‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’ review: First impressions

You must always keep your gun at the ready as you travel the world of "“Call of Duty: Ghosts."” (Photo credit: Activision)

You must always keep your gun at the ready as you travel the world of ““Call of Duty: Ghosts.”” (Photo credit: Activision)

Editor’s note: The full review of “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” which can be read here, will cover more of the plot arcs and late-game mechanics, with more in-depth analysis of the multiplayer modes.

‘COD: Ghosts’ continues to be an online multiplayer tour de force

That opening scene, right? It felt like a strange mash-up of “Gravity” and “Red Dawn,” maybe with more shooting and less introspective thinking. Then again, couldn’t that be the tagline for every “Call of Duty” release?

In this case, that theory holds true for Activision’s “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” the latest addition to the annual smash-hit franchise that goes by “COD.” “Ghosts,” produced by Infinity Ward and released Nov. 5 for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, maintains the adrenaline-fueled madness that has made the series a household name: from frantic excursions in the area known as No Man’s Land to the heart-pounding chaos of the constant firefights. Throw in some some interesting template changes to the basic plot structure and a progression system a bit more varied, and you have a solid experience awaiting you.

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Before we go any further into plot arcs or game mechanics, let’s just cut to the chase: online multiplayer. Because this is where “Ghosts” — “COD” in general — shines. This is where you find all those hardcore gamers entrenched and battling for the most kills and experience.

Feeling infinitely familiar (the utmost compliment), the online component functions smoothly and quickly for the most part. You can earn in-game currency and experience for just about you do online, the entry-level Squads mode included. That currency is then used to engage in some in-depth customization, including weapons, armor, tech and more.

Maps tend to force you into close engagements, favoring close-quarter combat and honed reflexes to make your way out alive — or with the most kills. Nothing particularly new for fans of the franchise, but those who favor a more long-range game will be at a distinct disadvantage. (I, personally, can attest to that ridiculousness.) Still, there’s plenty of variety in both function and ability. You have old favorites like Domination and Free-for-All, and new features like Cranked (where you have half-a-minute to string kills or your head explodes).

For the noobs in all of us (and because online multiplayer can be outright terrifying if you’re not an FPS savant), Squads Mode serves as your tutorial. Similar to Combat Training from “Black Ops,” you can fight against bots and other people. It makes for an excellent introduction in the strongest aspect of this game.

The best multiplayer feature, though, has to be the new Extinction mode. Infinity Ward basically nailed it with this “Left 4 Dead”-like mission style over the course of 10 minutes. During that brief period, you have survive a slew of alien dogs. It’s absolutely addictive.

Now, for the campaign… wait, you do care about the story campaign, right? Because we all know it’s the first area gamers explore when busting out their new “COD” copy…

Well, don’t worry: There is a campaign. And as with any “COD” released, it really doesn’t matter. Especially because no one plays “Call of Duty” for the campaign. But for those interested, the game begins with father Elias tells his sons, Logan and David, about the brutal legend of how the Ghosts came to be. Around that same time, we have a space mission going horribly wrong when the Federation hijacks a space station that controls the Orbiting Defense Initiative (ODIN), which is an awesome weapon capable of bombing cities from space. It’s used to destroy several southwestern U.S. cities. The surviving American astronauts sacrifice themselves to destabilize the station and destroy it. All this happens while Logan, David and their father escape the destruction of San Diego.

What an intro, right?

The story flows from there, but it matters little. “Call of Duty: Ghosts” is about spectacle, and it does it well. You want to be engaged while taking down helicopters and escaping collapsing skyscrapers? “Ghosts” is right up your alley.

Because, in the end, “Call of Duty: Ghosts” does exactly what you think it will. Good, bad or indifferent, “COD” is what it is, regardless of whether you like it. But, I’m sure even before you read this review, you already knew that, right?

Three blood-soaked stars out of five.

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