I should preface this by saying I’m not exactly sure why I hate it. I just knew that I did when I first popped it in and my opinion hasn’t changed. Black Ops II was the first Call of Duty since 4 that I played constantly until its successor dropped instead of setting it down or trading it in after two or three months. It was also the first in the series that I bothered to prestige in, not just once, but ten times.
With all of its flaws that fell mainly on the side of the players, there was just something about Black Ops II that made me want to play it whenever I could. My expectation for Ghosts wasn’t necessarily to have that same compulsion, just for it to be a game I wanted to play at all – and it’s barely meeting that request.
There are a couple of things I like about Ghosts…
The Knee Slide
It’s the one small yet effective gameplay element mentioned before release that I was excited about and I don’t know if it’s a sad comment on myself or an even sadder comment on what the developers did here, but to me, it’s the best thing about the game and the only glaring improvement.
It’s fluid from start to finish, you can control the speed and distance (sort of), you can look, aim, shoot, or melee seamlessly throughout and transition smoothly into prone. It didn’t take very long for it to become second nature and it’s a definite asset when popping around corners. Frankly, it’s lovely. It’s also funny watching people slide around who don’t seem to be doing anything else.
My only regret is that the dive was removed. I rarely used it on the ground, but diving through windows saved my life in Black Ops II more times than I can count. Breaking the glass and climbing gingerly over the sill while bullets set fire to my backside just doesn’t have the same appeal.
Search and Rescue
There was only one Call of Duty in which I played Search and Destroy all the time. My guess is that it was Call of Duty 4, mainly because I can’t remember anything about that game I didn’t like. In the games that followed, S&D bored the hell out of me. It dragged on forever.
I hated being killed off early because watching the rest of my squad play wasn’t exciting and I hated being the last one standing because I already lost interest in the objective by that point and didn’t feel like exerting myself to finish the round alone. I was that person – the one who’d bob up and down waiting to be shot just so the misery could end.
In Black Ops II, it wasn’t worth playing at all because people left the second they were eliminated. Every single match I started ended up with only two or three people on either side within the first minute, then everyone on one side would leave, so I’d leave.
Search and Rescue remedied all of the above and renewed my passion for the mode. It adds another dimension of strategy because you’re paying more attention to your squad, maneuvering through the map in a way that allows you to rescue them when you need them or use their tags as bait.
And when you die, there’s the anticipation of someone rescuing you, which lingers on for the rest of your fallen squad even after you’re eliminated. I love this game mode and play it a lot. I hope it’s a keeper.
We all know everyone sticks to the mainstream game modes like glue, but every once in a while, it’s nice to take a break from that and do something else. In Black Ops II, I’d usually hop into a Sticks and Stones match to wind down, mostly because I loved the crossbow.
It was also the one mode where the matches were ridiculously quiet and people would just be huddled together in a tiny area going back and forth, flailing their arms and jumping. It made me laugh like an idiot, so it sucks that it’s gone, but infected is an adequate substitute. It’s no-pressure enjoyment.
No Glitching/Boosting. Yet.
The thing that always ruins a Call of Duty game for me is that inevitable point when glitchers and boosters figure out how to screw everyone over and render half the matches you jump into meaningless. Black Ops II was plagued with spawn trapping and camping, which was annoying mostly because the people who did it were convinced it required skill.
Even more obnoxious was the magic I had no explanation for, like a player calling in a VTOL warship thirty seconds after the match started or having an endless stream of them even if they weren’t getting any points or care packages. So far, I haven’t had any questionable matches on Ghosts.
Black Ops II was an exercise in futility when it came to connection issues. Most of my deaths came from people who weren’t even on my screen when I died, yet were standing right in front of me in the killcam, or matches where my entire squad was playing in molasses while the other team was on meth.
There were also those frustrating moments when I’d walk up to an enemy from behind while he was distracted, knife him with no effect, start emptying a clip into his back, and he’d turn and kill me with one bullet. They might as well have killed me with a fart because I never saw a gun raise or registered any damage. They just turned and I was dead.
The lag on Ghosts has been rare and barely noticeable when it happens with the exception of matches where I teleport all over the place uncontrollably and every teleportation ends in my demise. Aggravating, yes, but compared to Black Ops II, which made a career out of lag, I can’t complain.
Controlling Riley remotely in the campaign looked stupid and was tedious, but allowing the player to sick Riley on specific targets while engaging them yourself was a great idea and I hoped that aspect would be brought over into multiplayer. Sadly, either you can’t direct your guard dog to attack a specific player or I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but they’re very responsive on their own.
And while it may seem trivial, they’re kinda cute. There’s something warm about seeing them running all over the map and having one by your side. Plus, it cracks me up watching my guard dog go back and forth between its happy face and its nasty growl face with its tail sucked in. I’d like to see the guard dogs carry over in some way. I don’t find it gimmicky at all.
I love the idea of map-specific elements. The Halon gas on Sovereign, the K.E.M. on Strikezone, the satellite crashing on Whiteout, and the mortar strike on Warhawk are all fun additions that feel like they belong in the franchise and definitely break up some of the tedium, so I hope to see this expanded upon. It just needs to be tweaked because they’re not all that effective.
The Maps Are Decent
Call of Duty maps are often divided into three categories: The one I like, the one I need to be in the mood for, and the rest that I can’t stand for different reasons. Black Ops II had a nice spread of maps that were a step in the right direction. Ghosts is either on the same level or a step back.
The only map I notably don’t enjoy is Siege. Like Black Ops II’s Aftermath, something about it feels like a Battlefield map that Battlefield would have done better. The rest are okay with improved balance. At least, until you factor in game modes like Blitz.
So what about the things I don’t like?
Call of Duty 4’s Shipment was a great map for no other reason than being sheer close quarters chaos. That cluster fuck of bullets and explosions everywhere and everyone ending the match with 100+ kills and a cramped finger set a tone for the games that followed.
In each one, I hoped for that one vanilla map that would just be madness. A break from camping and strategy in a shitstorm of gunfire and smoke. Happily, each one did have something similar – a cozy map that was quickly paced and fun to play even if you didn’t take it seriously.
For me, World at War had Hangar. Modern Warfare 2 had Terminal. Black Ops had Nuketown. I don’t remember what Modern Warfare 3 had because I couldn’t get rid of that game fast enough. Black Ops II had Hijacked. And Ghosts? Well. What Ghosts had was a missed opportunity with Stonehaven.
When the map loaded, so beautifully out of place, my hopes were high that this would be Ghosts’ Shipment or Ghosts’ anything. Instead, it’s just an oddball map that feels unnecessary, like a monkey that can’t do tricks. There would have been so much there had they made it small, tight, and ridiculous. Instead, it’s a camper’s paradise.
I can’t say Ghosts even has that one tiny, really enjoyable default map like other games in the series. Strikezone comes the closest, though I just haven’t felt that spark with that map or any of the maps, for that matter. Not yet. As it stands, they’re all just “playable”. Not bad, but not exciting.
I do appreciate the different environmental conditions on the maps, however. The flooded areas, the tremors. It’s definitely a boost to the appeal and quality of the maps and worth some kudos.
When there was talk about Ghosts incorporating destructible environments, I was concerned Infinity Ward was venturing into Battlefield territory. I’m not a fangirl. I give both franchises credit where due and love them both for different reasons. I just prefer that those reasons remain different.
The way that you’re able to destroy the environment to your strategic advantage is something Battlefield does very well. It’s satisfying and I don’t feel it has a place in the Call of Duty series, but I was willing to give it a chance because anything can have a place if it’s done right.
My first few days playing Ghosts, I wondered what the hell was supposed to be destructible. When I finally came across things that were, they felt tacked on, too specific and localized, and the amount of strategic advantage you gained from even bothering with them was fleeting or negligible.
There wasn’t even anything fun about discovering them. They could have left those elements out entirely and the game wouldn’t be any different, though maybe it would have freed up time and resources to improve something else that mattered more (like the kill streaks – ahem).
The interactivity also fails to feel relevant except that there are at least two cases in which it does change the ongoing dynamic of the match and both cases are opening and closing doors – on Freight and Overload. It’s remnant of the doors on Radiation in Black Ops, which I used a lot.
Overall, these are just elements that Ghosts didn’t need to include if they weren’t going to be implemented better than they were. The end result comes across as gimmicky filler.
It’s Kinda Ugly
Keeping in mind that I’m playing this on the Xbox 360, the game looks terrible. People float sometimes instead of climbing up or down, their faces are doofy, buildings somehow look both detailed and cheap, players move like crack ninjas when armed only with a knife, colors are dull compared to the vibrance of Black Ops II with the exception of Stormfront, which has a lovely balance of greens and blues, and Whiteout, which is – well – adequately white.
Ghosts just looks older and less “crisp” than expected.
The first time I saw a squadmate lean, I honestly thought the game was fucking up in a humorous way, like in previous games when a player went prone and instead of his legs being flat, they stuck straight up perpendicular to his torso.
When I started seeing it all the time, though, I realized it was on purpose and had two thoughts: The first was toastyyyyy! Because that’s what it looks like with them awkwardly popping their heads out at an angle that way. The second was how the heck they were doing it in the first place?
Eventually, I noticed the contextual arrow on my reticle and tried it out only to discover that the lean feels as bad as it looks. I have far more fluidity and control if I just stand near the edge of cover than I do if I engage the lean. On a number of occasions, I’ve locked into a lean without meaning to and it kept me from being able to maneuver or aim accurately enough to win a gunfight I would have won otherwise.
It needs to be adjusted. It doesn’t make sense for something that disjointed to exist within the same game that was able to pull off the knee slide. Luckily, I saw in the tips on the load screen that you can disable the lean in options and I thank the developers kindly for that.
It could just be my imagination, but I feel like they increased the length of time you’re waiting in a lobby for the match countdown, the length of the countdown itself, and the length of time you’re waiting for the match to start. They all feel five seconds longer than they were in Black Ops II and it’s killing me. I already don’t enjoy the game that much. Don’t make me wait longer to not enjoy it.
It also seems to take longer for new players to connect to a match after players leave. In previous games, new players would appear almost as soon as the other players exited. In Ghosts, players exit the match and you can play through the entire thing before anyone else connects, if at all, which makes the match lose a lot of momentum and increases the odds of even more people leaving.
Again, it could be my imagination, but I’m painfully aware of it so either way, something is different. I don’t know how these things could be improved. I’m not a developer. I just know that, at present, they suck.
Intuitive? Not exactly.
There are a lot of things that make a well-designed game and to me, one of the major ones is that the game be intuitive. I’m a firm believer that everything a player needs to know should be within the game itself and that figuring those elements out should be a part of the natural progression of gameplay.
I’ve been playing video games since I was no bigger than a Super NES and I don’t think I’ve looked at a video game manual in over a decade. Maybe two. There isn’t any genre of game I don’t play or any type of game that doesn’t come naturally to me once I sit down with it for a little while.
So if I pick up a game and can’t figure something out, especially something related to a prominent feature – double if I have to go online for an answer – I feel like a ball was dropped in development and a few things come to mind in Ghosts…
Nothing indicated the purpose of unlocking squad members and none of the theories I came up with made sense once explored. I couldn’t tell if prestiging was still a part of the game and once I reached level 60 and saw the option to view details about it, there was nothing indicating how to actually do it.
When I started playing around with perks and equipment, I was briefly misled by the numbers on each one thinking that was the cost to unlock them until I selected one and saw the true cost to unlock. It actually represented the cost to equip, but I didn’t see anything indicating the total space I could use. All I saw was a color-coded bar and the fact that perks and equipment would be grayed out once I no longer had enough “space” available for them.
I figured out by counting what I equipped that I had 8 to 12 spaces, but where does it say that? With equipment and perks being such a significant part of the game, it’s the kind of thing a player shouldn’t have to wonder about or have a keen eye to find.
I wasted a bunch of time trying to apply different camo to my soldier rather than just cycling through previews of them only to find out on the internet that you can’t change your soldier’s camo. It changes on its own according to the map you’re on.
Why would I assume that’s how it works if the developers bothered to allow previewing different camo? Especially when a customizable solider was a highlighted addition? If I can pick camo for my weapon, it would be intuitive that I could also pick camo for my soldier.
I didn’t get why some unlockables stated that the required operation was inactive and didn’t see anything indicating that the operations available were going to rotate out periodically whether you chose to cycle them or not until I finally saw a countdown underneath them – and that system is terrible, by the way.
There are also minor things that could have been made clearer for players of all experience levels. I assumed the Sat Com would highlight all enemies on the map who weren’t otherwise shielded by a perk since it was compared to a portable UAV only to find out that its effectiveness depends on how many are out at the same time. I probably wouldn’t have noticed that if I hadn’t read it somewhere.
When I’m using the Recon perk, does my explosive damage highlight an enemy just for me or for my squad as well? I can’t tell just from context because sometimes my squad runs towards an enemy I painted and sometimes they don’t. If you’re old to the series, you can compare it to the Recon perk of yesteryear, but if you’re new, you have no frame of reference.
Some of this may seem like nitpicking, but if you’re considering people who may not be familiar with the franchise or shooters in general and who, in the age of used games, may not have a manual, certain elements of the game should be as transparent as possible and Ghosts is relatively vague.
That’s not to say that items and screens need to have a pop-up dialog explaining what’s going on like Battlefield 4 does, but that’s better than designing a game in such a way that even seasoned players have to “figure out” how everything works or head to an outside source as a shortcut.
I was excited by the prospect of a customizable soldier. I loved the now dead and gone Rainbow Six franchise for many reasons and one was the level of customization. While it’s not something I think has to exist in a game for it to be good, I think it needs to be full and detailed if you’re going to bother.
I never understood how such an old game like Rainbow Six could allow me to not only deck out my solider, but put my actual face on her (yep – a lady soldier) while a new game like Ghosts harped on customization only to give me nonsense. If they’re going to make customization relevant, they need to make it more robust.
Allow me to unlock gear that doesn’t all look like the same exact gear with one minor alteration. Allow me to equip an outfit that changes the perks and equipment available. I don’t know, just get creative with it. Ghosts took a leap here and fell short. See what I did there?
Deja Vu Matchmaking
This is either good or bad and it’s really not a big deal, but whatever they’ve done to the matchmaking system annoys me because I keep being thrown into lobbies with the same players over and over again regardless of how many people are playing or how long I wait before finding a match.
The only way I seem to avoid it is jumping around from one game mode to another and I don’t always want to do that. Sometimes, I just feel like sticking to one mode and it’s kind of silly that I keep ending up with the same five players when there are thousands available to connect with.
I mentioned that this post isn’t about loving Battlefield 4 because it’s common for people to talk about how much they enjoy one while hating the other and since I’ve been playing both, in spite of me definitely not liking Ghosts, I can’t exactly say that Battlefield 4 got everything right or did everything better.
Battlefield 4 vs. Call of Duty: Ghosts
BF4 allows more fluid movement through windows and over obstacles and again nailed destructible environments, but Ghosts has superior movement overall in terms of speed and feel. Ghosts also has superior weapons handling, feel, and sound. The guns in BF4 don’t feel or sound like “guns”. All of the sounds in BF4 seem relatively faint and weak.
Basically, there’s no oomph.
What I prefer about BF4 as far as weapons is being able to toggle fully automatic, burst, and semi on the fly. The fact that you have to use up an equipment slot in Ghosts for that is a bit of a chore for someone like me who prefers using assault rifles all the time and having that single shot ability whenever I need it. Tapping the trigger so lightly that only one round comes out doesn’t count.
Going back to feel, in Ghosts, when you throw tacticals and lethals, you can “feel” the distance and force and adjust it accordingly and the item will fly in a way that accurately mimics what you felt. In BF4, there’s a disconnect between the feel of throwing and where things actually land and how they arc and the force you put behind them. It makes it less accurate to me and kind of odd.
General wait times are/feel longer in Ghosts, but the “killed by” screen in BF4 is long enough to make me forget that. It lasts so long that I keep losing my momentum and my interest every time I die just because I’m sitting on that screen forever. That needs to be tightened up desperately.
I prefer Call of Duty’s class system. I’m not a fan of setting up classes on the fly after I connect to a match the way you do in Battlefield, especially with all of the selections that need to be made. I always feel rushed, like the match will end before I’m done with whatever I’m doing. I’m also not a fan of the navigation through the weapons and equipment with the directional pad or the heading titles.
I’m not in the military and don’t “love” guns, so what the hell are DMRs and why are we specifying “carbine”? Okay, to be fair, it’s not that confusing, but the fact that Battlefield gets increasingly fussy with each game makes me wonder if we won’t be looking at a shooter equivalent of Forza down the line.
It’s too easy to kill/be killed in BF4 and that’s a major one for me. I went 20 and 5 just from running in circles holding down the trigger whenever I saw someone, barely bothering to aim. In Ghosts, your skill as a player has a clear impact on how well you do, so kills are more satisfying and deaths, less infuriating.
Since my schedule means that I’m pretty much never online to play with actual friends anymore, it’s important to me that multiplayer games be just as enjoyable for solo players as they are for people rolling in parties. Call of Duty has always been that and it’s where I’ve picked up a lot of buddies.
Battlefield was fun solo here and there, but it’s become a very detached, almost antisocial gaming experience over the years in terms of communication and connecting with other players or even giving two shits who’s playing at all. I’m a social creature, so that’s a change I’m not necessarily thrilled about.
It used to be one of Battlefield’s strengths because it didn’t allow for the kind of ignorance and foolishness that was a constant problem on Call of Duty. On any given day at any hour, I could play Battlefield and have a pleasant, mature experience while every other match on Call of Duty would be full of people slinging derogatory or sexually abusive crap left and right.
Call of Duty was troll heaven.
Thankfully, there’s been a huge decline in that kind of behavior, which I first saw in Black Ops II and attribute to the party system. Everyone seems to be sticking to their mic and not mouthing off in the lobbies the way they used to and that beautiful trend has happily continued in Ghosts. Especially without that emblem garbage…
So that detachment that used to be a refreshing change of pace in Battlefield is now a downside. I was bored to tears in the last few releases if I wasn’t playing with people I knew, chatting with them, getting that upbeat energy from them. I don’t want to be limited to playing with friends just to have that experience.
The last time I really enjoyed playing solo in Battlefield was in Bad Company. It was crazy fun alone or with friends in a way I haven’t experienced in the series since. There was a lightness, too, that’s been replaced with a seriousness that puts me in more of an ultra focused mood than I want to be in when playing.
There was also more in-game interaction back then. One of the things I loved about the Battlefield series was that it truly was cooperative in a way that Call of Duty still struggles to be. Squadmates would speed by in vehicles honking for you to hop in so you could go on a run together. If you were low on health, someone would brave the map to chase you down with a med kit.
With the latest releases, there’s been a shift for both series in the opposite direction. So far, BF4 feels less cooperative with everyone just kind of running around trying to rack up kills and do their own thing and Ghosts has gotten more cooperative, especially when running support. Players seem to be thinking about, providing for, and even protecting other players in a way that I haven’t seen in the series before.
Ghosts has been more fun in that regard.
I will say that I feel I haven’t been getting the full BF4 experience and my enjoyment of it has suffered as a result. So much, in fact, that I prefer playing Ghosts in spite of hating it. In short, while I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Ghosts, I won’t cry awesome sauce about BF4, either. Not yet.
Hopefully, I’ll get to delve deeper into BF4 soon enough. Both have done some things that are good and some things that just don’t feel right. I still suspect that when all is said and done, I’ll deem BF4 to be the better game. This is just a first for me to have games from both franchises in my possession and not really have a hankering to play either one of them.
I’m sure that will change once the holidays hit and I have more free time. If not and I really haven’t caught the bug for them like I have in the past, that’s okay. That’s what Gamefly is for. Never underestimate the power of rentals when you don’t feel like playing what you own.
Before I Forget…
Obviously, we don’t play these games for the campaign. That said, if one exists, it’s important. I personally won’t touch multiplayer at all until I’ve played the campaign first. Ghosts had a more memorable campaign while BF4 had a more meaningful campaign. I’m not sure how to explain that. There was just something more satisfying about it in spite of it coming across like a movie that had parts cut out.
Ghosts started off okay, but it tried to do too much with its story, which is the very thing that made it memorable, so I’m not sure if I’d consider that a pro or con. Neither were especially fun, both were insanely short, but there was nothing bad about either, so I guess I’ll call it a stalemate.
P.S. I miss Zombies, but Extinction is cool, so no worries.
Update: July 28, 2015
I traded Ghosts in shortly after writing this post. I’m still playing Battlefield 4. Case closed.