Time for the yearly shooty shooty bang bang extravaganza. Luckily, there are dogs.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is the latest entry in the long running action franchise from Activision. Last year, Call of Duty: Black Ops II became the first game in the series to come to the Wii U, and it brought several online features with it. Now the franchise is back on the system for the second time, but not with the same impact.
The story in particular is ridiculous, especially when you start to compare it with Black Ops II. In the campaign, you play as Logan and follow the orders of his brother Hesh. The United States are attacked by a South American group called “The Federation.” After nearly a decade of a country in shambles, the Walker brothers try to save the world from The Federation’s tyranny. They team up with the Ghosts, an elite force that knows no fear, to go from set piece to set piece with dialogue that will make you cringe with embarrassment at moments.
However, some of these set pieces are interesting: in particular, one mission where you infiltrate an enemy base. These moments are, however, few and far between. The game tries to do some clever things as you step in the body of a dog or walk about in space, but it is mostly more of the same. I am sure that this won't bother certain people, but Black Ops II really dared to take risks and do refreshing things across the board. Ghosts also tries to introduce new characters towards the end, but their inclusion isn’t seamless and they hurt the story more than they help it. When all is said and done, I did enjoy myself with the story, but not as much as before.
With that said, maybe you don't care for the campaign. Let’s talk about Extinction, a Horde-esque mode in which you fight against groups of alien life forms. The mode has you and your group protecting a drill, which you use to destroy enemy hives. When you do that successfully, you move back to the beginning of the stage to win. While playing, it is possible to earn currency, which is used to buy power-ups and extra weaponry for your squad. It is not overly complicated, but I had a lot of fun with this one. Sadly, the mode isn’t meaty enough, but I hope Activision will do more with this one.
Also new to Ghosts are Squads, a mode where you create your own AI controlled team and duke it out against others locally and online. The bots haven't been too hot in recent games, but Ghosts made some impressive strides as they react similarly to humans and do things like a regular player would. It is a mode you will get a lot of playing time out of, particularly when you don't have many friends who like this style of game.
Of course, Call of Duty lives on its multiplayer and there is certainly some fun to be had here. Sadly, however, some of the better modes from Black Ops II have been removed. The classics return with the always trusty Team Deathmatch, as well as a new mode called Cranked. It has the same rules as Team Deathmatch, but here you score a kill every 30 seconds after your first one, or you will implode. Search and Rescue is another new mode in which you plant bombs everywhere and collect dog tags to prevent your opponent from respawning. The new modes are crazy and chaotic, but they’re still a lot of fun. Regrettably, the more tactical modes are gone from Black Ops II. Maps are also quite large and kills can come from all sides, which may prove confusing for newcomers. It also causes some balance issues as the many passageways can be abused very easily. The game is quicker and Ghosts doesn't try to hide it.
Wii U owners get, in my opinion, the best version of Ghosts as the added control options make for some of the most refined action out there. Players can use a variety of different controllers like the Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and the Classic Controller Pro. Personally, I like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo the most, as it comes close to using a keyboard and a mouse on a console. That isn't to say that there aren't benefits to using the GamePad instead, as you can play everything on the GamePad alone or use secondary screen to quickly toggle through options. You can also use the GamePad in multiplayer, allowing one person to look at the GamePad screen, while the other looks at the TV and uses any other available controller.
The graphics in Call of Duty: Ghosts are a weird beast to pinpoint. They look slightly better or equal to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, but they aren’t as shiny as the new console versions coming up. The game still looks striking on the Wii U, and it doesn't matter if you play on the television or the GamePad's touchscreen. Together with the music, it brings a gritty but well performed world to your console of choice.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is an alright game, but it doesn't push the boundaries as much other entries in the franchise. While the story is corny and has some cringeworthy moments, it does provide a little fun. The other modes shine a lot more, in particular Squads and Extinction. While the first offers endless possibilities, the latter stumbles a bit as there aren't many maps to completely tide you over. The multiplayer elements are back, but the more strategic elements from Black Ops II are somewhat pushed out of the window. There are also some balance issues along the way as the maps are quite huge, so it easy to attack and be overwhelmed. This might not be the most interesting experience in the franchise, but at least, it once again, offers an impressive multiplayer offering for the Wii U.