able to run and gun you down.
Infinity Ward has honed the making of these campaigns down to a fine art; they’re blockbusters with explosions, and lots of pretty things to see. They’re also straight forward and the game never just leaves you alone to play – you’re always with someone or have someone in your ear. You move from one area to the next, shoot and continue. Call of Duty is known for its ‘short’ campaigns and nothing is different here, you can probably finish the game in about 5 hours, even less if you’re playing on easy. The production for those 5 hours is spectacular and any longer it would just feel too long.
The story overall though is close to becoming a self parody of itself. Shooting in space, the jingoism and military hoo-hah is so over the top now you have to ask yourself if they’re being serious at some points. You’ll wonder too why The Federation is attacking, the story darts and dodges around so much you’ll soon be confused. The story tries to make you care about Logan and Hesh, their father and the their family – even all of America ever but it grabs so hard that it feels forced. Love me it screams! I felt more for Riley the dog, than I did for any of the humans in the story.
The campaign isn’t half of the game any more, it’s not even half of the single player thanks to a couple of new modes to try out. Extinction is a horde-mode which pits you again an ever increasing wave of aliens, yes we now have aliens in Call of Duty. Played in co-op both online and offline, Extinction allows up to four players to take on the alien force with a giant drill. This drill moves forward and back depending on how well you’re doing and takes out the enemy hives. You naturally have to shoot the aliens to get cash on guns, ammo and gear as well as power ups to protect the drill. This extra mode is so in-depth it even has its own class system each with their own perks and abilities. Extinction is a great part of the game and shows some real innovation outside the campaign and multiplayer – it’s also not Zombies again. No more Zombies please.
The fun continues with Squads, you can play with friends again or with computer controlled bots. It’s essentially a training ground for the real multiplayer, so much so that your XP you earn transfers to online. You can outfit your squad with same classes that Extinction has to give and your squad the edge of the enemy. In the ‘old days’ before the internet, this mode would simply be multiplayer and has a similar feeling to what Perfect Dark achieved with its bots having different personalities.
The online multiplayer though is what most people are here for and Infinity Ward have done little to rock the boat here. There’s new modes, new kill-streaks and of course new maps. All of your favourite modes are back as well as fair amount of new ones, same with the perks which replace the AUV with portable SAT COM’s that require more power through more kill streaks. You can also wield the dog (for lack of a better word) in multiplayer.. The maps are larger this time around, however the player limit on the Wii U version is slightly less than that of the other versions of the game so at times it will feel like you have nothing to shoot.
This is a problem overall with Wii U version of the game, there is simply just not the same amount of people playing the game on the system as there is on the other consoles or even the PC. Outside of Team Deathmatch, where we never had a problem finding a suitable match, the game would struggle to find a match for us with only a thousand or so people online on the Wii U overall. It’s not likely to get any better either.
So what would make you choose the Wii U version of Call of Duty: Ghosts over the others? The GamePad of course. Like last year’s outing, the GamePad can be used to play the game completely off screen. Some may find it jarring though as Call of Duty is a balls out explosive ride and playing on the small screen seems like a crazy contradiction. During the campaign and most of the game, the GamePad screen is used for very little, it’s only in multiplayer and modes like Extinction where you can play with one person on the TV using a Wii Remote or Pro Controller and another on the GamePad. It’s still something the other consoles can’t do at all.
Call of Duty: Ghosts may be running on a ‘new engine’ but it still looks a heck of a lot the same as last year, and the year before and well, you get the idea. The game isn’t hideous but it’s not using any of the extra power of the Wii U. The game’s locations though are detailed and well thought out. While most of the game is destroyed, cities or the jungle, there are a few levels that stand out including the space levels, the ones set in Vegas and underwater. It’s just a shame you can’t take a walk off the beaten track, you’re locked to the tracks, literally at one point. Treyarch ironically are responsible for bringing the Wii U version to us and they’ve done well with the base material. The game’s soundtrack is like the game itself, almost at that point where it’s trying too hard to be serious – that being said a lot of the high impact parts of the story do have a great score.
Call of Duty always feels likes two games, as one of the rare people who just play through the campaign I was disappointed this year with not the story and its characters – the locations were great and varied however. Overall it felt off and in turn I didn’t feel anything for it outside one or two high impact moments. I worried more about the dog than the human characters. Multiplayer has some great modes removed and some interesting new ones added, but the real joy is addition of Extinction. The aliens suit the over-the-top world that Call of Duty has become.
For all the crap Call of Duty gets from the more ‘high brow’ gamers each year, the game has managed to still remain a strong package for those who enjoy the story or who are here for the yearly upgrade to the multiplayer. The story though, the part I enjoy the most was an odd-misstep this year and they need to figure out how to get it back on track.
Screenshots are down sampled from high resolution samples provided by Activision. We are unable to confirm which version of the game is pictured.