Friday, January 31, 2014

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Multiplayer

Call of Duty: Ghosts [Infiniti Ward, Activision, 2013]

Another One? How many of these are they going to make?

Yes, it's another Call of Duty game. I know it seems like every time you turn around there's a new one, but that's probably because three of the top ten selling games of all time come from this franchise. For the purposes of this review, I've decided to focus on the multiplayer aspects and leave the campaign for another day. When it comes to online play, I'm something of a loner. 90% of the time I play with friends online or I don't play at all. The last game that got me to spend a significant amount of time playing online with strangers was Mass Effect 3, and it came out in March of 2012. I'm not exactly the world's biggest multiplayer buff, so that's why it's something of an event when a game rolls around that grabs me like this one has. 

There are three types of online play in Ghosts. The third is called Extinction and only allows one or two player games. Infiniti Ward and Activision have planned four downloadable content packages. Each will come with one of four parts of the Extinction campaign. I gave the online portion a try, both alone and with a friend, and was summarily annihilated. I may give the campaign a shot if I decide to purchase the Season Pass, which gives access to all multiplayer maps along with the Extinction story line, but for now this game is simply above my head and won't get much attention here. Sorry. 

Instead, I've decided to focus on the two main multiplayer modes, regular and squads. The regular multiplayer mode includes thirteen game types. I will cover each in detail and let you know how I fared. New to the franchise is Squads, a game mode that motivates players to create multiple playable characters instead of focusing on a single multiplayer avatar. First, I'll go through the multiplayer game modes and then get to Squads. Suffice it to say I believe Squads is a fantastic addition to an already full multiplayer palette. 



Let's just get this one out of the way here. There have been a lot of people online complaining about the addition of dogs to the multiplayer games. If you get a killstreak of five (or four with the right perk) you get a canine companion. The dog warns you of nearby enemies with a fearsome growl. It can take out bad guys that are in your vicinity who are focused on you, to the detriment of their throats. It can even avenge your death by killing your murderer after you die. I can't argue that it unbalances the game a bit, making the player with a dog much more dangerous than one without. That said, it's no more random than the helicopter or missile strike, raining down death from on high without so much as a button mash from the player who earned the killstreak. 

If you don't like it, shoot the dog first. The owner may get you, but at least that smelly mutt won't be there to save him the next time you meet. In short, I like the dogs. They're the first killstreak reward that I've felt has a real impact on the game. They may not be 100% fair, but what in life is? Get used to it and earn your own puppy if they irk you so much. You'll find life is a lot easier with a dog around. 

Team Deathmatch

Ah, the old classic. This game pits between eight and twelve players against one another in a team competition. Each team is placed on opposing sides of the map and you do your best to end up with the most kills. For anyone that has played Call of Duty multiplayer before, this one doesn't require much explanation. If memory serves, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first to feature online multiplayer and Team Deathmatch was included in the game types. 

Gun Game

Gun game is a recent addition to the list of multiplayer options along with Hunted: Free-for-All. In it, you are rewarded for each weapon kill with a gun upgrade. Each melee kill will earn you a gun demotion. What I particularly liked about this game mode was that you don't lose your promotion once earned. I was killed within milliseconds of offing an enemy and retained the shotgun I'd earned before death after re-spawning. I fully expected to be returned to the handgun I'd started the game using, but luckily someone at Infiniti Ward had their thinking cap on and I held onto the twelve gauge. Like its fellow new game, this mode is a free-for-all fight where everyone is your enemy. No team play here. It supports between four and eight players.


This is one of the more heart-pounding games included in the multiplayer oeuvre. Cranked is essentially Team Deathmatch with a twist. Teams of four to six players are pitted against each other, but once you achieve a kill you have thirty seconds to get another one or you will explode. Once you've killed an opponent, you are blessed with various perks including faster reloads and movement. What you end up with is a bunch of people covering the map at a dead sprint trying to find someone else to off before they detonate. Initially I found this game mode to be a bit annoying, especially when I was unable to find anyone to shoot at, but once I got used to it I felt it was the best way to get your heart rate up that I can think of while remaining firmly planted with your butt on the couch.


This is essentially capture the flag with guns. Each team has an orange flag circle like the one pictured above. It's near the spawn point for the team. After you've captured the flag (reached the orange circle) eight times, the teams switch sides. You have to start from the opposite side of the map and capture the flag that used to be yours. This is a pretty basic game, but still one of my favorites. It deters camping. Campers are people who find a single spot on the map and don't move, usually sniping enemies without being detectable due to their out-of-the-way positions. They are among the most despised of multiplayer gamers.


Search and Rescue

In this game mode, two teams of four to six players are pitted against each other in a battle to either protect or destroy a target. One team member picks up a bomb and must carry it to the target, place it, then wait thirty seconds for it to detonate. If the bomb carrier is killed or the bomb is defused, the destroying team loses and the protectors win. If the bomb goes off, the protectors lose and the destroyers win. If a team member is killed, they may be revived by other team members. Dog tags appear where you died and can be retrieved by your teammates in order to bring on your re-spawn. If the opposing team gets to them first, you have to wait until the next round before re-joining the game. Whichever team wins the best five out of eight rounds wins the game.

Search and Destroy

This game mode is the same as Search and Rescue without the option to re-spawn. Once you've been killed, you have to wait for the next round to start before you can play again. This is definitely an interesting game mode. I didn't spend a ton of time on it, but what I did was enjoyable. You also either play as the destroyers or the defenders in a best of eight matchup. There are two bombs on the map. As destroyers, your job is to find and destroy one of these bombs with a small explosive device before it can be disarmed by the other team. Defenders/protectors must try their darndest to keep the bombs from going off. The one problem I found with this game is that nobody uses their headsets and it requires coordination. You need to protect the bomb once it's been armed, but some guys just took off like they were in a plain, old deathmatch. When that happened, we lost. When my team worked together and all guarded the target, we won. This is definitely one of the games that requires more strategy than the rest.


This was one of the more fascinating game types. A team of up to 16 players all starts together. One player is chosen at random to become "The Infected." It is their job to infect other players, who then become infected and take on the remaining Ghost soldiers. The game ends when either all the infected are killed or all of the soldiers are infected. It's certainly morbid, but was a blast to play. The only game with more suspense was Cranked. Hiding from infected soldiers is one thing. Knowing you're about to explode is a bit more stress-inducing.

Kill Confirmed

This was my favorite new game type. Two teams of four to six players face off in a team deathmatch, but again, with a twist. Once you kill an enemy, dog tags appear above their corpse. You only get half of the points for killing the enemy. You gain the other half by picking up the dog tags before anyone else can. When you (or a teammate) pick up the dog tags, you get an extra +50 points and an infinitely pleasing, "Kill Confirmed," message. If you are killed before you can get the tags or if an enemy player picks them up first, you miss out on the fifty XP and are informed that you've had your "Kill Denied." I don't know if it was the endorphin rush I got from having my kill confirmed or just the extra spin on the old standard deathmatch, but this was easily my favorite of the game modes.



Blitz is fairly similar to this game mode, but instead of having a single flag for each team to protect, there are three flags (see map above) and neither team can claim ownership of any of them without a little work. Flags A, B, and C have to be earned by standing within a few feet of them for ten seconds without getting killed. Possession can change hands multiple times during the game. The team that racks up the most time of possession eventually wins, but not before a plethora of carnage and death-dealing takes place. 

Hunted: Free-for-All

This game mode is exactly the same as its original "free-for-all" namesake, with a minor alteration. Instead of choosing your loadout, you're forced to start with a pistol and work your way up to more sophisticated weapons, either by catching them in weapon drops or taking them off the corpses of your enemies. This makes for a frightening first few seconds as you wait for a decent gun to fall from the sky, pray you can take out a better-prepared foe, or accept death's cold embrace. As the name suggests, it's every man (or woman) for himself. This game mode was added after the release along with Gun Game and I, for one, am REALLY glad that it was.

Free for All

This is one of the original game types and the name says it all. Up to eight players at a time are dropped into a map and the one that racks up the most kills wins. It sounds simple enough, and it is probably the easiest of the game modes to master. Even in Team Deathmatch I often find myself firing off a few rounds at a teammate from time to time before I realize they're an ally. In Free for All, if it moves, kill it! Thankfully they've made it so people can't come into this game in a party. In earlier versions people could turn this game into Team Deathmatch by bringing their pre-generated party into the game, giving those who were playing on their own a severe disadvantage.


Team Tactical

This game mode is designed for small groups of up to four friends to play together. You can play nearly any of the other game modes with your party including Blitz, Domination, Kill Confirmed, and both Search games. If you aren't allowed to play a game type with your party in normal mode, then this is the place to do it. 

Ground War

Large matches are the name of the game in Ground War. Teams of between six and nine players each take part in various game modes in much larger battles. The maps are still the same, so expect a lot of death in this somewhat cramped mode. A full game consists of eighteen players where most are limited to twelve, so things can get a bit tight. However, if non-stop action is what you're looking for, then look no further. I got a bit annoyed at the fact that none of my lives seemed to last more than ten seconds, but on the flip side, I certainly didn't lack for targets or enemies. With that many people populating a map you don't have to wander very far to find someone to kill, or that wants to kill you. 


The Squads game modes are a new addition to the Call of Duty franchise and probably my favorite part of the entire game. Whereas previous CoD games rewarded focus on a single multiplayer character, giving bonuses to those who "prestige" or maximize one character's XP, Squads mode encourages building multiple character types and learning how to play in different ways. You create your own squad of up to ten different players. It would behoove you to create varying types, e.g. a tank, a sniper, a stealth fighter, etc. That way, when your squad is facing off against another, you don't have six of the same exact character. 

The thing is, you have to actually play with each of the character types in order to level them up. It does you little good to have a level 60 badass if the rest of your squad are lowly level ones. I usually play a run-and-gun style where my action of choice is to spray-and-pray. This works best with a tank or a well-rounded character with an accurate automatic rifle. Due to the need for a sniper and a stealthish fighter, I had to expand my personal style of play to build a decent squad. In the past, I never really learned any of the maps well enough to know the good sniping spots. In Squads mode, I didn't have a choice. If I wanted a halfway decent sniper on my team, I had to create one myself. 

Once you've created a respectable squad, you can take it online and face off against friends or other random online adversaries to test your mettle. This is when having a complete and well-rounded team is vital. If you have nothing but tanks, a team with a quality sniper will lay waste to your tough guys one after the other as they cross the map in a vain attempt to reach a target. While you can only control one of your squad members at a time, Infiniti Ward has done a fantastic job with the artificial intelligence, making Squads mode the most enjoyable experience of all the CoD: Ghosts offerings. 

Squad Assault

This mode can be played alone or with friends. You take your squad (and as many as five friends if they want to join) up against the squad of another online player. Any remaining slots are filled out with AI. The game modes vary and can include Team Deathmatch, Cranked, Blitz, Kill Confirmed, and Domination. As was stated above, the more complete your squad, the better you'll do. If you've been focusing on a single character in multiplayer you probably won't stand a chance. If, however, you've got five or six characters with decent levels, you might just win this thing. 

Squad vs. Squad

As the name implies, this game mode is a single player's squad versus another's. You take your squad up against another player's squad and may the best person win. As mentioned before, you'll want a well-rounded squad to counter what the other guy is going to throw at you. Filling up your team with only snipers or tanks is the surest way to guarantee a loss. 


Horde mode from Gears of War is the closest thing I can think of to Safeguard. Hordes of increasing size and difficulty are sent at your squad until they manage to kill off all six members in a single round. You can choose to play 20, 40, or an infinite number of rounds. I was only able to make it to Round 9 when I tried this mode, but that was pretty good, in my opinion. Once they busted out the riot shields and dogs I didn't stand much of a chance. Of course, I played this before I'd built up much of a squad. I'd like to try it again now that five of my six characters are leveled in the double digits. 


And finally, there's Wargame. This teams the character of your choice up with five other gamers against a team of six AI. You are able to vary the difficulty, which is good for an old fart like myself who seems to run into nothing but ninjas and actual Spec Ops warriors when he plays regular multiplayer. On Recruit level the AI will actually run right by you on occasion. It was a bit too easy, even for me. However, Regular level presented a decent challenge without my dying every four seconds and always ending up at the bottom of the leaderboard. It's a nice way to hone your skills in a cooperative environment without having to learn to swim by simply being dropped into the deep end of the pool. I highly recommend that anyone new to Call of Duty multiplayer start here for a bit of practice before venturing out into the real world of Team Deathmatch or Free-for-All. 

So, In Summation...

Wow! That was a long post, wasn't it? Sorry about that. I had to cover all 17 game types so I won't bore you further with a huge summary. Let's just say I'm hooked. For all the complaining that fanboys have done about the addition of dogs to the multiplayer, I'm loving this iteration of Call of Duty. I normally stick to the campaign, but this multiplayer is so good I haven't even finished it yet. I usually get massacred when I put my toe into the pool of CoD or Halo multiplayer matches, but with the ability to practice in Squad mode I've managed to get good enough to actually live longer than ten seconds on occasion. If you, like me, have mostly avoided online multiplayer because those darn eight-year-olds are just too good, maybe it's time to give them another try. With so many options, you're bound to find something you like here in Call of Duty: Ghosts. 

Baseline Assessment: 8/10

Bonuses: +1 for the addition of Squads mode. Not only does it encourage learning multiple types of gameplay strategies, but it allows us old timers to catch up to the young'uns if we're willing to put in the time to build a decent squad. 

Penalties: -1 for making me spend half as much again as the game costs for all the multiplayer maps and Extinction. I'm glad they've added a new story line to the DLC, but it irks me that I have to spend close to $100 in order to get the entire game. 

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10. Well worth your time and attention. 

See here for our scoring system. 

POSTED BY: Brad Epperley--Video game addict who recognizes that the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.