Even number Star Trek movies, Infinity Ward CoD games : there’s a cosmic law in play here.
You can’t start the run up to Christmas without a new Call of Duty, plain and simple, especially true this year with the imminent launch of new consoles the flagship franchise continues to gather steam.
The less said about Black Ops 2 in 2012 the better, this year the game is back under Infinity Ward control and it shows from the get go. Ghosts leaves behind the world of Modern Warfare and takes us on a narrative spin into a post apocalyptic future, where a handful of hardened warriors have to save the day. It goes without saying that you will be the workhorse of this awesome unit and will be instrumental in the actual saving of the day.
By the way, this rappelling scene was in my screenplay ‘Patient Zero’ before I ever saw a Ghosts trailer.
The campaign is ambitious, taking a detour from the usual saga and staying well out of the fragmented nonsense that made up last year’s offering. As expected there are spectacular set pieces and dynamic events piled high on top of each other, the levels are generally limited environs and you are dragged through to the next cutscene in a familiar fashion. It’s a successful formula, if it ain’t broke…
Of the standard roster of cut-out characters nobody except Riley stands out, Riley being the faithful attack dog revealed a few months ago. The dog is a nice to have while it is around, but the times when the player has to take control to sneak around or tag enemies just feel a bit ho-hum. If it was a take it or leave it situation, I’d leave it. Doesn’t really add any depth and could have easily been left out.
Summing the campaign up leaves an enjoyable romp with a new story, familiar enemy AI and a decent bucket of short term fun.
Now for the big guns.
Multiplayer. They come every year in droves for the latest update, virtual armies of twitch shooter addicts, enjoying the fast pace and revelling in their successes. This time round the game has borrowed the best elements of recent iterations and delivered a relatively clean interface for the user.
The game modes come in various flavours, mostly old warhorses like Team Deathmatch and a sprinkle of new modes like Cranked, where a kill starts a timer and if you don’t get another kill before the timer runs out you explode. Then there’s Blitz with it’s ‘run to the endzone’ mentality, more of a just get to the flag rather than capture it. Or Search and Rescue, a spin on the favourite mode Search and Destroy, except your teammates can revive you when downed. All in all a strong lineup that offers longevity and variety.
The multiplayer maps are a pretty solid bunch too, there are a couple that inevitably start getting downvoted by the community, but at least there is a good mix of variety both in size and structure. Multiple paths, verticality and environmental effects all add up to provide a balanced range of arenas, even without the upcoming DLC packs.
On top of the online game and the campaign is the all new Squads Mode, this builds on the fact that you can create more than one online soldier, so instead of levelling up and playing with perks you can swap around a group of different soldier set-ups trying out different builds. Interesting enough in multiplayer, this comes to the fore when you realise those soldiers make up a squad and that squad can fight its own matches for you when you are offline. Matches earn squad points and squad points are spent on customisation, its a win win.
Taking to the field with your squad of bots is actually quite enjoyable as you start to bond with them, swapping between them and levelling them enough to add a new perk or weapon. Then there is the feeling of pride when they actually win a match on your behalf. It may not work for the teens that thrive on abusing their classmates, but its a godsend for the more antisocial gamer. Not to forget that the soldier you have control of in a Squads match will earn XP and be levelling up, so if you want to cut your teeth on some AI before kitting up and facing the world, this is the place.
Finally in answer to the Treyarch innovation of adding a zombie horde/survival game to World at War, we have Extinction. An alien horde/survival game. A new four player co-op mode for Infinity Ward, and the icing on the cake of a very impressive offering.
So, probably the best CoD package in a good few years. It’s slick, polished and uncluttered. The campaign may be short and uninspiring, but the online game will have legs enough to keep everybody happy while they wait for their next-gen consoles and perhaps beyond.