The last call of duty I played was Modern Warfare 2. I had 500 hours played in it. I also played Black Ops, but only accumulated 50 hours in it, so I don't remember a lot about it besides the campaign. (My computer at the time was ancient and could only run it on the lowest graphics, which looked horrible.) I bought the PC version of Ghosts. Campaign
The campaign reminds me a lot of your typical Expendables-like action movie. You'll enjoy the movie at the time and had a blast watching it, but you'll forget the entire plot a month later. Story
The campaign takes place in America after it has been taken over by the "Federation" and half of America's landscape is a crater. The game never really explains what the Federation is or why they decided to bomb half of America, but all you need to know is that they hate your guts and that their main agent just hates you specifically. (As a side note, I noticed a hot topic a few days ago complaining that all COD games think everyone but Americans are evil. While the Federation's grunt troops typically speaks in heavy Spanish accents, the only main villain is American.) America is down, but not out. You and your brother must track down the legendary "ghosts" and go behind enemy lines to hunt down key targets while simultaneously dodging a nemesis that is hunting them. On top of that, you will either be stabbed or shot at the end of each mission but barely survive. (Well, not EVERY mission, but it sure seemed like it.)
I'm not going to spoil too much here, but you won't get a lot out of the story. It's pretty straightforward and a lot less complicated than Black Ops 2 seemed to be, and it's refreshing to have a brand new COD story, but the motivations of your enemy are completely unclear for the entire game. I kept waiting for a hint to drop or some big unveil, but despite a shocking ending, the Federation's logic behind their attack is still not said.
The characters themselves are well done, however. Hesh, your brother, is your main companion and well voice acted. Riley the dog is the character everyone will be talking about, and is well done and realistic. (Besides his natural ability to never die.) Gameplay
Gameplay in most COD campaigns is a high octane roller-coaster. It's no different here. You'll fight in zero gravity, shoot sharks, and infiltrate a base Ocean's 11 style all in the span of 4 hours. The big difference this time around is Riley, your dog squad-mate.
Despite all the trailers hyping Riley up, he is only playable in one mission. In this section there are two lengthy stealth bits where you avoid enemies and take out stragglers with your sharp, pointy teeth.
This section seems to be hit or miss with people. Most of the criticism seems to stim from how "unrealistic" it is, but the game actually takes careful attention show that it's very possible. The HUD shows electrical signals being given to the dog and voice commands are given the entire time. While Riley's success in these sections may be a little on the unrealistic side, his actual actions are very realistic.
That being said, I'm disappointed that Riley wasn't used in more than one mission. You only control Riley in one mission and the second mission you have a hint of control over Riley is just ordering him around with the wave of your hand. After that, Riley drops off the face of the earth for the majority of the campaign. Considering that in one of those levels the vehicle you're in crashes and you cover about half the country in distance, and it's a wonder that Riley even keeps up. No one even mentions Riley for so long that I wondered if he had died and I missed it. The last few levels Riley makes an appearance again, but you can't even control him at all and he's just there to be there. Conclusion
As I said, the campaign is like a corny action flick. The story isn't supposed to make a ton of sense. All you need to know is that the Federation just hates you for some reason and that you have to fight back.
While the gameplay is old hat the missions are unique. Each mission is wildly different and can change up on the fly, but it's nothing you haven't seen in another COD game before. Riley is a fun mechanic and spices up the gameplay but unfortunately, the campaign doesn't utilize him as often as they could have.
I would describe my whole experience as mediocre. It wasn't bad, it just didn't stand out. I enjoyed playing through it but felt like it was the extended tutorial to what everyone's real joy in COD is, which is multiplayer. Squads
"Squads" is a new mutiplayer section with several different modes. (Not having played Black Ops 2 or Modern Warfare 3, please assume that when I say new it just means I've never seen it and it could have been in one of those games)
You can play with friends or alone against only AI, play a wave-style survival mode, or customize your own squad and take it online to fight other people's squads.
You can customize your own squad's appearance, kit, and killstreaks, just as you can in multiplayer.
Additional squadmates cost 3 squads points, but require a far larger investment if you want them to be leveled. The reason for this is that your additional squadmates do not earn exp unless you earn it for them through multiplayer, which means leveling up several different ranked 1 recruits.
I'll break down the different modes and then get into my thoughts on the entire experience. Squad Assault
You and your squad can go against enemy squads online. The defending squad chooses the mode and map. You can also invite friends to join your squad.
Please don't think that having humans over AI is automatically a win. The AI is actually really decent and proficient with whatever you give them. They act pretty realistically as well and I haven't encountered an AI that felt like they were aimbotting or seeing me through a wall. A skilled player will still beat an AI any day, but they put up a fight.
I would call Squad Assault the "casual play" mode, however, as your as the defending player sets up before que'ing what map and gamemode he prefers. Squad vs. Squad
You can't que up with a friend and the enemy player ISN'T in control of the map or game mode. I'd call this "ranked squads". The gameplay is exactly the same as Squad Assault but you actually earn experience for the soldier you're playing as. Safeguard
And now for something completely different. Safeguard is a survival-type mode where you can play with 1-4 players against the AI. You start with a measly pistol but you gain "supply drops" about once a round that carry a killstreak reward, gun, or ammo. (You can swap between the rewards three times before claiming the crate.) These force you to travel across the map instead of just camping in a corner. Also, there's a "loot drop" between rounds occasionally that drops powerful killstreaks but the crates only stay for 30 seconds.
You start off facing enemies as weak as yourself but progress to fighting attack dogs and juggernauts in later waves. It gets really tough but it still feels fair. This is a fun mode to run around in, but it's not one I'll play frequently unless I'm playing with friends. Wargame
This is simply a custom game mode for a comp stomp. It's just you and friends against AI. Nothing special here, except that rewards you earn carry over to multiplayer, which is great for power leveling. Conclusion
Overall, the survival mode and wargame are fun to mess with but won't hold your interest for long. The squad vs. squad, however, was surprisingly hilariously fun and something I'll play around with.
So far, my "Shirelings" squad has gone up against some hilarious combinations. One guy had all riot shields and was named "Captain America", another had all shotguns. While these matches weren't close I wonder what other strange combinations you could come up with. My biggest gripe with this mode is with other players. If they leave a match they lose, but it just ends. It's unfortunate that serious matches in which you get ahead usually result in the enemy leaving. Extinction
Instead of zombies, we now have aliens. There's only one mode here but it's relatively fun. You choose from a wide variety of classes, perks, and team equipment and set off against the alien horde. You have a drill that is used to get past alien blob thingymajigs, and go from point to point setting it down and defending it.
Each "wave" in this fashion also has a challenge associated with it that can give you an extra "skillpoint", which is used to rank up your class or abilities. Skillpoints are pretty invaluable so completing these challenges is a key to success. The majority of these challenges aren't that creative, like "kill 20 aliens while prone" or "don't reload your gun", but they still mix up gameplay quite a bit.
The aliens themselves are fun to watch and fun to fight. It's a lot like left 4 dead. You have the common aliens that simply run at you, but then there's special aliens that explode and spit acid at you.
I haven't played a ton of this mode but it's pretty... meh. It's not really interesting enough to hold my interest. (Man that sentence was horrible.) There's also a lot of humor missing that was in previous zombie modes. I would rather play Safeguard than Extinction, personally. Multiplayer
I've only played Team Deathmatch and a few FFA matches so that's what I'll talk about since there's a plethora of modes as it is and breaking them all down would take forever. Customization
You now use "Squad points" -which are gained from ranking up or completing a field order in-game- to get new weapons, attachments, etc.
Perks are gained naturally as you rank up. Perks are worth anywhere between 1-5 points, and your character can only have 10 points. This means you have to choose between really powerful perks or a bunch of small perks. There's 1-2 perks that almost everyone are using, but nothing else that really stands out as "must-have" compared to others.
On top of that, you choose between three different killstreaks. Assault resets on death and has rewards suited to causing destruction and mayhem. Support doesn't reset on death but has more team oriented rewards that give vision or protection, and while they aren't as explosive as assault, can still change a game around. Specialist gives you additional perks for more kills but resets upon death just like Assault. Killstreaks
Killstreaks themselves are a mixed bag. I haven't tried them all yet but some of them clearly suck. Summoning a riot-shield soldier to aid you sounds cool in theory but they die pretty fast for requiring 11 kills. Dropping an ammo crate often has mixed results as often your allies won't even notice it and you'll most likely be picking up an enemy's gun instead of walking over to an ammo crate. Overall, there's no blatantly overpowered killstreaks and only the Odin, a 16 kill killstreak for Assault, is the only one that screams "game over" for the enemy team if you get it.
You can also earn a care package with a random killstreak through "field orders", which drop randomly on enemies. These are fun and can range from easy to difficult in completion. Killing someone with a secondary weapon is pretty easy but shooting someone in the back requires timing and makes you question if you want to take risks. It's a fun system. Guns
I like the guns overall and there doesn't seem to be any blatantly over-powered combinations. Marksman rifles are new to the game and bridge the gap between sniper rifles and assault rifles. While SMGs aren't... bad ... they aren't particularly effective on most of the maps because they are large. You'll most likely see assault rifles and marksman rifles being wielded online.
There are, however, gun classes that flat-out suck. The shotguns in this game are pretty awful, which makes me sad because my main gun in MW2 was the SPAS-12. While the Riot shields now have radar attachments, melee faster, and jamming attachments, they aren't really good due to the size of the maps. Gameplay
The gameplay is slower than usual because, like I said, maps are larger than usual. It's also 6v6. These aren't really huge issues though. The gameplay is still solid and the guns feel good to shoot. The map design itself is pretty solid as well and I don't really hate any of them. (I just dislike playing Prison, as it's the largest map and can take awhile to even find someone) Comparing it to MW2, I haven't noticed a huge difference yet in gameplay. Multiplayer pros and cons
Even though the gameplay and maps are cool there's still flaws.
The spawn system, while it isn't noticeable as much unless you're on the two smallest maps, is absolutely horrid. On the two smaller maps you'll literally see people spawning right in front of you. Even on larger maps spawns seem sporadic and instead of expecting the enemy to be as far away as possible you'll have to adjust for the possibility of them spawning behind you if you're near the middle of the map.
While it's never been an issue for me personally, no FoV slider, mouse acceleration glitches, and FPS drops have been an issue for other players.
Lastly, there's connection issues with the lobby. My friends and I often have trouble joining each other, but this has been an issue in every COD for us.
It hasn't been a week since launch so it's unclear as to if these issues will get patched, but if you're going to buy the game, keep them in mind. Ultimate Conclusion
Here's how I'd rate everything:
- Campaign: Fun, but forgettable. A short and fleeting joyride that didn't utilize Riley enough but was still enjoyable enough to finish.
- Squads: A lot better than I thought it would be and a blast to play.
- Extinction: Interesting and fun, but is overshadowed by other modes and isn't good enough to be a main selling point.
- Multiplayer: In my opinion, multiplayer is great at the moment except for the spawn system on the smaller maps. However, I'm not experiencing the same mouse acceleration issues or FPS drops as other players, and while it's not even a week after launch, it's unclear as to when/if these issues will be patches.
Overall I'm glad I payed full price for this game. I'm having a blast playing multiplayer and can easily see myself continuing to play it in the future.
EDIT: A recent tweet by Infinity Ward confirms search and destroy will be added November 15 and they are working on the mouse/fps issues. http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rrbpog